Deni Todorovic: Unable to Ignore My Truth, I Came Out Twice — But the Grief Was Different
Warning: This post deals with the topic of suicide and may be triggering for some readers.
For the fifth year in a row, POPSUGAR is dedicating the month of June to recognising LGBTQIA+ voices, having honest conversations about sexuality and gender, and honouring individuality, through personal essays and allyship guidance. A roster of contributors along with the POPSUGAR team are sharing these stories throughout the month, so be sure to find all our pieces here.
I was 19-years-old, it was a somewhat cold autumn night and as I drove home at 10pm, I knew my life was about to change forever. Let me rewind for a moment. My name is Deni, my pronouns are they/them, I identify as Non-Binary and Queer and I’m 33.
At 19, I was a terrified, closeted, ethnic, Christian gay ‘boy’. Living in a state of walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around my identity (read: my sexuality). Coming out was never going to be an option for me. What would my family think? How would our community react? What would our church say? For years I’d trapped my mind with these questions, and locked my inner voice with the key of denial.
You will meet a girl. You will get married. You will have kids. You will be straight. You will be NORMAL.
Those thoughts ran on a loop in my mind almost daily. Until one night I found myself driving home, having just lost my virginity to a boy, in a car, in secret. When life quite literally penetrates you with truth, there’s no turning back.
The next two weeks were torture. Upon coming out to my family, I’d go on to experience some of the darkest corners of trauma and grief I’ve ever encountered. After 10 days of watching my mum cry on a loop, I contemplated ending my life.
This is a very real feeling that sadly sees gay youth become five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight counterparts. At that moment I listened to my intuition, I prayed to the God my church told me I sinned against and continued to make my way through the murky waters of ‘coming-out-trauma’.
Weeks turned into months and if someone told me then, that short of nine months later, my now-accepting parents and I would be sitting around a table with my first boyfriend, I wouldn’t have believed them.
My family would go on to become my greatest allies and have over the years enveloped me in an unconditional love I never knew possible. I was out. I was proud and I was thriving — until my whole world would spin once again.
See what I haven’t told you, is this. I knew I was gay from as young as four. However, I knew I wasn’t a boy from as young as three. I knew inherently that I wasn’t male but that I also had no desire to be female. As you can imagine, however, that, my dear reader, was a feeling I couldn’t articulate. Coming out as gay was hard enough, so I ignored these very real, very visceral feelings and decided to make peace with the fact that I was just always going to be a very femme-boy.
That was until three years ago when I heard the term non-binary for the first time and the pronouns they/them. Curiosity and confusion washed over my mind at these findings but ultimately denial was the feeling I chose. Suddenly I felt 19 all over again.
It wasn’t until I was standing directly in front of a non-binary person, listening to them speak my truth that the universe chose to penetrate my soul with the truth once more.
I couldn’t ignore it and just as I decided to lean into this truth, the world went into a global lockdown. With nothing but time on my hands, I decided to self-educate. I watched every video on YouTube, listened to every podcast, read every possible thing I could find on the non-binary experience and before long realised it was time to step back into my truth.
But what would this mean? I’m a proud gay man. Its taken me 12 years, three countries, three failed relationships and one too many bad choices to come to peace with that. How the fuck was I about to do this all over again? Come out — again. Deni you’re mad.
These were my thoughts.
Until suddenly I couldn’t ignore my truth and found myself once again coming out to my parents across the living room couch, at 9pm. This time the grief was different. Gay they could reconcile and reference but non-binary felt completely foreign to them. They were confused. They were angry. Which in turn made me feel the most visceral guilt I’ve ever felt. How could I put them through this again?
This would go on to be the second time I contemplated taking my own life. A very real feeling that sadly sees trans youth become 11 times more likely to attempt suicide than their cisgender counterparts. ELEVEN TIMES. Let that marinate for a moment.
I found myself once more, sitting in the dark, in an empty carpark around the corner of my house, at 11pm, praying to God. I knew he didn’t hate me and I promised him my life was worth living — and live it in truth, I would.
Time heals all wounds; I truly believe that and Pride, my darlings, is not linear. Pride is so much more than a rainbow and a parade and a Lady Gaga song.
Pride is in the mundane. Pride is all about time and growth and healing. Pride is hearing your ethnic father use they/them pronouns. Pride is your ethnic mother taking you to the lingerie department to buy you a pair of spanx. It’s your regional town enveloping you with love and celebrating your transness. It’s a digital community of people cheering you on every single day.
You see, Queer people are chameleons. We duck and we weave and adapt and evolve to season after season of life. After all, we spend most of our life in fight or flight mode. However when you firmly change that dial to freedom, that, my reader, is when Pride will penetrate your soul — deeper than any other feeling you’ve ever known.
I am proud because I am finally free.
Deni Todorovic is a Geelong-based stylist, activist, host and digital creator. You can follow Deni on Instagram here.
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