This is a very difficult subject to talk about especially coming from a small native northern community. But I think it is about time to bring it out into the open.

As a child, I always knew that I was gay. But I knew that I had to keep it hidden because I didn’t see any other people express their feelings towards members of the same sex. I thought I was the only one that had feelings like this. I felt so alone.

When someone is in the closet, that means that he/she is keeping his/her sexual orientation hidden because of the fear of what people might think, say or do. There is a strong fear of opening up since heterosexuality is so blatantly obvious everywhere and that homosexuality has such a negative image. Everywhere you look, there are signs of heterosexuality. So how does a young person who has feelings of homosexuality feel? There is something wrong with me. I’m a freak.

That was what I used to think. I tried to suppress my identity. I was ashamed of myself. I didn’t want to deal with it.

I thought that I would live the rest of my life being in the closet and keeping my feelings hidden.I kept pushing it down.

After a while, it gets very tiresome and depressing.

Depression and self-loathing were always in my life. I used to lock myself in my bedroom and look at myself in the mirror. I hated what I saw in the mirror. There were many nights that I used to cry myself to sleep and wonder why it had to be me. It came to a point where I wanted to end it all.

I did have dark moments in my life. Suicide was on my mind. One night, I already had the razor blade in my hand ready to slash my wrist. I think the only thing that stopped me was imagining my mother’s reaction discovering my lifeless body. Many times, I wished that I was not born so that I wouldn’t have to deal with all this alienation, isolation and pain. Why me? Why was I put on this earth to suffer like this? I wished that I didn’t exist at all.

When I was called a faggot or a homo, it really hurt. It was like another nail in my coffin – another reason for me to kill myself. When I went to bed, I wished that I didn’t wake up in the morning.

What about the people around me? What do they think of me? Do they despise me? Around me, I didn’t get any positive feedback of homosexuality. I thought that there was definitely something wrong with me. I wished that I was heterosexual. Life would have been much more simpler if I was straight.

It was only recently that I started to accept who I was. I started to realize that being gay wasn’t a bad thing. I was able to say to myself that I loved myself. I came to realize that I was gay and that I will still be gay tomorrow. This was me. This was my identity. I had to start accepting myself for who I was.

I had to start with myself. This was the way I was born and this was the way it was going to be for the rest of my life. I could finally admit to myself that I was gay. I was now true to myself. Then I had to start with the people around me.

When I first came out, it was all very sudden. Everything opened up for me and for the people around me.

The night I came out to my parents, I remember it was a chilly night because I checked how the weather was outside in case I was thrown out of the house. I had tried to come out to my parents all that summer but I kept putting it off because I couldn’t seem to find the right time. There were several times that I had almost just blurted it out that I was gay. The night before, I had printed a note from my computer that stated across the page in huge letters, “I’m gay,” because I still didn’t feel comfortable saying out loud. That night wasn’t the night. I just kept the note in my pocket.

That day, I was psyching myself up all day to tell them – to hand them the note. My parents weresitting in the living room watching the television in the evening. I had the note in my hand.I went into the kitchen to gather myself. I told myself that it had to be now because I still had to doit sooner or later. I approached my parents and told my mother that I had something to say to them.I handed her the note. I was so nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I sat on the edge of the couchto watch her reaction. She unfolded the paper and there was a moment of silent shock as she glancedat the note. I guess this was unexpected. She took a deep breath and looked at me but I was firm.She told my father that I had something to say to them. She showed the note to my father.They knew now.

My mother’s first words were, “You must be strong now.” I think my eyes started to water by then.She said that she thought this was what was on my mind. She started to talk with the words I reallyneeded to hear. “Our love for you hasn’t changed.” “We still love you no matter what.” She told me thatI wasn’t alone – that there were many people in the community that were like me.

She opened her arms and told me to come to her. I knelt on the floor in front of her and she hugged me. She continued to talk. She said that she knew about homosexuality long before she had children and that if she had a gay child, she would not love him/her differently than any other of her children.

By this time, I was crying but I was still holding it back. She told me to take care of myself and to be careful in what I did. The only thing she asked me was if I knew this for a long time. I answered emphatically, “Yes.”

She must have been talking to me for about ten minutes. I think her shoulder was soaked with my tears. Then she told me to go to my father. My father opened his arms for me and gave me a hug like never before – a parent/child hug. He told me that I had no say in the matter anyway and that I was born this way.

After that was over, I went downstairs and cried like never before. At that moment, I knew what unconditional love meant. I knew for the first time that my parents loved me for who I really was. I could feel their love surround me like a warm blanket. I cried and cried. All that I had kept bottled up for all my life all came out. I could feel the weight lift off my chest. My burden was gone. My dark secret was now just a fact of life.

After meeting other gay, lesbian and bisexual people, there was an instant connection. I knew what they went through. I knew their struggles, their yearnings, their hopes and their dreams. I finally met people that I could relate to. It was a breath of fresh air. I was out of the stagnating closet. I could now be myself.

Today, I’m still discovering things about myself. Well, I guess after suppressing my identity for over 20 years, I’m still opening up. But now I can say that I’m proud to be gay because of all the things I had to go through to get where I am today. I consider myself emotionally strong now. My life is generally happy with only occasional incidents of being called names. I can now talk to some people about how I feel inside, whereas before I kept it bottled up inside me. There were many times when I was vulnerable but now I believe I am strong enough to share my experience with others.

For other gay, lesbian and bisexual youth, I know what you’re going through. I know the depression looming over your everyday existence. I know what it is like in the closet. I know how you have to be careful in what you say and do and to hide your identity. But you don’t have to live like that. If we all started accepting ourselves for who we are, the people around us would also. Remember, that you’re just one of the many colours of the rainbow.

And as for friends and family of a gay, lesbian or bisexual youth, I believe that the opening up has tostart with the individual him/ herself. It takes time to open up especially after concealing his/heridentity for a long time. It takes time to gather the strength to be open. Reassurance of love andacceptance is very important also. I don’t think I would be here today without the love of my parents.