Never have I felt beautiful. I think the last time I truly ever believed that I was beautiful was when I was 12 years old. A picture of me smiling, happy, before I started puberty. The innocence of youth beaming in my face. I think I looked pretty. From there it seemed to go downhill, and rapidly. I was a late developer as a teenager, and while I didn’t really get the usual teenage acne, I did develop this seemingly gormless appearance. I suddenly had a huge nose, a sprouting chin, and an aggressively protruding Adam’s apple. I used to sit on the train everyday on the way to school, looking at my side reflection in the mirror, internalising a building hatred for the way I looked. I used to think I was disgusting. I remember thinking I looked like a wicked witch. I would spend an hour on the train every morning looking at myself in the train window, depleting any confidence I had left by the time I made it to school.
At school I was an individual type of person. I didn’t have a lot of friends, just a few close ones. I was usually in my own world, taking in the environment, and observing people’s behaviours. I’ve always found people very odd, the way they communicate, and socialise, all trying to please one another so as to make themselves feel/look better. I never wanted a part of this, but I did used to envy their confidence. I was discovering I was gay around the age of about 16, and it was another heavy burden weighing on my mind. I remember thinking, why do I have to deal with this as well as everything else?
The first boy I ever had a crush on, I didn’t know how to go about it. I was newly finding my sexuality, so I remember finding his number through a friend, and texting him, just to let him know how I felt. He ended up telling everyone, and it soon became common knowledge that I’d naively confessed my love to a hot gay boy (who was quite obviously out of my league). I never really thought that I’d ever find a boyfriend because I perceived gay confidence to only be found in beauty.
Until one day when I was approached by a guy who was doing the lighting for one of our college shows. He was so beautiful, so classically handsome, and everyone at the school had a crush on him. I had been shyly looking at him for a few days, but never thought in a million years he would care for me. He came up to me one afternoon, gave me his card, and told me to message him so we could go for a drink. I remember falling back down the stairs, turning around and running to my friends to tell them the news. I was elated, but also confused, somehow I felt it wasn’t real. He ended up being my first boyfriend, or gay lover I would say. It wasn’t love, but it was my first gay experience, and it was very important.
I’ve had 3 serious gay relationships since then. I’ve broken my heart a few times over, and with each relationship it seems to get more painful.
I have reached a point in my life where I have found love for myself as a gay man. I feel proud of my sexuality wholeheartedly, and if anything I want to be a beacon of hope to any young gay men who may not fully love themselves.
My self image is something I’m still trying to learn to love, I have found a way to make myself look beautiful, through the art of photography and film. I know which angles will celebrate my body rather than shame it. Does this mean I’m confident in my beauty? No. Does it mean I’ve reached a point of contentment in the way that I look? Almost. The demons that enter your life in your formative years often stay for a good while. It’s taken me a long time to accept the shell that I’m in, but I hope that I’m finally getting there. I don’t believe that I’m at all beautiful, I also don’t think that I’m ugly anymore, so maybe for now, I’ll just be, just Sam.