Written by Daniel Vaialua Gavét
NZ Born of Samoan / Australian decent
I was asked to write about my journey by a friend whom I so highly respect. But it is not always easy talking about the journey that you have walked all your life. Not so much in the sense that it is hard to talk about in itself but rather it can be quite difficult to articulate and try to get people to understand. I always find it interesting talking to people about being gay
- something I realised was a reality for me at about thirteen years old – as you can really observe peoples’ reactions simply from the facial expressions and body language as to whether they are appalled by your sudden confession, completely accepting or even moved within themselves as they evaluate their own ideologies and belief systems.
I guess I can be grateful for the way being gay and the reactions I have received towards it forging my ability to be able to generally read people quite well.
The experience of being gay is different for everyone yet it does seem that there are some common elements that most gay men and women experience. For example at some point we’ve all been openly judged, ridiculed, or even bullied in several different ways by those with – needless to say – a very narrow mind set. I’ve been called all the names, faggot, homo, told I’m going to hell etc. It hurts yes, but eventually you grow a much thicker skin and learn to treat it as water off a ducks back. If anything, it shifts your own perspective in being able to grow in a world that you soon realise is extremely cruel. The biggest opposition to being gay for me was being a Christian. I grew up in the church, not in a traditional obliging manner; my parents were and still are genuine God-fearing people who raised my younger brother and me in the very values and principles of the bible.
It was all I had ever known, ingrained in my mind, unmovable and without question. Being gay tore me down the middle. Everything in me wanted to love another boy, I wanted the companionship, I wanted the romance, the normality of being able to express who I was the way I wanted. But I was a Christian, it was wrong…oh so wrong. I had to hide it, I had to try - and believe me I did – to convince myself that it would go away. I’d never get to heaven carrying this burden of sin that I had.
And so for thirty years I denied it. There were suspicions and accusations but I meticulously scripted an exhausting explanation for every time I was met with the glances from people that didn’t believe that I was ‘straight’. It was a lonely journey as I pulled myself through a life heavily involved with the church. I mean, I was a youth leader, ministry leader, everyone knew my face, my name. I became the pin-up boy for young Christians. Yet internally I was screaming! The torture not being able to be who I wanted started to build up and was becoming too much. So in my early to mid twenties I left the church and took with me this double standard of ‘God v Gay’ I didn’t know how to deal with it, I wanted to be gay there was nothing more I wanted but I also didn’t want to disappoint God. So I looked for an escape and it came in the form of alcohol, drugs and eventually gang association. I was lost, insecure, and afraid but I felt free every weekend as I got drunk, high and put my middle finger to the world. But the escape was temporary, so naturally a deepening cycle developed because all I wanted to do was stay in that place of euphoria and seeming freedom. With this eventually – because I knew my life was a mess – came the contemplation of suicide,
I thank God I never acted on it but I came so close.
To think that you can actually consider ending your own life because you fear something that is so normal to you, because you fear the words of other flesh and bones just like you is almost incomprehensible. Yet as I have thought about it in later years what is even more terrifying is the fact that to most people I seemed fine. I was just another young guy enjoying the life of the party, ‘living life to the fullest’. I had created a façade, a mask.
Then intervention came, ironically in the form of Christianity. I had visited my brother in Australia and he convinced me to attend one of his church services and I – what they call – recommitted my life to God. Now, this is where a lot of people would think that since I came back to church everything would be fine, fixed and I’d go on happily ever after. You’d be wrong. I carried the same mask, the same façade and the same insecurity. If anything Christianity made me feel more uncomfortable because I had no temporary escape to block it out, the realisation of how I had lived my life up to that point fell on me like a ton of bricks and so I fell into a depression stemmed from feeling like a complete and utter failure. Here I was approaching thirty years of age and what had I done with my life? I hadn’t gone to Uni, I hadn’t saved – in fact I was in debt up to my ears, I hadn’t travelled, I didn’t even have the relationship I always wanted. I had nothing to show for myself. So the depression sent me into another pit, and again I found another way to supposedly deal with it. I threw myself into the church like there was no tomorrow.
I became the poster boy once again, faithful, giving, willing, serving, committed. I did it all. I jumped into every ministry, every initiative, and every activity. Why? Because I thought it would take away the depression of feeling like a failure, being a part of something big, something that had big hopes and goals, something that allowed me to see tangible results by helping build. I thrived off the encouragement and praise from others for how “awesome” I was and for so long it made me feel like somebody, like I had succeeded at something. But it was never wholly authentic.
Eventually the lack of authenticity started to show through. I started getting frustrated, even angry because I was doing things that my heart was never really completely willing to do. And this all stemmed from the fear of being gay. “I am gay”. Once and for all I had to look at myself with 100% honesty and realise who I was. I am gay and I am happy, I am content. Thirty years it had taken for me to do this and I have never felt so liberated and free in my life!. I decided with much consideration to leave the church for good. As much as I have respect for the church and always will and I endeavour to maintain the friendships I built over the years I just knew that I couldn’t be there while openly gay. I understood that although these people would not judge me their belief system would not accept me continuing down this path. (I could go into more detail and depth about the tension between the homosexuality and Christianity but I think that’s whole other piece of writing. One that maybe I will share later.)
That was about almost six months ago now and I can honestly say I am so happy. Not only through the liberation of just being able to be me but I have matured and seek a new direction in life. I’m now 33 and have started studying for a major in Social Anthropology and a minor in English. Throughout this journey as much as it has been about me I have learnt to see beyond into the lives and experiences of others. I’ve learnt that as hard as my journey has been there are others out there dying in a world that needs more compassion, love and humanity.
So my aim is to graduate, travel a bit, buy a house and work in humanitarian aid and/or foreign policy. I mention this because one of the beautiful things of life is it’s never too late to change and do something different, to take a different path and forge a future that will not only make you happy but leave a legacy for generations to come. I don’t want to die with people remembering me as just a gay guy. I want to die with people remembering my character, my integrity. I want them see what I was able to do with what I had in order to impact the world I lived in.
To anyone reading this that knows they’re gay but is living in fear, there is nothing I can say to make it easier. But what I can tell you is that you will learn that this is about you and how the rest of your life will be lived and there is nothing like feeling the power of relief when you are deeply honest with yourself. Embrace it, live it, enjoy it! And for lack of a better world fuck what everyone else thinks!
If this piece was something you can relate to and would like to discuss further, Daniel has kindly offered to share his details for anyone that would like to get in touch with him. You can email him on email@example.com