Dear Younger Henry,
I don’t think you ever learn to talk about your sexuality.
You certainly learn how to be candid about it — you’ll find a way to tell your friends, you’ll find a way to tell your high school, and eventually you’ll find a way to tell your family — but you’ll never find a way to share that part of you accurately.
You’ll assume, at least for your early teen years, that the only way to come to terms with it is through joining a vague community of people who share your experiences with you. You’ll seek them out — you’ll absorb their content, align yourself with their views, you’ll love them and you’ll be scared of them. What will eventually come from your fascination with likeminded people is two sides of you: one that you present to these elusive ‘people like you’, and another that you present to everyone else.
The sexuality that you’ll discuss with the latter is very different from the sexuality that you’ll discuss with the former, but neither will be true: you will discover yourself while interacting with both, each ‘community’ making its mark on how you view yourself. Even once you’re able to put your queerness out there, you’ll find that there is no category of person who will be able to understand it: the seemingly homogenised queer mass fails to understand the non-queer influences that raised you, and no one in your life will ever understand the nuance of the community that you forced yourself to rely on. Of course, you must live amongst both — a community is not a binary, as much as it feels like it is.
How, then, will you navigate that binary that you created in your head at age thirteen? How will you juggle a need to put it out there with a protective insistence that your experiences were unique and personal?
If I could go back to your age, I’d try to discover my sexuality as something that I feel, not something that I must present as. There was no need for me to please two sets of people in the way that I’d imagined: the world is not neatly organised into identity-based strata, each guarded from the next with an iron curtain. Seeking out a community that mirrors the image you have of yourself will only lead to struggles in identifying this image. I wish I had listened to myself more, and I wish I’d told people earlier.
You’ll be happy with where you end up, but never satisfied that anybody gets it.
Tell more people that you’re gay while you’re figuring it out.
Don’t wait until it feels like something that you’re incapable of sharing.