Mom, Dad, I’m a gay?

At the Triple-X Diner on Queen Street West in Toronto, the diner used as the model for Queer as Folk’s breakfast joint, we sat waiting for Josh to arrive. Now if you’ve ever tried to meet someone you’ve never seen a picture of, you know what it’s like when every person who makes eye contact with you could be the person you’re trying to meet up with. About twenty-five people looked our way thru the windows and somehow Mikey got saddled with walking up to each one of them people and saying, “hey…um…are you Josh?” Finally, #26 said yes.

Josh is a second-year college student, whose anglophone (English-speaking) family moved out of their Montreal suburb a few years ago to Toronto. Josh isn’t out to his parents, yet. In fact, he’s just starting to figure out how he feels about things. After our chat we gave Josh a bunch of Toronto resources to check out. One cool-looking group is called SOY, (http://www.soytoronto.org, which offers diverse social options like bowling nights and a book club. SOY’s email is [email protected] Also check Adultfrienedfinder.

YGA: So, Josh, what are some of the struggles you’re facing with coming out?

JOSH: One thing is I’m not so sure if I want to say I’m strictly “Gay” or not. I mean, ideally, I think attraction is based on the individual you meet and find yourself attracted to at a given time, regardless of their gender. Even now although I feel like I’m attracted to guys stronger than girls, that doesn’t mean I can’t ever be in love with a girl sometime in the future. It’s tough because if I tell my parents definitively that “I’m gay” they’ll assume ‘OK, guys are your only choice!’ and they might not really understand the whole situation.

YGA: Have you thought about any middle-ground approaches you could take? Maybe instead of using the word gay, saying something less definite like ‘I think I might like guys…’

JOSH:
 I thought about that. I keep thinking it might be easier to say ‘I’m not… completely straight.’ That might work. But then I feel kinda doubtful about that, too, because it be even harder for them to understand. And it also might give them more chance to try to push me one way or the other, like there’s still “a chance” to make me straight.

YGA: So maybe, strategically, it’s better to say you’re Gay and then work backwards?

JOSH: Maybe. It does seem like if you leave too much room it’s kinda shaky. I don’t want them to say ‘Oh, you’re just hanging out with the wrong crowd.” Or “you just need to date more girls.”

YGA:
 All in all, what do you think is your biggest concern?

JOSH: My parents feeling like they’re somehow responsible, thinking they brought me up in the “wrong way”. Also, if I was out, they would feel I’m taking on a road which would lead me to more challenging, harsh, and maybe miserable life.

YGA:
 Do you believe that?

JOSH:
 No, but that’s how they’d see it.

YGA:
 How much do you think that’d be their initial reaction and how much do you think they’d learn over time?

JOSH: 
Well I have no doubt their initial reaction would be shock. I know they’ll feel upset and maybe sorry for me. But those are all negative feelings and I’m not sure how long negative feelings will last. Gradually, little by little, they’ll accept the truth and understand.

YGA: Do you live with your parents right now?

JOSH: Yes, and my little sister, who’s still in high school.

YGA:
 People often say that gay people who are closeted during their teenage years aren’t really allowed to be “themselves” during that time. What do you have to say about that?

JOSH: Oh I agree. I only started accepting being… whatever I am… since last summer. Before that, I spent my teenage years basically doing regular teenage things.. hanging out, dating girls. Since last year I just opened a new window for myself. I had one serious long-term relationship, which felt great, but at the same time I didn’t have any kind of experience. I feel I’m still very immature. It’s hard because there isn’t much guidance for a gay teenager. If you’re straight, there’s tons of guidance about what you can do, what you’re not supposed to do, if you have trouble what are your resources, where can you seek help, etc. Being gay is so different. I wasn’t aware AT ALL about how to deal with relationship with a guy.

YGA: Where were some places in Toronto you looked for resources, or information?

JOSH: I started going around Church Street (Toronto’s gay neighborhood). I went there a couple times, but it wasn’t really for me. It was too sexually explicit. Like, I know I could have fun going dancing there and stuff, but the hook-up scene is not what I’m looking for right now. That’s the thing, I just don’t understand why it’s so hard to find a venue. If you’re straight and you want to date a girl, it’s really easy to make friends first and hang out. It’s easy to be able to go through that whole step-by-step process.

YGA: Have you checked out youth groups? School clubs?

JOSH: 
I went to the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. There’s a discussion group I went to, which does offer some level of relief and help to make you comfortable being who you are. But the activities are very limited because the Center offers a once-a-week discussion group and they rotate the topic over and over again and they only have 4 or 5 topics!

YGA: Do you have hope that you’ll find somebody? Resources? Etc.?

JOSH: Oh yes. But the thing is, so many things around here are just for adults. And there’s nothing wrong with that, gay adults need resources and places to meet too. But the thing is, even in Toronto, which is a big city, there are VERY FEW places suitable for people like us.

YGA:
 If you could have your ideal place for gay youth, what would it be?

JOSH: First thing is, I think we should move away from the “neighborhood” mentality. It’s crazy that we have to go to a certain neighborhood to be gay. Gay people live in every neighborhood. Why can’t we have a place and a presence outside this particular neighborhood? There should be an environment available everywhere. In all neighborhoods. In schools. We need more inter-relationships between all groups.

YGA:
 We’re going to the States starting tomorrow. As a Canadian, we’re wondering if you wanted to say anything about Toronto, or Canada, particularly in relation to the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

JOSH: OK. First, I totally sympathize with the loss of American people, all people. Everybody suffered because of that act. Of course I’m totally against the terrorism. But I’m also anti-war. So right now while I think it’s justifiable for the US to be waging this kind of war against terrorism, I don’t think it’s totally justifiable for the American military to bomb a country just to eliminate a terrorist group. You’re also damaging people’s lives over there. It’s hard to say who has more justification. It’s a really tricky issue.

YGA: And Canada’s role?

JOSH: Canada is always on the US’s side, and there’s no exception this time. I think the Canadian military, if it’s needed, is going to join the US. So although I don’t feel any kind of immediate or direct threat, I think that down the road—if the war kinda really drags on and becomes more and more a global thing—then I’ll be worried.

YGA: Do you think that’s going to happen?

JOSH:
 Every war in the beginning had its limits. No war ever started wanting to be a world war. They all started in a limited conflict and then lost control. How can we be so sure this time it won’t lost control?

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