From an early age, I knew that I was gay, but I could not reconcile this knowledge with my self-image as a good, obedient girl. How could I possibly be something that society rejected as 'dirty', 'evil', 'polluted' and completely outside of respectability? Gay people were foreign, dangerous outsiders —'out there'.
Raised saturated on a constant diet of heternormative imagery and assumptions at school, in the media and at home, I deeply feared belonging to a highly stigmatized group. Like most teenagers, I longed to belong, fit in, and be accepted. I therefore strove to conform to heterosexual norms as much as possible.
Ironically, although I formally came out to my parents at the age of seventeen, I remained spiritually, socially and emotionally deeply closeted.
Although I did not actively seek to change my sexual orientation, I did seek to actively repress it. I used my studies (at this time I was a university student) to completely avoid and deny my sexuality. Books were my closest and most trustworthy friends. I hid from others and from myself.
When boys asked me out, I felt obliged to say yes — having learned early on from 'compulsory heterosexuality' to read boy's interest in me as a sign of my value and worth as a human being. Not one friend knew that I was gay during this time, leading to friendships that could never deepen beyond a certain level. So great was my oppression, I did not permit myself to admire women — I sought refuge in a numbing, constant asexual academic routine that left no room for other activities, creativity- or of course, dating.
I am sharing this so that others are aware that there are different types of ex-gay experiences, including in a non-religious environment. I also want to highlight how coming out is not necessarily a linear process, consisting of a single, dramatic coming out, followed by automatic, profound transformation. Rather, coming out can be, and was for me, an ongoing, gradual process akin to unveiling — one painful layer at a time.
Kathryn, was born in 1977 in the UK, raised in Canada, and studies anthropology. She has studied in Canada, the UK, Sweden, Spain, and now Italy!