Peter, in his own words: “Growing up in a small town as a teenager in the 80’s and 90’s, exposure to the gay side of life was extremely limited. The occasional sex education book at the back of the library, a gay phone line to call where I was often too shy to talk, a bisexual porn movie rental or a drunken kiss with a friend were pretty much it. It wasn’t really until I moved to a bigger city in Denmark with one gay bar and with the introduction of the internet that I fully discovered my own sexuality. It was like a whole new and exciting world opening up to me. I believe all these experiences or a lack thereof in my teens have also formed my perception on what being gay means to me today. I view being gay as only one part of me as a person. In a few ways it defines me, in most others it couldn’t matter less. What being gay will always mean to me though is that I’ll always, in one way or another, belong to a minority with all of its good and sometimes bad sides.
Living one part of my life outside of the societal norm in a somewhat parallel world has given me some amazing experiences and insights in life that I doubt I would have gotten otherwise. In that way I feel lucky and grateful. It is also a doubled-edged sword to me. At times it has given me a very special and positive sense of belonging to a unique and spectacularly diverse community with so much to offer, while at others, frustrations over the lack of acceptance and often stereotypical judgements within the community itself have been prevalent.
What being gay also means is that I actively have to keep defining myself as different. Every time I meet a new person I have to decide whether to tell the person in front of me that I’m gay, whether to wait or to just not say anything at all. It’s a choice I have to make which in Denmark isn’t a huge problem to make, but nevertheless life as a gay man easily becomes a never-ending life of coming out which I sometimes find a little straining and stressful. Furthermore, an invisible hierarchy also seems to exist in society with respect to which values or lifestyle choices have the most meaning or are the most correct. I find that as a gay man I am more often forced into defending or at least explaining my choices such as more partying or not having kids, amongst others, than my straight counterparts. On the positive side, I believe that also gives me easier access to defining my own life as I’m less pressured by general societal expectations.
I think being gay has also given me a thicker skin. On a daily basis I read articles or headlines that promote hatred, discrimination and the death of homosexuals. I hear about people being attacked in hate crimes, others jailed, discriminated or bullied because of their sexuality. Fortunately I have been spared from much of this but I do find it harsh, tiring and discouraging to constantly be on someone’s agenda only because I want to spend my life with a person of the same gender. I would honestly like to think that the world has a few bigger issues than who I bring into my bedroom.
I guess that in the end being gay to me is for better or for worse, as with everything else in life. Nevertheless I’m proud of being gay and for who I am as a person today. I’m proud of being part of a community with such a rich history of fighting for equality and acceptance. I’m grateful to those who started the revolution in 60’s and 70’s and made life easier for the following generations and I’m proud of the everyday heroes who are standing on the battlegrounds today as equality and acceptance still have long way to go in too many countries worldwide. Huge challenges in my life haven’t been major. Of course I have struggled a little during the formative years trying to figure all this gay stuff out but generally I would say everything in life has seemed to fall into place just nicely without too many headaches along the way. Trying to build a life where you feel happy and loving yourself on a daily basis is a continuous challenge, which is one that I feel I have successfully achieved.
Despite past relationship failures, bad dates, awkward encounters and long periods of being single, I definitely consider the ability to stay optimistic and continue to believe in love one of my successes. Cynicism seems to be always lurking somewhere in the background within the community, both due to the openness and directness of the sexual side of being gay but also due to the ever-ongoing youth obsession and hunt for fresh meat. Lasting relationships can be tough to find especially when younger, where the level of curiosity is at its peak. I’m happy to say though that love once again has shown its beautiful face and with it an even stronger feeling that the years of waiting and sometimes frustrations were absolutely worth it. In the big picture I’m a fortunate man and consider myself extremely lucky having a loving family, a wonderful group of close friends and the most amazing new boyfriend.
The above mentioned move to a bigger city is also part of my coming out story. Very few people knew about my sexuality at the time and it wasn’t really a big deal to me. I was in my early twenties when I met my first boyfriend. Though we didn’t live in the same city he was the one that opened my eyes to life as a gay man. After a while together I came to the realization that people should actually know about the happiness I was feeling, who I loved and also more generally know about this side of me. In other words, I wanted to share my happiness with the people who were the most important to me in my life. I guess on some level he gave me the courage to fully come out not only to friends but also to my family, something which I will always be grateful for. Friends gave me hugs, mom cried a bit followed by hugs and kisses, while dad was more the strong silent type in the beginning but eventually understood what I was saying. I have never expected anyone to accept it right away as coming out is something you as a person have had years to think about before saying it. However, there was generally acceptance, understanding and support from all sides which made it a big relief in some way. It’s sometimes strange how many different worst case scenarios you have playing out in your own head before the otherwise simple words ‘I’m gay’ actually come out of your mouth. In almost all cases these scenarios are unfounded and a waste of time but still serve as a good learning process for the future.
I believe Denmark has always been considered a liberal country when it comes to sexuality. The worlds first national association for gays and lesbians were founded in 1948, the first gay bar opened more than 80 years ago and in the fight for equality the country saw its first recognized same sex partnership in 1989. Although the city is small and no Berlin for sure, I do find the community quite mixed with options catering to most interests. When it comes to nightlife, I think that Copenhagen has all the usual different types of bars with different parties on the side. The general openness means that almost all venues are mixed which sometimes makes me miss the all male parties you see in most bigger cities around the world. In my opinion the biggest downside of the bars though is that they seem to be quite old-fashioned and provincial. The main music consists of old classics and Eurovision songs mixed with a few popular tracks in between. I really would like to see the scene develop and reinvent itself, especially music wise!
On the healthier side I’m really impressed with the local LGBT sports group here. They are doing a great job now offering more than 20 different sports and I can say joining one of them is one of the best choices I made, when I first moved to Copenhagen. As a new guy in town it was a great way for me to meet people outside the bar scene and a perfect way to build lasting friendships.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards” as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said. Giving advice to my younger self though would mean having a lot of things I wish I had done differently. I don’t believe giving advice in hindsight serves much purpose as each and every experience I have in my backpack are important and have helped me become the person I am today. Instead I’ll say that no matter where you are in life my advice to anyone would be to be true to yourself, don’t delay things, follow your intuition and not least never forget to cherish the good and learn from the bad.”