Jacob, in his own words: “It’s tough to say exactly what being gay means to me, but it has certainly changed over the years.
When I first realized I was gay, it felt like a clumsy label, a prescriptive definition that squeezed me in with a group I couldn’t relate to. Admittedly, I still don’t relate to much of the gay community, being recognized as the worst gay ever by friends. However as I grew older, my internalized homophobia died off and I was able to meet a multitude of amazing gay men. This has taught me that what being gay is follows from who gay men are; it’s a descriptive thing. I am part of the definition of what being gay means, and all men who identify as gay make up the whole. Seeing the big definition of being gay as a melange of smaller parts is working well for me.
Coming out was an interesting ride. I was raised in a very religious Evangelical Christian household. I was sent to a private school with prayer and chapel, and was the son of a minister. I was scared beyond belief at the prospect of being found out. Gay men only existed in my mind as phantoms of hollow and depraved lifestyles, with an agenda to destroy all that was good and wholesome. Feeling that those in my Christian community would view me as deeply dysfunctional if they knew I was gay, yet not being able to relate at all to the image of gay men I was presented with, the isolation felt extreme. Thankfully, I grew up as the internet boomed.
When I was 16, I found an online forum that was run for, and by, gay teenagers. This changed my life. I met people in the exact same boat as myself, and realized others were struggling with the same issues, the same doubts, and the same fears. It broke my sense of isolation. A group of friends formed and we supported each other as we came out to our families. I am still close with many of them nearly 10 years later, even though we all live far apart.
Despite the feeling that I was going to vomit before telling people, I am lucky that coming out was mostly positive, though something of a mixed bag. A couple friends’ religious convictions created gulfs that made meaningful relationships impossible. My family members had some initial sadness over what they thought would be a hard life for me, but have ultimately been very supportive. Their love for me and who I am has never been called into question.
If I could give myself a little pep talk before coming out, I would stress how much love there was around me, and how that love would extend to every part of who I was and am. I’d also try to convince myself to loosen up a bit.”