Published in Esperanto Magazine:
Journey Edition – (Introductions in the magazine below)
“Aleczander Gamboa makes us cry a little.” and,
“Esperanto regular Aleczander Gamboa shares his painful, arduous yet uplifting journey of self-discovery.”
By: Aleczander Gamboa.
Hah. Bisexual. Not that I have anything against that, but in hindsight, I always knew deep down that I was gay. Telling others I was bisexual at first was basically my way of coming out of the closet with only one foot out of the door. I wanted to make sure the world wouldn’t come crumbling down on me when I finally acknowledged my attraction to the same sex. Thankfully it didn’t, and it was from this point on that my own journey of self-discovery began.
That beginning quote above was actually an excerpt from my journal. I was inspired to write this piece when I took a stroll down memory lane and read past entries, cringing and laughing about the childish teenage problems, the irrepressible hormones, to being confronted with the dark times that came afterwards and the progress I have made thus far.
‘Dude, everyone thinks you’re gay.’
High school for me was clearly a dog-eat-dog world. You only flourished if you had social status and labels were thrown around school on a daily basis. As I would walk down the corridors to my next class, I would hear things like ‘that’s so gay’ and ‘you’re a faggot’ at least several times. I was different – I had more female friends than male friends and as a guy who had a passion for performing arts who knew all the lines to every Britney Spears song made plus had an undeniable love for the Spice Girls, I stuck out from the crowd and became a dartboard for ridicule from other students.
The endless torment led me to a loss of identity of sorts. It sounds cliché to say it’s difficult to discover who you are when everyone around you seems to pin a label on you, but that’s exactly how I felt. I was labelled ‘gay’ already before I knew I even liked the same gender. However, when I did come to realise that I was gay, I didn’t want anyone to know my secret, so I changed everything about myself. Every behaviour, movement and speech became a calculated move, planned to the tiniest detail. But the effort to maintain this façade became exhausting, and I ended up resenting myself as each day went by. When the other guys would talk about how they wanted to bang that hot new English teacher fifty-shades-of-grey style (oh the joys of adolescence!), my hormones would be off seeking out the hot male PE teachers who worked out in the gym after school with their short shorts. It just seemed that I could never relate.
‘There is an LGBTI support group in the city this Friday. Can you come with me? I’m kind of terrified of going alone.’
‘Sure, I’ll be there to endure the craziness with you!’
Thing began to change for the better once I hit my senior years. It finally dawned on people that studying was important so there wasn’t any time for bullying. I had become a little bit more comfortable with myself, and in doing so it gave me the courage to come out to some of my close friends and teachers. While I was still technically in the closet, it was nice not having to hide all the time. One day, I learned of a support group in the city, and I asked my friend Jess to accompany me.
It was overwhelming to say the least. Again, I was back at square one, sticking out from the crowd and pretty much known as the awkward gay kid in the room. I didn’t really talk to any of the other people in the support group, and I always clung to Jess for dear life who did all the talking for me. I grew a little bit jealous of the others. Here I was, still closeted and secretive, and here they were, all fabulous and content, homophobia be damned. I longed to experience those feelings as well – to be comfortable and happy with who I was. Of course, there were some interesting times as well, like having a counsellor who seemed to have no boundaries when it came to sex education, and learning what the ‘five finger starfish’ position was (Google it, it’s not pretty)…
Despite that, I found that going there opened up a whole new world for me. While I was still uncomfortable with my sexuality, observing the others at the support group showed me that I had the potential to be comfortable.. It taught me that someday, I was going to be just as happy as they were.
‘Mum, I have something to tell you. I’m gay.’
I came out to my mother on the 12/12/12, without even knowing how unique the actual date was. By this point I had felt I had grown as an individual, and because nearly all my friends knew I was gay, I felt that my family should know as well. Unfortunately, the reception was anything but positive. There was a lot of screaming, along with yelling and crying. Mum kept saying how she had failed as a parent and that I would destroy the family name and reputation. My older sister felt the exact same way as well. The religious people they were, mum felt it was her duty to ‘pray the gay away’ and make me attend church at every possible moment. My older sister just never wanted to talk about it again.
After that happened, I began to just live life by going through the motions. Sometimes I would be doing something, and suddenly my mind would just take me back to that night and I would have to mentally relive everything that had happened. I began to develop panic attacks, and at times the vast array of negative feelings would just swell up inside me so much that alcohol along with endless amounts of sex with strangers became my escape from the pain, even for just a few hours. But after each episode, I would wake up, and the emotional anguish would be back to torment me, so in order to escape once again I would spend another day reliving this vicious cycle. I tried antidepressants, but that did nothing except make me feel hollow. I was merely existing – not living. Thankfully, I had a wonderful support group of friends who intervened in my reckless behaviour, and with them, I was able to slowly get better again.
I won’t go into full detail of what had happened that night with my sister and mother, but it hurt hearing such horrific things from people that I have spent my entire life knowing, even more so from the woman who gave birth to me. Fast forward to now, and every night I still see mum praying the gay away before she goes to bed. It’s hard seeing that, but because of this hardship I grew a tougher skin and slowly became dismissive of public scrutiny and hate. Luckily. I also had my own support group of friends who stayed with me at the darkest of times when I felt nothing in this world could ever make me feel better. I even recently came out to a close relative of mine, and she’s now the first from my family to be included into my inner circle.
My personal journey of coming out was a tough process, and my experiences goes to show that the whole ‘it gets better’ idea is a terribly false notion. The world is not sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes, it doesn’t get better, but no matter what happens, you always get stronger. I became more aware of the world around me, and I saw people for their true colours. I learned how to deal with hate, and I learned how to deal with bullshit. I took everything for what it was and in doing so; I eventually began to love myself, and realised that those who blocked my journey to happiness are in fact just caught up in their own crap that they feel the need to target someone else.
I’ll admit, I’m still not 100% completely comfortable with who I am due to familial issues, but every obstacle I have gone through has taught me that the journey will always count more than the outcome.