I’m Braden Bradley and I’m from Hallsville, Texas, which is a small town in northeast Texas, close to Louisiana. There’s one stop light and a Dairy Queen and it’s just cute and quaint.
I met my first boyfriend and my first love at theater camp when I was a Senior in high school and he was a freshman in college. And we were actually in the same musical and we were playing opposite of each other. He was the bad guy, I was the good guy, so there was this amazing tension and chemistry that was created. And we actually took the love off the stage and that’s where things started.
So I wanted to bring him home to meet my family but I was nervous because I was extremely closeted. No one knew that I was gay. Well, no one had heard it from me that I was gay. So I brought him home and it was fine. It was seamless. We had dinners together, we would hang outside in the pool together with my family and my extended family. So we woke up one morning and we went downstairs and had breakfast with the family. And then my mom and step-dad said they were going to town and do some shopping and then me and him are going to stay back and just hang out.
So they left and we went to my room and started fooling around and doing what young boys do when they’re in love and then I thought I saw their car drive past the window but I was just telling myself no, it wasn’t them, they just left to go into town, it could not be them. And then I look up and my mom had opened the door and she’s looking at us and she says, “What are you doing?”
And I’m like still in the act and I said, “Nothing” because I didn’t know what to say.
So she calmly shut the door. And then that’s when I started freaking out. I thought there was still some kind of hope which is why I went to go talk to my mom after I had calmed down a little bit. I thought that we have to talk about this.
So I went into her room and she was just completely white. Her face had no expression on it. I knew that she had told my step-dad because he was just silent, and whenever he is silent I know that he’s just completely disappointed. And I remember going back into my room and just sobbing and praying to God to help the situation, to help fix me.
And then in later days, with me wanting to fix myself, that’s when my parents decided to send me to a conversion therapist. And they had actually sent me to I think five of them. And when I was seeing all of them, I was in a sense lying to them, saying that I do want to be fixed, I do want to be straight, I don’t want to live the gay lifestyle, it’s not for me. I want to be a Christian, I’m very spiritual and a Christian heart and I want to live the godly life.
And I couldn’t take it anymore. So I drove the two hours to Dallas, Texas, to my therapist and finally just said, “Look, I’ve been lying this whole time. I’ve been praying to God and I think the decision that God and I have come to is to accept my own sexuality, to accept who I am as a person because I actually felt closer to God when I accepted myself.”
So he told my parents and they were spending thousands of dollars and they thought, why spend all of this money if it’s not working and it’s not fixing me? And during this time, I had been accepted to the University of Texas to their theater program and their Radio, Television, and Film program. I couldn’t wait to graduate and go to college and major in these amazing fields and be with my boyfriend and live happily ever after. But then once they found out I had been lying about wanting to be straight, that I actually wanted to be gay, they said that I couldn’t go to UT.
So I went to a junior college that was close to home so they could kind of keep dibs on me and they would actually–I didn’t know it then, but I know it now, that they would actually drive in the middle of the night to make sure my car was still parked in the apartment, that I hadn’t left and fled and gone to see him or whatever.
So after I left junior college and went to Texas State University, I was kind of thrilled that my parents were giving more space between us. They, I think at this time, they were probably fighting the fight because I was who I was and there was nothing they could do about it. But when I would go home they would still ask me, “How are you doing with ‘your issue’?” And “the issue” being me being gay.
And then I graduated Texas State and I moved to New York. I drove straight here in a Uhaul for 37 hours and I did not stop because I was so excited to finally get to New York City. And as soon as I got here, this is probably so cliche, but I literally felt so light as soon as I stepped out of the Uhaul and walked into my first apartment. I was like, “This is where I belong.”
I recently went home and my mom tells me that one of her best friends is a lesbian. And for my mom to even say the word “lesbian” is like a miracle. I asked my mom if she told her friend about me and she said, “Of course I did.”
And that just, whenever she said that, it was just huge. It was just a sense of knowing that I had done the right thing by staying true to myself for so long and fighting the fight for so long just because I knew that that was the right thing. We still have differences but knowing that she is progressing in her own walk of life and I’m progressing in my walk of life and we can be cordial and talk about it is a huge success and I can’t wait for the future because if this is happening now, hopefully I have 50 more years of my life so I can’t wait to be gay with babies and at Christmas with my family and just all of us just be people and love one another and I know we’re going to get there.