Excited, anxious, terrified. I was waiting for my Tinder date at the bar at Joey’s Yorkdale. I kept looking at the door breathless. The bartender made small talk - I think she knew I was nervous. A beautiful girl approached me “Hey, are you Kevin?” I don’t even remember if I said a word, or just shook my head no. The bartender laughed “You should have said yes,” she said. Ready to bail, I texted my best friend Tif, needing her to push me in the right direction. She always does. Deep breath. I look to the door. And there he was. I was now on my first date with a man.
I reflect often on that time in my life - when I learned who I am. But it didn’t start with smiles and fanfare. For a long time, I was self-loathing. I felt like I was lying to myself, my family, and my friends. If you’ve met me, you know I’m an open book. But I was hiding that chapter from myself. I formed relationships with people hoping to find the version of myself I thought others wanted me to be. It was killing me.
I talk forever about community, and the people that we surround ourselves with. Tif at the time was a critical part of my community. She was the only person who knew what I was dealing with at the time; she was my life line. Without her, maybe I would have stood up and left that bar. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to pick myself up off the floor when I got home that night and cried.
Love drives us. It drove me to discover who I am, and it drove Tif to support me in coming out. Support like that is what helps us self-identify, and find the courage to be proud of who we are. Slowly, I started to share my secret with my community. Looking back, I was certainly confused. I was projecting my fears on others. I was looking to be the person I thought they wanted me to be. Look at your own communities. You’ve included these people in your life because they support your decisions and love you no matter what. So when standing up and proclaiming what love means to you, why would they ever do anything but support you? Who my community wants me to be is myself.
I have an uncle who, when he learned I am gay, said “we’re here to love each other, not judge each other.” I believe that to my core. My community - my family, my friends, my colleagues, my couples - we are here to love one another. We are here to support one another. I can’t imagine who I would be today if it wasn’t for all of them. Because if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t know love. And I wouldn’t feel safe being myself. I wouldn’t have Pride in the man I’ve become. Thanks to my community, I am happy. Thanks to my community, I love who I am.
We left the restaurant, 5 years ago today, and went for a walk. It was snowing so softly. We stopped under a lamp post, I turned to Albert and said “here goes nothing”. And we kissed.
There was no spark between us.
But I never felt more alive.