I am gay. When I say that, I feel extremely awkward, but I also feel extremely proud. This pride comes from the strength to be who I am without worrying what others may think. This pride comes from the love and care I receive from the closest people to me. But, the awkwardness still comes as I have only begun my coming out this past Fall Semester of 2007, and I am still conditioning my mind to fully accept those few words after 19 years of suppression.
So, let’s take a look at my life since the summer of 2007:
Wednesday, July 11th, 2007:
I am 19 years old. I am a publicly self-identified heterosexual and a privately self-identified bisexual. I’m about to begin my 5-week journey in Guadalajara, Mexico, where I will be living with a Mexican family and taking Spanish language classes. Finally, time away from what I perceive to be two of the most suffocating places on this planet: home and William Jewell College. I love both of the places, but am afraid to really let myself go and have fun sometimes, afraid to be who I am. This is my opportunity to grow and learn who I am. Time to be selfish. But I don’t leave until Sunday, July 15th. FOUR MORE DAYS! I’m definitely ready to go, ready to get wild and immerse myself into a new culture. Four more days… Could the days please pass sooner? Until suddenly… I meet this guy. This guy will further be known as John. He offers to buy me dinner at a nice restaurant downtown. My automatic assessment is “HELL NO” as I am afraid to be seen by someone I might know. I get to know him a little bit better; he graduated from some huge public university, was president of his fraternity for two years, is a pilot, is going to law school this fall, and he is out. Holy shit, he’s got some nice credentials. After socializing a bit more I notice he is just like a lot of my own guy friends, he could fit right in and no one would know. I wrestle with the idea in my head a bit more, and finally accept the dinner invitation.
I am amazed that I don’t feel awkward out in public with him and he seems extremely interested in me and who I am. We look like either two guys conducting business or two fraternity brothers catching up for lost time, it’s great. After dinner we grab a beer and talk about random stuff as we watch the sun set from his family’s vineyard. What an amazing way to cap a great night. Four more days… shit!
Thursday, July 12th, 2007:
Tonight is the night! O.A.R. is coming to Westport outside the Beaumont Club! My favorite band is rocking out a few days before I leave for Mexico, what a great way to end my summer at home. My roommate and I have had tickets for months anticipating this day. Better yet, a large gathering of my fraternity brothers will be there singing along with the band. In the back of my mind I’m wondering what John is going to be doing tonight. Oh well, it’s just a gay guy, I really don’t need to get involved there, it’s too risky.
My best friend and I arrive at the concert, and get in to see the tail end of Augustana’s set, they seem alright, but now is the wait for O.A.R. I get a text message from a recently familiar number. “Are you at the O.A.R. concert?” It’s him, John! He is here! Butterflies are severely beating their wings against the inside of my stomach; beads of sweat are running profusely down the side of my head, although the 90 degree heat is playing a part in that. I’m excited and hesitant at the same time. I get to see him, but I have to be sneaky. There are a lot of people I know here. I sneak away for little bits of time saying that I am going to grab a beer and I go chill with him. This is awesome; we have the love for this kind of music in common, are we really even gay? I get back to my fraternity brothers quickly so they do not suspect anything, beer in hand. This is the best concert I have ever been to. The bond between my brothers and I has never seemed stronger as we scream out those words to “That Was a Crazy Game of Poker” that seem to identify who we are: how ’bout a revolution? I am glad to end on such a high note with my brothers, as it is the last time I will see them before I return for the first day of classes. But, sadly the night is wrapping up quickly. After the concert, I get a surprise as John calls me and asks if I want to come over. No hesitation this time. Three more days… I better use these three days wisely. We hang out at his house; one of his fraternity brothers is in town. I quickly befriend his fraternity brother as well as his real brother and dad. Three more days… dammit!
Friday, July 13th, 2007:
What a great night last night, I feel like I’m in a fairy tale. But now I have to actually stay at home and start packing and spending as much time as possible with my family saying the typical “I’m about to go on a 5-week vacation to the middle of Mexico” goodbyes. Two more days… now I want it to go by a little quicker again, I hate goodbyes. The day actually goes by pretty fast, and I fall asleep fairly early, tomorrow night I shall have my last hurrah.
