I’m From Harlingen, TX.

by Colin Gaul

Satellite overhead image of Texas from Google Earth 2022

Age 11:

My parents had just bought a new house. It was in a fancy neighborhood. It was on a big corner lot and all the neighbors were doctors or business owners, even the mayor lived down the block! On my first day of school I met all my new classmates – I was so excited to see all my glamorous new friends who would surely accept me into their fabulous lives with open arms.

At lunch, the new kids put food in my milk carton when I wasn’t looking. When I saw what had happened I teared up and my brand new next-door neighbor called me a homo. I had never even heard that word before. It certainly wouldn’t be the last time. I left the table in silence as all of my new “friends” laughed.

Age 16:

I made the cross-country team at school. I opted to go to a high school for Science and Math instead of the big public high school down the street. Cross-country was the only sport we had, and I was fast. The years of being chased around the playground by blood thirsty little gay bashers really paid off. They never caught me and now no one could.

One very long training session after school I realized I was going to be alone in the locker room with Julian – my adorable teammate. Until that moment I don’t remember ever actually lusting after a man. It was a terrible feeling. I was that thing they all said. I WAS A FAGGOT. Julian was never mean to me, but he made it clear he knew I wanted to check him out in the shower. Maybe he was gay too but I didn’t wait to find out. He smiled at me and I panicked. I felt so ashamed that I chased myself out of the locker room. I avoided Julian until I graduated.

Age 20:

My professor paired me up with Jason for my first big advertising assignment. Of course it would have to be Jason. He was the cutest guy in my class and just so happened to be gay. And although he didn’t know it, he was going to be my first boyfriend. All I needed to do was to come out first.

I decided I would tell my friend Heather. I invited myself over to her apartment, our group’s de facto hangout and talked her into walking to Wendy’s with me. We ate our dinner on her couch and I tried to muster up the courage to tell my first person ever the thing I was most afraid of saying. I casually brought up the fact that I had a crush on someone in my Portfolio class and wanted advice on how to proceed. She asked me all kinds of mundane questions about “this girl.” I did my best to answer them generally, all the while gripping a ketchup packet and mentally willing her to ask the one I needed her to. Finally she asked, “What’s her name?”

My mouth was the so dry it was impossible to speak. Finally I was going to be honest! Finally I was no longer a “fag” but just “queer!” Somehow I managed to croak out “Well, his name is Jason.” And then I squeezed the ketchup packet I was holding so tightly that it exploded all over my face.

Age 22:

I was having my new boyfriend over to celebrate. Little ole me had scored a legitimate art director position at a fancy New York advertising agency. It was sort of a bittersweet event because this meant I would be leaving town and we would have to break up. Even with that melancholy cloud looming, we were going to celebrate.

I traipsed on over to the gas station on the corner where I usually bought my beer. I hated coming here because the guy behind the counter always tried to share a laugh with me about our easy superiority over all the fags that shopped there. I had never been brave enough to say anything to him about it. I was out, but not proud. And the shame of that kept me silent.

Instead of reaching for my usual six-pack I went to the malted beverage section. My boyfriend didn’t care for beer and it was either Zima or Bartles & James. I chose the lesser of two evils. When I put it up on the counter the checkout guy looked at it, and with a smirk on his face guffawed “Zima?! This had better be for your girlfriend!”

I paused. It was long in coming, but I was an eleven year old homo, a sixteen year old faggot, and a twenty year old queer no longer. I took a deep breath. I laid my money on the counter, grabbed my Zima and looked that asshole directly in the eyes and said, “Nope. I fuck guys.”

I have never been so proud to be me in my entire life.

Sharing your story can change someone's life. Interested in learning more?