The Life of Bryan: as told to Mark Peters 2013
Around 2013 I met a young man through an online forum after he had messaged me. His name was Bryan, he had recently turned eighteen, was about to finish high school and he lived in a small town not too far from where I was living.
Over a period of a month or so we chatted online as well as on the phone several times and I got to know and like him. He was funny and smart, but he was also quite an extrovert and more than just a little flamboyant (for want of a better word), so when he told me about his issues with coming out it wasn’t difficult to imagine just what he had experienced. I had seen just what so many other kids like him had gone through over the years.
We met once, when I had been passing through his town and had asked if he would like to catch up. We sat in a local park just on sundown and had a great time talking and laughing. When I left he even kissed me goodbye. It was the sweetest thing. Not long after that I lost contact with him after he moved to Queensland to be with his new boyfriend, but not before he had given me his life story and agreed that I could share it in this series, the details of which I had discussed with him at length.
For the sake of readability, I have taken the liberty of making some edits to his text, but this is Bryan’s story, in his own words, as written in 2013.
I only fully admitted to myself who I really was a couple of years ago. I was sixteen and way too scared to tell anybody! Now when I talk to my family and friends, I hear that from a young age, as young as four apparently, I exhibited signs that I may one day turn out to be gay; or as my brother put it, "We thought you would either be the most eccentric cross-dresser ever, or just totally gay."
In primary school I think I gave the world my first sign that I may be either of those, when I did a performance in a school spectacular, singing a Britney song while fully dressed up as her too; wig, make up, dress and heels included. I blame my sister for encouraging that act!
That was when I admitted to myself that I had an interest in dressing up in girl’s clothes, but no exact interest in men. I was only in year six after all.
After that I was teased and bullied and was constantly accused of being gay, right through to my later years in high school. I guess by then most of the kids in my year had started to mature, but even then there were those few who continued to get some sort of perverse enjoyment out of picking on the fag boy.
Every day throughout high school I faced discrimination and everyday I denied it because at the time, at least as far as I was concerned, I was straight. For most of my early high school years I had never really had any thoughts of having a relationship, although by the time I was about fourteen these thoughts did begin to cross my mind. I had no romantic interest in guys at that stage and like most young boys I would ask a girl out, after which there would usually be little more than some lengthy phone calls between the two of us, maybe some holding hands at school (much to the amusement of the haters who all knew I was gay), then I would lose interest and that would be the end of it.
I think it was around my sixteenth birthday when I began to find myself attracted to men (and I mean men, not boys my own age). I met someone socially who took my breath away and I was smitten. I pretty much only got to say hello, and didn’t ever see him again after that night, but my imagination had been fired up. I had heard about what sometimes happens after dark in local parks and other places and I soon found myself going out searching for gay men to try and get some sort of experience. Nothing ever really happened on these excursions, apart from me running from the park in fear one night with the laughter of some old Queen ringing in my ears.
My whole school life I was bullied and emotionally and verbally abused by peers. The boys in my school used to tease me by acting gay and pretending to hit on me. One, who later became a very good friend of mine, would go as far as to carry me around, refer to me as his girlfriend and make me sit on his lap at social events that we went to for school. People would crack gay jokes and at first I found it difficult, so much so that I would fake illness or something to try and get out of going to school.
I copped abuse from not only my class mates and members of the world in general but it didn’t end there. Some members of my family also served up their own abuse, in various forms. As a result, when I did finally admit to myself that I was exactly what I had always denied, I was so scared to say or do anything to reveal the 'true' me.
Somewhat strangely I had found a comfort in performing and used it as a way to express myself no matter what anybody thought of me. Apparently, I also had a talent for this.
It was like when I was up on the stage I was indestructible and nothing could ever tear me down. I would dress up as a girl and perform in front of audiences for school plays and assemblies, and on occasion also for other events held in our town.
