I’m from a town called Defuniak Springs, Florida. Never heard of it? There’s a reason for that. Defuniak is a rural community in northern Florida (which may as well be called lower Alabama). With the town being located deep in the bible belt, you can imagine the attitudes of the occupants. Everyone’s ultra-conservative, and about as anti-gay as it gets. I grew up in that community, went to church just like everyone else, knew the name of every kid in my school (I had been going to school with the same people since kindergarten). You can imagine how hard it was realizing I was gay. At first I denied it, said I could still like girls. Well after a particularly uncomfortable 3 month relationship with a wonderful girl, I realized that wasn’t true. I was deathly afraid of coming out. Afraid of what the other kids in my high school would say. Even more afraid of telling my parents.
My mother is from the neighboring town, and about as rural as it gets; my step-dad was born in Dothan, AL. Any time we talked about gay people, they were called queers, or fruits. Gay people were something to laugh at. During my sophomore year of high school, I decided to come out to my friends. My parents weren’t very social, so I had no worries about them finding out. Throughout the school day I would get my friends alone and tell them, and much to my amazement, everyone was happy for me (though there were a few mortifying “I knew it!”s). In the following week, as the word spread around school, I realized no one really cared. I mean, I had a few acquaintances stop speaking to me. Some of the really religious kids tried to get me to go to church with them, so I could be “saved.” But for the most part everyone acted like it was no big deal. After such a mostly positive reaction my confidence grew, and I decided I would tell my parents soon.
After work one night (and after drinking quite a few red bulls), I finally got the courage to do it. On the drive home I called my aunt and told her. She told me it was a phase, and laughed. While that might seem mean, that’s the kind of person my aunt is. To this day she says it’s a phase, but she doesn’t think any less of me or treat me any different. Next was to call my dad (he lived 60 miles away). His answer? “That’s nice, can I go back to sleep now?” I remember thinking, that was easier than I thought it’d be. Last but not least was my mother. I was still in high school and lived with her. Seeing as how I’d just gotten off of work it was around eleven at night, she was asleep. My step-dad, was working out of town. I went into her room and shook her awake, and said simply, “Mom, I’m gay.” It took a second for her to actually wake up and register what I’d said. But when it hit, she didn’t do any of the things I was scared of. She didn’t kick me out, she didn’t cry, she didn’t get angry. What she did was say, “Okay” and then proceeded to tell me she loved me anyways, and always would. Unconditionally. I was in awe. I had just done the thing that I had been deathly afraid of for a long time, and it was NO BIG DEAL. Even when my step-dad came home and found out, it wasn’t that bad. I mean it was a little awkward, seeing as how he’s a big country boy, but he never treated me any different.
I suppose the reason I’m writing this is to let those who aren’t out yet know that coming out isn’t a bad thing. It brought me closer to my friends and family, gave me confidence to be who I am, and let me be proud of it. Take the leap, even if you have a bad reaction, you’ll be amazed at how good it feels not to have to hide.