Read more Love, Michael: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Scene: Simon and his Mum, Emily, after he has come out.

Simon: Did you know?
Emily: I knew you had a secret. When you were little, you were so carefree. But these last few years, more and more, it’s almost like I can feel you holding your breath. I wanted to ask you about it, but I didn’t want to pry. Maybe I made a mistake.
Simon: No. No, mom, you didn’t make a mistake.
Emily: Being gay is your thing. There are parts of it you have to go through alone. I hate that. As soon as you came out, you said, “Mom, I’m still me.” I need you to hear this. You are still you, Simon. You are still the same son who I love to tease, and who your father depends on for just about everything. And you’re the same brother who always complements his sister on her food, even when it sucks. But you get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in, in a very long time. You deserve everything you want.

The best thing that came from ‘coming out’ is that I was able to be me, for the first time in a really long time.

I could finally be me without the anxiety of constantly having to look over my shoulder, without thinking about keeping up appearances, and without trying to become who I thought the world wanted me to be.

Looking back, I can almost pinpoint the time that I shed my carefree childhood self and became an anxious introvert, harbouring what I believed to be a ticking timebomb.

From then on, I could no longer be myself because the gossip had already begun, and if there was ever too much talk, or too much intrigue, the bomb would go off, and my life would collapse in on itself.

I would first view people with suspicion and fear, instead of welcome.

Analysing them, keeping them at arm’s length, before I chose to show any real part of myself to them.

Back then, strangers were a danger long before they could be considered friends. They were people who were only going to expose me, rather than be people I could trust and love.

I was the only person I could be myself around, yet I didn’t even want to be myself.

I hated having to see myself in the mirror. Because staring back at me was a liar, someone who couldn’t shake the secret that I knew would eventually break me.

That stopped the moment I decided to let it all out, to exhale.

All at the same time, everything changed, and everything stayed the same.

On the outside the sun still rose, I was still me, I still looked the same.

But on the inside, my life had exploded and changed in the best way possible.

There was the sheer excitement of waking up and realising I had survived my own nuclear blast, and the exhilaration of exploring who I really was out in the real world for the first time.

There was also calm, a peace that comes from knowing that you’ve shed your biggest secret, and that it was the worlds problem to harbour now, if they chose to have a problem with it.

I was still my Mum and Dad’s son, still my brother and sister’s brother, still a nephew, a grandson, a cousin.

But by finally being the true me, the relationships I have with my family, my friends, and the wider world, could be more real – because I was more real. More authentic.

The fight isn’t over by any means. The finish line isn’t ‘coming out’.

No one gets through this life unscathed, and we all have a battle to face every time we get out of bed each morning.

But being gay was no longer my problem. It wasn’t something that kept me in the dark.

I now had the upper-hand. What was once a taunt, a threat, a derogatory term, was now something that made me bulletproof.

No-one could hate me more than I hated myself back then, and by becoming proud of myself, every negative could be turned into a positive.

There’ll be more coming out to do, it’s almost an everyday thing.

But once you’ve come out to those who you love most, and whose opinions you hold dear, someone else’s opinion can’t break you, because now you have a support system ready behind you to help share the load.

No more holding your breath, just a life ready to be lead.

It’s like being born again.

A clean slate, a new beginning to start from.

I started things, 19 years later, that I should have been able to start from the very beginning.

But I’ve faced head-on what I thought would be the hardest times in my life, and I’ve made it out the other side.

Life is brighter now that my love isn’t a secret.

Because at the root of it, that’s all that ‘coming out’ is – just letting others know who you love.

And we shouldn’t ever have to apologise for that.

Read more Love, Michael: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

***

Love, Simon (or Simon vs The Homosapien Agenda) is a book and film about the life and times of a seventeen-year-old high school student coming to terms with his sexuality and his first (male) love.

For LGBT youth, it isn’t always as easy as looking to the nearest Disney or blockbuster film to see yourself  up on the screen. It’s not often you see a character with your interests (both general and love) and backstory, and that is the beautiful simplicity of Love, Simon.

For the first time ever, a major studio has released a teen film with a gay leading character.

Looking up at the story playing out on the silver screen, I was shocked because for so many years I thought that there couldn’t possibly be anyone who went through the same things that I did.

As I kept my head down and tiptoed through my life, in my blinkered ignorance, I thought I was alone in my story.

I thought that the challenges I experienced were mine only, and weren’t things that other people weathered and survived – but watching Love, Simon, these scenes were practically my life verbatim.

When we watch a movie, often it is so we can be taken away from our lives and exported to a fantasy world. Whether another city, another country, or another world. One filled with magic and creatures, or one with stories of people with lives different to our own.

But sometimes when we watch a movie, we see ourselves and our lives being played back to us. Whether it’s who we are, or who we used to be, it’s like the director has picked us out, and had written our biography for us. That’s where diversity on the screen is so important.

It can be a story about a loss we can share, or a relationship, or a moment in our lives; in Love, Simon it was a character and the journey to coming to terms with his sexuality.

The most heartening thing about seeing Love, Simon on the screen, is the flow-on effect it can have on a generation. I got to read and see the story as someone who has been ‘out and proud’ for almost seven years now; but the people who can see the film with their friends and family, or read the book, when they need to be reminded they aren’t alone most – that’s why this movie is so important.

With this film, LGBT people have the opportunity to relate to a character that is where they are right now. Whether in the closet, or in high school, and working out if they are ready to open up about who they are.

For almost a decade now, Holding the Man had been the most comparable story I had to my own. But as diversity on the screen and the page expands, so too do the stories that strike a similar chord inside of ourselves.

Not everyone can relate to Tim Conigrave, or John Caleo, or even Simon – but as these stories become more widely consumed and supported, more characters will come to join their ranks, and more of us will have the opportunity to see ourselves up there.

When we see a story about us, and see it celebrated, it can set off a celebration within ourselves. Whether it helps us not feel so alone and alienated from the world, or perhaps it helps us to stop hating one particular part of ourselves – when we see ourselves on the screen, it cements in us, that this part of ourselves is worthy of being known and told.

By sharing the story of Simon, and sharing the stories of our own, we can have an impact on someone who we know, or someone we don’t.

But perhaps Love, Simon’s biggest triumph is its heart. Showing that every and all love deserves a cheering audience; whether it be a crowd gathered at a Ferris wheel, or a surge in your heart when the love of your life gets on the ride to join you, Love, Simon shows us that we all deserve a love story, and that love of all kinds deserves a Hollywood-style reception.

There were three parts of the film that hit closest to home for me, as if plucked from my memory and put down on a script. These three stories will make up three separate pieces in which I will be discussing the themes and scenarios explored, and how they shaped my life and my own character.

As they say, everyone deserves a good love story – and I’m more than done keeping my story straight (but you already knew that).

Read more Love, Michael: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Buy the book or watch the film