We don’t need to know why people are not ready to come out. We have to be able to let them be.
I was 15 years of age. To an outsider, I was living a boring life in a dull village in northern Greece. On the inside, I was living a life in heat. A teenager fueled with horniness and a will to change the stars in a place he didn’t fit back in 2003.
The internet had just started taking off there. The nights of me crying the gay away were gone. Now, although a tiny bit scared or thrilled, I wanted to find more people like me. The other homosexuals I knew existed somewhere out there, but none ever came to reveal their true identity to me.
Oh, these homosexuals! I knew nothing about them. Were they shadows lurking behind me when I was walking back home late in the evening? Were they parents living across the street? Were they priests that were praying — instead of crying, the gay away? I knew nothing, but I was willing to learn. Admittedly I had seen a couple of them on television, but never one in person.
But how could that change?
As a little geek, I knew the internet would have all the answers. And so I searched for them. I wasn’t interested in porn, or at least this wasn’t my main focus. I wanted to talk to real people. And so I somehow found IRC or MIRC. An app that you could create your chatroom and people could join it. There were famous chatrooms that many logged in and chatted away on the main chatroom or privately. There were no profiles. You could set up a different nickname in seconds. And that’s where I found GayHellas.
GayHellas (aka Gay Greece) was a chatroom full of gays like me. A minimum of 300 gays was there all the time. I started calculating. If in a country of 10 million people, 300 gays are always online at this particular channel, then how many are we in total? Most people don’t use the internet, and most people don’t have “computers”, some of us sleep or are at work etc.
And so I started chatting away. And god, I chatted a lot.
The bad guy of this story was on this chatroom. Let’s call him MrBadGuy123. I didn’t need a lot of time to realise he was an oppressed soul, a guy carrying a lot of baggage, fear and self-hatred. I was young, but I wasn’t stupid, and these things are not hard to see, even in a chatroom. It didn’t take more than a few minutes, and that discussion became way too much, and I stopped replying to him. He was rude, abrupt and chased by his imaginary ghosts.
I chatted with many more people. One of them was SomeoneOnMyAge15. Finding someone on my age was fantastic. I used to chat with people much much older than me. And this made me feel comfortable, and so I opened up. Not many questions later, SomeoneOnMyAge15 asked me if I have spoken to MrBadGuy123. He said “Do you know this guy? He is from our area!”. I replied that I don’t know him, but he was furious and weird on the messages. I was excited, and I wanted to protect my new friend and potentially the first gay person to meet.
There was one little thing I missed. The nickname SomeoneOnMyAge15 was of the same person as MrBadGuy123! And he was playing pretend. He wasn’t at my age, and he was messing with me. And how could I have guessed it? And of course, he went mental. He started threatening me. He said I could not be going behind his back talking about him. And that he will find me and god knows what will happen…
It was late. I was too tired for this. I decided I would do what every logical person should. I went to sleep. The next day I would create a new nickname and be more careful.
The Beach Party
A couple of weeks passed. It was summer, and I was heading to a beach party with friends. We would light a fire and grill chicken skewers on the beach. We would even drink alcohol! Well, I hated alcohol back then so I would pretend I drink alcohol…
A hot-looking guy from the capital was also in town. We changed photos on MIRC, and he wanted to meet me. I still wasn’t feeling ready to meet someone. He looked hot, but I did have the beach party that night. I was wondering; could I take the risk and invite a gay stranger to the beach party? I didn’t know if it was a great idea, but I did. He wouldn’t come to join the party but just meet me and leave.
I was stressed and didn’t really know who was coming. I had to be ready for any possible situation. I gave him a fake name and also invited him to the beach party happening 100 meters away from the party I was. I would look protected next to my “friends”, and if outed or if the guy was a psycho, I could escape in the dark. He didn’t even know my name, so in the case he chases me or talks about me, he would look like a total psycho.
And so he came in his car. And I did sneak away from the party to meet him. And I was thrilled and stressed and was hoping it will work out well. It didn’t! I walked to the red car to greet him. And there he was. But guess what. He wasn’t the guy from Athens. There was no guy from Athens! He was MrBadGuy123! An adult holding a grudge at an underage stranger over a thing that happened weeks ago online. And he came for the kill.
