For a brief (lol) introduction to why I’m posting a Coming Out series, check out Coming Out (Part 1.5). For some context, you may also wish to view the coming out story of Daniel Pierce, which I am still unable to watch.
One of the first questions you get when you’re coming out is “When did you know you were gay?” For me, the answer is simple. I always knew I was more attracted to males.
Even when I was in preschool, I remember feeling more comfortable around the girls in my class or the little neighbor girl. I think all the adults around me sort of thought it was cute that I played with the girls. I’m pretty sure I was called a “Ladies Man” more than once. But I only played with them because I was more comfortable. I knew that by playing with girls I wouldn’t have to talk about who I liked or who I had a crush on. And, as they talked about boys, I could join in or at least not have to talk about girls. I knew that I could be different without being abnormal.
That is a very powerful thing, by the way. Getting to be different without having to be abnormal. There is no worse feeling in the world than knowing you’re not like everybody else and knowing that being so makes you pretty undesirable. From a very early age, I learned how to exist in stealth mode. It occurs to me now that this existence has probably led to me being a pretty loud-mouthed activist today. Oh well.
I had my first crush in kindergarten, though. Yes, it was on a boy. It was very confusing because I’d only ever heard or been told that boys liked girls. So I just assumed that it was nothing. As a kid, you have that ability; that privilege to just let things go as something you don’t understand because OH MY GOD THERE’S A NEW TOY IN THE BOX AND I HAVE TO PLAY WITH IT RIGHT NOW. Being a kid is great.
Middle School is Confusing Enough. Also, High School
Those feelings don’t just go away, though. I had them all throughout elementary school and in to middle school. That’s a weird time to begin understanding that about yourself. While I’m fortunate to have grown up in a family where I was never told that I couldn’t be something. I was always told that I would be loved unconditionally. That doesn’t mean it was any easier to understand who I was.
That’s the challenge of living in such a heteronormative culture. I never really saw gay people on TV. And when I did, they were mostly the butt of the joke (even on everyone’s favorite, FRIENDS, gay men are never portrayed positively or as successful).
In high school I had my first “girlfriend.” I put that in quotes because I knew it wasn’t real. For me, it was a way of attempting to reject my sexuality. I spent all day watching the guys in my school, but knew that I shouldn’t/couldn’t be gay, so I began “dating” my best friend. That wasn’t a good idea for a lot of reasons.
While I was in high school, I joined a church and became very active. I was looking for some way of reconciling my sexuality with a faith. I wanted to be told that it was OK. That I was OK. Instead, I found an environment where if you didn’t fit into their very narrow box, you were berated, treated with a healthy dose of disapproval, and prayed for. I didn’t need to be prayed for. I needed to be accepted.
Letting Go – Or, Sometimes Life Sucks
As I was turning 18, getting ready to head off to college, and preparing to vote in my first presidential election (a monumental time by itself), I began expressing my deeply liberal worldview on Facebook and elsewhere. I was absolutely shellshocked when I was met with nothing but animosity, veiled and not-so-veiled insults, and accusations of a poor parenting structure by my church family.
I could not believe that I would get this kind of reaction from a group of people I attended services with. Our sermons were generally a very positive experience. The pastor did not preach fire and brimstone or end-of-times lessons. He generally discussed love, service, and living your faith, so it destroyed me to discover that others in the congregation had interpreted everything so differently.
While that has turned out to be a powerful character-building event for me and has led to me discovering my beliefs more fully, it was very painful to experience as I moved away from home. The most painful was realizing that the very people with whom I thought I shared an unconditional love used nothing but conditions to qualify their love for me. I realized that coming out at that time would be completely unsafe. So, as I started at KU, I remained as closeted as possible.
I recognize that that’s a lot to cover in one post, so I’m going to stop it here. For those who have studied LGB identity development, I’ve already covered the first two processes in D’Augelli’s model and am working on the third stage of Cass’s model.
It’s important for me to share this part of my life as well because I want others to know that even though the struggle with their identity, they can get through it. I was fortunate to grow up in a home environment where I never truly had to fear for my safety or shelter. Even so, I struggled to accept my identity internally. It sucked. It was hard. But I’m glad I went through it because I now know that nothing can ever shake my foundations.
My next post will delve deeper into my college life and the external coming out process. Again, I want to thank everyone for reading and following my journey. I’m looking forward to finishing the bulk of this series and using it to move forward into other topics.
Be good to each other.