coming out, now and then

I have been gay all my life. Don’t recall the exact time when I realised I felt more attracted to men but I guess I must have been twelve or thirteen. I came out when I was nineteen. My mother was very supportive, and so was everybody else. Friends and family, and later my colleagues at work. For the last 25 years, Filip has been the love of my life. Was I lucky or did my mindful compass help? I am not easily stressed and resilient in times of crises, which is an attitude I most probably developed then. Things are as they are and I cope.

It is good to be reminded that not everybody’s path is as easy. Watching the Netflix reality series “Colton Coming Out”, it is clear that not many can be who he, she or they really are. Colton Underwood is a famous American football player who became an even bigger celebrity when in 2018 he was The Bachelor in its 23rd season on ABC. Underwood thought that participating in this “heterosexual” series would heal him from his sinful, homosexual desires. The guy is a practicing catholic, which made it even harder for him personally as he thought it was in conflict with his beliefs. At times I was annoyed by the reality format tricks, but all in all the series shows an honest coming out of a young man anno 2021. To his best friend, his parents, his brother, his parish, … and finally to the whole world.

My coming out was simple and I wrongly assumed that most coming outs go as easy. Whatever box I tick I have always strived to be my true self. When I was leading the Belgian Flemish VRT’s television channel Eén, “authentic authenticity” was what I preached. “Real people, real emotions, real stories” was my drive in commissioning programs. As an executive I could never be anybody else but myself. Today, more than ever, I am truly myself and grounded. At this stage of my career it is now a moral duty to be a role model, and I invite friends and colleagues in the same situation to join me. To show that you can have a great career, a strong relationship, with around you friends from all walks of life, … and just be happy with the usual troubles and challenges life brings. One of the reasons why I started as an executive coach (apart from my job at EBU Eurovision) is to help LGTBQ professionals struggling with their identity.

Some time ago I discovered this beautiful book “Loving. A photographic History of Men in Love, 1850s – 1950s”, a selection of pictures collected by Hugh Nine and Neal Treadwell . You could call them ordinary pictures of men, but they are significant. One cannot disregard their smiles, and the hidden love they share for one another. We owe it to these men and everybody who leads a life in hiding, to be our true selves.

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