Why Coming Out Could Save Your Life

As 2014 enters it’s closing months it’s proving to be a year of progress for gay sports men and women. The issue will sadly continue to be a taboo subject but progress is definitely the right way of putting it.

Olympic swimming legend Ian Thorpe spoke publicly for the first time about his long-hidden sexuality and how his denial was sparked by fear of a backlash from the Australian public. This is an issue affecting men and women across the world on a daily basis and I can only echo what has been said countless times before – why? I’ve known people in my life tormented by the same problem and I take my hat off to Thorpe. It’s no picnic hiding your true self, gay or otherwise. The prejudice of sexuality in sport has raised its ugly head on several occasions in recent years. In professional soccer alone FIFA estimates there are over 265 million male and female players and yet only a small handful is openly gay. This statistic serves to remind us of how society’s outdated attitudes are forcing good people to live ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ heterosexual lives. But what is ‘normal’ anymore? What is ‘acceptable’? Our perceptions have to change.

Marcus, an old school friend of mine came out two years ago at the age of 26. These past two years have been without question the best of his life. His new found happiness however was only achieved after many years of denial and painful self-discovery. Marcus is from a strong catholic background, not all Catholics are homophobic but there are obviously certain anti-gay teachings that many adhere to. We became firm friends at the age of 15 but I had suspected he was gay the moment I clapped eyes on him 3 years earlier. Marcus was the type who would joke around innocently fondling girls but always getting away with it because they assumed he was gay. I didn’t dare share my thoughts with anyone else, the potential social consequences at high school were regrettable and it simply wasn’t my place to say. As we got to know each other we began having many deep and meaningful conversations. We talked endlessly about life, girls, football, our studies, typical teenage boy stuff. I had always expected him to privately tell me he was gay but that long-awaited conversation never came to fruition. What he did tell me however shocked me to my very core. He told me that he had tried to take his life on three separate occasions. I was in shock, we all go through difficult times in our adolescent lives but I never imagined his problems had reached such a drastic point. The biggest problem Marcus explained was his frustration at not being able to pinpoint why he felt the way he did. I had my suspicions that it was either depression or issues with his sexuality. Maybe he couldn’t accept it or maybe he just didn’t realize it? At the time I hadn’t wanted to say in case I only made the situation worse. I could never imagine how scary it would be at that age to suddenly realize you weren’t what was expected of you.

Soon we would leave school and start university together. If there was ever a time to come out I always believed this was it. Gone were the constraints of school life, the judgment, the masks we all wore to survive. I myself had even rebelled a little, gone was the quiet 17 year old replaced by a long-haired and pierced Led Zeppelin enthusiast. Marcus however remained the same awkward teenager who every day was looking more and more uncomfortable in his own skin. I sympathized, I really did but how can you tell someone they are gay without being certain they even know them self? I decided it was vital he made this discovery without my influence. We would go out a lot in those days, enjoying the new found freedoms of student life in abundance. Naturally we met a lot of girls, Marcus got his fair share of attention but he would never ever reciprocate. I’d noticed on a number of occasions he actually looked rather upset when a girl would approach him, it was like he desperately wanted to be interested but something was holding him back.

At the end of first year we lost touch. We drifted into different crowds and Marcus soon left the country to work abroad for a year. I would think about him all the time, for so long I just wanted him to be honest and know that there was at least one person who would support and accept him no matter what. I often wondered if going abroad was really for career purposes as he’d said or if it was just a much needed escape from reality. Then in the summer of 2012, as I arrived at my front door after a day’s work I saw Marcus standing there waiting. He looked exactly the same and yet somehow completely different. It was the first time I’d seen him for around five years and the first time I’d seen him smile since we were about fifteen. We spoke for hours.

Marcus was now a happy and proud, gay man. He told me of how his year abroad had been the worst of his life; he had tried to take his life for a fourth time. He hadn’t wanted to die, he simply couldn’t stand to feel the way he did anymore. He had finally been backed into a corner and realized it was time to make a change, his life quite simply depended on it. Marcus explained that his sexuality had crossed his mind many times over the years but that he could never make sense of his feelings as he had no desire to be with either a man or a woman. As it turned out not being interested in women was just the beginning to a lengthy process of realizing he was interested in men. In tackling his problems Marcus first spoke to the one member of his family that he felt would have the most positive reaction and things gradually progressed from there. His family were devout Catholics but monsters they were not. They supported him in every way imaginable and wished only that he had come to them sooner. It just goes to show that people might just surprise you with their reactions. I sincerely hope other families out there can show the same understanding that Marcus’ did.

It’s always easier said than done, but people have asked me what they should do in these situations and I always say the same thing – do everything in your power to accept yourself. Be comfortable with who you are, maybe this will put those around you at ease as well and if anyone has a problem with it then they’re probably not worth having in your life. Being gay is not a crime. Try to seek inspiration from those in the public eye and try to relate to the immense scrutiny they have faced, people who have achieved great things irrespective of race, background and most definitely of sexuality. Soccer players Robbie Rogers and Thomas Hitzelsperger, Basketball player Jason Collins, NFL star Michael Sam and now Olympic legend Ian Thorpe, these are the modern day suffragettes of the gay community. If you find yourself in the same situation as my good friend Marcus then look up to these people if they can do it there’s no reason why you can’t, so long as you want to. Marcus’ journey was so very nearly a tragic one but coming out freed him from what he called a ‘straightjacket of heterosexuality’. It quite literally saved his life.

