Coming out of the closet: a testimony

This post is dedicated to Valerie and to everyone who has an obstacle to overcome or is scared about coming out of the closet. You can get through this. Valerie, may you rest in peace. Thank you for everything. You saved me.

This was it. The word was out. I had just told my fellow students that the gender balance would be disturbed during a future triple date. I had just come out of the closet.

Up until that moment only one important person in my life knew the real me, except of course for the couple of flings I had who clearly knew about it too. Surprisingly enough, one of my fellow students also came out of the closet a couple of months later. He had also taken the bull by the horns way earlier and had had the talk with his parents. And, in the end, that talk went very well.

That knowledge gave me the strength I needed to tell my own parents and family.

Coming out to my parents

There I was, standing on the platform. My parents had just taken me to the train station and were waiting downstairs until I would go up the stairs to my train. There were so many doubts twirling around in my mind, but I went for it anyways. I called my mother and asked her to come over for a second. I choked up, I waited, I told her I was bisexual. That lable would fair better, I thought, then they could still hope – even though I had never been romantically interested in girls. It was stupid and unrespectful towards bisexual people, but because I was scared out of my mind, that’s the label I went for.

This moment was the starting point of years of sorrow, pain, anger, incomprehension and conflict (from both sides). They loved me and they didn’t let me go, but it was difficult for them. And on top of that I rebelled against them and the ideal they had in their mind.

I worked hard, graduated with three master degrees and became a lawyer just to prove that I could, even though I’m into guys. After a while it was clear that being a lawyer didn’t suit me, and I ended up in a different career path, even though it was stll part of the legal domain. My parents supported me all the way.

For years there had been a gap though. Invisible, but always present. And that gap became bigger and bigger. It became difficult to jump, more dangerous to fall and too difficult to walk around it.

Fears after coming out

My parents were scared. Scared that life would be difficult for me, that I would literally or figuratively die because of the pressure and the opinions of the society we live in. Unintentionally, they added to that pressure. They too were scared about how they would be viewed. No grandchildren, no lawyer living in a villa with a pool.

My sister had it difficult as well. She had her own struggles and was looking for her own path in life. Her classmates and so called friends didn’t always treat her that well. She got scared, I think, to become the target once more. Once again, society came into play.

After I graduated, I got a job in the capital of Belgium, Brussels. I moved there, even further away from everything and everyone I knew. That way, the distance became bigger geographically as well.

For years on end we blamed each other for everything. We didn’t take each other into account anymore. They didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand them. I had my own fight to go through, and the lack of support made that fight only harder. But, I didn’t understand that they were going through their own fight as well: accepting me, embracing me, letting go, being scared for my safety, others having prejudices against them.

We became strangers to each other. We didn’t listen anymore. I rebelled. The distance became even bigger. There were more conflicts. More tears.

Finding the support I needed

Eventually, I found the support I was looking for, in a fraternity, in friends and in a mother figure who adopted me in some kind of way. She was always there for me, and not just for me, but for so many others who had just arrived in Ghent. I’m still so grateful, but I can’t tell her anymore or show her. Covid19 has taken her away. She couldn’t miss in my story and that is also why it is dedicated to her.

The change that was needed

After a while, something changed though. I stopped blaming my parents. We started to recognize each others’ problems. I didn’t know what changed exactly.

Afterwards I found out that a family friend had talked to my parents and had made it clear that my sexuality wasn’t a problem, and that they would lose me if they did think of it as a problem. I also started applying shock therapy. Every time my dad made a joke about being part of the LGBTQ+ community, I went along with it until he became too embarrassed. I also started to be very open about my sex life. I thought if they got used to the extremes, then they would also get used to the fact that I would someday have a normal relationship with a guy.

That’s when we both started to build a bridge to cross the gap we had created, so that we could once again embrace each other. It worked. Today we are closer than ever. The scars will always be there, but it has become a part of us, a part of our story. In the end, we all grew as people and it was worth it.

Life today

Looking back, I wish I had addressed coming out differently. I shouldn’t have told them right before I had to leave. Being gone for a week, thinking that they would have processed it when I got back.

Now, almost ten years later, I live together with my boyfriend in Brussels in an appartment, with a view on city life. The contrast to my life in small Bruges could not be bigger. The wounds have been healed in the meantime as well, the biggest ones anyways. We love each other again, every aspect of each other.

Thank you, Val. Thank you to all my friends. They were the ones who helped me through these difficult years. I am forever grateful.

A proud member of the LGBTQ+ community

This post will also interest you: Racism through the eyes of my students

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