Saturday, July 14th, 2007:
One more day… I can’t get Mexico out of my head. I can’t get him out of my head, either. If only I had more time, I could maybe make something out of this. Oh well, it was too good to be true anyway. I say my final goodbyes to all my friends. I only get to give John a quick phone call, maybe its best to not get too attached.
Sunday, July 15th, 2007:
Finally, it’s about 12:30 in the morning and I decide I’m not going to sleep until I get on the plane. I sneak out, but not to see him, to see a girl. See, I don’t need guys in my life, I’m straight, and I am proving it now. A few more hours… My phone is going crazy with text messages around 4 in the morning; I’m saying bye to John, feeling guilty for being with that girl a few hours earlier, and knowing I would have rather spent that time with him. Oh well, I can get over it. My plane takes off for Mexico, I forget about the whole situation, but only temporarily.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more anxious to receive an e-mail than I was on my plane ride down to Mexico. And it was already there when I finally made it to a computer. E-mails flew back and forth between us and this continued the entire trip, daily. Each e-mail was significant, catching up for the time we didn’t get to share while I was still in the States. Sadly, we were getting to know each other more through the World Wide Web. How lame… damn trip to Mexico!
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved that trip to Mexico, as I also got the courage to come out to the first person, my sister. It was completely unexpected. We were arguing about me quitting the Jewell soccer team. I love soccer with all my heart, but I just wasn’t where I wanted to be and there were so many other things that Jewell offered that I wanted to focus my energy on. She eventually asked why I was afraid of failure and why I am so hard on myself and get upset, because in her eyes everything I did was awesome and that she may have even been a little envious. I gave up; I asked her if she really wanted to know. Being my sister, she asked me to continue. I told her I was bisexual. I was crying my eyes out, and I’m not a crier! To my relief, she had no problem with it. I had finally said some words that confirmed my not being heterosexual. It was surreal. That’s one person down, but in my state of mind at that moment there would be no more to go. I still had too much to risk.
When I came back from Mexico, John had just started law school. So, obviously the available time to see him was little, but much anticipated. We finally got to go out to dinner. It was amazing to see him again and tell him all about Mexico. The welcome back was shorter than we both wished, but school was calling. So, for the next month or two our only contact was a little hanging out every other weekend or so. I was actually falling for a guy, which was a huge first.
Thursday, October 11th, 2007:
Everyone is talking today, phrases are written in chalk all over the Quad “ARE YOU OUT?” What the hell is this, are these words targeting me? It seems like the talk of the community. It is National Coming Out Day, just great. I get nervous and paranoid that someone will find out my deepest secret. The day passes with little jokes and me becoming even more insecure. I go out to John’s that night and we talk about National Coming Out Day, and there are a lot of people around I don’t know. I’m extremely nervous and uncomfortable. John knows them, and says “I’m gay!” just because the significance of this day. Now it is my turn. I can’t say it, I’m frozen! “I’m…” John encourages me. “I’m…I’m gay.” Holy shit, I just said that I am attracted to men, not women. I feel extremely good about getting that out, but uneasy at the same time.
Fall break followed National Coming Out Day and I got a lot of time to reflect on what had happened. I replayed the events of that night in my head so many times. John said it with such confidence, as I stammered and struggled. I was envious of John’s ability to be secure with himself around friends and family. I was also envious of the acceptance he received for who he is, not what he is. After realizing that, I began to look at my own situation. I was extremely involved: Fraternity, Pryor Leadership, Homecoming Committee, Students in Free Enterprise, and the Inter-Fraternity Council. My involvement had allowed me to get to know a lot of people, so I had no doubt in my mind that my support net would be plentiful. So this confirmed it, I was determined to come out.
