I came out to my parents when I was 20. When they asked me for the millionth time whether I had already met a nice girl, I decided in that moment to just tell them. They reacted very well, and I am so grateful for that. However, my father did tell me that he wouldn’t like it if I now started going to dark rooms, which was so awkward and hilarious at the same time. Anyways, I still haven’t been inside a dark room, so I guess I’m just an obedient son. That, or I don’t find the idea of being groped by a stranger in the dark very appealing.

A friend of mine makes theater productions, and for his next show he wanted to use some aesthetics from the bondage world. A few months ago he asked me if I wanted to join him to an introductory bondage session. I knew that bondage was nothing for me, but I was intrigued. I figured “don’t knock it until you try it”, and in the worst case we’d just have a good laugh. At the beginning of the session, we sat down in a circle to introduce ourselves. There was nothing about any of the couples that could have given away that they were into bondage. People from all walks of life. I particularly remember one woman. When she described how powerful and beautiful she felt when she was being tied up, I was completely captivated. She ended her talk with “I don’t really know how to explain it”. Bless her heart. Little did she know that she had taken the whole room on a trip by using nothing but her words. I’ve always had a soft spot for people who can put their emotions into words. Mostly because I find it difficult at times. Wanna turn me on using your muscles? Sure, go ahead. I ain’t mad at them. But have you tried giving my SOUL an erection by eloquently describing your feelings? Ding dong.

Growing up, there was literally not a single gay man that I knew of. No family members, no teacher, no vague acquaintance of my parents,… No one. Accepting myself as a gay man would have been so much easier if only I had met one man who lived his best life while being confidently and fabulously gay. That’s one of the reasons I’m so fed up with people questioning the need for representation of minorities in companies or media. Seeing someone who is just like you, who is doing well and is respected, means everything. Representation is so important.

I’m turning 30 in a month, and I’ve been single my whole life. I’m not gonna lie, that sometimes makes me wonder what the f*ck is wrong with me. But honestly, most of the time I’m doing just fine. Because I found out, as I’m getting older, I’m getting more and more accepting of myself. My personality, my sexuality, my body,… I’ve spent too much time doubting myself. Now I feel like it’s time to be fully confident, and to be absolutely unapologetic about it.

I’m a virologist, so it’s safe to say that 2020 has been a wild ride. All projects were dropped and replaced with coronavirus research. We had to adapt fast. Days off were pretty much non-existent. And I swear to god, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me “So where is the vaccine?” we’d be doing this photoshoot from a villa in Beverly Hills instead of this bedroom in Borgerhout. I can’t complain though, as I’m fully aware that many people lost their income because of the lockdown. Collectively, we’ve made a lot of sacrifices. No more parties, no more family gatherings. I have four nieces now, and I hardly get to see them grow up. When everything returns back to normal, I’ll have a lot of catching up to do, and I can’t wait. Also, I’m so ready for a good party. I won’t be able to vouch for myself when it finally happens.

A colleague once mentioned that he didn’t think that people still changed during their adult life. I couldn’t have disagreed more with him. Compared to when I was 18, I’m a completely different person now. I’ve dealt with illness in my family, a childhood friend who took his own life, I came out of the closet, I fell in love, had my heart broken, travelled the world,… All of those things have made me who I am today. Someone who is more confident, but also more social, less angry, and more compassionate.

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