Coming out to your class when you were 14 in the changing rooms before football, while every other guy in the room’s shorts were down, probably wasn’t the best way to do it. Why did it happen? Well, you jokingly uttered “je suis homosexuel” to a classmate in French class while translating sentences in a dictionary. The rumour made its way to football class that afternoon. A schoolmate shouted loudly. You, always comfortable with your sexuality, responded with, “Yeah, I am,” not thinking where you were.
How did they react? Badly. Firstly, everyone’s shorts went up. Then you were dropped from most guys’ circles at school mainly because they feared you. Your house was egged twice. You were punched in the face a few times. The thing is, you didn’t care about the punching and the arseholes and the eggs that much whilst at school, but you did care about the reaction in years afterward. You thought that coming out will always lead to that reaction, that it could always lead to ALL that.
Luckily it doesn’t. With the exception of arseholes and close family and friends who have known you for years, all you need to do when “coming out” to people in the future is a slip in an “oh, my boyfriend” or a subtle comment here and there. Don’t force it out. Don’t leave it in either. You don’t need Tom Daley as a background on your laptop (although you will at one point anyway).
LOOK… just don’t do it when everyone’s trousers are down.
School sex education for you consists of a PE teacher loading a VHS tape in a TV set that looks out-of-date in the early ’90s. The tape will then show you the following: a section about how our early teenage bodies are going to change. Warnings for women – you will have periods, you will suffer “period pain”, there are exceptionally early-’90s-looking pregnancy products and leaflets that can give you advice for what to do about your sexual health and possible pregnancy. And now a horrifically dramatically shorter section of warnings for straight men: “Wear a condom.” Nothing else.
Anything for you, the “gay guy”? Fat chance. Instead you will be rather perplexed whilst everyone else in the class is excitably rolling out condoms over exceptionally large bananas (or breathing in and out of condoms hoping that they’ll explode), whilst you don’t know anything about how to actually do actual good gay sex. You end up being scared of it, assuming that no gay guys do it and that no enjoyment can actually come from it. That sex is something to be afraid of.
To solve this problem, just go and find a decent pamphlet (not from the ’80s) or have a good search on the internet. DON’T LOOK AT PORN.
Gaydar doesn’t exist. Repeat: Gaydar doesn’t exist. Why? Well, if gaydar exists, it is supposed to suss to you who is gay. You have a radar that pings in your head only if you find people sexually attractive. You know, when you are staring at them. This radar confuses you, so when someone tells you what gaydar actually is, you end up thinking that every person you fancied was gay. And worse still, people ask you constantly during secondary school who you thought was gay. You just ended up accidentally telling them who you actually fancied.
And you know that guy you have been staring at in every single maths and science class for four years, who now takes a different route to school because he started to get freaked out by your constant staring, whom you wrote a note to on Valentine’s Day saying you didn’t love him so he didn’t think that you wrote him a Valentine’s Day card, whom you ignored for a year because even though you loved him the pain burnt your heart through to the bitter end, who didn’t accept your friend request when you went to university and thought, Why the fuck not? It’s worth a try? He isn’t gay. HE IS NOT GAY.
You will build a sense of frustration throughout your teenage years. You complain that there are no gay characters on television, that there are no people on screen who reflect your issues and lifestyle. Then, all of a sudden, you start seeing a few good-looking guys experiencing “gay storylines”. You bore all of your friends with philosophical arguments about how meaningful this is. That all of these characters have been well-written, that you can personally connect with all of the issues involved, that you feel proud that they…that they…oh, wait, hang on a minute. They’re all getting sexy with each other.
As a result of this you will feel worse. Why? Because your entire teenage life is lacking any sense of romantic or sexual excitement. Apart from that one time when you had a friend’s French exchange grinding against you slightly during a conga line at school disco, there is very little excitement to be had. You feel crap as a result, assuming that gay teenage life should be full of one-night stands, sexual adventures in the back of an alley (which involves breathing into a condom until it explodes, probably), and loves that, just like in many gay films in the noughties, end in complete tragedy.
You should know this: Being gay does not prescribe what your sex life will be like. It just doesn’t. Stop worrying.
Even though your popularity with some guys when you came out went down as fast as watching Titanic on fast-forward (when you were 14 you used to do that all the time because you couldn’t be bothered for the plot – you only cared for the bit when the boat sank), you still had some friends. But there is a niggling pain that does get to you: When ill-informed friends make innocent but actually quite derogatory remarks suggesting that you gay guys are all the same in your tastes, interests, and mannerisms, with comments like, “Oh, well, you guys are into that sort of stuff,” “You all act the same,” or “Of course you would act that way.” Trust me, there are hundreds of these variations you will hear over the next few years. Here’s what you should do. This is what you should say your friends, to your loved ones:
Tell them to shut the hell up. Even if it is part of an otherwise friendly conversation, shut it down. Your sexuality doesn’t rule your character. You do. These subtle nudges end up making you anxious about your personality for years, when in fact you were fine all along.
Gay magazines are always top shelf. Why? Well, some of them are pornographic. You know that because a porn magazine is in a plastic bag, you only get to view an eighth of the cover, and when you actually see the magazine you have to immediately look away in case anyone else spots you looking at the top shelf and thinks that you are a gay pornographic underage pervert.
But gay lifestyle magazines? Like the ones that give good advice, contain fashionable men, and always seem to give the impression that you’ll soon be on a six-figure salary at one point because you are gay? They are also on the top shelf. They’re mostly innocent, no more totty than straight lifestyle mags. But why are they on the top shelf? N-o-b-o-d-y k-n-o-w-s. As a teenager you will get scared. You actually think that attempting to purchase one will instantly lead to this: prosecution. As you don’t have the confidence to steal mags (cough prosecution cough), you decide to slip it out the shop by purchasing seven magazines at once, and several newspapers, in the hope that nobody notices.
Be bold. Nobody cares. Go to the top shelf, rip that mag off the top shelf, throw it on the counter, and then shout, “This gay mag, and 40 faaaaaaaaaagggs.” Then emphasise that this is a joke and say no to the fags because you can’t inhale them (you’ve tried twice) and ciggies are really quite wrong.
As a teenager you live in the arse end of nowhere. You write in your diary that nobody understands you. You constantly write entries like, “I know that I’ve become a repellent. No one I’m around with wants to be with me, and slowly I feel like I’m being shunned about.” You then decide that you should start to integrate yourself with a gay community, but the problem is that you’re underage and you know very few gay people. So, for several Fridays, you take a bus to Bournemouth (about 20 miles away) and for two successive weeks sit in relative silence alongside a confused friend in a gay youth club. Why? Because you click with absolutely nobody.
Then you turn 18. You get excited about gay nightclubs. You go to them. You hate them. You don’t mind the people who go to them or like them, but you hate them. Why? You don’t click with any of them. You then walk down Old Compton Street in Soho in London every single time you visit (multiple times), hoping for something or someone to slap you in the face and feel a connection and belonging. It never ever happens. People just end up asking you whether you’re lost, because they’ve just seen you go up and down the same street 14 times in the last 25 minutes.
The biggest thing I knew when I was a teenager is this: Your sexuality connects you to nobody. You are just you. It doesn’t matter how few gay guys you ever know, or how frequently you visit the scene. You never missed out on anything.