There was no turning back now. I began with my closest girl friend, who was a little shocked, but extremely happy for me as the words came out of my mouth. I cried just a little bit that time. The next day I came out to my roommate. Coming out to guys is just awkward, as you are afraid they will be grossed out. But, luckily for me, I was not too worried, and rightfully so, as my best friend is very understanding. When coming out, one is very pessimistic about the outcome, but when your friend is asking you questions and showing genuine concern about your life, it is simply amazing. My coming out process started slowly, but each step of it was just as successful. Eventually I came out to my entire fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, during a meeting, though most of them already knew through one-on-one conversations with me. I half expected to see some of the guys cringe, but instead I was welcomed with a huge round of finger clicks (our way of showing approval). I came out to the rest of my unaffiliated friends and was received with the same open arms. This was blowing my mind, here I am at small Baptist private school, and everyone seemed to love me the same as before.
Finally, it was time to take my last step, coming out to my parents. Thanksgiving Break was my self-scheduled deadline and I waited until the very last minute that I could. I was so afraid; I stayed up really late thinking how to approach it the Friday before we came back to school. I decided that I would take the easy way out and make my parents come to me, I would write them a note saying to talk to me in the morning because I had something I wanted to tell them. Somehow, with all my nerves throbbing throughout my body, seeming to make my heartbeat as loud an alarm clock, I succeeded in placing the note on my parent’s nightstand. Throughout the remainder of the night, I considered going back in and disposing the note, but I knew that if I tried that my clumsy self would surely cause a ruckus. So, at 10:30 the next morning my parents came in asking what was up. I told them right away that I liked men and crawled up into a little ball on my bed, afraid of looking them in the eyes any longer as the awkward silence prolonged. Finally, I broke the silence again and asked what they thought. The silence continued… Finally my parents interrupted the quiet and asked how long I knew, and affirmed to me that they still love me no matter what, but that they do not understand completely. Hearing the word love made me so relieved, but the way they spoke seemed so empty and automated, and that really scared me. I understood that it was probably difficult for them to hear, but I just hoped that their words were genuine. Luckily, two hours later we were tailgating for the Missouri vs. Kansas football game at Arrowhead, and all past conversation was irrelevant and we were living in the moment. The same went for the next day at the Chiefs game. I left as soon as I could on Sunday to get back to school to avoid any potential awkward moments at home and to give my parents time to let it settle.
The next day, I received an e-mail from my mom and I hesitated to open it for about twenty minutes. The first thing I noticed was that she said she had some overwhelming feelings that concerned her; this concerned me greatly as well. Now it’s not fair to continue using every word my mom said, as those conversations are private, but to sum it up, it turned out that she had experienced some guilt at first but in the end was happy that I was happy. She asked me a string of questions that wrapped up with a question that I will never forget, and still tear up every time I read it:
“Most importantly, do you know how much I love you?”
It turned out that my mom was asking me this question because she believed my gayness was caused by my not loving her. This is a very hard concept for parents to accept, and they often blame themselves for this “atrocity” when trying to grasp the reality of it. This has been a very difficult situation for me to deal with, but I know that she loves me with all of her heart. And no matter what, I love her with all of my heart as well. I just don’t get the same opportunities to tell her as I got as a child when she would tuck me in and tell me to not let the bed bugs bite.
After I told my parents, there was one last person I had to tell, my best friend since I was a baby—Jillian. It was difficult for me to tell my parents, but it was going to be even more difficult for me to tell Jillian. She means the world to me, and so does her opinion. I had rationalized myself to thinking that if she didn’t accept me, then my life would be torn apart. She goes to school in Springfield, so I was unable to tell her face to face. We played phone tag for nearly a week as I told her I needed to talk to her, but she was never available. Finally I got through to her, and nearly avoided telling her as we talked about our annual vacation and school. But it finally came out. I could tell she was shocked because her initial response was that she needed to go because this was a lot to take in. I didn’t know what that meant, and it left me a little worried. A couple hours later, though, I received a message: “Sorry to rush off the phone, I just had to get my thoughts together. You know I love you, you’re my best friend. I will support you no matter what and I want you to always come to me and talk.”
The relationship between John and I has since become more or less an unconditional friendship, and I thank him for teaching me that it is okay to be who I really am, and giving me the courage to use my own voice.
Coming out for me at William Jewell College and at home has been incredible. I finally feel happy and comfortable with myself, and don’t feel judged. I hear horror stories all the time, but have not yet experienced one. I am going to hope that my time here remains so, and that I continue to see that fellow LGBT members get treated the same way.