Emil Tiedemann is an Edmonton-born and raised blogger, writer, and photographer who runs ‘I Heart Edmonton,’ an award-winning blog and social media outlet specializing in exposing all the awesomeness of his hometown. He also spent two years on the Board of Directors of the Edmonton PrideFestival Society and is the writer behind the book 101 Reasons Why I Heart Edmonton (2016).
I wholeheartedly believe life’s far more accessible and optimistic for the LGBTQ youth of today, especially in a country such as Canada. But even just a few decades ago, it was another story altogether. And that’s not to say that today’s LGBTQ youth don’t have their own issues and struggles as well, because that’s just not the case, but what I would have given for the chance to grow up gay in today’s social climate!
I am sure I would have “come out” far sooner than I did and that it would have been a clearer decision for me right from the beginning, and that perhaps most of the people who cared about me couldn’t have cared less about my sexuality. Let’s be honest, when I finally did come out – in my early 30s – I had it pretty good. Nobody disowned me or even used any derogatory language towards me (to me face, at least), and I felt free to let practically anyone know exactly who I was for the first time in my life.
However, when I was growing up, my thoughts of coming out were grim and even ominous. I felt dread and fear about my future all the time. In my head my options were either to pretend my life away by living as a straight man the best I could, or just not living at all. I just couldn’t imagine – no matter how hard I tried – myself living as a gay man, living with another gay man. It was not plausible, and so I chose the former.
That’s until I met a guy, a straight guy, who didn’t even flinch when I answered “yes” to his question: “You’re gay, right?” It was the first time, in fact, that I had answered that question honestly, and it was like I had unleashed something deep inside me that had been dormant all these years. He didn’t care that I was gay, and I had a new outlook of what my future could be. Those feelings of dread were no longer there, replaced by optimism and even excitement.
It was from there that I decided that I wanted to help others take on their own personal demons, to shed frustrations and fears, to open up ideas and find new paths to follow. Because my story isn’t just my story, it’s a shared narrative for folks all over the world, even right here in one of the most liberal and progressive nations on the planet. A place where being a gay, agnostic, Indigenous man is not just okay but even celebrated, and where these restrictive labels do not exclusively define the rest of my life and who I am. Hiding from one’s truths should never have to be an option, for anyone.
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