As a chubby, effeminate, clever, self-doubting teen, I was teased in high school. Guys followed me home, yelling “Faggot.” Even the cool queer kids didn’t want anything to do with me. I was a virgin until I was 20.
I developed strategies of resistance. I sought out and befriended the girl with the shaved head, the girl with the Arabic accent, the boy who wore sweat pants. I joined band, academic challenge, the student literary association, the yearbook committee.
Some of those people turned out to be wankers, too. Some of them have grown into lifelong friends.
I also struggled with my mom’s devotion to Catholicism. We were weekly church attendees. My mom and I went to Bible studies together. I was an altar boy, although by then we called ourselves by the gender-neutral “altar servers.”
At 15, I told my family I’m gay, and my mom broke out into hives. She spent evenings in bed, snapping rosary beads. She beat herself up, thinking that my sexuality was a personal failing of hers. I cried and cried and cried.
Around that time, I won a writing contest with a story about two boys who become lovers. Eventually I showed her the story. She burst into tears.
After high school, I moved from the industrial town where I was raised to Sandy Hill in Ottawa. I threw myself into work, university and, to a lesser extent, partying.
I’m 27. It took me a long, long time, but I’ve built the life I want, the kind of life that would make the bullies jealous and my mom cringe.
The men in my life now? Some of them are super hot, some of them are super smart, and my main squeeze is both.
Ten years later, my mom and I go to art galleries together. I never would have thought it possible, but it’s amazing what parents can deal with. She’s met at least three of my boyfriends.
I’m glad I’m gay. It feels like a blessing now, not a burden.
To young people who are struggling: it does get better. But you don’t have to wait. Come out to Pink Triangle Youth. Or introduce yourself to the girl with a hijab. Or join the AV club.