Thursday, February 21, 2008

Email Inbox: My Story

I wouldn't be posting this if I didn't feel it was important to share or if I didn't feel it might help others in the same situation.

About a week or so ago I received an email in my inbox entitled: "My Story." I didn't recognize the email address or anything about the sender but upon opening it I knew immediately what is was going to be about. Below is a story of a young man struggling with the idea of coming out who has found my blog and reached out to me to be a sounding board and/or offer advice.

Of course, with his permission, and all names and locations changed, is his and our story:

Dear Eric,

It took me a lot of time and courage to finally send you an e-mail. My name is ---- and since a couple of months, I struggle with mixed and confused feelings. I hear you thinking why does someone e-mail me with his problems who I don’t even know? It is because you don’t know me, I wanted to tell you my story. I hope it isn’t too long, because I never told it to anyone. I want to apologize for my English in advance, because it is not always perfect.

For a couple of months, I have been reading your inputs on Bilerico. A couple of weeks ago, I came across your blog. I read it on one night. Now, I visit it almost daily to see what you are writing about. Your stories as an activist on Bilerico and as a person on your own blog are an enormous support and an inspiration for me, because I sometimes recognize myself in your stories. I want to tell my story to someone, because I don’t know what to do. No one knows I’m gay, no one even thinks it…

My name is ----, I’m 21 years old and I live in ------. When I was 12, I discovered I had feelings for boys. Innocent feelings I thought at first. When I saw a boy on the street I sometimes thought: he is good-looking. After years of doubt I started to think about the meaning of these feelings. Do I only find boys attractive or do I also fall in love with them?

The answer came on my 19th birthday. I started my studies. There was this boy in another class who was sometimes in our group to follow the same lessons. His name was -----. He was more than just cute. I fell in love with him. Each time we were in the same class, I was so nervous not to say something stupid to him so that I would look bad. One day, a good girlfriend of mine, who was also in my class, told me she fell in love with the same guy. Good friends as we were, she always asked me what to do so he would see her and he would also fall in love with her. She was too shy to tell him the truth. I was a great support for her, she told me but one day, she said to me I didn’t realize what was going through her. My heart was broken, I wanted to scream it out, that I do realize what she was feeling. The only difference between our feelings was that mine were impossible. For months I felt useless and depressed. I didn’t know what to do. When ------ wasn’t interested in me or my friend, I was really depressed and felt lonely all the time. Sometimes I thought: how would it be if I was dead tomorrow? Would people miss me? How would they remember me? My daily life was just an illusion.

My second year in college started. My feelings for men were stronger than ever. Girls were my best friends; boys were something unreachable because I was too shy. The only thing I did was looking for pictures of hot men on the Internet. When my girlfriend asked me to visit her MySpace, I made a profile my own just to look at her pictures. My profile didn’t have any photos or information; I just made it to see her pictures. Last summer I discovered that a lot of people had MySpace. Men, who also had feelings for other men. I wasn’t alone in this world. I surfed through many different profiles every day. Never ever, I dared to contact someone. I was too shy to put a picture of myself on the Internet, with “I’m gay” under it.

Now that I’m in my final year, my feelings have become more intense. All my life, I only had a few couple of good friends. I was bullied a lot, because I was really shy and quiet. Especially in my high school years I became very uncertain about myself. That’s why I’m now really glad I still have four wonderful friends, of which one is the best friend I will ever have. Her name is Lily. Unfortunately, I never found the courage to tell them who I really am, afraid to lose them.

Every day I take the bus to school as a normal guy. I make all of my assignments; I help everyone when it is necessary and try to be friendly to everyone. Last week, we played a game during class. Everyone had to write a note about each other how you feel about them. Most people find me a funny and helpful guy. That day, I cried whole night long. No one knows the truth about my true feelings. Everyone always says: -----, we have to find you a good-looking girlfriend… I never respond, because I don’t know what to say. No one even thinks that I’m gay. This thought is what makes it so hard to come out and tell everyone the truth. My parents are very conservative people and my best friend Lily is Catholic. I’m scared when I will tell them my true feelings; everyone would look different at me for the rest of my life.

I often feel depressed, because I can’t be who and what I’m. I often help people with their problems so that I wouldn’t think about mine. Last summer I worked for whole three months (while 23 days is the maximum according to the law) every single day in a store, just to have different thoughts on my mind. Last Christmas I worked on December 24th and 31st from 7 am till 5 pm, just not to feel lonely and depressed.

This is my story until today. I’m glad I could write it down, even if it is for someone who doesn’t know me. I’m completely lost with myself. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to scream on the streets “look at me I’m gay”. I just want to live a life of a normal guy. One side of me has had enough of living in a lie, the other side is too afraid of the truth. Even writing this e-mail cost me a few tears.

Here is my response: I told this person that I'm no professional, that I don't even consider myself to be an "activst." I just care and want my brothers to be healthy, happy and unapologetic. Pieces of this response were snipped for sake of keeping his identity private.

