I am me and there are many versions of me. My school self, my work self, my friend self, my church self, my gay self, my fetish self—you get the picture. Life before coming out was wearing a series of masks to be "myself" around others. When I found the right friends, I was able to take off layers of my persona and just be me. Pride to me is accepting your true self in all of its forms.
I grew up in Oregon, was born deaf in one ear and was raised in a religious family. I never really thought about my sexuality until I finished a 2-year mission serving for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—yes, I'm a Mormon. After my mission I was a social anxiety-filled 21-year-old going to college at BYU (Brigham Young University). It wasn't until I was about 24 when I recognized that I was gay.
Before I accepted my sexuality, I had a lot of self-esteem challenges. Why is it hard talking to people? What do others think of me? How much weight do I need to lose? Why is he popular? What's wrong with me? On and on. When I was around others, I would wear mental masks to hide my anxieties. I would put on different masks when with different friends and family. No matter who I was with I was still me, but not all of me. But when I figured out, I was gay, that meant I had to wear another mask in front of others, the "I'm straight" mask.
When you go to college at BYU, you have to agree to their honour code, which is an agreement to obey the commandments that Mormon's follow as well as some additional rules. I couldn't be openly gay at college without the risk of being expelled. I'd wear all my masks and play up appearances so I wouldn't get caught. I slowly became more isolated from my family and my friends. It wasn't until I met another gay Mormon that I was able to find myself.
When I met others going through the same things, it was such a relief. We would meet up often to play video games and board games. Slowly I came out of my shell when I was with my gay friends. I felt like I could take off my masks and just be me when I was with them. It was such a weight taken off me. I knew I was gay, and I was going to be fine, that is until I found a new mask to wear, the "I'm totally not kinky" mask.
It didn't take very long to figure out that not only was I into boys, but I was also into fetishes. It's funny looking back at my childhood, there were definite hints that I was gay and kinky. For instance, when I was young, I would take any chance to go to the sports store with my dad and sneak away to try on all the tight spandex clothing. Since then I'm still a strange kinky guy. When I recognized I was kinky, I had to keep that part of myself hidden, even from my new gay friends.
I had found more of who I was, but I had to keep it secret from others out of fear of how they'd react. Hopefully you can see the frustrating cycle of discovering myself. I'd peel off a couple of masks and then put another on. It's hard to find a group of friends who knows and accepts everything about me. I think I have one friend who knows I'm gay, Mormon and kinky. Otherwise I have different groups who know different parts of me. Not everyone who knows I'm kinky knows I'm Mormon. Rarely anyone Mormon knows I'm kinky let alone being gay. I'm still learning how to be me, I still wear a few masks when I'm with others, but since I came out, that's one mask I'll never have to wear again. It's disheartening that many in the LGBTQ+ community are still closeted after coming out. We are still in our kinky closets; not sure who to trust with this precious knowledge about ourselves.
I'm now 30 and know more about myself. I still wear masks from time to time, but there are fewer of them now. I'm happy I found a community I can express my kinks to! Within our own LGBTQ+ community and even within our kinky community we may feel embarrassed by being ourselves. We as members of these communities need to embrace each other so we can be ourselves. Be proud of who you are and embrace everything that it means to be you. I'm proud to be all of me and share myself with you!
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