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My gay growth
by Juhani G.
Issue 12
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I was born in a small country village in the middle of nowhere in western Finland. My family was the most average you can think of: I had farmer parents with two siblings; I was the youngest. By the age of six - the moral age - I was convinced that when I grew up I didn't want to join the army.

Back then, I hadn't had heard of the possibility of choosing civil service. Well, how could I have, living in the countryside where people vote for Keskusta (Centre Party)! The rules are so simple there: As a farmer's son you grow up to be a farmer and you vote for the same party as your parents and you definitely show that you are a real man by serving the compulsory time in the army.

I did declare my opinion - by the age of six - about my decision not to serve my country in the army and how helpful the adults were: "But if you refuse to join the army you'll end up in jail and you will get just water and bread to eat!" I didn't believe what the adults said, but I answered: "Well, if the other prisoners will cope with that then I will too." Back then, I was already a bit overweight, so I thought I'll be all right with the extra energy I have in reserve.

By the age of 11, I accidentally listened to a YLE radio channel and heard about the civil service and what a relief that was! A huge weight dropped from my shoulders when I realized that I did have an alternative to the water and bread diet in prison. Now I had a choice to serve my country another way than by learning to kill. Why do I tell you this all? Wasn't this meant to be an article about sexuality? I tell you this because it was a crucial insight for me that there is some kind of justice in this country and you have to listen to your own mind instead of eager adults' advice around you.

When I was in my teenage in the mid-80s, I started to realize that there are choices for the way of life, such as my parents had in their happy marriage. That there is another way to express your desire and affection, and that those people are somehow different: Everybody knows that they are somewhere, but it a taboo to talk about them because they represent something which is weird and unacceptable.

I had a slight idea of my own personality, that I might be one of those different people. Again, I saw this matter in a very simple way: If everybody knows that they are somewhere there, I will someday find a couple of them and a match for me. We have a saying in Finish called MAALAISJÄRKI, which means 'reasonable thinking' or 'power of deduction'; it is wisdom learned by living in the countryside, not from the books or by education. I used my maalaisjärki. I never disparaged myself because of being different: I thought that I'm a quite an all right bloke and there must be someone for an O.K. bloke somewhere.

I had no worries about my sexuality. My worries were more usual: When will IT start to grow and how big IT will be at the end of a day? How will I cope with the situation of really DOING IT with someone? You know, kissing and all…? Back then, I had bisexual emotions and I had a crush on a girl from my class. I did get my first kiss from her, which fulfilled my dreams. Unfortunately, I got it for the wrong reasons: She wanted her recent boyfriend to be jealous so she made sure that this boyfriend saw the kiss! And she left me right after the kiss and went back to have an emotional discussion with that bloody bloke!

A few years later in high school (lukio, I came out with my bisexuality to my best friend. We were having a break and we had a conversation about jealousy. He asked: "Can you imagine being in a situation where you find your girlfriend in bed with someone else? What would you do?" I answered: "I would jump into bed and join them!" His neutral attitude made me think: 'Gosh! This coming-out thing is so easy!' And again I was very relieved. Many years later when we talked about my sexuality, my friend was surprised. He didn't remember the whole conversation and he hadn't realized what I had said! I was astonished because that moment was a turning point for me!

Well, my own cleverness wasn't the brightest either when the same friend and I found a new magazine in the local super market. That magazine was called Mosse and had nude pictures of only men. How fascinating I found that! We read it in between the shop shelves and I remember that my friend wasn't as exited as I was. It took me a while to understand that it was a gay magazine!

Quite soon I came back to see it again. I tried to have as closer look as possible, while letting the shopping women pass me with their trollies and baskets. My disappointment was terrible when I couldn't find it on the magazine shelf a few weeks later!

Many years later, I learned that the magazine - named after one of the public gays in Finland - had a very short life. It had also been a huge mistake by the shopkeeper to order a magazine like that and try to sell it in a small village, but, God was I happy about having a glimpse of it!

By the time I had become an adult the world had to face a disease called AIDS. My generation got sex education in a way which shocked some of the religious groups: We got a newspaper each and condom inside of it! I thought it was a great idea and, as a conscientious young man, I did my homework and learned how to put it on.

I do agree with the theory that, even though it was a terrible tragedy for many gays and their families, AIDS did a favour for the homosexual community due to the amount of information, research, campaigns and all artistic events and charity. Homosexuality as a phenomenon had to come out of the closet to everybody. It had to stop being a taboo. There was a need to know more about homosexual behaviour to be able to fight against this horrible disease.

I had my first real homosexual experience in a toilet of a middle-size town's swimming pool. The experience was exciting and a bit frightening at the same time. The same year I also had my first real heterosexual experience, and I can say the same about that experience too. So, yes, I can make a comparison in this matter, which is often asked.

My first long-term relationship to a man was a few years later and lasted about a year, by then I was in the middle of my twenties and I had come out to my closest friends from my theatre school. I presented my boyfriend, who was twice as old as I was, to my family and I was surprised at how it wasn't a problem at all! In my family it is an unwritten law not to comment upon the choices of your heart and that law included me too.

Then it was my time to serve the country and my choice was the civil service. I learned in the civil service education something about us Finns: People actually respect those who choose prison instead of civil service more. This had been my guideline for my way of living and my sexuality. I do get more respect by being honest about what I am, instead of hiding in a closet.

I refuse to be a prisoner of my sexuality. And, GOSH, how surprisingly easy it is! Of course, I have had some difficulties in the past but nothing so serious that it would have put me down. I've noticed that time is also my friend. For those to whom my coming-out has been a shock and a disappointment, they have slowly accepted my homosexuality as a part of my charming and lovable personality.

In my first real job in a small town, the coming-out to my colleagues was quite easy. While turning to my thirties, I found myself in Helsinki as a freelance artist. The gay culture had come out for real and I had my wild cruising period. In four years I hadn't any serious relationship and the life as a freelancer wore me out. I got back to a smaller town, this time in eastern Finland, and I found a boyfriend after only a few months.

It didn't work out that well - partly because he was a bit confused about his sexuality and he had his first homosexual experience in his late forties. When my short contract was over I moved again, alone this time, to Tampere; I had this premonition of finding my match from Häme. In Tampere, I confronted a new problem: I had dates with two gorgeous men in the same week and then fell in love with both!

Did I find my match, you ask? Oh, yes I did! We are happily engaged and planning to get married. Through my boyfriend's cottage, I am enjoying the slow countryside life in our free time…maybe I'll grow my own peppermint leaves for my tea next summer.
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Dey2009-07-13 14:56:24
Loved your story :)
Thanks for sharing...
Love tons,


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