“In­ter­ested in Men”

Hello Mr. Magazine - - GROW TO UNDERSTAND - Text by Alden Peters

My pri­vate tor­ment was about to be­come pub­lic. I sat at my com­puter with the cur­sor hov­er­ing over “In­ter­ested in Men” on my Face­book pro­file. This, ac­com­pa­nied by some sort of sta­tus up­date, was about to mark my on­line com­ing out. My heart beat quickly and my fin­ger­tips tin­gled as I clicked the box.

Why was I so ner­vous? I had al­ready come out to my fam­ily and close friends, so the big­gest hur­dle was be­hind me. Com­ing out on­line was just to make it “Face­book of­fi­cial,” as my friends re­minded me I still needed to do. In­stead, I felt the same ner­vous­ness – the what-can-I-do-to-getout-of-this feel­ing – that I had when­ever I came out to some­one in per­son.

I was equally as ner­vous when I came out to my older brother for the first time. We were in a car in the hot Ari­zona sun, cruis­ing steadily along the smooth high­way. I blurted it out un­cer­tainly. I felt glued to the seat, un­able to move as I said aloud for the first time what it was like grow­ing up in the closet.

I should men­tion that there was a cam­era in the car, record­ing our con­ver­sa­tion. My ma­jor at the time was film pro­duc­tion, with a fo­cus in doc­u­men­tary. I had the idea to film my com­ing out to get an in-the-mo­ment per­spec­tive that most of the sto­ries I watched on YouTube lacked. The idea quickly grew into a fea­ture length doc­u­men­tary called Com­ing Out.

In the car, my brother didn’t be­lieve me. He thought I was try­ing to get a re­ac­tion for the cam­era. When he re­al­ized I was se­ri­ous, he parked at the end of an enor­mous park­ing lot and we talked. He asked how long I had known, which seemed to be a pop­u­lar ques­tion for straight people to ask. My par­ents and close friends won­dered the same thing, as if they ex­pected me to tell them about the time I had a fab­u­lous epiphany and – POOF! – be­came a ho­mo­sex­ual. Sit­ting in the car, I told my brother that I’ve “al­ways known.”

That stock state­ment, used ev­ery time the ques­tion came up, im­plied that the years I spent in the closet were a cover for be­ing gay in­stead of the un­cer­tain, try­ing-to-fig­ure-my­self-out time that it ac­tu­ally was. It’s dif­fi­cult to vaguely ex­plain how I cease­lessly searched in on­line fo­rums for some­one to tell me that I was not gay, when I knew in the back of my mind that I was.

I watched com­ing out sto­ries on YouTube, com­par­ing my­self to strangers, un­til I re­al­ized that, like all these other people, this was sim­ply just how I was. Yet, I wasn’t able to ac­tu­ally ad­mit it to my­self un­til col­lege, when fan­tasy be­came awk­ward first ex­pe­ri­ence. Af­ter com­ing out to my­self, I pre­pared to come out to oth­ers, but I had no idea how. The sto­ries on YouTube told me what it was like, but I still wanted to see the whole process. It was an op­por­tu­nity for me to make the film I wanted so des­per­ately to see.

Film­ing it forced me to ac­tu­ally come out. With

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