In Gay We Trust: The Vulnerability Of Living Proud
Lao Tzu once said that “he who doesn’t trust enough will not be trusted”. He focussed on the importance of a mutual trust, an understanding, that for people to be open to you, you must equally be as open to them. But when you spend your life lying, and eventually get burnt, how can you ever open up again?
Being “in the closet” is how every not-out gay man is referred to. This metaphor that says you’re hiding secretly away, watching through the gap in the doors, waiting to see when it’s safe to come out. The reality is much more different. Not being out is like being trapped in your own mind. I remember it clearly; the fear that you’ll let slip, that you’ll say the wrong thing or something will give you away. I remember going shopping with my family, fearing the self-checkout will scream out “unexpected homo in the bagging area”. It was a lonely time, a time of isolation. I was out to all my friends in school but I lived in fear of word getting back to my parents. I’d place trust in “friends” who eventually would spread word until everyone knew I was gay.
My parents would ask me leading questions. I think they’d always known I was gay. Instead, I learned to lie. I would tell people I wasn’t gay and, selfishly, would get girlfriends to prove I wasn’t. The problem is, the more often you have to lie, the better you get at it. The lies were helpful to me when I broke up with my first boyfriend. My entire world had torn apart. I would cry every night, I couldn’t concentrate in school. Seeing his face every day as he sat opposite me was like a dagger inside. I had nowhere to place my hurt, my aggression or my confusion. But I couldn’t turn to my parents because then they’d know the truth about it all. They’d know I was gay, they’d know I had a boyfriend and that I hid it from them.
When I eventually came out to my parents, things weren’t easy at first. Although I believe they knew, they struggled with the revelation and what it meant for my future or at least, the future they’d always imaged for me. Eventually, they got over their hang ups and are now incredibly supportive. They now want me to be open to them, to tell them about my life but I’ve spent so many years hiding it from them, even now I struggle to open up. I’m constantly asked about my love life, who I’m dating or what I get up to but I find myself shrugging it off out of a reflex action. I grew up in a society where being gay was negative and that you should tell no-one. You don’t just get over that. The problem is, when you can’t tell your parents what is happening, you end up raising yourself when it comes to certainly subjects. I taught myself about flirting, falling in love, break-ups, sex and safety. The difficulty being I had to learn from my mistakes. It hardens you, it makes you closed off and invulnerable. So, when you’re 26 and people tell you to open up more, it’s difficult.
I am honest about superficial things. I talk openly and, somewhat graphically, about sex. I joke on Facebook about my ‘sad’ life. But I’m very rarely vulnerable. At 26, I have had 3 real relationships. My trust and my heart has been broken each time. I’ve had friends betray me, even recently. With every betrayal I face, the higher I build my wall. I’m like an emotional Donald Trump. Instead, when people probe me about how I am, I lie. In March, I discovered I was a type 1 diabetic. I discovered this by being rushed to hospital and told I was two days away from dying. I have spent months learning to deal with injections and appointments, risks and dangers. Yet, if you ask me how I am, I’ll probably tell you I’m fine. I’ll smile, make a joke and let you get on with your day. Because that’s what I do. Because if I tell you the truth, if I make myself vulnerable, it’ll just be a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ you betray me.
The close friends in my life have had to give so much of themselves to me before I could let them in. They’ve had to be patient and kind and so vulnerable themselves. I know everything about my close friends and sometimes it can seem like I’m trying to get ammunition on them. When I feel ready to get close to someone, I ask to hear their secrets. I probe them about their lives. Because the truth they speak and the vulnerability they show is the only thing that can thaw the ice inside me. For months, they are very patient and slowly, I can allow myself to be vulnerable.
I want to think it’s not too late for me to learn to trust more but I fear ever being considered naive or to place my trust in people who don’t deserve it. My first boyfriend got himself a girlfriend. My second boyfriend told everyone I had made the whole relationship up and the third one ran away with the circus (a whole other article, I assure you). Each of these moments, so pivotal in my life, added another brick to the wall. I just hope that some day, as the scars of my past fade, I’ll learn to trust again.
I am no longer the closeted gay boy fearing being outed. I am a grown man who needs to learn to open up. I believe that pride comes before the thaw, that to be vulnerable and honest, to be truly myself is not proof of my naivety nor any emotional stupidity but is simply what it is to be human.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.