My Facebook feed tells me that today is “National Coming Out Day” and as a self-identified “professional gay” I thought it’d be good to write a little post.

Happy National Coming Out Day!

Happy National Coming Out Day!

I consider myself visibly gay. A lot of people – at least in my culture – assume that I’m gay based on how I talk, my mannerisms and interests. I’m perfectly fine with that. In fact, I often tell people that I never had to come out.

As soon as someone explained what homosexuality was to me in a mature and adult fashion I immediately identified with that and realized that yes, I was gay.

My first sexual education class took place when I was in grade five at Chase River Elementary School in Nanaimo. Some health nurse came in and explained to use how babies are made and what condoms were and so forth. At the end of the class she handed us all a yellow booklet which explained puberty and sexuality in a very straightforward and age-appropriate fashion.

The most helpful information was contained in a glossary of terms in the back which included definitions for homosexuality, bisexuality, and heterosexuality.

Me in 1991

Here I am at the age of 10 in 1991 when I first learned what being gay meant.

After reading that information I spoke with a college student I knew named Martin. He had moved to Nanaimo from Toronto but was originally from the Netherlands. His observations on the world and life had a profound impact on my young mind.

I presented him with the information I had just learned and he told me about a friend he had in Toronto.

“He was gay but he really wanted to be straight to fit in, please his family, and so forth, “said Martin. “He tried dating girls and said ‘I’m not going to be gay anymore’ but it didn’t work. It was in his nature and eventually he came to realize this and was much happier. It’s okay to be gay if that’s what you are”

“Oh, okay. Well I’m just like your friend then,” I said. “I’m gay or a homosexual too!”

Martin immediately told me that if I was gay then that’s okay and there would be no point in trying to change it or feel bad about it so I never did and I never have.

That being said, I didn’t really want to broadcast my sexual orientation to everyone. I waited until I was 18 to officially come out to everyone and I decided to do so by writing an article in the Mind’s Eye which was (is?) a youth newspaper in Nanaimo.

Anyways, National Coming Out Day seems like a perfect opportunity to revisit my big “coming out” which took place 14 years ago this month. I’ve included some links that reveal a bit more about who and what I was talking about or against!

YOUNG, GAY AND PROUD!
A personal account of being gay in Nanaimo

Mind’s Eye (Nanaimo BC), October 8, 1999

My name is Nathaniel and I am gay and proud of it!

Two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to say those twelve words to myself never mind announcing it to all of Nanaimo! I am on the B.C. Ferry wearing my pride necklace, all dressed up to march for Nanaimo’s Youthquest! In Vancouver’s annual gay Pride Parade. On the boat children are staring at me, and old people are shaking their heads, this finally prompts my brother to exclaim “Yes he is!”

Marching in Mondo Pride ‘99 as it was called was an unforgettable experience. Rather than stares of ridicule and disgust I received looks of admiration, love, and respect. Pride flags adorned every balcony and store window, thousands of people were cheering for me simply because I am who I am.

Young, gay and proud! My big "coming out" article from 1999.

Young, gay and proud! My big "coming out" article from 1999.

I have yet to receive such acclaim in Nanaimo. It is alarming how many people still believe it is still okay to verbally, and even physically assault people simply because of the fact that they are “faggots”.

One Saturday night I was walking down a Central Nanaimo street when I realized that I was being followed a car filled with four young men. Before I could evade them they preceded to call me derogatory names, and threaten to kill me because they thought that I was a “fag”. The following night a car full of teenage girls harassed me! They drove past me several times screaming derogatory names, attempting to throw eggs at me.

The discrimination against Gays and Lesbians is evident in many areas of Nanaimo. In the May edition of this publication I conducted an interview with three of Nanaimo’s important elected representatives. When I confronted Mayor Gary Korpan on the issue with a nervous chuckle exclaimed that he had never thought of Nanaimo’s Gay and Lesbian Youth.

Okay, I wouldn’t expect the man who is elected to represent and act upon the best interests of the entire city to not have even thought about ten percent of our youth, but when I go to the polls on November 20 maybe I will not even think about a certain mayor. Ignorance is not restricted strictly to government officials however; it creeps up everywhere in society, even at the schools and the workplace.

1999 portraits

Here are some photos that were taken around the time I wrote this article. The clip-on tie was not mine.

I am in my final year at Nanaimo District Secondary School, it being very diverse many people consider it to be the most open minded school and as such the best for gay and lesbian students. Homophobia still lurks in the school. I believe that most of the students at NDSS are accepting and open-minded. The staff is wonderful. I have received nothing but encouragement and support from all teachers that I have encountered. Although homophobia does exist at my school I have never had a problem with harassment there.

Although I have received a few ignorant comments from younger students it is not what is being said at that bothers me, it is what is not being said. Every year grade ten Career and Personal planning students listen to a guest speaker talk about homophobia. This may not sound like lots but take into consideration that many high schools in the district won’t even do this. In all of my years at high school I have never once heard a teacher address the issue of homosexuality, everything else but that (I didn’t do CAPP 10 at NDSS).

I am starting a group at my school for gay and lesbian students. The purpose of this group (or club) will be to combat homophobia, support students who are already out of the closet, make the process of coming out easier for future gay and lesbian students, and to make NDSS an understanding, nurturing environment for gay and lesbian students. I have received encouragement and support from the staff. that I have approached regarding this issue.

The educators in School District 68 need to teach their students that gay and lesbian people exist, that there is nothing wrong with who they are, and that it is not okay to treat someone with disrespect because they are gay or lesbian.”

On notable example of homophobia would be some of Nanaimo’s less enlightened churches. One night I went to a downtown church for a “Dance” and people were coming up to me lecturing me on how homosexuality was a “sin” and that I should change my lifestyle in order to get into heaven.

Individuals and institutions alike are all entitled to their opinions and beliefs; However, I feel that those kind of attitudes are extremely ignorant and ignorance leads to fear and hostility which in turn can lead to violence. I believe that the ignorant homophobic ideology propagated by these kinds of churches contributes to the violence and oppression against gay and lesbians in our society.

This is definitely not be said about all churches; Many churches are very supportive. I saw some churches marching in the gay pride parade! I have had several friends have same sex marriages in their churches. I have faith that the religious leaders on the twenty-first century do not subscribe to the same ignorant attitudes that their predecessors in the twentieth do.

The Mayor of Nanaimo needs to recognize the fact that we exist, and all three levels of government should do anti homophobia campaigns. I think that if we want change it is up to us, not just the “queer” community, but also our friends, families, co-workers, and supporters. We need to create some kind of organization for the entire gay and lesbian community in this city. We should have a gay and Lesbian newspaper, and I think that it would be wonderful idea to hold an annual pride march! The Federal Minister for Multiculturalism told me that if Nanaimo were to have a Pride March she would love to attend!

As for the rest of the city I would like to see a little pride sticker in every business window, I would like to see gay and lesbian couples walking down the street or seawall holding hands without the fear of being bashed, I would like the word “fag” to vanish from the English slang, most importantly I want everybody to accept gay and lesbian people for who they are without trying to change, deny, or repress them.

I have been very fortunate for having the close friends that I do; they have always accepted and supported me in whatever I have done. They have made me realize that being myself is the highest thing that I can ever aspire for.

I could write an article about the incredible support that I have received from Youthquest! (The gay and lesbian youth society of BC). Many incredible men and women volunteer four hours of their time every Thursday night so that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth have a safe place to hang out free from harassment. I love them all very much for what they do. Their support has meant the world to me.

I would like to thank myself for having the courage to come out of the closet, be proud of who I am, and share that sense of pride with others.