From my earliest memories of school, I always knew I was a bit different from my male friends.
I loved to dance, they loved sports. I liked to talk about my feelings & to express myself, while they would get uncomfortable bringing up their emotions.
Girls would only ever be the topic of discussion, while I always felt that both girls and boys could be cute. I kept that last part to myself, until later in my teens.
I always knew I was a bit different
I started really caring about what I looked like in grade 5: styling my own hair & stealing my mom’s face creams to experiment with what made me feel the most hydrated.
Back then my peers called me “metrosexual”, a now outdated term that referred to a man who cared more about their outward appearance than the average straight male of that time period.
In reality, I was just an empathetic kid who loved to dance and look good.
But I embraced the term, and learned to own my “metrosexuality”. It bothered me when people made fun of me for other things, but to comment on someone looking good?
Dressing well? Having soft skin? I couldn’t think of a less derogatory comment, so I ignored the haters.
High school was a different beast altogether
Middle school wasn’t too difficult for me, despite being a bit of an outcast. I had a small group of friends, and was owning my desire to look good without too much difficulty or hate. I knew the one bully in school and did my best to stay away from him.
Highschool, however, was quite a different beast.
Upon my graduation of the 7th grade, I was gifted an iPod Nano by my dad, and promptly ejected from my small middle school of 300 kids to a massive, multi level building of nearly 1600, of which I was the very youngest.
The sheer amount of hormones in that place hit me like a truck, and I could tell from the very first day that I was in for a very different experience than my old school.
There were popular kids, jocks, emos, band kids, and more facial hair than I had ever seen in my life.
Yup, I was definitely in for it.
Dressed nicely? You must be gay!
I can still remember walking past a group of older rugby players on my first day, probably 12th graders, and having a torrent of jeers and hate speech thrown my way as casually as tossing a ball. It was much harder to ignore than the other insults I’d heard in the past, with a lot more weight and hate behind it.
I kept my eyes out for other boys dressed similarly to me, hoping to find some kindred spirits, but quickly realized it was just as uncommon at this giant school as it was at my old small one.
It wasn’t until some weeks later that I finally ran into a few, but by then I had already heard about them. See, the only other boys who seemed to care as much as I did about their fashion and appearance, were also the only gay boys at my school. And so everyone had just assumed I was gay too.
Keep in mind this was in the early 2000s, a time when being gay was significantly less socially acceptable than it is now. People weren’t being lynched at my school, but they still suffered a constant stream of vitriolic bullying and disrespect.
There were some that stuck up for them, but it was few and far between, and did little to silence the testosterone fuelled hate speech that the rugby players and other “cool kids” would throw their way. Whether I was actually gay or not didn’t really matter to anyone, and I was ostracized regardless.
Kids can be cruel.
Surviving high school
The next few years of high school were a struggle. I was constantly navigating a trifecta of school, popularity (or lack thereof), and my own budding sexuality.
I think for the majority of people, this is a pretty classic teen experience.
So in the interest of time I’ll leave the specifics of surviving high school to another time, and instead focus on the moral of my story, which is:
Girls? Guys? Both?
Despite being labelled as gay by the majority of the school, I was fairly sure I wasn’t. I had had a couple short flings with girls in my grade, full of all the awkwardness and bad kissing (teeth, blech) that usually follows first relationships.
When a cute boy walked by, I didn’t get the same kind of heart in my chest, breathe into a paper bag, pass out on-the-spot feeling as I would when one of the more amply developed girls at school would cross my path.
There was definitely…something there though. Not so much in the first half of my high school career, as I was still too busy dodging rugby players and the word “fag” like it was thrown around so easily back then.
But in the back half, something definitely started to change with me.
I noticed myself looking at boys in the locker room, appreciating their bodies & muscles. My eyes would linger on a couple exceptionally attractive guys in my grade, and I’d have to catch myself before I was caught staring.
This was a new thing for me, and it threw me for a loop. Did I actually desire something intimate with them? Was I gay?
Or was I just admiring these boys out of a respect for their developing bodies, hardened jawlines, and other features that appealed to my love of looking good?
I was honestly at a loss to the answer. So I knew I had to do something about it.
Research in the field
At that time I had just finished grade 10 and was off for the summer, and had just discovered raving. A whole new world opened up to me, and with it came late nights, drugs, and a love & passion for electronic music that would later shape me into the person I am today.
But what it also came with was a new & significantly more open minded group of friends.
A true mismatch of kids from all over the city. They were fun-loving, quirky, weird, and some of them were absolutely, balls to the wall, queer.
And I fucking loved it. I loved them all.
A couple gay guys in my group immediately took a liking to me.
Most likely drawn to my very moisturized skin and soft hair. Or maybe it was my flamboyant nature and love of expressing myself. Or maybe they just thought I was hot.
Either way, I became fast friends with them.
I asked about a billion questions concerning what it was like to be gay, and they were happy to answer them. I listened with rapt attention to all the details. I was amazed.
The sexual experiences these boys were having sounded very similar to the ones I had had with girls my age, but with a layer of shyness stripped away. They weren’t afraid to experiment, and were very open to talking with me about everything.
The more time I spent around these new gay friends, the more I decided I wanted to try something with one of them.
They were more than happy to oblige.
And so that’s how, at the next party we all went to, I came to have my first of many mid-rave makeout sessions with one of the gay boys in my group.
The first time simply felt…right. If a little more scratchy than kissing a girl, it just felt right.
It affirmed something that I had known for a long, long time. Something that was pushed down and crushed by an oppressive and homophobic society throughout my entire upbringing, but could not be pushed aside completely.
I liked girls, and I liked boys too.
A brand new me
I returned to school that fall with a completely new sense of identity & confidence.
I had fallen in love with music, made friends with people that accepted me for who I was, and uncovered a hidden truth about myself that had been steeping for years.
When the jocks tried to make fun of me now, their insults slid off me like water off a bisexual duck’s back.
I did not give a single, miniscule, essence of a fuck what they thought.
The last 2 years of school were infinitely easier to navigate, and I loved every minute of it.
I now had the power of self acceptance, and a group of weirdo friends to lift me up whenever I needed it.
I excelled at the things I was good at, kissed boys & girls, ignored the people who sucked, and danced until the sun came up on the weekends.
The things learned over that summer and the following 2 years, along with a searing love of music and desire for self acceptance became the building blocks that have shaped me into the person I am today.
The world today
The world today is a very different landscape than it was in 2005.
Homophobia and discrimination absolutely still exist, but the voices are getting quieter and quieter.
The LGBTQ+ movement gains more support every year, newer (and older) generations are learning to accept their fellow humans for who they are, and the love for our queer brothers & sisters continues to drown out the voices of the hateful and close-minded.
The world can be a hectic place, so I try to live life by a motto: “Love yourself for who you are, and respect others for what they are.”
Oh, and as far as “metrosexuals” go, the desire to look good and care for one’s appearance is such a societal norm, I’d be surprised if anyone even thinks about it anymore.
Stay hydrated and loved, my friends.