My first kiss is something I would like to redo. Not undo but redo because I think the guy was really nice and I feel things would have been better if the setting was different. It happened in a dark, loud club, I was embarrassingly drunk and incoherent but somehow this guy still thought I was kissable and asked if he could kiss me. Even in my near blackout state I was impressed with his instance on my consent because he didn’t make a move until I said the word ‘yes’.
As I think about kissing guys and specifically that night where the alcohol assisted in my giving consent to be kissed in a club in the pseudo-liberal Cape Town filled with straight people from across the country. It’s something I would never have considered a possibility in a sober state given my absolute fear of being outed.
The freedom was so refreshing, the courage I embraced from the spirits was emboldening. I can say that I may possibly understand why there are some men who first need a few drinks before they allow themselves to be free especially if that freedom includes letting another guy kiss him in the dark moments of the night.
The night because day, I woke up in my bed and I wasn’t drunk anymore. My wits were back but dulled by the hangover but more importantly my fears were back. I kicked myself for daring to do something so brazen and be so care-free about it.
Queue in the guilt.
But then I remembered how free I felt and how every breath felt fresh and new and affirming. That kiss, as sloppy as it was, changed my life.
But I’m not a drinker, nearly all my male relatives and neighbours are committed alcoholics and I have seen the damage it can do, so I’m generally not interested in alcohol. I’m not interested in sustaining myself on alcohol every time I need to breathe free and I certainly am not interested in ever being as drunk as I was on that day at the club.
I did, though, start mourning that feeling of freedom as it was fading into memory. I did everything I could to prolong it, clinging on to how great the release of years of repression felt, but with every passing second it all was falling to a drunken yesterday.
The solution was obvious; I had to come out, I had to state it to everyone. If I wanted any bit of that peace that I felt. I had to get out of bed and say it.
But then I thought “who did I come out to in that club?” All I remember was that the room darkened and the noise quietened when that moment of ‘first kiss’ happened. I knew what dangers and real life effects of being gay and care free could bring about in a conservative society but I didn’t let that stop me (blame it on the alcohol perhaps?). In that moment, I just existed
What I’m saying is that I didn’t need to state anything to anyone, I just needed to exist.
Growing up I depended a lot on the coming-out stories on YouTube. They brought me comfort and relaxed my anxieties of my fate as a gay human person on Earth so I’m not going to downplay the necessity of coming out in this society of ours. Humans interact with symbols and symbolisms and also humans don’t like being alone, so representation does a lot to starve the demons of loneliness and worthlessness that many men feel. What I will downplay though is this new cultural rite of passage that makes the coming out event a sort of duty for LGBT people.
I feel there is this expectation that expects gay men and women to ‘come out’, to announce their orientation. You hear it with even within the settings of liberal parents, family and friends when they respond to a coming out with ‘why didn’t you tell us before’; well-meaning but kind of silly if they are the type that perpetuate an environment of heterosexism or awkward gay-inclusive-heterosexism where you say and encourage heterosexist behaviour but then add disclaimers like “women…and some men…like a man who is [insert masculine characteristics]”
The pressure I felt to announce myself was instinctual. I felt that people wanted an announcement, wanted to be sat down, wanted a reading of a highly emotional letter, wanted the tears and wanted the ‘gradual phase of acceptance’ that comes after. But I want none of that I just want to live free.
People have come to romanticize coming out to be something that is done for the other instead of something that is done for the self.
But that ‘conversation’ will happen. It will happen because people expect everyone to be straight and thus heavy words are going to be shared to adjust that misinterpretation of reality.
It’s good to know that most coming outs I have seen throughout my youth have gone reasonably well or very well (unless there has been an over representation of good stories). I hope when the moment to address my sexuality as an announcement comes, I would have found enough solace and have resolved enough things within myself regarding my orientation.
What my epiphany did was allow me to refocus my energies to a more effective end without feeling like I was robbing others of what I though they deserve from me; a good coming out announcement. The work now is to be alright with myself because I know that just by saying ‘I’m gay’ doesn’t dissolve the internalised homophobia callouses I have formed over the years. The more important thing I can do for myself is not necessarily working up the courage to come out with bold words but dealing with those callouses that have formed which I can only predict will only serve to diminish whatever happiness I would ever hope to attain. I have already come out to the most important person… myself.
I hope someday I get to redo my first kiss and I hope I won’t need liquid courage to be fully present within that moment because there would be no shame to try drown out but just me and another good man.
Photo: Getty Images