It happened in late May of 1992 and became official on May 28th, the day I started my diary to come out to myself on paper; I was seven weeks away from my 21st birthday, having just finished my first undergrad degree. Suddenly, without warning, denial took a permanent holiday and I accepted the simple truth: I was gay. Had been all along.
Of course, it wasn’t really “without warning” and looking back, I’m amazed it took so long for me to come out. I’d liked boys for years, fantasized about them with every spare neuron. It’s true that I’d never actually done anything about it… and denial is a powerful thing. Since I understand how pointless it is to obsess about wasted years, and even though I wish I’d done it earlier, I can only say I just wasn’t ready to face the truth.
So I was out to myself. but now what was I supposed to do? Who should I talk to? Where should I go to find other gay people? Too many questions. Internalized homophobia was really the least of my worries: I felt lost and confused, full of fears and self-doubts, and not just about this particular issue. In the first week of June I attended my graduation ceremony; though I was proud and happy to have completed my degree, everything intensified my insecurities. All the other graduands seemed so sure of themselves, of where they wanted to go, what they wanted to do. Me? I didn’t have a clue. Only that I was staying in school, postponing any major decisions about my life for as long as possible.
When classes started again in September, I decided it was time to get off my butt. I’d spent the summer getting my head together, and felt a bit more confident about things. I remembered seeing posters for a gay/lesbian/bi group at Ottawa U, but that had been a couple of semesters ago, so I didn’t know if they were still active. Of course, back in those days, there was no centre or Web site. However, the student info guide was helpful in other ways: I found out about GO-Info, Ottawa’s G/L monthly paper (now defunct), and several gay or gay-friendly bookstores. And in GO-Info, I learned about various discussion and support groups held by local queer organizations. That was exactly what I needed.
In mid-September I came out to my twin brother Martin. I’d been working up the nerve to hell him for a couple of months… and as I expected it went perfectly well. I told him, and that was that. I’d been hugely nervous before, needing to tell somebody, and here I was with a totally anticlimactic coming out.
A week later I went to my first gay discussion group. I’d chosen one that took place on Sunday afternoons, since all others were on weeknights and I wasn’t ready to come out to the rest of the family. I told my parents I was going to study on campusâ€”a plausible lie, since I sometimes did do this.
I took the bus to the ALGO Centre, at 318 Lisgar just off Bank Street. As I walked up those stairs (stairs that would become very familiar), I knew I was entering a different world. A world where I could be myself; where I could spill my guts; a world of people like me, who knew what I was going through because they’d been there too.
We went out for coffee after the meeting. Later, at home, I explained the smell of cigarette smoke on my clothes by saying I’d gotten together with friendsâ€”this time, not a lie. I kept my excitement and brand-new optimism to myself. Partly it was habit… and partly, I didn’t think even Martin would understand.
And so began my life out of the closet. Over the next few months I came out to my immediate family, read quite a lot (and especially got interested in queer history), and very gradually became politicized. It was slow goingâ€”change only came one small step at a timeâ€”but at last I was on my way.