6th November 2023
This opinion piece is the view of the interviewee and in no way reflects the views of Liverpool Guild Student Media or Liverpool Guild of Students.
Throughout LGBT+ History Month, I’ve held conversations with my friends to discuss their feelings about the area of LGBT+ that represents them. Yesterday, I published my first conversation, the letter L. Now I am continuing with the letter G.
In this second conversation, I spoke to one of my current best friends who I met playing video games online. Daan grew up in the suburbs in Belgium. With little knowledge of queer culture and nobody in his life that acted as a gay role model, he had hidden that part of his identity until last year. In this conversation, we speak about his feelings surrounding his identity and how he came to the decision to come out. Now living with his partner, he has flourished and is, quite literally, living his best life.
Eight years ago. I never really knew I felt it but I wasn’t ready to call it that. You kind of know but you don’t know for sure or you’re not ready to accept it. I knew it eight years ago but I wasn’t ready to accept it for myself. I was missing the part where schoolmates were like, “check out this girl!” Yet I wasn’t hyped about that like they were, I really had to force myself to act like them and I wasn’t genuinely hyped about it like they were.
Do you think that was more about you wanting to fit in with them? Or that you didn’t want to be gay full stop?
I think the second one. They come together. I wanted to fit in but to fit in I felt like I had to hide the gay part of me. I felt like I had to be more manly to fit in with the ‘boys group’. They confronted me multiple times saying things like, “that’s so gay what you just did” or “you sound so gay”, stuff like that. They weren’t showing that they would accept it. I think they meant it as funny, being guys in a guy group, but I took it seriously. It didn’t feel very welcoming for me to come out or be my gay self. It was like, would they still like me if I came out?
There’s a big difference, a huge difference. I didn’t know anyone who was gay then, in my hometown. You saw people on Tinder a couple of kilometres away. A few were one kilometre away, a handful of people. Now in the city you see gay people everywhere. It’s insane, it’s really funny actually. I never saw them in the countryside and now in the city it’s very different.
Do you think if you grew up there you’d have come out earlier?
Probably. Because then I would have met people like me. I think I would have accepted it more for myself or more easily because I would have seen other people and know they went through it. I’d know it was okay. Even though I knew it was okay, it’s still strange territory. I think I would’ve come out earlier if I lived in the city back then.
I’ve seen lots of TV with you! That was your plan all along and that was pretty clear. You showed me lots of gay stuff and that actually helped me, honestly. It did and not in a way like “I really like these movies” or stuff like that, but it was more like, it’s strange to say, but they were having a normal life. Seeing that it’s all okay and they were good and there’s love stories with gay people. It’s like accepting and seeing a full story and that helped.
Do you think it’s unlikely you would have seen that if we didn’t watch them together then?
I never saw a gay movie before we watched TV together – I never would have watched it. I probably saw gay people in a movie but it wasn’t about them. They were just present in the movie. We’ve seen gay rom-com movies and that’s really about those gay people. I would never have watched something like that if you didn’t make me. So you kind of brainwashed me and that is a good thing!
“Do you want to watch Queer Eye with me? Look at these five gay men. Out there, living their lives.”
You were good at it though. I don’t know how you did it. Like I could see what you were doing but it felt okay. I felt safe in your presence and that made the big difference. It made it okay and easier for me to just go with it.
I felt very protective of you, I wanted you to be happy and to be comfortable. I felt like if you wanted me to stop, you would say.
Yeah, I really needed that safe place. It wasn’t shocking. It was a bit at the time, not like you were trying to make me come out.
It’s funny because at the point where I asked if you wanted to watch Queer Eye, I remember thinking, “I wonder if he’s gonna say no”. Either you were going to say yes and you were well on your way to accepting it or you’d say no and get back in your hole.
Oh, risky! It was terrifying but also nice.
Every time we watched something else you’d be more likely to engage, ask questions and have an opinion. Then the more we’d watch them the more you’d express your opinions. Then after you came out and we’d be watching things that was the cutest step for me. The first time you said, “he’s hot”, I was like awh!
That was scary for me to be honest, telling people what I actually think because I was used to not doing that. I really struggled with, “who actually am I?”. For a long time I only said what I thought was acceptable, not what I actually thought. I just kind of lost me, like, “is what I’m thinking what I actually think or what I think someone else wants me to think?”.
