The question I’m most commonly asked question about being gay is ‘when did you know?’

I ask myself the same thing: was it when I watched The Lizzie McGuire Movie for the first time when I was four? Was it when I couldn’t admit that I had a crush on a boy in Year 5? Was it when I lied and told a girl that I had the flu in Year 8 so that I could escape when she tried to hook up with me at a party? The blunt answer is, I have no idea. A collection of moments is what formed the big realisation that I was interested in guys. And then, the final confirmation of my sexuality came in the middle of a Netflix binge at 16.

At this point, I knew that I liked boys, but I was still holding onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, I liked girls as well. A gay character on the show, when asked why he didn’t like girls, replied ‘women are like museums, beautiful to look at, but don’t touch.’ I remember slamming the spacebar on my computer to pause it because I was so shaken that someone had explained how I felt with such clarity. After this, the tides began to shift with how I felt about being gay (in the best of ways).

Because of this, at 17, I was able to come out semi-confidently and publicly to an overwhelming wave of support. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many Australian LGBTQI+ young people- particularly young men.

In Triple J’s 2018 What’s Up In Your World survey, it was found that 47% of Australian young LGBTQI+ people hadn’t come out. Bisexual men struggle the most with coming out with a massive 60% of young bisexual men still in the closet.

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While the confirmation of my own sexuality was pretty straightforward, it’s not always as clear cut for anyone who is bisexual. Being attracted to both genders means there’s no defining moment where you realise you’re not heterosexual and it’s possible to have relationships that appear ‘straight’. On top of this, for guys especially, the masculine culture we have goes a long way in suppressing sexualities that drift from the heterosexual end of the spectrum.

Take first kiss stories, for example (always my least favourite conversation when I was closeted). So many times, I would sit with a group of guys and everyone would talk about their first hook up or root. I taught myself to laugh at the right times and draw the least amount of attention to myself.

Occasionally I’d tell the story of my first (and only kiss) with a girl that happened in Year 6 with my ‘girlfriend’; we were at the park with friends, and I was being pressured to kiss her at the top of the waterfall. This sounds romantic, but this ‘waterfall’ was mostly just sewage a.k.a. full of shit (which was also me at that point telling myself I was straight). I tried my hardest to kiss her normally, but really, I just awkwardly pursed my lips and left a two-millimetre gap from us actually touching.

These first kiss conversations always revolved around girls and there was no acknowledgment that maybe that’s not how it was for everyone. I’m not blaming my straight friends- nobody was ever taught to consider what the conversation was like if you weren’t into girls.

http-::ummuhh.tumblr.com:post:156937396346:emilyburtner-scrabble-picnicLook, I’m not here to ruin your high school chit chat of hook ups or roots or whatever, but we all know it’s a straight person only party at this point. Being open-minded, accepting and loving to people in general, regardless of if you know what they’re going through is really important. Don’t just sit on your phone reading this and be like “haha that’s nice :–)”, practice what you preach! I know from experience that people’s ideas and beliefs can change as long as they’re willing to be empathetic.

Talk to your friends more about how they feel: be sensitive, be open. Whether you’re as straight as a plank, as gay as a rainbow or anywhere in-between, remember that your mates should be there for you as much as you’re there for them. Be supportive of your friends, don’t be afraid to ask them about their own experiences (if they don’t want to tell you, that’s cool too) and don’t assume that everyone is going to have the same stories to tell.

If you’re reading this and you’re closeted, in any way shape or form (except if you’re in an actual closet, I don’t really know how to help you then) remember that even though right now, you could be feeling shit, scared or unsure about who you are or what you’re going to do, I promise you that at some point (and this is so cliché I know) it will get better. Trust me on this one.

For now though, just watch The Lizzie McGuire Movie because it’s a masterpiece and four year old me had very good taste.

by Ben Freemanclem

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