I recently watched Nanette by the incredibly talented Hannah Gadsby.
Since viewing the program, I’ve been moved to share my story. Nanette was comedic, yes, but it was also gut wrenchingly honest. I know this isn’t the kind of thing I typically share on my blog, so I hope you’ll forgive me and read it anyway.
My Story – On Learning to Sparkle
I was raised to hate myself.
My father hated everyone and everything. He hated black people, he hated Hispanics, he hated people of Lebanese descent (which was saying a lot, as I am part Lebanese). He hated the elderly, calling them a drain on our resources and he hated the young, calling them a blight on society. However, he had a special hatred for homosexuals.
One time when we were in what was then Price Club, he was served by a man wearing gold hoop earrings. When we walked away from the counter after my father had made his purchase, he remarked to me: “Fucking faggot. Did you see them faggoty earrings? Bet you he likes to take it up the ass, too! Fucking faggot.”
I began to lie in wait for this faggot who seemed to have mythical powers, able to turn boys into faggots at will with the powers of their mind, leading them into a life of sin. I was also not allowed to be an altar boy growing up because my father believed that the priests in our church molested minors.
I knew what I was when I was eight years old. I only knew one word to describe myself and it was my father’s: faggot.
I didn’t want to be one. However, everything I did pointed towards what I was and who was hiding within my skin. I remember in Beavers, we were tasked to make something out of found objects. Other boys made some kind of truck or monster or flying machine. I made a beautiful doll who was going to be married. I had fashioned a body out of a discarded tube and fashioned a head and arms. I painted on a face and then created a dress for her out of lots of white fabric.
One of the leaders was very impressed. “That looks like the dress that I wore to my wedding,” she said. I felt a brief moment of joy for creating something so beautiful. The moment was fleeting. All the other boys were looking at me in abject horror.
It seemed that no matter what I did, my gayness would find its way out. I thought that all the boys could see the sign above my head that read Faggot.
I doubled my efforts to fit in, to be “normal,” to be just like everyone else. As I grew older, I had girlfriends. I did love them in my way, but ultimately, I hoped to hide who I was. I hoped in the end that they would convert me—I hated myself that much. I wanted to carve it out of my skin, out of my blood. I didn’t want to be myself. I didn’t want to be me.
I hated myself so much, hated what I perceived as my weakness. I hated everything about me, my homosexuality most of all. I knew that I would never be accepted as I was, knew that there was something wrong with me. I wished feverishly to be like other boys, to try to fit in, to reduce my sparkle into so much dust.
At one point during high school, I resorted to self-harm. I imagined that with each cut of the knife, each scrape of skin that drew blood, that my gayness would be able to bleed out of me. One night, I sat with a knife and had my bare wrist facing me, begging to be cut again, for the final cut. I hated myself so much that I didn’t want to be alive anymore. It didn’t help that I was still living in the house of my father, that his view of what I was coloured how I saw myself. It took all of my willpower to put down the knife that night. Thankfully, before the self-harm could go very far, one of the guidance councillors noticed the marks on my skin and had me start therapy.
I was in my early teens when my brother showed my father some of the magazines I kept in my bedroom. They were underwear and bathing suit catalogues for men. I would gaze at the men, hating myself even more for daring to be gay, for daring to be different. I remember the look on my father’s face when my brother showed him those magazines. “What are you, Jamie? Are you a fucking faggot?” He yelled this in my face, and then he spit on me.
It was the spit that did it. It felt as if it were made of fire; I could feel it burning my skin. I knew that I could not come out of the closet while I was at home. I knew that my father would hate me more than he already did if I came out under his roof. I was afraid of him, afraid of myself, and the secret I carried in my veins.
I left home soon after due to circumstances beyond my control. It was as if I had finally been given a chance to live, finally given air that didn’t taste old and hostile. I was afraid. Though the concrete jungle that I lived in didn’t shine like Shangri-La, I still felt blinded by it. I was fightened of having to finally accept responsibility for my life and myself.
My battle with my homosexuality continued. I didn’t come out until after high school and even then, I came out as bisexual. I figured it was more accepted to be with a woman and I so desperately didn’t want to be full out gay. My father’s voice, from so long ago, still echoed inside my head. “Bet you he likes to take it up the ass, too! Fucking faggot.” Looking back, I’m sure everyone knew, that everyone had guessed my supposed secret. I was the last to know.
At one point in my life, I found myself on the streets. It was the people I met there who showed me that what I carried inside of me was something magical, not something to be hated. We were a motley crew of people, cast offs and rejects from families that had no place for someone that shone so brightly.
After another failed attempt to have a girlfriend, one of my friends said to me: “Why are you so afraid to be yourself? You have to live your life, not waste it.”
That stopped me. I thought I had been living. In reality, I was only existing. My body, mind, and spirit were so tightly woven around my secret that I wasn’t living at all. I merely survived day to day, hoping no one knew what I really was.
I’ve had a few relationships where the otherhe told me something was broken and needed to be fixed. I was so desperate to be loved and to accept love into my life, I had forgotten to love myself first and to make peace with my gay self, who I had tried to walk away from so many times.
I finally came out as gay to me, admitting after so many years that this was who I was and I had to love all of myself. I’m still struggling. I do love all of me, but there are parts of me I don’t like too much. I think it’s something that everyone struggles with, whether they’re gay, straight, bisexual, or transgender.
The advice from that friend from so long ago now rings louder in my head than my father’s voice: “Why are you so afraid to be yourself? You have to live your life, not waste it.”
So, I choose to live completely as myself and no one else: I’m a gay man. I’m a writer. I’m am spiritual. I’m an artist. I’m a lover of books and music, of Harry Potter, and Geekdom. I’m a husband to an amazing and wonderful man who taught me that love can heal, and that it can be magic. I’m a sparkly gay unicorn. I am all of these things.
I am me.
Amazing journey and inspiring that you are such a love filled person when you had such a rough upbringing! It’s also amazing how positive you were while living on the street! You just continue to inspire me !