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My name is Matthew Thompson and I’m from Maple Grove, Minnesota.
I’m almost 21 years old and actually just recently came out of the closet, fully, a couple months ago. Coming out was very hard for me. I grew up in a pretty strict Roman Catholic family even though I ended up quitting the church at 16 I still had to fight a lot with the stereotypes distilled in me because everywhere I went was “gay is bad”, “gay is evil”, “you’re going to hell if you’re gay” and even though I had abandoned those beliefs, I knew my entire family still held to them and it was a hard concept to deal with.
Aside from the whole stereotypes I had to overcome, the other thing I had to deal with was just sort of the general stereotypes of “gay” because a lot of people when they mention “gay”, the first thing that comes to their head is the skinny twink with the tight girl’s clothes and the bleached hair and talking with a lisp and everything, and pretty much all through high school, my main exposure to gay people was the hyper-stereotype gay people in my high school. It sounds kind of silly, but there was actually a fear that I would somehow become like that. I was afraid of losing who I was. But over time I basically just got exposed to more and more people. I did more research, did reading, actually went out and met more people who were gay and realized the stereotype everyone has of the effeminate twink is maybe only about 10% of the entire gay community. They’re of course out there but when you really look at it, most gay people are just regular guys who happen to like other guys or regular girls who happen to like other girls.
So I found a group in Minnesota called “Bear Coffee” and I was home on Christmas break, found the group, found the address where they meet, drove there and went up to them and almost bolted. It was the hardest thing for me to just open my mouth and introduce myself and the first thing they did was they got up, hugged me, introduced me, then it was just guys hanging out having coffee. After going to “Bear Coffee” I actually went to another group that was back home in Minnesota called “Minneapolis Movie Bears” and me being a film student, that actually worked out very well. That was sort of baptism by fire because I met them, joined up with them, and then two months later I rode the float with them at the Pride Parade. Surprise, Mom and Dad! So yeah, that was probably the defining moment for me to really start coming out knowing it was okay, because I knew I could be gay and not have to give up who I was.