Humans of Qualtrics: Nicolas
QPride is highlighting the diverse stories of its members throughout June for Pride Month with the Humans of Qualtrics project. We're pleased to introduce Nicolas.
I was born and raised near Lille in the north of France, just a kilometer away from the Belgian border. I grew up with my parents and 2 brothers in the kind of small-town where you just know everybody and everybody knows you. After attending kindergarten and primary school in my local school, I joined a private catholic school just a bus ride away from middle and high school. Altogether a happy, uneventful childhood.
I was 12 when I found out I was gay. I didn’t have the language for it at that time but being gay triggered in me deep feelings of shame and loneliness. To put things into context:
- I had never, ever met anyone that I knew was gay and it felt like I had no one to reach out to.
- The representation of homosexuality on TV in the 90s/00s was scarce, and the only gay people there were exaggerated and hypersexualized for entertainment, so I didn’t see myself in them.
- My religious upbringing depicted building a nuclear family with a mom and dad as a life goal, which not only excluded my reality but made me a bad person for simply being.
The shame I felt for being gay became the center of my life. I would ask myself the following question daily for the next 5 years: What if people found out? Would my friends still be my friends? Would my parents and brothers still love me? What would be said around school? At 16, I even had an elaborate plan to move to Canada and change my name so no one would ever know, and save my family from my shame.
I came out at 18 when I started college. The same year, 2013, the newly elected French government legalized same-sex marriage in France. The months leading to the vote saw an increase in homophobia and violence toward the LGBTQ+ community. What impacted me most was how many of my high school friends and classmates went to demonstrate against same-sex marriage, to “protect the institution of marriage against unnatural unions”. No homophobia isn’t a thing of the past or the “old people thing”. Coming out was the best thing I could do for myself as I didn’t want my new life to feel as miserable. I don’t know if I did it out of courage or out of exhaustion from keeping to myself, maybe both. It isn’t a one-time thing but a succession of discussions, and the more I got used to saying “I’m gay” out loud, the less it hurt. In my case, it was overwhelmingly met with love and kindness proving the stories I had made up in my head wrong.
In the end, coming out isn’t limited to the LGBTQ+ community, it’s universal, it’s about putting words around your shame and speaking out your truth even when you fear judgment or you feel you are not enough and you don’t belong.
EX Solution Producer | Dublin | Gay
Thank you for joining us to hear from the Humans of Qualtrics. You can explore the entire series through the links below. Stay tuned for further stories throughout the month.