I’m from Fayetteville, NY. Okay, I don’t usually like to admit that. I just say “I’m from New York,” and let people assume I mean the city. I mean, I was born in the city, and that’s where I eventually wound up, but my hometown will always be up in the hills south of Syracuse, where my family moved right before my sixth birthday, in the fall of 1985.
I was always going to have a tough time growing up there. I was an atheistic, half-Jewish, gifted-ed program attending, son of cosmopolitan liberals, sports- and winter-hating dork that all the teachers loved, in a town that was overwhelmingly Catholic, Republican, bourgeois, great at lacrosse, and fond of skiing. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t have also asked to be gay – I had enough obstacles to fitting in.
I hadn’t even begun to think of myself as gay or straight, much less even contemplated that sex or romance with anyone could be a part of my future. But as soon as I reached that age in middle school where boys realize that “gay” is yet another way to say someone is different and not welcome, I started hearing it a lot. Gay, faggot, queer – all those got added to the usual epithets directed my way: dork, geek, freak, and loser.
All I knew was that, when I was shoved and thrown onto a cafeteria table and mockingly called “faggot,” I didn’t want those assholes to be right. I could console myself with the fact that they just called me “dork” because I was smarter, or a “freak” because I preferred watching art house films to March Madness… but gay? What could that mean, other than that I was different, bad, wrong, and alone? Besides, they couldn’t be right. People that stupid, that cruel – they weren’t right about anything. How could they be right about who I was?
So began a long struggle with myself. I tried to convince myself that I was attracted to some of my more popular acquaintances not because they were hot, but because they were getting all the girls. As for me, I liked girls just fine – I even had a few crushes. I never really thought about them sexually, but surely that was just because I was being realistic about my prospects. Okay, so maybe I wasn’t 100% straight, but I wasn’t gay. Couldn’t be. I wasn’t about to give in to any definition I didn’t choose for myself.
It wasn’t until my final year in college that I let go my grudge against my adolescent tormentors, and let myself do what I had wanted to all that time, without worrying about whether I was giving in to the fate some pimply-faced peers had decided for me a decade before. In retrospect, though, by denying myself for so long, I did let them win. I was a coward. I let them deny me a decade of opportunities to appreciate myself, to find sex, love, and relationships – to be a complete human being.
I’m From Temple Hills, MD – Video Story. “You know, it’s interesting being in this country, if you’re suspected of being anything but straight and super macho, you’re tormented. And I know what it’s like going to school every day as a kid, especially in elementary, middle school, the beginning of high school and being “the gay kid.” And from the beginning of school to the end of the day to the bus stop, being talked about, teased, picked on, bullied, going home crying many days, expressing to my mom, “I look like everyone else, you know? I’m not really feminine or girlie, so why are people messing with me when I’ve done nothing to them?” I was every type of “gay bird”, “gay blade”, “fag”, every name you could think of, I can’t even remember half the names I heard.”
I’m From Littleton, CO. “I’d always dealt with some amount of bullying, but for some reason, it seemed to get worse in middle school. Maybe it was because the school was bigger, so there were more bullies. Maybe it was because I started to realize, deep down inside, that when they called me a fag, they were right. I came out to myself in seventh grade, and told no one, but somehow they seemed to sense it. I don’t know if I subconsciously sent out gay signals, or if their gaydar was so trigger-happy that they got a few lucky guesses along with a whole slew of false positives (that’s a distinct possibility; middle-schoolers call everyone gay), but it felt like suddenly every bully in the school was drawn to me like sharks to blood.”
I’m From Randallstown, MD. “My freshman and sophomore years in high school were spent trying to convince myself and everyone around me that I actually did like girls. I liked them! I swear I did! I just had no interest in having a sexual relationship with them. That idea mildly repulsed me. Hell, the idea was downright revolting to me. It was during my junior year that I first said, “I’m gay.” I said it in my head, I said it via text, and I said it out loud–all to my big sister, the first person to whom I came out.”