I grew up a curious and naïve kid. I was thirsty for knowledge and experiences and I could not wait to discover the world. However, I quickly discovered that what I found interesting and alluring was not always in line with what a boy is supposed to like. I liked playing outside, building camps etc. but I also liked playing with dolls and singing which was frowned upon. The place I grew up was/is not very open and not very acceptive of my queerer childhood activities.

In addition, I was a chubby kid and I was always very conscious of how I looked. I never got bullied, but you become extremely sensitive towards little comments of friends in school or well-meant attempts of grown-ups to help lose weight. I always felt extremely judged for being overweight and guilty for not being able to change it.

Not fitting in, both physically as mentally, I quickly discovered that I needed to pretend I liked certain ‘boyish’ things just to blend in, to make my life easier. At the same time, I did not want to give up the things I liked, so I had a hidden second life during which I could do the things people did not approve of. I remember playing with the dolls of my younger sister with the fear of my parents or other siblings finding out. It was both frightening and exciting. Thinking back at this period, I was quite lonely. I felt I could not talk to anyone about how I felt.

During high-school, I kept playing a hetero-normative role, constantly turning away from my body and sexuality, whilst I continued looking for knowledge and books, things I was good at. The result was a lot of anxiety and self-shame about being too feminine, too gay, too soft, too nerdy… Feelings for boys were ignored, lack of feelings for girls was explained as just not being ready for it. I was my own enemy, convincing myself I would have to play a role, to ‘man’ up in order to be happy.

This continued until I went on Erasmus and everything changed. I was all alone in a big city and I could do what I wanted to do and not what I thought people expected me to do. Even though I was quite shocked to realise that all my life I was preventing myself to be and do what I really wanted. I thought the best way to make up for all the wasted time is to act like Alice in Wonderland, allowing myself to try and discover everything I wanted.

I am still exploring these days, still discovering my body and what I am into. It is such a relief to realize that the older I get, the happier I get and the more I enjoy being myself and meeting and exploring people. This is exactly the opposite of what I was afraid of as a child. I could not be happier to see that I proved my younger self wrong. I am finally the perfect amount of gay, soft, queer, nerdy, etc.

I find it important to be engaged in making sure that ‘outsiders’ of all sorts can feel more part of society. I realize that as a white cis-male, I have little reason to complain. Instead, I try to do my best to create a more equal and just world. I know a lot of people are doing a lot more than me and also that many people think I am incredibly naïve, but this is what I like to do and as long as I am not causing harm to anybody, I’ll just continue doing what I can.