We don’t need to know why people are not ready to come out. We have to be able to let them be.

The setting

I was 15 years of age. To an outsider, I was living a boring life in a dull village in northern Greece. On the inside, I was living a life in heat. A teenager fueled with horniness and a will to change the stars in a place he didn’t fit back in 2003.

The internet had just started taking off there. The nights of me crying the gay away were gone. Now, although a tiny bit scared or thrilled, I wanted to find more people like me. The other homosexuals I knew existed somewhere out there, but none ever came to reveal their true identity to me.

Oh, these homosexuals! I knew nothing about them. Were they shadows lurking behind me when I was walking back home late in the evening? Were they parents living across the street? Were they priests that were praying — instead of crying, the gay away? I knew nothing, but I was willing to learn. Admittedly I had seen a couple of them on television, but never one in person.

But how could that change?

The internet

As a little geek, I knew the internet would have all the answers. And so I searched for them. I wasn’t interested in porn, or at least this wasn’t my main focus. I wanted to talk to real people. And so I somehow found IRC or MIRC. An app that you could create your chatroom and people could join it. There were famous chatrooms that many logged in and chatted away on the main chatroom or privately. There were no profiles. You could set up a different nickname in seconds. And that’s where I found GayHellas.

GayHellas (aka Gay Greece) was a chatroom full of gays like me. A minimum of 300 gays was there all the time. I started calculating. If in a country of 10 million people, 300 gays are always online at this particular channel, then how many are we in total? Most people don’t use the internet, and most people don’t have “computers”, some of us sleep or are at work etc.

And so I started chatting away. And god, I chatted a lot.

The story

The bad guy of this story was on this chatroom. Let’s call him MrBadGuy123. I didn’t need a lot of time to realise he was an oppressed soul, a guy carrying a lot of baggage, fear and self-hatred. I was young, but I wasn’t stupid, and these things are not hard to see, even in a chatroom. It didn’t take more than a few minutes, and that discussion became way too much, and I stopped replying to him. He was rude, abrupt and chased by his imaginary ghosts.

I chatted with many more people. One of them was SomeoneOnMyAge15. Finding someone on my age was fantastic. I used to chat with people much much older than me. And this made me feel comfortable, and so I opened up. Not many questions later, SomeoneOnMyAge15 asked me if I have spoken to MrBadGuy123. He said “Do you know this guy? He is from our area!”. I replied that I don’t know him, but he was furious and weird on the messages. I was excited, and I wanted to protect my new friend and potentially the first gay person to meet.

There was one little thing I missed. The nickname SomeoneOnMyAge15 was of the same person as MrBadGuy123! And he was playing pretend. He wasn’t at my age, and he was messing with me. And how could I have guessed it? And of course, he went mental. He started threatening me. He said I could not be going behind his back talking about him. And that he will find me and god knows what will happen…

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