Bram, in his own words: “For me being gay has always been natural. I cannot remember not being gay. It’s a part of me but not all of me, definitely not the most important. I always felt a bit different from the other kids but I liked it and I still in a way enjoy being different.
My relationship is my biggest success. It has sometimes been challenging but we always found a way to deal with our differences. I met Stef when I was only 18, he was my first boyfriend and who would have known that he was the man of my life.
I waited until I left home for university to tell my parents (I was gay). Not that I wanted to hide it but there was very little chance to have a boyfriend so there was no real reason to discuss it. It was very difficult to meet young gay people living in a small town (there was no internet at that time). My parents reaction was immediately supportive and soon after I met Stef.
I have never been a big fan of the gay scene but there are plenty of places in Brussels that are gay friendly. We cannot complain about the acceptance of gays in Belgium.
(Advice to my younger self) I’m happy with the choices I’ve made: be yourself and enjoy your life!”
Stefan, in his own words: “The importance of the gay part of my identity has changed a lot throughout my life. When I was a teenager it felt like a curse, the bullying at school didn’t really help. Once at university it became a positive and important part of my life and I became active in the LGBT movement. Once settled the importance became less and less as nobody made an issue about it. Bram and I are now 18 years together and we always got the support of family, friends and colleagues. Since two year we live together with another guy and it made me think more about the meaning of being gay again. His family doesn’t accept it, he still struggles with it and it now makes me more aware of how lucky I am to live my life in Belgium and in a culture, where people don’t make a big fuss about being gay.
What I consider as my biggest succes in my life so far is my relationship with Bram. I still feel blessed that after 18 years we are still so close and in love and are even able to share our love. I can’t say I had a lot big challenges in my life, my biggest challenge is my own psyche. I guess I am full of contradictions. At work I used to be always bored and in need of more challenge, but at the same time more responsibility scared me off. The day I got promoted at my last job was one of my saddest days. Now I am quite happy as a houseman, it’s nice to take care of your loved ones and to create a nice welcoming home.
The first time I told somebody I was gay was at 14. He was a classmate on whom I had a crush. He didn’t react badly, he just said he wasn’t surprised. After that it took me another 3 years to tell more people. I came out to my parents when I was 17. I struggled with it a lot and was often in a bad mood. When I had a fight with my mum she asked me why I was always moody. I just threw it out and shouted that I was gay. My mum was afraid and asked me not to tell my dad…but she couldn’t keep it to herself and told him. Once my dad knew it wasn’t an issue anymore, for him it explained a lot and since then we have a very good relationship. I can’t say I had bad experiences, except some bullying at school when I was younger.
I actually don’t know much about the gay community in Brussels. I guess it’s quite the same as everywhere else. I don’t feel the need to go out in gay places anymore. I still go to the Brussels pride parade every year, mostly to meet up with friends and enjoy the festive atmosphere and of course because I feel it is still necessary to support LGBT people in countries that are not really as tolerant.
If I could give one advice to my younger self it would be not to be so afraid and to believe more in myself. Fear has always been a limiting factor in my life. Fear of what people would say, fear of not to be able to succeed, soo much fear, shame.”