I panicked. I had no words. I tried to be as lovely as I could. I even lied he looked “really” nice in person. But he wasn’t there for bullshit. I pretended I was going to pee and run away in the dark. My 100-meter-away plan worked. He had no clue where I was. He somehow though managed to find my real name. I don’t know if that happened that night or not. I never learned. And from my name, he found my phone number in the catalogue. Not my mobile one, he had that. My parents’ landline! I then knew this was not going to end well for sure…
And the phone rang
It was a few minutes before 5 p.m. I was home alone, just a couple of days after the beach party. The phone rang. I picked it up heard MrBadGuy123 saying “May I speak with the fag’s dad?”.
“May I speak with the fag’s dad?” he said.
Have you ever been scared so hard your knees got weak? Have you ever lost your breath and ability to speak due to fear? That was me. I hung up the phone and started sobbing.
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I connected my computer to the internet so the phone wouldn’t work. Yes, it was still the 00s, and despicable dial-up had its benefits. But I couldn’t stop crying.
How did he find my number? What will I say to my parents that still don’t know am gay? What lies could he tell? What if my dad gets a heart attack of this? I cried and cried and cried. But an hour later, I found my strength. I couldn’t just sit down there and cry.
One of the reasons why you should never try to out people is because you can put your self in danger. Outing a person can at times be like outing someone who is hiding a crime. Being LGBT is not a crime, but threatened to be outed can create panic and under panic, we are out of control and may react unpredictably.
My parents’ health and my peace were ultimately important. And I was not there to play with any of that. I cried for an hour but then I was ready. I wasn’t going to kill anyone of course but being fed the hate you serve hurts twice as hard.
I washed my face and my blood-shot crying eyes. I took cotton wool, put it in my mouth. I tied a sock around our phone and called the number that called me back.
And then I heard a woman’s voice saying: “Hello, this is (let’s say) Best Hair Saloon, how can I be of help?”. I froze for a second. Did he call me from a hairdresser’s? But now that I recall his hair was quite eccentric. Is he a hairdresser?
I bet he didn’t know I could see his phone when he called! You see, we were one of the first houses in the area to be able to see the number of the person calling. My uncle brought a cool phone to us from Germany. And now it was made in good use.
I gathered all my strength and said to the lady; “May I speak to the faggot that works there?”. I was shivering so hard. I could feel the hair of my body raising as a cat ready for a fight. And I knew the victory was mine. Oh, at that moment I knew it. He played a dirty game but didn’t know how to play it right.
“May I speak to the faggot that works there?” I said.
And she didn’t ask for more. She passed the phone to him. And there he was — my biggest threat on the other side of the phone. But now Ι had the upper hand.
The cotton wool and the socks were there to change my voice. I thought for some weird reason that like that I would sound more masculine and angry — a bit like my dad. Or at least the fictional just-came-out-of-prison dad I made up in my mind. He said “hello”, I knew it was him, and so I started screaming: “Are you the faggot that is teasing my son? If you ever come a kilometre near him, I swear I will put you in the ground. Now I know where you fucking are. I hear your name once again, and you are dead.”
“Are you the faggot that is teasing my son? If you ever come a kilometre near him, I swear I will put you in the ground. Now I know where you fucking are. I hear your name once again, and you are dead.”
I never planned to scream. It just came out this way. I don’t know if it was the cotton in my mouth, the anger I had, the fear that my plan might fail or my will to not succumb to the threats. I screamed with all my voice. I threw all the hatred he pushed back. And then I hung up.
All this was too much for me. I fell to the floor and cried my heart out. I was afraid I shouted so much the neighbours could hear. I was relieved because I knew he would never call back.
But deep down I realised I wouldn’t be able to hide for long. I needed at least some of my friends to know. Handling this on my own was difficult, and so I did. A few weeks later, I came out to some of my friends. And god, I did need their help a lot. I still do now. For example, I now ask them to share this article with someone that would like to read this story. No more helping in hiding. No more secrets or all the things that will make it here in the weeks and months to come. Want to read more of my stories? Subscribe to my posts.
Never push anyone to come out. Let people be.
You don’t need to come out to everyone when you are not ready to. Choose wisely the people that you will first come out to.
If you have never met a gay person and you are scared to meet one for your safety, do it at a public space. Ideally, let someone else know.
Coming out is a blessing. There is nothing in the world like being honest. It takes a lot of stress off your shoulders. It makes you happier and better.
Exclamation Marks are personal stories within QuestionMark. Alternatively, I would have called them “Stories that made me or broke me”. They took place years ago in a small village in northern Greece. I will do my best to stay as original as I can and to share everything I remember.