A Burden to Bear
In high school, I was 6’1 and I weighed 250 pounds. Even though I was light on my feet, I was big, I was hairy, and I defied the heteronormative definition of what an attractive guy is supposed to look like. What made matters worse is that it made it all the harder to come out. When I finally did, most people did not see it coming because they assumed I could never be gay based upon my physical appearance; no attention was paid to the obvious fact that I never had a serious girlfriend. I say that to say this: coming into one’s beardom (gay identity) while growing up can be a confusing and tricky thing. By societal standards, you appear too masculine to be gay (even though you are) while simultaneously, you can also be deemed physically undesirable by the heteronormative culture at large (even though you aren’t). Accordingly, when we are unable to present our authentic selves to those around us for fear of discrimination, scorn, and/or shame, we can create a false self in order to feel accepted and secure.
However, once we are able to come out and assert our individuality (if we are privileged enough), there is a lot of lost time to make up for, which is why our adult years can feel something akin to the adolescent years we wish we had. Ultimately, the massive task of our adult lives is to unpick which parts of ourselves are truly us and which parts we’ve created to protect us. Coming out is a lifelong process that requires gentle exploration and insightful reflection. The goal is to feel safe enough to be our authentic selves in all areas of our lives while also being able to manifest our full potential.