3 min

Remember the thrill of your first gay romance?

As Call Me By Your Name opens in theatres, we ask a few people to reflect on the lessons they learned and the love they found

Timothée Chalamet stars as Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver in Call Me By Your Name. Credit: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

You never forget your first love.

In Luca Guadagnino’s film Call Me By Your Name, based on the 2007 novel by André Aciman, Élio (Timothée Chalamet) is a multilingual, musically gifted 17-year-old enjoying his family’s annual summer retreat in northern Italy.

But when Oliver (Armie Hammer), the hunky American student who’s assisting Élio’s father shows up, Élio experiences a sexual awakening.

Beautifully shot and flawlessly acted, it’s a sun-drenched story of finding oneself that will have you fondly recalling your own earliest romance.

Sam remembers his first love well; Michael was already a lawyer, 12 years his senior, when they met at Toronto Pride nearly a decade ago. Sam was an 18-year-old student in his first year of college at the time.

“He joked that he’s always been really immature,” says Sam, who now works as a bartender in the city’s business district. “So it didn’t matter if I was still a teenager. I would probably be wiser than he was.”

Their romance only lasted about six months. But it had a real effect on Sam.

“When we met, I was really shy and really insecure,” he says. “I didn’t think of myself as attractive and I wasn’t comfortable with my body. I’d had sex before, but Michael was the first person I felt like I really connected with. It was sad when it ended, but I know I’m a better person for it. I’ll always be grateful to him for helping me to come out of my shell.”

Dalbir was 26 before he even considered he might be gay. Growing up in a deeply religious family, homosexuality just wasn’t an option.

“I think there was a tiny part of me that always thought I was a little different,” says Dalbir, now a junior banking executive. “But the idea of being gay, in my world it wasn’t even a bad thing. It just wasn’t a thing. As far as I knew, gay people didn’t exist.”

He dated a few girls through college, but never for more than a couple of months. He decided to put his energy into his career in the financial sector and leave marriage until after he was established — a decision that kept his family off his back.

Then, a few days after his 26th birthday, something clicked. He’d been feeling anxious and depressed, which he attributed to the hectic pace of work. But while taking the subway home after a gruelling day in the office, he glanced at a cute guy across from him and a switch went off in his brain.

“I just had this sudden realization that I was gay,” he says. “I didn’t have to think about it or debate it. It just came into my mind and I realized that this is who I am.”

When he came out to his friends, none of them even batted an eye. One was even surprised to hear this was his official coming out, having always assumed he was gay. His first romance began a year later, with a guy he met at a friend’s holiday party.

“I was scared he wouldn’t be interested if he knew I was a virgin, so I made a joke about how I slept around a lot,” Dalbir laughs. “But when I eventually told him, he wasn’t concerned at all.”

Their affair only lasted a few months. But it was a formative experience.

“Before we met, I had this idea of myself as gay, but I didn’t really know what that meant,” he says. “He helped me understand myself as a sexual being, which made it possible for me to have other relationships. Three years later, we’re still friends, which has been an amazing gift and he continues to help me as I make my way in the gay world.”

Conrad and William were 20 and 21 respectively when they met on Halloween. Their connection was instant and obvious — they were both dressed as cowboys. When they shared their first kiss outside the bar, neither expected it would become a long-term relationship. Twelve years later, they’re still together.

“We’re a special case because of lot of people spend years looking for the right person, and we found each other when we were so young,” Conrad says. “This is the only relationship either of us have ever had, but it’s always just felt right. I guess we’re proof that sometimes the first love you ever have, will be the only love you ever need.”