I’ve never told this story before, so please bare with me. It seems as though these are the memories that are most vivid to me. Growing up, I never knew I was different. I never paid attention or realized that certain colors were only for boys and certain colors were only for girls. Or that certain toys are meant for boys and certain toys are meant for girls. I liked them all. I could play war and hot wheels with my brother and play Barbie’s with my little sister. I never realized how these socially constructed gender roles would affect my life.
I didn’t realize what gay meant until I was finally old enough to realize that my uncle’s relationship was not like everyone else’s. Him and his partner have taken care of my siblings and I for as long as I can remember. Helping out in whatever way they could. But that did not stop me from somehow believing it was wrong. There was always something around to remind me that a heteronormative relationship is what I should have and what I should be striving to obtain.
It didn’t help that I was raised Catholic as well. Having to go to PSR (Paris School of Religion) was definitely an experience. I could recite the ten commandments and the Lord’s prayer in my sleep. But I also came to realize that homosexuality was something I had to associate as perverse. A “disorder,” according to moral Catholic theology. My grandmother tried to send my uncle to a priest when she found out he was gay. Unfortunately, this was what is was like back then. My grandfather was never accepting, because my uncle believes he thought it was a reflection of his own masculinity.
Fast forward to high school and those may have been some of the most confusing years of my life. That is when I started to realize that I was attracted to guys. And what do you know… most of them were on the football team. The same guys that constantly yelled “faggot” to me in the hallways. And then wanting to become my friends, because I would throw those Jake Ryan – Sixteen Candles – parties.
It’s funny because a lot of straight guys have this idea that all gay men want to have sex with them. With most of these guys looking like Seth Rogen and John Reilly from the movie “Step Brothers.” I’m still bewildered on where these guys get their self confidence from, because I know I didn’t fall from the ugly tree, and I have many insecurities still.
One night I was hanging out with my best friend at the time, Brandon, and my other two friends, Hannah and Haley. We were all drinking and I remember Brandon nagging me about hooking up with Haley. I went downstairs with Haley and I remember I couldn’t force myself to live this lie anymore. I kept thinking that something was wrong with me, until I finally just broke down and told her. She was very understanding and told me that everything would be okay.
The next day I remember telling Hannah. She was the first person I told and I knew she would be okay with it, because she had a gay brother. She said she would help me come out to the other group of people we hung out with. I remember sitting on my friend Rikki’s bed, with a whole group of eyes on me, and I told them that I was gay. Rikki responded, “and?” I don’t think I could have received a better response than that one.
Then I felt it was time to tell my family. I went into my mom’s room and I choked up. I knew she would be alright with it, but the words just wouldn’t come out. It is not an easy thing to do, but when I finally did she embraced me with open arms. After I had my mother’s acceptance, I of course went on to posting my first melodramatic Facebook post about being gay in a small town. Even though I do not agree with everything I put in that post, I got amazing feedback. I remember my brother replying something like, “you are still the best brother I could ever ask for.” Which he never really told me anything like that before. My father found out from his girlfriend who was my friend on Facebook. We never had a serious conversation about it, but I know he is accepting.
Luckily, having the opportunity to go off to college was really beneficial. I know I’ve learned a lot about myself and I know it wouldn’t have been without the experiences I’ve had in college. I realized that my sexual orientation did not define me as a person. My ambition, dreams, spirit, aspirations, and actions all play a part in who I am. I am still on my own personal journey, but I have learned a lot along the way. This year I’m just taking another step further.