Don’t let your journey be tragic.

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18 Comments

  1. July 15, 2014 / 12:45 am

    Tricky topic to touch on, because there are so many reactions when it comes to politics, sexual orientation and of course religion. The way I see it is far simpler than others. If I like chicken and only consume chicken, who the heck are you to tell me I should not eat chicken, but beef or pork. This is not to undermine the severity of what’s at hand, but the best way to understand something in my opinion, is to break it down into a much simpler point of view. What a person decides to do with another consensual adult partner, is between those two individuals.

    To think, there are people who kill in the name of who you decide to date. That is insane, misguided and far worse than the person you are trying to vilify. To think, there are people who purposely seek to fight someone, solely because of who they decide to date. That is insane. If you have a negative opinion because of someone’s political affiliation, sexual orientation or religion, that’s your right. However, when you begin to verbally and physically assault someone, you’re completely undermining everything you claim you’re fighting for. My country is one that literally kills someone for being gay.

    The lack of logic always stunned me…you hate someone so much, you want to kill them because they have sex with another consenting adult. This makes no sense in my eyes, so I’m grateful I left the country at such a young age, the hatred didn’t become part of my DNA. Who you have sex with is no business of mine–unless it doesn’t involve consent and involves children.

  2. July 15, 2014 / 2:49 am

    you did a great job putting this difficult topic into logical, flowing words. I am so glad that your friend was able to come out and save his own life in doing so.

    I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that people who aren’t straight feel. I can’t express how much sympathy I feel for them, even though I can never know what they are going through. But I think that if someone is going through this sort of thing, the best thing they can do is reach out to friends who will accept them regardless.

    I’ve never had a friend come out to me, but I have always appreciated the unique perspectives and the happiness of the GLBTQI people I have met along the way.

    • July 15, 2014 / 10:44 am

      Thank you I was concerned about that it was a tricky one. I wanted to convey that it’s ok to be gay or straight and to encourage people to accept each other no matter what they are. Thanks for reading I really appreciate it 🙂 comments are always welcome. Paul

  3. July 15, 2014 / 11:06 am

    I came out age 37. I’d never felt ‘wrong’, but I’d always felt there was something more to me, to life, but never could quite put my finger on what it was. Scariest thing I ever did, just looking in the mirror and saying, out loud, “I’m gay”. So happy for your friend, he’ll never look back now 🙂

    • July 15, 2014 / 11:11 am

      I’m so glad you’ve had a bit of a happy ending. Thanks for reading, really appreciate your comment 🙂 Paul

  4. July 16, 2014 / 5:56 pm

    This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Martha Graham: “You are unique, and if that is not fulfilled, then something has been lost.”

    It’s so important to be our authentic selves and to seek help if one is struggling with thoughts of suicide like that. I hope your post helps others!

  5. July 16, 2014 / 10:08 pm

    Very well put into writing! Good read.

  6. July 18, 2014 / 11:40 am

    You know it’s not just gay people who need to come out. If you can’t be true to yourself to who you are in your own skin, then you are basically living a facade. It’s taken too long to come to this realization. I am glad that you wrote about this and I have a friend who hasn’t come out. He’s depressed and I think if he were to be truly honest to the world, he might find that the ones he wants to keep his secret from will still love him. He’s trapped in fear and that really isn’t living life to it’s fullest.

  7. July 18, 2014 / 2:21 pm

    I have a similar story with a gay friend I had in high school. He came out his senior year luckily. We never thought he would, or at least not quite so early, so it was a big but pleasant surprise. Although tough at first, his family loved him so much they accepted his news quickly. His was definitely a more positive story than most. It makes me sad to think that people feel they need to hide their sexuality and for such prolonged periods of time. I have a hard time keeping any secrets, much less ones that will determine who I romantically pursue.

  8. July 18, 2014 / 9:12 pm

    We have to be who we are. Trying to be something else is surreal and horrible. I’m glad your friend found the way out of the maze of “normal.”

  9. July 19, 2014 / 5:14 am

    Amen.

    I knew — and know — no greater liberation than being who I am and correcting people when they’ve the wrong idea.

  10. July 24, 2014 / 2:36 pm

    May I just say that I’m thrilled that you found my blog because it, in turn, allowed me to discover yours! I have, in all seriousness, been fascinated by your posts for the past couple of hours. In relation to this specific post, I’d like to say that you’re exactly the kind of voice from the heterosexual world that needs to be heard. With all this rampant homophobia around us, trust me, it’s really easy to forget that not everyone is hateful, and you’re an amazing reminder of this. Cheers!

    • July 24, 2014 / 2:41 pm

      I honestly can’t tell you how much that means to me, you’ve just made my day. I’m really glad you’ve enjoyed my posts. Keep in touch. Paul

  11. September 12, 2014 / 7:16 pm

    Finally i quit my regular job, now i earn decent money on-line you should try too,
    just type in google – slabs roulette system

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