Nature vs. nurture. As I lay in my bed feeling sick as ever (covid…), I think about myself a few years back. I have watched a documentary called ”Three Identical Strangers” and I had this idea in my head that people are born like a blank canvas. You have nothing to show for and everything you get later on, everything that makes you YOU is influenced by different factors in your life as you grow up. If you observe and see that your mom has an obsessive cleaning disorder, guess what – you have an obsessive cleaning disorder. If you see your dad being stubborn, guess what – you are stubborn.
But to say that one is born without any personality or character traits leads to a presumption that sexuality is, in a way, a choice that you make through observation of others. And that is not fully correct.
While the topic of nature vs. nurture is a very controversial one, I fully believe now that people are born with some personality traits that are inherited. They are written in your DNA and over time, through adaptation, observation, and influence, those personality traits might change. That is also why people change.
Nothing ever in life is black and white. Just as no one is fully straight or gay. While some people sit quite far on the scale of ”straight” and don’t question their sexuality, some go through some hard times trying to understand where exactly on that scale do they sit. For those, who never had to question it and for those who had – I introduce Daniel, someone who now sits proudly and comfortably on the scale of ”gay”.
Daniel is 24 years old from Sheffield UK. While being a full-time student in Film & Media production, Daniel is also a creative spirit who enjoys creating YouTube videos as well as blog posts, writing fictional stories, songs, coming up with concepts for films, TV shows, music videos, and dance routines. I connected with Daniel on Twitter and I loved his friendly energy, positive attitude, and honesty. Without ever meeting him, I could tell Daniel has good intentions and good moral values, which I appreciate. And although today me and Daniel talk about sexuality and his personal journey with it, I would like to point out that there is so much more behind a person than just a label.
Q: Growing up, what were you like?
D: I was very quiet and shy all the time. Nothing has changed much really but I have come out of my shell a bit more now. Back when I was younger, I used to cling to my mum everywhere she went and never wanted to leave her side. For some reason, I just remember being such an anxious child. I would never want to go to nursery! And when I did, I caused trouble. I remember we had to do this activity in the nursery where we had to chop spaghetti with scissors (don’t ask why lol) and I nearly chopped this kid’s fingers off! It was so bad. I didn’t have many friends. In Primary School I made a lot, but then in secondary, I lost them all again as a lot of them moved away.
Q: What were your parents like?
D: My mum has struggled with mental health issues for years and is on medication now. She tried to take an overdose years ago which was upsetting for us all, but she is in a much better place now and has a new loving partner. My dad was quite short-tempered. He would always make fun of me but if I tried to be smart and answer back, I would get my butt kicked! I did love spending time with him, and we would always watch films late at night together and eat toast, I just didn’t like it when he got angry! I remember he got so mad with my sister once because her room was so cluttered that he threatened to put everything in black bags and give it away or burn it! He has mellowed out more now though and I love him lots. He always helps me when I struggle with money or anything else.
”My mum was a big worrier. I think I’ve got a lot of my anxious traits from her.”
Q: Being a teenager is difficult for everyone. We go through lots of changes, mood swings, confusion, etc. What was it like being a teenager for you?
D: Probably the worst years of my life not going to lie. I wish I could have enjoyed them more, but I was bullied a lot and people were pointing out my sexuality to me before I really knew myself. It was not a fun time and ever since I’ve always had a fear of teenagers and resented that age group for what happened to me. I feel in a better place now, but that trauma has definitely scarred me for life, and I battle anxiety when I’m around teenagers because of it every single day.
Q: At what point did you realize that you’re not straight? What was going through your head at the time?
D: I always knew I was different from all the other boys as I was always putting tops on my head and playing with barbie dolls, but I didn’t fully come to terms with what being gay was until I was 11. It was at that moment that I realized that I was probably gay. My dad even asked me if I was, but I denied it as I wasn’t ready to come out yet.
Q: How did you come out?
