This is the first time ever that I am disclosing this story. I think it is important to get it out there. I hear about a lot of homophobic violence and it shocks me every time. Though I am ‘as straight as an arrow’ I feel very close to everyone and the homosexual part of society in particular. I think it’s a pity that most of the voices that ask for help against such violence comes from the same group, while they should come from everyone, and that means me as well.
When I was 11, a classmate started to propose some strange games when we were playing in either of our rooms. I didn’t understand it, but he managed to persuade me. There were some embarrassing moments but there was a feeling of excitement. I didn’t know the word “eroticism” at the time. I wasn’t very much into it so when we moved to another town and these memories lingered as awkward memories I didn’t really stay in touch with him anymore and that was that. Only later did I understand what we had been doing. I didn’t feel used, but I did feel confused.
In the new town, I went to work at a DIY market in my spare time, making some money to spend on myself. One evening, one of the colleagues asked me over to his apartment. We talked for hours. It was nice to be able to talk about intellectual matters no-one around me was interested in talking about. Over time, he asked me in an offhanded way whether I knew that we could get strange looks if we were to ever mention to any of the colleagues that I’d been to his house. I had no idea. It was because everyone knew that he is a homosexual. I was still wondering what the issue would be and I told him so. I see no reason why it’s special to hang out with a homosexual person. They have two arms and two legs, just like me, just like the next guy and just like the next girl. I would have understood if people would look surprised if I’d ever tell them I went home to the apartment of a horse, or a grasshopper. Over time, I did notice that he was somewhat the odd one out at work and that saddened me. He was a hard working person and he made a significant difference at work. He was smart and had a responsible position. I am still not sure, but I did and still do wonder whether he was singled out because of his sexuality. It saddens me to think so.
We had long evening talks in his living room. We drank tea. He had redecorated it in the most beautiful way on a low budget, I still remember this. We talked about that. It was a nice time. He showed me one day that his hair isn’t his, he had a hair piece. Without it, he did look older. He didn’t like this, wanted to be the sharp man. He could look the part any time, with his good wardrobe. He had a boyfriend. Every stereotype of a ‘girly’ homosexual guy applied. I found him to be a funny guy. I figured out that homosexual people are among the funniest people in the world. It may be a stereotype, but it is certainly a positive one. They made a few sly remarks once or twice about us and the bedroom but mostly let me be myself. This may have been the best part of the experience. I felt good about myself in their presence. They got me to wonder about what it means to be homosexual and whether I was one. Over time, I noticed that I wasn’t interested in either of them nor any other guy. I did like some of the girls at school. I realised over time that I had been in a very fortunate position to have been able to explore my sexuality in a safe, trusting environment. I got to be sure that I was straight.
Early in my working career, we were having a good time with young colleagues going out in Amsterdam. After starting a night at a colleague’s home, we were about to hit the town, walking down the narrow stairs in the typical Amsterdam stairwell when he put his hand on mine. I quickly pulled mine away. I was flustered. Was he gay? I had never thought about it before. But clearly he was. I apparently have no ‘gaydar’. He felt ashamed because of my shocked reaction. The following day, he texted me to apologise. I told him he had nothing to apologise for. I just didn’t think about him that way and I was just surprised that he did. I wanted to let him know it was no big deal. We each went our own ways over time but I still consider him a friend and I like to think that he does too.
Years later, I was married, had children, and was living the happy life of a family man. Every now and then, a memory of my distant past would crop up. The boy who initially experimented with me was now also a man. I knew of a mutual friend who had become very upset when he had also become part of his experimenting. He had been greatly embarrassed and never wanted to see him again. I hadn’t felt this and had put the experience in my memories somewhere with all the rest. At some point in time, I looked him up on LinkedIn. He had also married and had children. He remembered me, we connected online. He asked me if I felt any hard feelings towards him and I assured him I did not. We never talked about it afterwards.
Sometimes I meet men who are obviously homosexual. Nobody needs a gaydar for them. I remember a barrister at a bank. He flaunts his sexuality. It livens up the room. It can be off-putting to others. I can only rejoice in the flair and the vividness with which he and people like him live their personal lives. I do know that there is a sense of insecurity behind it too, from years of having had to hide who he is and trying to find likeminded people who can’t express their sexuality out loud either. He plays a game with the people around him, flirting with everyone, and some act shocked or say to others behind their backs that they shouldn’t behave like that. I can only drink in their warmth and play the game with him. He has a friend in me at least.
The reason I keep using the word “homosexual” instead of the colloquial “gay” is because I notice a lot of negative connotation with that word. Particularly, I hear even children around my eldest son, he is 11, say “that is so gay!” as if that’s a negative thing. Is being homosexual bad? Is it something to make jokes about, to look down on? Of course not. So I teach my children to think whenever they hear or utter that word, to think about why they would use it and why it would be linked to homosexuality. They always come up with the same answer; there is nothing strange or bad about it if you think about it a little. Then, if ever some 11-year old starts to wonder about his or her sexuality, they can do so knowing that they will never be looked down upon and can safely figure out for themselves what they want to be in life. I am happy to support this anytime, anywhere.