Recently at the Chaos Communication Camp I sat down with a group of ‘queer geeks’. We shared, with the world, our experience with and our feelings surrounding being queer in the hacker-scene. We convened in the middle of a rainy night in a make-shift studio in a tent and had a very profound discussion on the camp radio Binary Voice. I have not really expressed myself in that session a lot, but listening back to the recording I can not help but wanting to elaborate.
At the end of the show I say I think it is fantastic to be queer. While that sounds like an easy thing to proclaim, I have not always thought so. In fact, up until around 20 I really hated myself for being gay. My environment constantly gave me a lot of signals that being gay is somehow wrong, and although I never had to endure the physical violence that, for example, Mitch Altman had to endure it did scar me psychologically.
I denied that part of myself until I ended up with suicidal tendencies with a psychiatrist. During those sessions I first explored this part of my identity. By then, I had reverted to substance abuse (alcohol, weed, xtc, hallucinogens, you name it) to aid in the impossible task of pretending I had no sexual preference for boys. I mean, sexuality is such an integral part of our being, to deny that is like to deny that one breathes.
Imagine the constant struggle, fantasizing about boys and falling in love with your male classmates while at the same time strongly believing it is wrong and must never surface. That’s hard. Really hard. I don’t think I can aptly describe what that did to me to anyone who has not gone through the same struggle.
When I came out to friends and family and labelled myself gay, I thought I was there. I partied like mad in the local gay scene, thought I was complete. Yet, the years of denial and coping mechanisms were not easily dismissed. Somehow, the feeling it was somehow wrong persisted. It was hard for me to assimilate within a new group and tell them I am queer. It really felt like an obstacle, I feared I would not be accepted for who I am.
The way the world was treating me still lead to a lot of frustration. The Dutch word ‘homo’ was (and still is) being used as a derogate term. It is a word some reserve for their worst enemies, for the people they deject the most. I got really angry about that, but instead of using that anger to change things in a positive way I let it build up inside me like a cancer.
I still feel hurt when people use the word ‘gay’ as a derogate term. Within certain subcultures of the hacker scene, especially those where kids measure their hacking abilities bragging about their conquests in some sort of nerdy masochism, it is socially acceptable to use language that hurts people. It is encouraged even. Bashing queers is, unfortunately, an easy way to get accepted within certain peer groups.
Usually the usage of the word gay as a way of dismissing someone is out of carelessness though. I have rarely found anyone who really has problems with queerness. It is habitual use of language, no conscious speech act. I tend to say something when I observe this. I try to explain how that same careless use of words almost drove me to end my life, kill myself.
I hope that will make people think. I know it has made people think. And I hope that with that I can contribute in making it easier for young kids out there who have similar issues as I did have.
For myself, I have found peace in that regard. I am openly queer, and will take every opportunity I can to let the world know. I love my life as such, and while I am still struggling with the psychological scars and addictive behaviour left from that time I do celebrate my queerness every opportunity I get.
It really makes me cry when I think of those young ones out there who might be gay, bisexual or whatever and are going through what I went through. I want to help them become themselves. I am glad that The Netherlands has the COC, an organisation that furthers queer emancipation but also supports anyone who is going through the process of coming out of the closet. I know some of my friends take issues with their political ways, but for me the real value of the COC is the sheer support one gets from being safe among peers who have had similar issues. When I finally acknowledged my homosexuality at 20, it helped me so much just to be able to go there and talk, listen and make friends with like-minded people. I have deep respect for the volunteers going into the classrooms, educating adolescents about the rich tapestry of queerness.
A few years after I came out, I had a profound experience. A friend whom I knew from the hardcore scene (gabber, speed, happy is for homos) called me, and started talking about how he heard about my coming out. To my surprise, he told me he was gay too. I had never expected this to come from that particular peer group, yet just by being openly queer it all of a sudden became acceptable for others as well. And that, for me, acknowledges the fact that just by being myself I can help.
I am therefore very proud of the show we did at CCC. We had a unique gathering of queer geeks at the table, openly talking about their deepest feelings, most horrible experiences and also the joy of being who you are. I really hope kids (and adults!) out there who struggle with their own sexual identity listen to it and can find support in the wise words spoken. Already a day after the show, Mitch told me about people coming out right there and then.
As a final thought, I want to emphasize that just putting the label ‘gay’ on myself is not the end but merely the beginning of the exploration of my own sexuality. Yes, I really like guys. And for a while I even went to the other extreme: I would deny every feeling I could possibly have for someone of the female (or whatever other) sex. I am slowly coming around, and realize things aren’t binary.
I have several friends who also do not tend to fit in the dominant social paradigm (to quote Mitch from the aforementioned show) of the monogamous heterosexual relationship, and are finding ways to deal with that while still existing within that dominating model. It is hard sometimes, but it is a lot of fun as well. And true hapiness, I believe, can only be found by following ones heart without regarding what others might think or judge you by.
Anyway, I encourage each and everyone (also if you do not consider yourself to be queer) to go and download that recording. And most of all, I encourage everyone out there to be themselves. And if that is hard somehow, know that there are a whole bunch of persons that have gone through it already and that are more than willing to talk. To listen. Do not hesitate to contact any of us on the panel (me, Mitch, Jimmy, Maha, Socialhack, Willow, Fabien and Tomate).