Taken from an anonymous contribution to UBC Compliments on Facebook:
Much of my life has been a struggle over accepting my sexual identity, that I am a gay male. This post is more of an retrospect on how much my life has changed since entering UBC, and I'm very thankful for all the people I've met and the community for changing my life around. My life at UBC is a huge contrast from the life I had before.
I am currently in my final year completing a double major. I came to the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) in 2008 in pretty bad shape, I had been struggling with my gay sexual identity since grade 8 when I first realized I was gay. I was always depressed. And it was particularly difficult as I was attending an all-boys private Catholic school in Vancouver. Yes, you can the gay jokes here of how being in an all-boys school must have been paradise for any gay guy. Not quite exactly.
There was this tense homophobic atmosphere throughout the school. It was a jock-filled, testosterone-fuelled high school. Students were homophobic, teachers were homophobic. Well, for the most part anyway. I recall homosexuality being discussed in class. Well, it wasn't "discussed." My teachers were straight up telling us it was just plain wrong and evil. In one of my classes, my teacher asked us to raise our hands if they thought homosexuality was wrong. Everyone in our class of 30 did, including myself...gotta follow the crowd. A close friend of mine, who had transferred from public school (and is straight), said it was opposite from where he came from: the same question was asked, and every student had no issue with homosexuality.
There were definitely some religious fanatics teaching at my high school. There was a science/math teacher that sometimes turned her entire science/math blocks into an entire prayer/religion session...as if we didn't already have a regular religion class taught by another teacher. Although she was teaching us math and science, I'm pretty sure she was also the type that believed the world began 4,000 years ago. She also banned us from reading Harry Potter, it was evil! I also had a social studies teacher that went on a long rant over how he saw two disgusting gays buying the sluttiest underwear at the Downtown Bay's men's underwear department. Apparently, he had also caught them smooching. He vouched to never go there again.
I had been teased and bullied as gay during my years in high school. I hadn't come out, I was extremely insecure, conflicted, and confused, but kids (accurately) pointed/teased me out as gay throughout high school.
Even though I had been attending a Catholic high school, it didn't take me long to stop believing in God or begin to think that I was an abomination and evil (I consider myself an atheist today). I became extremely depressed in grade 8 and that continued straight until high school graduation, and it went completely untreated until after high school. I wasn't motivated in school, I wasn't motivated in my social life, I wasn't motivated in much. And I also became anti-social, shy, and highly introverted.
In grade 8, due to the effects of depression, I quit piano and swimming. I was playing piano at a very elite level (after 8 years), but my piano teacher started to notice that I had stopped trying. So did my swimming coach on the swim team, I was letting down my team mates...I used to swim almost daily in the mornings (you'd think physical exercise would be the cure to depression, it was not for me although stopping made it much worst). I also tried to do sports and other activities at the new school, but while I was pretty good at things like track/running I was only in it very briefly.
I lost some of the best years of my life, as well as the things I enjoyed because I hated myself so much. I got side tracked. All the meanwhile, so many other kids and friends were building up their skills, doing sports, and studying. I was a straight-A student from the private elementary school I came from (it was a co-ed Catholic private primary school). My grades took a dive after grade 7, after I went to this Catholic high school. Teachers noticed I lacked motivation and drive like other students...I was spiralling down towards the bottom.
At this school, unlike what students might get at a public institution, I had zero gay role models or people to approach about my struggling and conflicting identity (I didn't even know such accepting people existed). I thought gays were dirty pariahs. At the high school, the term "homosexuality" in its proper context was not to be mentioned. It was deemed the worst of sins...if you were gay in this school, you didn't know who to approach. All the faculty seemed very anti-gay.
In grade 10, I nearly transferred to Lord Byng High School, a public school, but I didn't (I don't remember what changed my mind). In grade 11, I told some of my closest friends at the school I was gay. They began to treat me differently afterwards, I got shunned.
I was going in and out of depression, and a depression-induced fight in February of that year with my family set something off. I ran away from home for about a week. Initially, the intent was to commit suicide. I stood on the pedestrian walk of the Lions Gate Bridge for hours, contemplating on jumping. I hated myself, I couldn't change the "dirty" urges, I didn't feel loved.
More importantly, I completely lost the ability to love myself. But I didn't jump. I spent the next few days venturing around the city to get my head straight, and I spent my nights at the airport. I definitely had my way of getting around.
Needless to say, when I returned home, my parents had been very worried and had reported me as missing. I didn't tell them their only child is gay (they still don't know even to this day), but they were more understanding, flexible, kind parents after the incident, knowing that I was going through something internally. Some other remaining friends completely hated me after that incident, for selfishly trying to kill myself. We grew distant afterward. In hindsight, I can't blame them.
During my first day back, my school's Middle School Principal took me out of class to meet with me one-on-one. He found a suicide note that I wrote, which included words on me hating being gay. The school's counsellor had also informed my parents about my suicide note, but did not mention the gay part as the reason.