I know you’re the first person who knew, I told you first because I was tired and stressed out from hiding it. I couldn’t bear it anymore, carrying the weight of the stress and secrets. My own personality, I couldn’t hide it anymore. It was too heavy. So I just burst into tears and a good mental breakdown helped me come out. Crying helps sometimes!
Do you think that your behaviour has changed and you’re more free to behave as your actual self now?
Oh yeah, I can freely (obviously, considering the feelings of other people!) say my own opinions. I can say it the way I want to say it. I’m not thinking I have to sound like this or that, or that someone else would think I would be more gay if I say it this way. I don’t really think about that anymore. I’m just me. Obviously I’m still a people pleaser. I think I sound like myself now instead of someone I want to be or I’m pretending to be, or what I think that people want to see from me.
Do you think that was easier because we know each other online?
Yeah, I think that definitely helped for me coming out to you. I think everything online is way easier than face to face. It’s not that it means less, it’s just less confronting. When I said it I was still in my own bubble and it was way different when I told my family after, face to face. I was still comfortable.
The reason I asked if you feel your behaviour changed is because I do, when we are with other people. The way you are with me is the way you’ve always been with me.
Yeah because I’ve always been comfortable with you. I never felt like you judged me in any way or I had to be more or less or different when I’m with you. I always felt free when I’m in your presence. It made the difference between me being myself and me being someone I thought I had to be way bigger. Now I knew how I was when I was with you and how I was with other people. I had to think or act differently and the difference was way more obvious. I think I do react or think way differently now than I did back then when I hadn’t come out.
Do you think that’s why you didn’t speak on microphone when we first met?
Yeah, that was very comfortable. Also because I thought my English was crap and it still is –
You are such a liar. There’s literally never a time you don’t know a word in English now! You’re hilarious.
– It was very comfortable for me typing out stuff because not only thinking about what I’m gonna say but also how I’m gonna sound to people. Most of the time when I call someone, they call me Miss (yeah, seriously) because I have such a high voice they just think I’m a woman on the phone. It was annoying but I don’t really mind now anymore. But when I was hiding that as much as I could, my voice is my voice and if I spoke on mic that was something I didn’t want to be confronted with. I think that’s why I was shy about coming on mic and tried to avoid it. In the end, I didn’t really think about it anymore because you made me do it and then I was used to it.
I only did that when it was just me and you though. You can’t sit on Minecraft with someone for hours and only respond by text when they’re asking you questions on mic!
Bit antisocial wasn’t it. It was also getting used to talking in English. I had before but this was different. Getting used to speaking English to people I never really spoke to or talking about that specific game. Chatting. I’m still shy though but back then I was even more shy and afraid, I guess, of being myself and sounding myself.
I don’t think that it’s a bad thing now. I guess it’s okay. I’d think it about a straight person. I think it is easier for the more manly gay people, people wouldn’t know.
Do you think that falls over to TV and stereotypes? Like, “oh, he’s a gay guy, he’s pretty flamboyant and he’s friends with loads of girls”.
Yeah, you never really see gay guys with a group of guy friends or not often. Maybe you see a high school series and the gay guy is on the football team and he’s secretly gay and then he comes out so he’s still friends with them. It’s not really the same. You never see the manly gays being openly gay with a group of male friends.
I remember us watching How To Get Away With Murder and you saying I can’t believe there’s another storyline where the gay guys are dealing with HIV or AIDS.
Yeah, that’s true. That’s a thing that does bother me. There is always a storyline with AIDS with gay people and I’m like why? Straight people can get HIV as much as gay people. Back in the day people thought it was only for gay people but I think everyone should know now that that’s not the case. I don’t really understand that link that they make like, “oh, we made a story about gay people, better put a chapter in there where one of them gets AIDS”. I don’t get why they do that anymore.
It just makes it more tragic I guess. Like them being closeted or coming out and everything is bad.
Yeah, like one of their family members doesn’t accept it or they get abandoned by their family. Like all those horrible stories, a stereotypical story when you see gay people in the movies or on TV. I think it can make people more afraid of coming out when they see that. It does happen and it happens quite often but just as often, it doesn’t happen. People do accept it. It’s good that they show it because it’s a possibility but it’s not every single time. When there’s a gay story it’s dramatic as fuck. Not just a love story. Someone is sick or abandoned and that’s kind of sad.
What about representation and celebrities in the media as a whole?
To be honest, I don’t really know many celebrities. I don’t have a celebrity I look up to that I’m a huge fan of. I don’t really pay much attention to it or I just don’t remember their names. It’s not just celebrities though, I just can’t do names at all. Maybe it’s a problem, I should get that tested! I don’t really follow it so I can’t really comment.