On a side note, in making myself up for the stage I seemed to have found a skill within myself which I can hopefully develop into a career later in life, possibly doing hair and make-up. Due to my feminine features all I ever needed to do was pull my hair back or put on a wig, apply some make-up and I would look female. So much so that I had developed a stage presence as a female that was so convincing audiences didn’t believe that the 'beautiful girl' who had just performed for them was actually a young boy.
Growing up I knew my immediate family were supportive of homosexuals due to what seemed to be a countless number of our family friends who were gay, so much so that my 'Fairy God Mother' was actually a gay man who had been in my life from the time I had been born until I was about five years old. He had even been taken to Mardi Gras by my mother as a favour.
When I finally started to figure out my sexuality, and my initial visits to the local beats proved fruitless, I went searching for networks; friends and people I knew I would be able to talk to. I wanted to try and get some advice and help in my time of self-discovery before I came out. I even tried to track down my ‘Fairy God Mother’ which proved pointless. He could not be found. In the end I went to a guy from my drama class who I found out was bisexual and spoke to him. He was the first person I ever told about my sexuality and he kept my secret until I came out. I have an amazing best friend who I wouldn’t trade for the world, who was a guy I never thought I would ever be friends with. He knew me so well that he knew I was trying every day to hide something, but just what I was trying to hide he didn’t know. This came to my attention when one day he wrote me a TBH (a paragraph of honest thoughts you have about someone) which said, "You are a great guy, I just wish that you would open up and let everybody get to see a bit more of you."
I hadn’t come out to him at this time and when he said this it was like a news flash . . . even though I thought I had my secret hidden perfectly, people could still see I was hiding something and they just wanted to find out what it was and get to know me.
For so many years I was scared of what people thought of me, but I just kept doing my thing performing and being the happy social butterfly everyone had come to know. But one day it clicked that by caring so much about the opinions everyone else had of me I was leaving myself open to hurt and leaving myself open to self-destruction. From that time on I haven’t cared what people think of me and I just do my own thing. My own mother at one point criticised me for this part of my developing personality and had said that I should care what people think. Even before I came out one of the biggest things I lived by was "If someone doesn’t like you or doesn’t support you for who you are then they aren’t worthy of your time."
I didn’t have a very good circle of friends. I was, until mid year 11 at school, an obvious social outcast, apart from when I performed. Only then I seemed to have a line of admirers. The support I got from parents of friends and from people I didn’t even personally know kept me strong, knowing that no matter what anybody said someone would always care, even if I had grown up in a small country town filled with, for lack of a better word, 'Bogans' (if you’re not sure what that term means then Google or Wikipedia can help!).
The day I eventually came out it was first to a woman I had known for over ten years. She was like a second mother to me. Coming out is a scary thing for anyone and is one the biggest steps you will ever take. I was so scared the day I came out. I knew that my mother would take the news fine, but I was very worried about what my father would say. All my life my father had been the big tough figure, so much that I became quite scared that when I did come out to him he might disown me and kick me out, or worse.
I told my second mother and I remember breaking into tears as I finally got it off my chest. I asked her for advice on how to come out to my parents, so she went online for me and printed off some coming out stories, making me a booklet to give to my parents to help them in so far as how to take the news.
It was when I got home that afternoon that told my mother and she offered to speak to my father before she went to work. I picked the day I did knowing that telling my parents would be scary but I knew my younger brother would be staying at a friend’s house that night, which would at least give me a chance to talk to my parents. I could then pick my own time to tell my little brother.
I was taken by surprise by my father’s reaction and broke into tears of joy at his answer. My father told me that he had suspected my sexuality but never read anything into it, that no matter what I would always be his son and that he would love to get to know whatever special person came into my life!
About a week later I came out to my little brother. It wasn’t quite how I imagined it would be. Initially he was quite negative, but his end reaction was actually positive and much better than I could have hoped for.
He called me a faggot, among other things, to which I replied, ‘Yes.’
The look on his face was priceless. He was clueless and asked what I meant.
