Ya know, if we are being perfectly honest, you thought the idea, “I always knew I was…different,” was a cliché.
Until you realised it applied to you.
Maybe it was just getting to the realisation that took you a while, but looking back on your childhood...you were the odd kid.
Jesus, even as you write your story, you’re still erasing your preferences with words like ‘different’ and ‘odd’.
You can recall moments where you knew you weren’t like the other boys in your class.
And you guess some of them knew that too.
The words, “fuckin’ queer,” followed you like a shadow.
And you believe—no, you know—your resistance to accepting your sexuality was because of sneering angst-fuelled homophobia from your peers in your formative years.
Their words, their taunts, their raised fists, they clung to your psyche like the smell of cigarette smoke.
You remember your first schoolyard beating for your sexuality.
Well, it wasn’t even your sexuality, but the threat of another boy’s being labelled as such.
It was the first day back to school after summer vacation. You were sixteen years old. All you had done was smile at him and said “hey” as you passed him on the way into class.
It was a mark of acknowledgement. You had spent the previous summer playing together.
But you hadn’t heard the rumours. People made their own assumptions of you two spending so much time together.
The obvious embellishments started almost immediately.
“I heard they kissed.”
“Ugh, I was interested in John, but if that’s true then I don’t want to go near him! How could he kiss a boy?”
“I heard they had sex in John’s bed.”
“Is that even allowed?”
“I wonder who was top.”
“Definitely John, he’s the masculine one!“
It didn’t matter if it wasn’t true, the schoolyard loved a scandal.
John vehemently denied everything said in between throwing his fists at you.
“I’m not a faggot,” he shouted, connecting his fist to your nose. There was a crunch and blood poured out.
“Don’t touch him again John. He’ll probably give you AIDs.”
That was the start of a hellish year.
For the next year you tried to bulk up.
Rugby, martial arts, kettlebell training, anything that would add muscle and would make bullies think twice about tangling with you.
It was never enough. You enjoyed sports and were a fantastic kicker, but your body had some aversion to developing any kind of tone.
It didn’t help that you did eventually come out as liking boys. Yet you liked girls as well.
Most people didn’t believe you on the latter. They thought you were just creating a stepping stone so that you wouldn’t have to fully come out as gay.
The world is binary, therefore you must fall into one of the two categories. There is no ‘middle ground’.
So you can almost trace why it took so long for you to both figure out your sexuality and announce it to the world.
But there was always something else keeping you from claiming that label.
Your first male crush. Your first male love.
Well, not exactly your first. There will always be a certain fox in Robin Hood.
And for a time you convinced yourself that you liked girls. Hang on, you’ve always liked girls...
Ugh, okay. You tried to convince yourself that it was ONLY girls.
For you there has never been a choice, you have formed relationships with those on both sides (not to mention those that lie between).
“No-one is ashamed to show their true sexuality.” Truer words have never been spoken. But for the longest time you hid yours.
It not only left a lasting impression on your psyche, but on your body as well. Long before the tattoos you got irrevocably change your skin, the blade of a razor did the trick.
You always wore a watch on your left hand, despite being right-handed. The strap was large enough to hide the scar.
Because of that ever-present check of masculinity, you made a conscious effort to date those of the opposite sex.
Yet when you had dated girls back when you were younger, not many had lasted longer than a few weeks.
Grace agreed to ‘go out’ with you at morning break, only to ‘dump’ you by the end of the day because you wouldn’t kiss her at lunchtime.
When you tried to tell Jess about how you sometimes fantasised about men, she threw her phone at you and screamed in your face.
“You like men? I can’t believe I shared a bed with you!”
As if sharing a bed with a man made you less masculine. You hadn’t even dated a man at that age, but the connection was made and couldn’t be undone.
She eventually came around to your house to ask for forgiveness. She’d been crying, her make-up running down her cheeks.
“I don’t know what came over me, I shouldn’t have reacted like that.”
She gladly folded into your arms and told you it was fine, but when you planted a soothing kiss on her forehead she recoiled. “No,” she said. “I can’t… I shouldn’t have screamed at you, but I don’t—I can’t continue like we were.”
“Then let’s forget it,” you said, heart ready to crumble at her next syllable.
“No,” she said, slowly shaking her head. “You said it, you meant it, and I can’t give you what you want.”
Amber knew about it, but didn’t necessarily agree with it. And even though you told her time and time again you only had eyes for her, she was terrified you would leave her.
Not only that you would leave her...but for a man, which in some bizarre twist of logic would destroy her reputation as well.
And finally there was Charlie...sweet Charlie. They understood your vibe before you had even put a name to it. Yet they had their own struggles, and they needed some time to figure it out, which meant leaving you sad and alone once again.
But enough about the girls in your past. This story isn’t about them. It’s about the boy that made you realise you weren’t straight.
Your mind swims back to the summer you had just turned eighteen.