We are living in the 21st century and being gay should not be a problem, but there are still places where living as a lesbian or a gay man can be difficult. There are still 77 countries where homosexuality is illegal. There are still people who have to fear for their own life, just because they love a person of the same gender or do not identify as the gender they were born with.
But thanks to all the amazing LGBTQ+ activists who have fought for our rights and have made our lives easier, we often forget that there is still work to do and that the battle is not over.
I live in Austria. A small country with roughly 8 million inhabitants, located in the heart of Europe. Here in Austria I can live a happy life as a fabulous young man, because the rainbow colored parade came over the Alps and brought new ideas of love and acceptance. At least, that is how I thought it would be when I first discovered that you do not have to sneak into the girl’s locker room to see interesting things. The boy’s room does the job.
I figured, my friend’s sister had a girlfriend and nobody gave a fuck, so why would it bother anybody that I like boys? Sadly, I was only half right. My coming out wasn’t that big of a deal. The only person close to me that had something negative to say was my father, and he didn’t even have the guts to say it to my face.
That brings me to the first (and probably the biggest) issue I have. Imagine a small village with 4,000 people. The child of two beloved community members comes out as gay (that’s me). I didn’t think it would start such a huge discussion at church.
I have to admit I thought it was funny that I always heard from friends or relatives that others were sending prayers to heaven so my soul could find peace. But nobody said a word to me. I only got strange looks at the supermarket and was stared at when I went out for drinks with my friends.
Even though the funny looks and gossip was entertaining, there was one thing I stopped doing. Going to the local feasts. I don’t know if “parties” like this are common in other countries, but in Austria there are local clubs that organize yearly feasts for 20-somethings and teens where they can have a nice time drinking and socializing with their friends.
Reality is, all of the people there get blackout drunk and then pick fights. You are seen as a perfect target if you don’t fit the local beauty standards or do not wear the latest farmer’s line. But I went to one of these parties before my coming out and it was pretty fun. All of my friends were there and alcohol has this nice way of making even the worst situations bearable.
But after I came out, I knew it would be hard to go to such an event and leave without a broken nose. I don’t want to say that all the people there are homophobic. No, there a lot of nice and accepting people, but there are also close-minded guys who still have trouble entering the 21st century. They made it impossible for me to attend another feast. I couldn’t have a good time while worrying about drunk dudes starting a fight, because they thought I was trying to flirt with them.
Now comes the most annoying thing about living in the middle of nowhere. Dating. It is hard for everyone, of course. Even for people with a dating pool as big as the corn fields. A small community means fewer potential boyfriends. Sometimes I feel like this walking rainbow whenever I go grocery shopping. Here, everything is straight. Even my hair dresser is straight and a proud family father.
If the thousands of surveys can be believed, approximately 2.4% of the population in Italy are LGBTQ+. Let’s say there are 4,000 inhabitants in my small village. 96 people would identify as something other than straight. Subtract the lesbians and guys out of my age range, and there should be a boy left I can have my teenage love story with–if there weren’t such things as standards or common interests. Sometimes, it drives me crazy when the next guy on Grindr is 5 kilometers away and is either out of my age range or is closeted and just wants to experiment.
You should be happy about your small apartment in a city with a thriving nightlife. Keep my story in mind the next time you complain about your stressful life in the city, and appreciate the ability to surround yourself with people like you.
Also, if you consider moving here as a single man or woman, I advice you: Don’t! Your sex life and sanity will thank you. And for all those fellas who are stuck in the same hell as I am, download as many dating apps as you can and flee to the nearest city. You’ll meet a lot of crazy people at train stations when you have to wait for a ride until 10AM on a Sunday morning. Good luck!