My name is Levi Wade. I am from Harrison, Arkansas.
So the town I’m from, Harrison, Arkansas, there’s an active KKK outside of the town. And I remember specifically when I was younger one time, my father, who’s kind of darker complected, he’s half-Filipino, we were in the parking lot of a Walmart and some strangers yelled out the N-word at him. It was that moment that I kind of I realized I wasn’t living in a very diverse, colorful, tolerant community, but that of one where there were virtually no minority representation, no people of color, no gay people. Just straight white people.
Because I had no other gay people to turn to, I was kind of seeking them out on Yahoo chat rooms. I remember specifically one night, I was talking to someone on one of these chat rooms and I was telling them about how being where I’m from was really isolated and lonely and there was no one like me to really turn to. He specifically told me that it wouldn’t always be like that and that I needed to kind of follow wherever my gut was leading me to go where there were more people like me.
Fast forward to I’m in high school and all with my girlfriends and they’re kind of crying over their relationship woes and the dramas that entailed that, and I remember kind of oddly feeling jealous because it was just something that I wasn’t able to experience and didn’t know what was like. I remember thinking back to the chat rooms and the people that I was talking to and telling me that I needed to go somewhere where I could experience these things
Fast forward, I’m 18. I meet an online friend that lived in Little Rock. He introduces me to a guy that we start dating. I graduate high school and my mom was kind of trying to convince me to stay behind in Harrison and go to the community college there. But because of this boy that I met, I was very adamant about leaving and not staying behind in Harrison.
So I remember my friends taking me out after me and the guy that I had moved down to Little Rock for had broken out and they were there kind of holding my hand, guiding me through it, and making sure I was – drink – liquored up to get over everything. And it was definitely kind of a full circle moment in that where I once was wondering what that was like, I was now living it. A support system, gay representation, gay visibility, gay nightlife to hang out. A large group of people to rely on.
If you are an LGBT kid in rural America, you are not confined to where you are at. If where you are at is not okay for you to be at, you can escape where you’re at and you can come out okay. There are aspects of uncertainty to it, but if you are self-assured, and you know what you want, you’re gonna land where you should be. And that’s something that you should hold onto and kind of let guide you.