Of all the people in the school, I never thought this would come from my Middle School Principal - it went something along the lines of this: "it's okay to be who you are. God loves everyone. Love is a beautiful thing, between any individual. What you have is a very special type of love capability, and you should be very happy that you have the ability to love in such a special way." That brought tears to my eyes, it meant so much to me. This was a side of the school I had never, ever seen. And it gave me inner peace during the meeting, temporarily.
Then he carried on. He also said he did not want to carry the burden of having to tell a student's parents that their son committed suicide. That happened a few years ago at the school, the senior was also gay and killed himself because of his insecurities. He locked himself in his car that was parked at the school in the early morning hours before anyone arrived, doused himself with gas inside inside the car, and lit himself on fire. The Middle School Principal brought his parents the first news of their sons death. Nobody saw this coming, he was an athlete. It devastated the school for the remainder of the school year.
I had hoped to go back to him for more counselling. But just days after he had spoken to me, he had a sudden leave of absence from the school. This would be for the foreseeable future, he wouldn't be able to see our class graduate. Apparently, the tough strong teacher/principal that everyone in the school gave the most upmost respect for had also been suffering from depression for quite awhile. Sometimes, I can't help to think if it were my fault - that I was the reason that pushed him off to the ledge into the depression abyss and caused him to leave. A year later, during his extended leave, he had a major heart attack and required major surgery. He returned to teaching at the school after some rest, but a few months afterward he died from another heart attack in his sleep. He was just 50 years old, and he was considered as a pretty active and healthy man.
After high-school graduation, I fell into deep depression again. I was looking back at my life. Everything seemed so pointless, and I didn't see a future ahead for me. More importantly, accepting that I was gay was still extremely difficult. I wanted to change, I wanted to be straight. I didn't want to be a dirty outcast, on the periphery of society. At the same time, I was accepted into UBC, but that didn't mean much to me. I had begun to zone out completely from life. I was suicidal again, and this time I took pills. My parents found me unconscious, rushed me to hospital, and had my stomach pumped out. I remained suicidal for weeks, I just wanted to die and end my life. In hindsight, I was mentally unstable and irrational. Years of self-torment and depression led to this.....for the record, suicide is not something I would do today or ever again. It's just selfish.
I remained in hospital for several weeks to receive counselling and treatment. I was on anti-depressants for much longer. I eventually decided to get my head straight. I didn't attend UBC at first as during this incident I had missed my course registration date by months. By the time I came around in September, days before the final date to join classes, there was still nothing left for me to take. So I went to a private affiliated college on the UBC campus. It was a significantly different environment from high-school, a great place for me to really get my game up, and I also gained some new friends. I took a few classes there, then transferred to UBC the following year. What I also needed was a new start, a new environment, and that's what I got.
To say the least, my years at UBC since has never ceased to be amazing. The people here are open, accepting, and tolerant...this wasn't something I was used to at all initially.
I also found myself, I got a better idea of who I was as a person. As well, I found others just like myself - gay friends. "We get along as people? And you also like sucking dick? Score!".
Jokes aside though, as wrong as that may have sounded to you, there's a real value to this: we can relate with each other as most of us have gone through the exact same thing.
Coming out to people has also been liberating, especially to the first person you tell. Unfortunately, some of the first people I told weren't the right choices given their adverse reaction afterwards. Coming out was extremely scary at first, afterall you're revealing the darkest secret about yourself - and something that you too are insecure about. But as I told more and more people, it got much easier. The first time I came out (to my best friend at the time), it felt liberating - literally as if I were lifting the world off my shoulders. The endorphins came rushing in.
Since UBC, I have never been so comfortable and confident. I've been able to accept my sexuality, and I'm now quite "proud" and open about it. I also don't let it define me, but rather it's just a little part of who I am. I no longer have to lie...no longer have to live a double life, at least with my friends and colleagues. But for the time being, I am still closeted to family.
It really is true in how they say "it gets better." I've found a lot of amazing, new likeminded friends here at UBC and around the world through extracurriculars. I found my niche - Model United Nations - and I even got UBC to organize a massive international Model UN conference this past year. I was the leader for that. Yes, of all people, I was the student leader for one of the biggest things that were to happen in student life for that school year.
I've regained an interest in the pursuit of life, "I've opened myself back to business" by giving myself a sense of self-worth: I've regained much in self-confidence and self-esteem. All because of what the UBC community has provided me.
My (new) friends, my colleagues, and the UBC community as a whole have saved my life. When you hear of stories of very intolerant universities and schools in the states and elsewhere in the world (i.e. those universities with vocal homophobic administrators, as high up as the Chancellor; and in some universities in the states you even need to sign a contract that you will not engage in homosexuality).....you know how lucky you are to be at UBC and be part of its diverse, open, and accepting community.
This is the first time I've shared my entire story, and if you are also dealing with issues of your own I hope this post gives you some solace. It does get better. I'm hopeful for the future, and I hope to find my very own special guy - someone I can connect, love, and spend the rest of my life with.
Thanks everyone. And thanks for listening. I didn't intend for this to become so long.
Source: "UBC Compliments" page on Facebook (posted December 20, 2012).