‘You called me a faggot, I’m telling you that even though I don’t like that word, yes, I am’.
‘Really?’ he replied.
‘Yes, I am gay.’
‘So, do you have a boyfriend?’
‘Not at the moment, no.’
His next reply was even more unexpected.
‘Well, when you get one, I want to meet him, so I can approve of him, right? I might be your younger brother, but I will always have your back.’ Then he hugged me.
So, it is safe to say that the month I came out was a rather emotional month for me. But after I came out to my family I felt so much better having finally gotten my secret off my chest.
My official coming out to my friends and classmates was something quite different, however.
I had met a guy online a short time after this, having been introduced by an old friend. We would chat for hours online and he put sweet comments on my Facebook page, which, naturally enough was quickly picked up on by friends and classmates, only to be confused because his name was more typical of a female than a male. Later we put up a relationship status. All my friends swarmed to find out who it was and word soon got out that I was in a relationship with a guy.
With me never having had a real relationship before I jumped at the chance to be his boyfriend, but being so early after my coming out I soon realized that I wasn’t emotionally ready yet. I had never actually met this guy face to face, but I went along with everything knowing he made me smile and that I finally had someone in my life. After talking to him for about two days he told me he loved me and me, being absolutely clueless, I just played copycat.
The morning after our relationship status went up I was woken up by my mother and was told to take it down, that she didn’t approve because neither of us had met this guy before. I went to school that morning in tears and saw a close family friend who dried my tears and gave me some good advice. I was late to roll call that morning and being the first day everybody actually knew my secret there was a super high tension when I walked into roll call, so much I almost cried and ran out as soon as I opened the door to be greeted by everyone staring at me and watching my every step. One of my class mates who I had been great friends with since I started at the school, broke the tension and cheered me up.
I ended it with this guy a few days later. I was scared to date but not enough to give up. A friend tried to set me up with her best friend, who she had been working with for two years. That didn’t work out either, we had completely different interests. Over the coming months I talked to several different guys, until around September when I was talking to a nice guy who only lived in the next town. He was interested in every aspect of my life and nothing was ever too much trouble. I hadn’t actually met him face to face as yet either, as we were both quite busy. He kept me up the night before my 18th birthday so he could be the first person to say happy birthday to me. I got messages from him throughout the day of his thoughts of me and how much he liked me. The next day something he said really creeped me out, however, so I ended it.
The following day I found a nice guy on a friend’s Facebook friends list. I added him and by that afternoon he had sent me a message and we began talking non-stop from there. He and I started talking a couple of days after my 18th birthday in early October. By mid-November pet names such as babe and honey were being used on both parts and we both really liked each other. In early December 2012 we finally met face to face when he drove down from Queensland for the weekend to meet me. The following day we became an official couple and we had our first official date that night and have been dating ever since.
When I was entirely out I was a bit shocked at first, because even though I was being discriminated against by a few odd people, for the most part everybody in general was quite supportive and were interested to find out if I had someone special in my life. By now most of them have met my current boyfriend and their reactions have been largely positive.
Coming to terms with your sexuality isn’t an easy journey for anyone, and it’s even scarier revealing this to others because of the fear of rejection, or of harsh treatment, which is more common than some people realise.
As for coming out, I’ve decided that this should be a personal choice that everyone should be able to make only when they are ready. Some homosexuals will keep their lifestyle hidden from everyone, and this could be for any number of reasons; some fear the reactions of friends, or families, or employers. Some fear the stigma that can be attached to being labelled as queer, or gay, or any other term that might get thrown at them. Some never come out to anyone, content to live their lives in anonymity, while for others they can’t wait for the opportunity to shout it from the rooftops, throwing off the shackles that have held them back for so long. On a personal level I am out to pretty much everybody these days, and I don’t care what people think of me. When someone disses me due to my lifestyle I can now shrug it off and just think, ‘Hey! It’s my life and I’m happy. And that’s all that matters!’