..You're not alone and you even seem to know this yourself. You may be surfing through Myspace and hitting upon men who identify as gay and think to yourself "oh how I wish I could be out like them!" But it is very important, if not most important that you realize everyone has a coming out story and not one of us planned that this would be our lives. That when we were growing up as innocent children it never occurred to us that at some point in our adult life would we have to "come out" and lead the life that follows. It just is- but we've all been there, we've all come out, and it just depends on how YOU choose to do so.

Coming out doesn't mean identifying with the gay community and coming doesn't mean wrapping yourself in a rainbow flag. Coming out doesn't even mean coming out to close friends or family. Coming out just means coming out to yourself, accepting who you are, the good and the bad and taking it from there.

It seems as though you've already accepted the fact that you're gay. That's great- that's a wonderful first step. You've reached out to me and vented your feelings and story to me (a gay man) which is another great step. The next step is exploring life at whatever speed you feel is best for you. This whole process, coming out and coming to terms with yourself is all about YOU. Never, ever, apologize for the way in which you choose to come out. This is about you and your feeling of comfort and security. If you find certain things to be overwhelming and stressful- so be it...Take some time, take some breaths, think about what it is you want to accomplish about your coming out and take it from there. I can't stress enough how much coming out is about YOU and YOU only. You don't have to answer to anybody but yourself. Take your time, do it at your own pace. You'll see sooner or later that it's not as difficult as you may now feel it is.

You're doing the right thing. It's ok for you to be experiencing fear and depression and loneliness. Coming out is a tremendous thing to overcome! Do not EVER sell yourself short. ALWAYS give yourself credit. If there is one thing I want you to feel- it is respect for yourself. You are entitled to a happy and healthy life and if that's what you want, then that is what you shall receive. Keep in mind that you are as important and as worthy as anybody else. You are not doing anything wrong and you are not bad in any way, whatsoever, no matter who says what!

You are going through something that some people will never experience in their life. And I cannot tell you how much this suffering will aid you in the future. It will build you with character and confidence. It may hurt now but it will be something you are going to be fortunate of in the future. In America we have a saying that goes, "What does not kill you, makes you stronger" and that statement rings very true to my experience coming out. I am so happy that I went through such terrifying pain of realizing I am gay at a young age because now I know I can handle most anything. I am prepared and ready to take on all the challenges life may throw at me because when i was just a young teen- I had already felt as though I had seen and experienced the worst. I am a strong man. In health, mind and soul because of this pain. Appreciate it, but also, defeat it.

Go slow. Go at your own pace. Remember, coming out is up to YOU and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. But I can assure you, once you come out, slowly but surely, you will feel better with each day and night that you live from now on. I say go meet that friend you've been chatting with on myspace. You don't have to meet him at a gay event or a club or a bar or anything like that. You can meet for coffee or a walk with no other agenda then talking and getting to know one another. Remember, (I going to say it again) this is about YOU and YOUR comfort, nothing more, nothing less. Do what makes you feel comfortable, happy, prideful and relaxed.

And I will ALWAYS be here if you ever need me- for anything. PLEASE do not hesitate to contact me in the future.


Anonymous said...

Yours is a great response to a great revealing letter, written by someone who rightly trusts you with his feelings. When he finds the right someone, it will all come together for him and his pain will end; in the meantime, he is fortunate to have you as a friend.
The coming-out experience is traumaic for most of us. I had a smart caring man to come out with made easier by the fact I adored him, but it still hurt. I believe love hurts, though logically it shouldn't. We are still close after many years though sadly have never lived together. In fact, I am struck by how much he looked like you.
Keep on keeping on.


David said...

"Well done" to both of you.

Lacey said...

Yes, there's some excellent advice here. Actually, I wish someone had said this to ME about ten years ago. It's so easy to be influenced by other people...influenced in to thinking that there is a certain ONE way that everyone should come out. It's so not true. Only you can decide what is right for you, and when. And one other thing that a gay friend told me that has stuck with me these long ten years. You don't come out once. You come out every day. It's an ongoing process.

As for the feelings of loneliness and sadness...yes, and yes to both. It can be lonely. Early on in my "coming out" process I met a gay man. We decided right from the start that we both wanted to be friends, not lovers. He's still my friend and a large part of my support system. I think it's so important to have some friend(s) that you can depend on for support and just someone to talk to about all those fears and thoughts that rush thru your friend. If I had to take my choice between a really good lover and a really good friend, I would take the friend, hands down, every time. Friends are my survival mechanism. post really hit a nerve with me. Thanks to both of you for sharing your story. Please believe that you are not alone.

Anonymous said...

you're great.

Ruffy said...

Truly a moving story. Thanks for sharing it with us; both of you.

It took me right back to my days of struggle and the turning point in my life. Nice reminder of just how strong a group of people we really are.

Many Regards

Anonymous said...

A great response. You are a mensch and you did your mitzvah for the day.

kd f/x said...

Dear Eric

It is because of posts like this one that I became a huge fan...

Hugs my friend unknown