I’m Nephi Niven and I’m from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When I started dating boys it was all secret and I wasn’t telling most of my friends. Actually hiding my actions made me sick to my stomach. I went to my doctor’s nurse practitioner and told her I was sick all the time and my stomach hurt. And she gave me some antacids and sent me home and I was back a month later saying it was worse and I was throwing up all the time, and she said, “There’s something you’re not telling me.” So I ended up coming out to her first. She said this is a difficult time of someone’s life and it might help me get some support. And I made an appointment at the Middle Tennessee State University’s Counseling Center and was sent in to see this male therapist.
And when I told him I was gay and I was thinking about coming out of the closet, he listened thoughtfully and said he was glad that I had come and then told me that I would need year’s of therapy. And I didn’t really understand what he was saying at first. But as he spoke I asked him if he thought I needed therapy as support to make this difficult move of coming out of the closet, or if he thought I needed therapy because I was gay. He made it clear that gay people come from violent backgrounds and are likely to be violent and abusive people and needed lots of therapy. I was very angry and I started yelling at him and I told him that there was nothing wrong with gay people and they weren’t sick and they weren’t gay because they came out of abusive families or situations and they weren’t abusers. And I grabbed my coat and ran out of the office and over the course of the next couple of weeks I started to summon the courage to tell my friends and my family. And I think having had that experience of standing up for myself and saying aloud the words “There’s nothing wrong with gay people and there’s nothing sick about them” helped me realize that was true for myself. And having stood up to someone who was capable of saying such mean and hurtful and hateful things, when you put yourself in a vulnerable position proved to me that I had the strength to do that.
So when I came out to my mother, I had told her what had happened when she asked if I had told anybody else and I was telling her the story, but she’s a professor at the university and she was furious. The idea that somebody told me that there was something wrong with me or sick about me was more than her Italian temper could take. So she took it upon herself to go to the head of the Student Counseling Center and complained. and I received a call from that woman who was very apologetic and couldn’t assure me that it would never happen again which is what I really wanted to hear but did offer to see me and talk to me about it and make sure that I was okay.
I know there are kids that are at Universities in Murfreesboro and all over the United States in state schools and small towns and big universities who are probably going through the same thing and there are probably still backwards, mean, bitter counselors out there who are telling them terrible things about how they’re sick and there’s something broken about them. And maybe telling this story will help one of them have the courage to stand up to him and let them know when confronted with any situation like that, standing up for yourself will give you strength moving forward.