Spencer’s journey is the sixth of our reader-submitted coming out stories during Vancouver Pride Week 2013.
Occupation: SFU Student
Before I start this, I want to apologize in advance: I am legitimately the least concise person you’ll ever meet, so bare with me. On the surface, I might seem like your average 22 year old university student with endless ambition and a serious love for music. But it took me a long time to get to the point I’m at today, as an outgoing and openly gay man who is comfortable in my own skin.
I had a pretty normal childhood; I liked Pokemon, soccer and reading, among other exciting hobbies. But towards the end of elementary school I started to come to new realizations that were, frankly, hard to swallow. While all of my male friends started to show interest in girls, I never experienced the same feelings. I never really questioned why initially and merely wrote it off.
I was fairly outgoing and made friends pretty easily, even when transitioning into high school, but I was forced to confront my sexuality soon after starting grade 8. As guys and girls around me started to experience their first relationships, I was left to ponder my apparent disinterest in girls. I was beginning to realize that I felt a stronger connection and attractions to guys, a feeling that none of my friends shared… or so I thought. Now, looking back, I know I did have friends who were in the same situation as me, but you know what they say – hindsight is 20/20.
I was scared. Don’t get me wrong, Canada is a very accepting place compared to many other areas of the world, but we lived in (and, in many ways, still live in) a society where you are essentially straight until proven otherwise. This can obviously be quite troubling when gay youth start to discover their true feelings. Not only that, homophobia in schools was still prevalent. None of it may have been aimed at me directly, but when people hurl the word “faggot” around with a sense of malice, it sure as hell scares the crap out of you, especially when you aren’t sure where to turn. At the time I wasn’t willing to take the risk of jeopardizing my social standing in this new school. All I wanted was to fit in, to make friends and be liked by others, to be “normal”.
What I was left with was a sense of loneliness and fear. I didn’t want anyone to find out that I was attracted to guys, at any cost. Of course, keeping things hidden deep inside isn’t healthy. The outgoing, personable kid I had been up until grade 9 was slowly replaced with a reclusive, solitary individual who would head home straight after school and get caught up in video games and music to disconnect from the world around me. My grades slipped, my social life began to suffer, and I dealt with severe, even crippling, depression and contemplated suicide on numerous occasions.
One night, around grade 10, I got lost in this crippling loneliness and fear of rejection and very nearly killed myself when my family was out of the house, which I now refer to as my rock bottom. In my fragile state, anything seemed like a better option than another day of life. My family returned home late in the evening to find my unconscious body on the kitchen floor. When I came to late the next day, I had no recollection of the evening, but my family was extremely worried about me and, deep down, I was even worried about myself. But rather than having these problems dealt with, I convinced my family that everything was fine and just kept on my path of blending in with the rest of the guys, with those close to me somewhat unaware of the inner struggles I was dealing with.
It wasn’t until I started at Simon Fraser University that I started to become comfortable with being gay. While high school was a mostly positive experience for me, university was a godsend and provided me a lot more freedom to be myself. Everyone I met was accepting and friendly and I felt like I was in an environment where I would be accepted for who I am, regardless of sexual orientation.
It wasn’t until partway through my second year at SFU that I felt comfortable enough to vocalize what I long felt. I told two friends that I was gay around that time; it was exhilarating to have someone other than myself know about my sexuality because it felt like I didn’t have to hide my true self anymore. The sense of freedom and liberation that came with this was life changing, in all honesty, and made up for the many years of fear and loathing that I had went through.
Since coming out to those first two people, coming out has been a fairly rapid process. I told my parents that I was gay just over two years ago, on July 3rd, 2011 (yes, I remember the exact date). Fearful of any potential backlash, I was surprised to hear that they were incredibly supportive of my sexuality and just wanted me to be happy. All of my friends have been supportive as well, and I have yet to encounter any negative responses when people find out that I’m gay.
I have been fortunate enough to touch people’s lives: I have been some people’s first gay friend; I have had friends who were comfortable enough to come out to me in their own coming out process; I have even had multiple people tell me that I changed their view of gay people, which had previously fallen closer to stereotypes.
Looking back, I could have likely found great support around me, or even online, but when you’re in this state of feeling like you are a freak, unnatural and alone that isn’t always your first instinct. My internal struggles, while challenging and having taken a significant toll on me, have shaped who I am today and I do not have any regrets about how I have lived my life up until now.
The reason I am sharing my story with my fellow Vancouverites is simple: I want people out there who find themselves in the same situation I was in just a few short years ago to see that it truly does get better, as cliché as it might sound. Kudos to Vancity Buzz for doing this series, it is something I wish I had come across earlier in my life, because just knowing other people went through similar circumstances as you did can be reassuring and make all the difference.
– SPENCER TOTH
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.