As a gay man, I have searched for love my entire life.
From an early age as a child, I wished for nothing more than to discover who I am. I wanted to understand why no matter how hard I tried, how come I always somehow felt “different” from my classmates.
While guys were forming friendships with other guys and the opposite held true for women, why was it that I felt positioned somewhere in between; not fully bonding with the guys in my classes, yet not fully in touch with the girls either. Discovering who I am as an individual and learning how to love myself would become my greatest desire.
Coming to Terms with Being Gay
All of our experiences vary from person to person so all I can do is speak to my own story.
With that said, I definitely think the entirety of the LGBT community shares one trait in common and that characteristic is resilience.
Growing up being anything but “straight” means dealing with a ton of confusing situations throughout childhood and into adulthood. It is my belief that it is precisely this process of coming to terms with your own self-identity that makes gay people become so strong.
I love being gay. Really, I do. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Being gay is actually one of the things I’ve come to love the most about myself. I think men are amazing. I actually like that I like them, as any gay guy should. Sadly, I can’t say that has always been the case.
Growing Up “Different.”
As you can surely imagine, being young and gay while in school is a recipe for disaster. Schools can be filled with people who (mis)label anything that’s “different” as a target. Insecure people love pointing out other peoples’ differences to, in turn, make them feel better about themselves.
I was incredibly fortunate to almost never get bullied over my sexuality. For a lot of gay guys, they don’t get the same break. I don’t know if I just got lucky or if it’s just that I went to school with what turned out to be a very accepting cohort. I switched schools four times before college and somehow I managed to avoid it. That’s not to say that a handful of people did not still make comments about me here and there. I’d sometimes hear remarks in the hallway but I never allowed that to get to me. With the few kids who did give me a hard time, I would either address it or choose to ignore it.
It used to frustrate me in middle school when people would try to spread rumors about me being gay. The anger I felt back then was directed mostly at me, rather than at them. It is not that I was in denial about it; I knew something about me was different from the rest of the guys in my grade. I just didn’t understand what being gay meant. The concept felt so foreign to me that I didn’t even consider the possibility that I could be that.
My only exposure to the word was hearing people say with disapproval, “that’s so gay…”
I didn’t fully realize I was gay until I was a freshman in high school. Some people know as early as elementary school, others don’t realize until they’re well into adulthood, and I’d guess it falls somewhere between middle school and college for the vast majority.
I think I knew I felt a certain way about other guys prior to then, but I really wasn’t able to come to terms with it and accept it as a part of my identity up until around that time. I questioned the possibility of liking both guys and girls for a while and there was a long adjustment period before I accepted I might like guys exclusively.
(Yes, sorry, it’s people like me who give bisexuals a bad name.)
When I started to flirt with a male classmate, I felt so confused and knew I needed to search someplace for answers. Was I really falling in love… with a guy?
Believe it or not, I found a random “coming out” YouTube video about a guy sharing his own coming out story and his words resonated so closely with my own thoughts and feelings, that it was through that video that I finally realized and thought to myself, “So this is what this is!”
I am gay.
Everything I had ever known up until that point about my future suddenly seemed to be in total disarray. But I knew I was on the beginning of a long path toward gaining clarity.
To My Sister
Coming out was a process. The first family member I ever told was my younger sister. I wanted to come out to her for a long time, but I was so anxious about it. Fear of rejection held me back. In January 2014, it finally happened. If you would like to check out the background story, you can read this post that I had written just prior to telling my sister.
To My Parents
My parents had grown suspicious from years of me not dating and never talking about girls. I found out they were growing tired of waiting and they wanted me to finally come out to them. Knowing they were onto me made me even more anxious. I had delayed it for as long as I could in fear of what they might think of me.
Here is the story of how I came out to my parents on Easter at 3 AM.
I’ve written about the challenges of coming out to friends. You see, sometimes your friends know you better than you know yourself. I think that is why I have felt like, at times, I didn’t see the point. Why does this need to be disclosed? People probably already know.
