When people find out I’m gay, they always seem surprised. One, because of my manly demeanour and two, because of me being a black man. What surprises me is that many people still admit not knowing any gay black people, or that they say I am not what they would expect of a black gay guy. I think too many people put too much emphasis on stereotypes which pigeonhole me, and others. I know that racial stereotypes also play a little into people’s thoughts process. I don’t blame anyone really, I just think it has something to do with the way we’ve been brought up as society. Of course, the media has played its part as well.

A thing that comes about being black and gay is the status of being an out and proud individual. Many people assume that because I am gay, I am gay on the DL, which many black people are. This is not the case for me, as I came to terms with my orientation over ten years ago, and I feel like I’m a better person for doing it. I know a lot of people who haven’t officially come out, although they know they’re gay or bi, who would ask me why I came out in the first place. The main reason was to be honest with myself and everyone around me.

I feel my life would be different and more difficult if I was in the closet. Coming to terms with my sexuality wasn’t a light task, and I don’t think it’s easy for anyone. All those thoughts that went through my head!… “I can’t be gay as I still like girls”… “There aren’t any black gay people around”… “How would my family take it?” I thought about more long term, and asked myself, would it make me happy? The answer was yes, and over a decade later I feel much better about my decision.

I hoped my friends would accept me. I wanted them to know the real me and not the person I was projecting. Just after my eighteenth birthday I felt that now that I was officially an adult I should admit to everyone my true feelings. Initially I made the decision to say I was bisexual. I told people of my sexuality in three stages. First, I told my college friends, which was hard even though I had only known them for about a year. When I told them I found nothing but support and comfort. Being out and accepted by friends, I wanted to take the next step and tell my family.

As I said before I thought it would be really hard to tell my family. A lot of my worry came down to the issue of my mum’s home country. Over there it is illegal for anyone to be homosexual, and I worried that she would take that view when I tell her. However, I felt she deserves to know who I really was. When I sat down and told her, she seemed to take it okay. She wasn’t exactly thrilled, but she accepted it, because she had a feeling that I was ‘something’. Once I told her I felt like I could tell anyone now.

My final stage of truly being out and proud was to tell my childhood friends. Before I told my mum I thought they would be the hardest people to tell. As we had grown up together, I thought it might be hard for them to adjust to it. While at the same time, I was hoping they would just accept it and still see me as me. The wonderful thing was that they did accept me.

Since then it took me a few years to realise that I don’t like girls in the same way that I liked boys. Yes, I do look at girls and think they’re attractive, but I don’t look at them and think I want to have sex with them. It became very clear to me that I wasn’t bisexual; I was one hundred percent gay. I didn’t feel scared or ashamed about this revelation, but then I didn’t feel the need to come out to everyone again. I felt that people just figured out that I was exclusively into boys by picking up on the fact that I was only talking about guys. Eventually this did catch on, and everyone who knew me as bisexual, now knew me as gay.

As I left my teens behind, I’ve had no problem in telling new people I was gay. It isn’t something that I announce the moment I meet someone, but something I say if I need to, or admit if I am directly asked. Since then I haven’t felt like anyone has treated me differently because of it. I find with new people it just allows me to be me right away, and have them like me for me.

The only thing I could do without when I tell people about my sexuality is them saying they have never met another out black person. I do know that many black people aren’t out because of family influences and general background. I know a lot of their fears are similar to the ones I’ve once had. But I want to encourage more black people to come out, because life can positively surprise you. Only do it if you can finally accept yourself though.

I don’t think I would have come out if I was still unsure about my sexual identity. It is something that changed my life forever. There was some uncertainty of what my life would be after I come out, but now I’m happy I’ve done it. That’s why I did it – to be happy and no longer live in a lie. If you feel that you are living a lie, be honest with yourself, and if you feel brave enough, come out to the world.

Fabian Estephane