D: The first person I came out to was my mum. I remember I was 16, I came home from school one day and I was sick of lying to her. I just got her to go to her bedroom, sat down on the bed with her, and said there’s something I need to tell you. She was getting quite worried as it must have taken me 10 minutes just to utter the words, but eventually, I did. Her reaction was better than I thought it would be and she was relieved as she thought I had murdered someone with how dramatic I was being lol. She treated it so casually and said shortly afterwards, do you want some cake and tea? I wouldn’t have gotten through it without her, I love her so much. She is always willing to fight my corner. She told my sister, but I wasn’t ready to tell my sister or anyone else until 2 years later. I was trying to pluck up the courage, but I was just scared for the whole world to know, and I was worried about how other members of my family were going to react.
”One time I said to my sister ”you don’t know me!” and then she got in my face and said ”I know you’re gay!”. I remember I went as pale as a ghost and my heart sank.”
Q: I would like to believe that we live in times where people are pretty open-minded and welcoming, however, have you ever felt/been discriminated because of your sexuality?
D: Oh most definitely, even up to this day, unfortunately. There was an incident a few months ago where it was a Sunday night and me and my partner decided to go to the Co-op to get some items. He lives in a reasonably nice area, so we weren’t expecting any trouble, however, we were soon proved wrong when we saw a group of youths walking in front of us. I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but usually, I have a pretty good instinct and knew they would be troublemakers. I told my partner Ryan to slow down hoping they wouldn’t look back at us but eventually they did. They didn’t say anything until I got in the shop. Ryan went on a different aisle to look for something and they came round the corner where I was, pretending to barge into me but making out as if it was me in the way. I apologised and then went around the corner to which they followed me. I knew they were wanting trouble from the moment they saw me. I pretended to look for some crisps and they started asking me questions like “you alright?” as if they knew me and then started asking me what I was doing. I just said, “I’m looking for some crisps” and they started mimicking my camp tone of voice. It was awful. I got away and then eventually I found Ryan. I typed on my notes on my phone and told him that something bad was going on and that we needed to stay in the shop. They left before us, but I was right. I trusted my instinct and decided to order an Uber instead of walking home even though it was a short walk. They were waiting outside for me because we could see when we went outside to wait for the uber. Luckily, we were near the entrance, and it was a car park. They were far away so if we needed help, we could just get one of the staff. It was so scary though. That’s when it really dawned on me that I am vulnerable. I really want to learn karate or self-defense techniques in order to better protect myself. It’s not the first time it’s happened either. I have always seemed to have abuse by certain youths when on the train on my own or just trying to go about my business. I remember another instance where I got followed on the way home from college, but I managed to outsmart them by waiting in the shopping center.
Q: Is life hard/harder for someone that is homosexual?
D: I think it is because even though we don’t have to face what other minorities go through in terms of racism and the horrible discrimination we see on a daily basis; it is still discrimination in a sense as people are targeting you for your sexuality and who you love. If you wear make-up or seem more effeminate in terms of your voice and the way you walk, that can instantly make you a target. It is the worst feeling.
”I am always scared when I am around masculine men as they have more of an excuse to hit me if they have a problem with me as it is more socially acceptable to hit men. And they just assume that I may be able to fight back but I am unable”
Q: Do you have a partner? Tell me about him.
D: Yes I have a lovely partner called Ryan and we’ve been dating for nearly 3 years now. We met on Tinder and we’ve shared so many great moments together, he means the world to me. We’ve definitely had our ups and downs. I struggle a lot with insecurity because of my past and I’ve found it hard to accept at times that someone genuinely loves me, wants to be with me for the long term, not just the short term, and isn’t going to hurt or cheat on me. It’s not always the case, but in the gay community, a lot of people tend to want to use the app Grindr and don’t want to settle down in a serious relationship. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find anyone just as serious as me, but I did.
Q: Do you believe that sexuality is a spectrum? That no one is fully straight or fully gay?
D: I believe there’s a spectrum yes. It all depends on the person, but I couldn’t go up to someone and say you’re fully gay or straight because that’s not always possible. There’ll always be some level of curiosity in humans, it’s how we’re wired.
Q: What advice would you give to people that are struggling with their sexuality?
D: I would say definitely don’t rush anything. Only come out when you are ready. It’s a big step and as much as I want people to be free, I also want them to be safe. Only come out when you are in a safe environment, and you know nothing is going to happen to you. And be who you want to be, don’t worry about stereotypes. If you want to be more feminine, don’t let anyone stop you.
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