Why do gay people need to “announce” their sexuality when no one else does?
In this post, I explain my thinking.
To Extended Family
Once my immediate family knew, it became time to start coming out to the rest of my family. The hardest part for me to explain to people is that while some might say it took me forever to tell my family, for me, it felt like a whirlwind that had swept me off my feet.
I could barely come up for air. I felt like I could never relax. For two years (two of the longest years of my life) I would go to all parties and holidays having to repeatedly ask myself, “Wait. So *that person* knows but *this person* doesn’t, right? So I should try to tell *this person* today if we get a moment alone together.” It was a lot to process. Unless you’ve been through this, it is not really something that I think most people can understand the struggle of. I was living two lives and keeping track of who knew about each. I felt fake and I hated it.
Eventually, little by little, I made sure everyone found out one way or another. Not everything happened exactly as I would have liked for it to have happened, but at the end of the day, the job still got done and that is what mattered.
I had some relatives find out on holidays like New Years Day, others on Thanksgiving, and the rest during every occasion in between.
Living Life Out of the Closet
I have been blessed with a family that accepts me for who I am.
That doesn’t mean that coming out was all smooth sailing. In any of the stories that I linked to above, you’ll see that there were tall mountains to climb along the way.
A few months after coming out to my parents, I started second-guessing myself. Seeing how my mom and dad were coping, I started to wonder if telling them was a big mistake.
However, things eventually did get better as time went on.
When they say, “it gets better,” it really is true!
One year after coming out, I posted a self-reflection.
Eventually, I grew into my own shoes and with some newly found self-confidence came the ability to live my life to the fullest.
Being Gay in College
I think it was moving out and going to college that finally gave me the space I needed to become my own person. It was like having a fresh start with a clean slate. At Rutgers University, no one would know me.
I could be whoever I wanted to be.
Rather than feeling the need to “come out,” once I met new people, I could start “out” to begin with. It was nothing more than a mental shift in how I thought about presenting my sexual identity but it made the world of a difference for my mental health.
It taught me to tell people early on and not to put as much pressure on it.
Now, since people were getting to know me for the first time, I could talk about being gay as just another facet of my existence. It didn’t need to come as a shock or as a surprise because for the first time ever, I could introduce the fact early enough to get it out in the open.
It was great practice, it was healthier, and it was a safer way to do it.
I would no longer need to jeopardize pre-existing relationships.
Rutgers had a Department of Social Justice that really allowed me to grow comfortable in my own skin. There was a community of on-campus housing for people who identify within the LGBT community called Rainbow Perspectives. While I never actually lived in the community (although my roommate and I certainly came close), it was small details like this that helped make Rutgers feel so inclusive.
I recall my freshman year, they gave me a rainbow pin. I was so proud to have a gay pride pin. It was something I could wear to show a part of myself I had hidden my whole life. I wore it on my backpack that entire year. Anytime I saw someone else with one, I’d smile.
That’s the thing people don’t always realize. Unlike other minority groups, gay people face a unique set of challenges. Some think we wave our flag to push an “agenda.” The fact of the matter is that we really have to show our flag because if we don’t, we’re invisible.
I really couldn’t think about dating until I felt secure from coming out.
During my senior year of high school, I gained the confidence to join a local Gay-Straight Alliance and I met some truly incredible people. As I explained earlier, high school was a difficult time. I couldn’t really date (at least, not out in the open) because I was not out to my family or friends yet. I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure how I could pull it off.
I thought I was going to have to come out to everyone unexpectedly when I got asked out by a guy to prom. I couldn’t convince myself to go with the guy because I was too scared. I allowed fear to control me.
In college, once I had the weight of coming out lifted off of my shoulders, it became much easier to finally open the next door and to consider entering into a genuine relationship for the first time.
Eventually, I did just that.
For More About Me
Coming out was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m proud of it because the process has helped shape me into the person I am today. Still, as I would always say while coming out to others, there is truly so much more to me than this one detail.
If you’d like to learn more about me, check out my page: About Me.