I think that definitely made it harder. You’re alone in the story. You don’t have anyone to share the problem you have, you can’t really share it or talk to anyone about it. There’s nobody else because they don’t really have anything to do with it or get what it is.
I feel like that sometimes between me and you. Like I can talk to you about it as much as I want but I haven’t lived through that. I can give you an opinion but I’m not gay.
No but you knew people who were gay and had gone through it. You knew a lot about it. More than me. Stuff that there is to know apart from feeling wise. I think you’re someone that does know a lot about it even though you’re not gay. I think you’ve got this expertise from people you know who are gay and that’s worth something. A lot, actually. I think it would’ve helped if I’d known someone who was gay. I’m not sure I’d talk to them about me but I’d have known more about it. It would have made it easier to understand or accept the whole thing. I think in that way it would have made it easier. To see someone who was just ‘normal’ and gay.
Just before my breakdown, I said to my mum I wanted to see a therapist. I didn’t tell her why and she didn’t ask because she probably knew and didn’t want to confront me. It was nice that she didn’t ask me why because I obviously didn’t feel I could talk to her about it which is why I wanted to speak to a therapist. I did call one and the one I called didn’t answer. They never called back. I was at such a low point when I called and I never got to that point and had the courage to call again. I was desperate for help. A few weeks later I told you and then you were my therapist.
I did see a therapist back in the day when my parents divorced. It was always in my head that I could have called her. She did ask me if I felt different from other people, like at school. I never answered her truthfully. I felt disappointed in my choice a year or two later, I wanted to answer her again but with what I really thought. But I never got chance to because I called and she didn’t call back. Then, I found you and I didn’t need her anymore because I got the best therapist in the world – and for free!
Lucky you, I should’ve charged for all the hours I’ve put in.
Yeah, you’d be very rich.
Do you think if you had told her the truth that the process would’ve been faster?
I think I’d be broke because I’d have spoken to her a lot more. I think I would’ve had someone to talk to about it and that would have sped the process up. That was when I was eighteen.
What about when you did come out, at twenty-two? What was that process like for you?
Oof, stressful. But very exciting.
I think I was very excited.
It was very exciting and very scary. I knew they would accept me as I am. At the same time I was afraid of what would change. Not that anything had to change or I would change because I’d still be me. There was still the fear of “would they accept it?”, even though I knew they would but it’s still like “but would they?”. It was very exciting and it changed the world for me coming out to them. My boyfriend never did the coming out talk, he just came home with a guy. For me, I really needed the talk, I really needed that.
Was that because you already had a much closer relationship, especially with your mum?
Yeah, I think so. You hear some people say, “well why do you need to come out? It should be normal”. I get that but it wasn’t really to make them feel good about it. I think if I came home with a guy they’d react the same way. It was for me, I wouldn’t do it for them. I needed the talk.
It was a question that you needed answered so you’d never need to think about it again.
Exactly. I told my mum and then she sent my sister up and I told her. I was having a mental breakdown, I couldn’t stand up at the time, I was crying so hard. Then a few weeks later, I told my dad and brother but I guess that’s because they don’t live here. I really waited until I actually had a date with a guy coming up and I was like, “now is the moment, I have to do it now”. It made it easier because I knew exactly what I was gonna say. It was all planned.
Funny. Very weird. Thinking about it, I went on the date but I planned it that I didn’t have to work the next day. I didn’t plan to do anything but the possibility for me to stay there was there. I was gonna be in a different city, I was going on my first date and I was open to every possibility. Really, I didn’t care what was going to happen. I wanted to have no limits in the way that, of course, I’m only gonna do what I wanna do but I’m not gonna care what other people think and I want no time constraints. If it’s fun and it’s good, I have the time to stay.
Do you think it was less of a shock because before you were out, you weren’t dating girls?
I didn’t really have something to compare it to. I had a girlfriend in middle school but that’s just a kids’ version of love.
Holding hands at school and never anything more?
Exactly. That was when I was like thirteen. Kissing and dating and all that was very far from me.
I think if we were at school together we would’ve dated.
Yeah, you’d be in love with me.
Then I’d have a talk with you about you being gay and you’d be like, “don’t tell anyone!”
Yeah, you’d be my beard. Probably. That’s funny.
Obviously, I’m just in love with you.
I’m in love with you too. My bestie, bestie friend. My wifey. We are in a happy place now, not the dark closet.