Joey Laguio’s journey is the second of our reader-submitted coming out stories during Vancouver Pride Week 2013.
Occupation: QA Analyst Co-op / Computer Engineering Student
Words just can’t express how excited I am for the future… For the first time in my life, I am becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of allowing other people to get to know me. But not just know me – I mean – really get to know me, you know? Without a fake mask or a front that I put up. I’m talking about the real me.
But what does that even mean… The real me? Yeah, for sure, it means being open with the fact that I am attracted to guys… but there is more to “coming out” than that, and I think that a lot of other people like me feel the same way. Liking guys is only one part of myself, and my identity is more than just my sexual preferences.
For one thing, I’ve been seriously considering going into a career in music. I’m currently studying engineering, which is still relatively interesting to me, but I have always pushed the idea of making music to the back of my mind, regardless of my thoughts about it. Growing up, it was so easy to let other people’s expectations for me define who I was. My parents never outright discouraged me going into music, but they never outwardly encouraged it, either… but I can’t say that I blame them – I always knew they were only looking out for my best interests.
But I realized… my life is worth more than the sum of everyone’s expectations for me. Life is simply too short to live by other people’s rules. I have my own thoughts and my own feelings, and as such, I deserve to treat myself with more respect than that. And this is how I feel regarding my sexuality. Although my sexuality does not define me completely, it is still a part of myself that I consciously choose to hide from others. And by hiding myself from others in this way, I am conforming myself to everyone else’s expectations of me, even when I know that I deserve better. I deserve to be myself, and nothing less.
Make no mistake, though, it has taken me a really long time to come to this liberating realization. Recently, I just broke up with my girlfriend of six years. It has been quite the journey. (And no… before you ask, I am not bisexual, if that’s what you’re thinking). One would think that, being gay, this was a long, difficult trial of self-denial and suppression. In part, as with my career choices, it was fuelled by other’s expectations for me. As young as 12 or 13, I thought to myself: what if I wanted a child, that was truly my own and related to me by blood? How could I justify being with a guy, if I could never produce my own children? Wasn’t having a child the social norm when having relationships? Imagine tackling these difficult life decisions just as one was leaving elementary school, and not having anyone to talk to about it… It was tough.
But I was lucky. I met an amazing girl. A girl who allowed me to be myself, even when I was too scared to do so. I hated talking on the phone (and I still do…), but she somehow became the only person who I felt comfortable talking on the phone with. And before you think I’m a complete jerk for having a relationship with a girl despite being gay, don’t underestimate the fact that I was still able to love her, as hard as that might be to believe. Being with her showed me that love is not just about physical sexuality. It is so much more than that. Love is about talking late into the night hundreds of times over, singing songs way off key together in karaoke, drinking a lot of sangria (a lot), eating a crap ton of sushi and nachos, having deep conversations and reflections about life in the park and just, in general, sharing a lot of amazing experiences together.
I was so grateful. Slowly, she transformed into a woman that was strong enough and who loved me enough to accept the fact that we might not meant to be together. As I became more and more honest with her, she came to understand me more than I was ever able to understand myself. And yet, she loved me. And I loved her. She was my ear to talk to when no one was listening, and my shoulder to cry on, when my suppressed needs would just be too much for me to handle. She would ask me how my secret guy crush was going, and we frequently checked out guys together when we went out on Friday nights. This is undoubtedly strange to the outside observer, but to me, this was the ultimate sign of the strength of our relationship.
But don’t get me wrong. She grew too. She was not the shy, yet talkative, high school girl that she was when I first met her six years ago. After years of being with her, I found out how strong she was, how determined she was, and how willingly selfless she was capable of being. She took on my struggles and placed some of the burden on herself, because she knew that it was too much for one person to carry. She was (and still is!) my superhero, a superhero that it seemed only I could truly appreciate.
