In celebration of #NationalComingOutDay, Louis Hanson shares the coming out letter he wrote at 18.
By
Louis Hanson

12 Oct 2016 - 12:25 PM  UPDATED 12 Oct 2016 - 12:25 PM

17th January 2014

Please listen.

I’m writing this at 2am. I can’t sleep. I’m too fucking scared to say it, so I’ll try to write it.

It’s difficult to think about something so repressed for 18 years, let alone to put it into coherent sentences, but that’s what these past few years have been: confusion, a blur. Nothing makes sense. I still don’t know where my head’s at, but I feel as though life has this funny way of slowly connecting the puzzle pieces together, one-by-one, until I’ve somehow figured out who I really am. Until I’m given clear direction.

I haven’t been happy recently. I’ve been watching others live, content, while I’m on the sidelines. I haven’t been living my own life. My friends and my family are comfortable in their skin. Why can’t I live like that?

I feel confined and repressed. For 18 years, I’ve felt the need to constantly prove myself, stemming from a sense of inferiority. When I walk into a room, I scrutinise over every movement, word, and gesture, in an attempt to not reveal my true self. I avoid big group situations in case anyone catches suspicion. I’m fearful of the friends that I’ve made. I’m fearful of a society that won’t allow myself to have the same rights as everyone else. I’m fearful of the people who will look at me differently, despite knowing me for years, once they discover who I really am. I feel a tightening in my chest. I’m unable to escape it. I try to talk but I can’t just let it all out.

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For 18 years I’ve been guided by a secret. I’ve struggled to find a voice and I’ve made the mistake of caring too much about what people think. I’ve been too scared about not fitting in. I mean, it’s so easy to feel strong when you aren’t the one taking the risks. I’m risking judgement. I’m risking a life in which I had friends and opportunities, but no real happiness. I’ve tried so hard to create a sense of stability, and I’m fearful of this stability collapsing the moment I open up to people. I’m angry and confused at the world; hurt by the way in which I’ve been left alone in this situation.

I’ve been in conversations with people, in the past, when they’ve said that something is “so gay”, or that being gay “isn’t normal”. I’d laugh, I’d agree, I’d nod my head, but I’d feel awful inside. “I’m right here!” I’d think. “I’ve been here for you whenever you’ve needed me. I’ve been supportive of you, but I don’t think you’ll accept me for who I am!”

It’s difficult to expect others to accept me, though, when I’ve struggled to accept it myself. In fact, I have agreed with myself many times that I would never come out. I’ve imagined falling in love with a woman. I’ve imagined growing up with a wife and kids and fitting in. Whenever those old thoughts crept back in, I’d think of the friends I’ve made, the trust that I’ve built, and the places where I’m finally comfortable: soft reminders that it is too risky to come out.

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For 18 years, I’ve felt as though people don’t understand me. That being said, I don’t understand myself either.

That’s what it’s been like over the past few years, and it’s tiring. I’ve spent too long hiding.

This is my life, but I am living it according to other people’s rules. I’ve now reached a point in my life where I crave acceptance for who I really am, and for those around me to understand my struggles and pains.

Honesty is important to me. I’ve realised that I have to be honest with myself before I can truly live and let others into my life. Openness and honesty lead to happiness, and in order to live as a free man, I need to get rid of these secrets, these shadows, which have been looming over my shoulders like a black cloud since I was 14.

It’s unhealthy to repress something that is such a major part of my life. It’s unhealthy to be in denial 24 hours a day. Telling myself that it doesn’t matter, that no one should ever know. Going to bed wishing it would all go away, then waking up to face another day of lies and charades. I used to think I could live that way, repressing my real thoughts in order to fit in with everyone else’s, but I’m sick of it.

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I’ve also realised that my self-happiness is paramount. I can’t trust others before I trust myself. I can’t truly live until I accept myself for who I am, in its entirety. If I don’t learn to open up, these repressed feelings of self-hatred and denial will become too toxic. It’s already controlling how I live my life.

Now I realise that my happiness is what’s most important; that I shouldn’t be hiding who I am for anyone’s approval. I’m tired of pretending. I used to think that silence was the best way to cope with this, but silence can be lethal. I know I need to be a voice. To be unique. To be myself. I’m learning that when my secret’s gone I’ll be a happier person. I don’t think I deserve to do this alone now. I think I’m better than that. This secret’s too big and daunting to be dealt with on my own. I’m scared but I know I have to be brave. I know I have to be strong.

I’m still not sure why I’ve been put in this position, what my path in life is, and even though I’m not sure what happens next, that’s okay I guess. I’m ready, and I’m now content. I’m finally free.

I’m gay.

Let the next chapter begin.

Louis Hanson is freelance writer, student at the University of Melbourne, and LGBTQIA+ youth advocate. Instagram: @louishanson; website: louishanson.com

Images: Lili Steele (Instagram: @ilisteele)