LWD: Can you please tell us your name, your age, where you’re from, and where you’re living currently, please?
Phil: My name is Philip Caouette. I’m 43, born in 1974. I live in Victoria, BC, born and raised, and still here, haven’t left.
LWD: Can you describe who you are today in three to five adjectives?
Phil: Probably say witty, honest, passionate, outgoing, and loyal.
LWD: How are you those different than from when you were a child or as a teenager?
Phil: Back then, as a child, I was quite shy, very quiet, and I played on my own quite a bit. I wouldn’t talk to strangers and kept to myself. Yeah, so very, very quiet. It took me a little while to get to where I am now, but yeah, just a very quiet kid.
LWD: Can you describe for us your family dynamic growing up?
Phil: I come from a family of five. I have two other siblings, and I am the middle child. The dynamic was a little dysfunctional. My father is an alcoholic, and growing up it appeared there was no love between my parents, so that was a little bit difficult. Otherwise, we had a very controlled type of family, and my parents took care of us the best they could.
LWD: How do you feel this affected you as a young person?
Phil: I was worried about my parents. I was confused about what love really was.
LWD: Can you tell me about the first time you realized you might be gay?
Phil: Yes, I remember it vividly. I was in gymnastics, I think I was around nine or ten. It was in gym class, where I noticed that I was looking at boys differently. I was looking at them, their bums, all parts of them, rather than looking at the girls. I just felt something different. I felt like I should be looking at the girls, but I wasn’t interested. When I was looking at pictures and things, I would look at boys instead of girls.
LWD: Did you ever hide your true self? If you did, can you give me an example of in what ways?
Phil: Yeah, I hid myself, for sure. I hid with … Oh, god. Well, pretty much with anything. As a teenager, I hid it by being macho, like my brother. He was my idol back then, I wanted to hang out with him quite a bit, and with his friends. I hid it with that and drinking with the boys, going to the gym and working out, swearing and calling people gay and making fun of that. But knowing that I didn’t feel that way.
LWD: How did you come to a place where you felt comfortable coming out to those around you?
Phil: It was around when I was 22 years old, I had met my first boyfriend, and had started reaching out to other gay people. After that, it was basically a confirmation of my feelings that I had. I’d had enough of hiding and no longer cared what other people thought of me.
LWD: What struggles did you face in the years after coming out, if any?
Phil: I didn’t really struggle too much at all, to be honest. Everyone that I came out to was incredibly supportive.
LWD: When you came out, did you find acceptance within those you told?
Phil: Absolutely. I came out to my mother first and then my best friend, and then I came out to my sister. Literally, every single person I came out to, said they already knew. They told me it was about time. Nothing but 100% love, with everyone.
LWD: In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?
Phil: I would have come out a lot earlier, to be honest. Missing out on being a younger age and feeling what I wanted to feel and dating people my age back then. I would have come out a lot earlier and not worry about what people would have thought or what my brother thought. Yep. Definitely. That’s what would have done differently.
LWD: Was there anything or anyone in specific in your youth that you think held you back from coming out at an earlier time?
Phil: It was my brother, his friends, and my friends. I didn’t want them to disown me, not like me or make fun of me. Just afraid no one would talk to me.
LWD: Within your family, were there religious beliefs and how did they influence you?
Phil: I grew up Roman Catholic, so with being in a religion like that, growing were you were up supposed to be “a certain way” and like “certain people.” Influenced me, I guess, in that respect. And in the idea that I was supposed to marrying a girl, have kids, a house and a white picket fence and all that stuff. I just felt being that I was gay, I didn’t really think that was something that would come to me. That I wouldn’t have a house and have kids and all that.
LWD: Do you feel differently about that and is that still something that you want? A partner, a white picket fence, the house, the kids and that sort of thing? Is that something that you still see in your life or want in your life?
Phil: No, I don’t. A partner, husband, absolutely, but I don’t feel that I need to have a house or the white picket fence and all that stuff. I’m so content in my life right now, at the choices that I’ve made, and not having the “norm.” I’ve come to love myself and what I’m doing and that’s okay. I don’t need to have everything that you’re expected to have. It’s the abnormal in society’s views that I love. That’s normal to me.
LWD: What do you love about the person you are today?
Phil: I love that I’m happy, I’m confident. I love meeting people. I’m not shy. I’m true to myself. It feels great.
LWD: What does it mean to you to live an authentic life?
Phil: Just to be carefree of who I am and knowing I’m loved and no struggles with my sexuality. To, just be happy.
LWD: Was there a defining moment or moments that enabled you to step into your own authentic self?
Phil: It was just sort of a gradual thing, over time. Just learning that the people who I’m with, that love me and that know me and care for me, just over time, it was those little steps. There was a point where, I think it was six or seven years ago, where I was just like, “This is the real me, and I’m confident, and here I am.” Yeah!
LWD: Who do you choose to surround yourself with?
Phil: I choose to surround myself with very loving, accepting, and confident people. People who know who they are and they’re funny and positive. That love to laugh and they’re carefree.
LWD: If you could go back and talk to your younger self, what would you say to him?
Phil: I would say that you are growing up in a family that is going to love you for who you are and that you have no reason to guilt yourself into not come out at an early age and to trust them and, yeah, just to be you right off the bat. Yeah. That’s it.