This is why I never regret any moments from our last six years together. Although I knew full well that I preferred guys to girls from the beginning, it wasn’t six years of lying to myself and forcing myself to do something I didn’t want to do. It was a six year long journey of mutual growth and understanding. We came to know each other’s insecurities, fears, and dreams, and we got so much closer as a result. Our greatest victory was realizing, together, as a couple, that we had to push each other away for our own individual good’s. She deserved to have her love reciprocated in the complete and selfless way that she had loved me, and I deserved to actually start being honest with myself with what I wanted, as opposed to constraining myself to what I believed others wanted for me.
But most importantly, after all of these experiences, she made me love being me. She gave me the ability to completely love myself, regardless of what other people would think or say. And the best part yet: after I became more open to loving myself, new, life-changing thoughts started to pop up in my head. The biggest realization I had was that it was possible to transform the struggles that I had endured into positive “energy”, I guess one could say, for others.
For example, I was more open to the idea that I could choose music as a career in my life so that I could fully express myself and help others while doing so. I also learned that I could make an effort to respect those people who were not the same as everyone else, because they consistently had the strength to stay true to themselves – something that I always had a hard time doing. In addition, I was able to act more kindly to those who mistreated me because I could see that their outward actions did not always reflect their inward thoughts; it was similar to how I sometimes acted rashly when I struggled with my own internal suppression.
Lastly, I realized that the insecurities of the so-called “normal” people were not that different from the insecurities of a gay person, with regard to “coming out of the closet.” These feelings and worries were universal, and everyone, not just gay people, have to “come out” in their own ways. Whether it comes to their career choices, their relationships, their flaws, and any other aspect of themselves that might be considered “shameful”, everyone hides a part of themselves from the world. This feeling unites all of us, but no one ever likes to address these parts of themselves directly.
In short, being able to love myself and appreciate my own struggles was able to make me more empathetic towards others, and treat them with a much deeper respect that I did previously. Even just being aware of this is already such a huge accomplishment, and makes me appreciate how far I have come since I graduated from high school, just a few years ago.
From all of this, it’s pretty clear that my process of coming out did not occur over a few days, weeks, or even months. In fact, it took me years. For me, it seems that my life, as a whole, has been a coming out process. Slowly chiseling away the parts of me that were created by others over the years, and really getting to the core of who I was, regardless of how vulnerable it made me. Over the past few years, I’ve been gradually telling my close friends and family about my situation, and I am lucky to have received a lot of support along the way. The most exciting part is that the process isn’t even complete yet; I still have a lot of “coming out” to do. But in my opinion, it doesn’t have to happen overnight, and it doesn’t have to be a huge announcement and spectacle. It can happen naturally and slowly, following the other aspects of one’s life as events occur, flowing out of oneself like water when it just seems right.
And now… here we are! The summer of ’13…! I’ve got a great engineering co-op job at a downtown software start-up company that I actually like, a future of making music to look forward to, the strength that comes with overcoming my own struggles in my back pocket, and one of the strongest women in the world just a phone call away. These days, I more frequently get the feeling that I am getting closer and closer to who I was meant to be – with regard to all aspects of my life, and not just my sexuality. I am slowly starting to become more honest with myself, and I have to admit that I am loving every minute of it. I have so many ideas, thoughts, and feelings that I want to unleash to the world, tons of dreams and goals that I want to achieve, new people and relationships to pursue, and a lifetime of amazing experiences ahead of me.
So… bring it, life. Let’s see what you’ve got. Come at me, bro! 😉
– JOEY LAGUIO
For those who identify as LGBTQ, the process of ‘coming out’ is often difficult and painful but it can best be described as liberating. Last week, Vancity Buzz invited its LGBTQ readers to submit their own ‘coming out’ stories as a means of empowering and inspiring others who may be struggling with their own sexuality.
As these individuals in our stories experienced and eventually realized, retaining such deep secrets can cause much internal damage – only honesty can allow them to live life to its fullest potential, to be able to truly enjoy life. Joey Laguio’s journey is the second of our reader-submitted coming out stories during Vancouver Pride Week 2013.
Got a coming out story to share? Click here for more information on how to submit.