Gabrielle d'Estrees, 1594

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Look Back at Being a Gay Teen

I can’t be silent on all of the gay bullying that has gone on lately.  Last month, three teenagers committed suicide because they were bullied for their sexuality.  The Boston Globe had a great article a few weeks back about a handful of well-known Bostonians who grew up gay.  The consensus was the same all around: no one in high school made it out unscratched. 

High School is an awkward time for everyone.  Add homosexuality to the mix and it gets even more difficult.   It takes a lot of courage to be you.  I think it’s a shame whenever someone has to hide who they are – especially considering that who you are is a natural human trait and completely out of your control.  With that in mind, I wanted to use this week’s hump day to have three of my friends give some testimonials and tell their stories about growing up gay. 

I spent my middle school and early high school years being teased and bullied for being different. The amount of taunting made me incredible shy, quiet and lonely.  I finally realized I didn't care what the people around me thought and decided I was going to be who I was, no matter what people said and came out when I was 16 - a sophomore in high school.  Some of the people I thought were my friends clearly had a problem with it and pulled away.  At the same time I made new friends who respected my honesty and strength.  I was the first person to be gay and out in my small town high school and seemed to get targeted less once I was open.  Slowly, over time, my homosexuality became a non-issue and I found an inner strength in myself that I never had before and continue to have today.  By the time I had graduated high school, a few more people had come out, and last I heard there were many out and proud students at my high school.

-James Garcia, Louisville CO, Graduate Student at UColorado English Lit

I never wanted to be different, but coming out and realizing that you're different (especially in high school) is really hard.  I always wanted a family with a white picket fence and a dog and I thought because I was gay, I would never have the chance to have (that) family.

I eventually told all of my friends about my girlfriend and to my surprise, no one cared.  Sure, it was a little awkward but they didn't treat me any different. (But) I still wanted to be "normal." After I broke up with my first girlfriend, I swore off girls and started seeing guys again, but something was different.  It didn't make sense.

Fortunately, coming out to my family was like telling them I had a boyfriend for the first time; no one batted an eye, no one cared, and I wasn't treated any differently. I remember the night I told my mom. She could tell something was up and she finally made me tell her… Only I didn't tell her that I was gay, I told her I was bi… ya know, just in case in ever met the "guy of my dreams." Anyways, I was practically in tears because I didn't want to be different, and my mom was laughing. She said that she thought I was going to tell her that I was on drugs or something horrible.

That spring season, softball started and someone (not a girlfriend) came into my life that, to this day, still means a lot to me. It is because of her I was able to say out loud that I was gay. I saw how happy she was with her girlfriend (of over ten years) and how they didn't seem to care about what other people thought. Throughout the years she has shown me how normal life can be once you come to terms with the way you are.  

I know (stories like mine) are probably far and few between because there are so many ignorant people in the world. I was very lucky with the people I was surrounded by. I am not saying my life experience is 100% perfect - there is one person in this world I will never tell - but of the people who do know, I couldn't have asked for anything else.

-Courtney Young, Danvers MA, Financial Relations Intelligence

When I was in school I did NOT want to be gay. I fought it and denied it with everything I had. The message I was getting from religion was that being gay is a choice and therefore against god; gays are going to hell...the bible is being used to spread and justify homophobia. What was the government telling me with Don't Ask, Don't Tell? Gay marriage bans? Gay adoption bans? And people using their first amendment right to speak hate and spread even more homophobia? And my peers? Calling a teen boy gay or a fag was the ultimate insult whether it was true or not and the cool kids were certainly not the openly gay ones. I've been obsessed with movies my entire life and couldn't even find solace there. Growing up, I can't remember one positive gay influence I ever saw in a movie or on TV. Everything I saw and every message I heard about being gay made it seem so negative, so uncool, so difficult, so unappealing. There was also a lack of openly gay people in the world I lived in. I thought I was completely alone. Everyone I knew liked someone of the opposite sex. Why was I so different? We all grow up with insecurities and finding yourself when you're young is always a struggle, but imagine feeling like the only person in the world going through this. The only person in the world with these feelings. Feelings that from a very young age you've been told are wrong. Feelings you can't get rid of, no matter how hard you try. This is why coming out is so important. The gay community has to be more visible. I hear people denying their homophobia and saying, "I don't hate gay people...BUT..." And following that with something along the lines of "gays are too in my face about it." The hypocrisy in that statement is undeniable. It only makes me want to be more in your face! Then maybe you'll get used to it. This isn't a gay agenda; it's an agenda for respect, acceptance and equality.

It wasn't until I got to college and met people just like me that I was able to truly accept myself and be comfortable in my skin. I had to create a new idea of what was "normal" and escape from the unfair, unrealistic and antiquated version of "normal" that society has tried so hard to force on us our entire lives.

I may not have been made fun of for being gay or contemplated suicide but I WAS bullied into hating myself for who I was by the world I lived in. My heart breaks to hear about LBGT youth with childhoods more difficult than mine because I understand how hard it is without the added pain of being bullied for it.
-Josh Alan Rogers, Los Angeles CA, Writer/Producer

I want to thank all of my friends for directly contributing this week. Writing a blog on sexuality, I feel a responsibility to talk about the good and bad. The light hearted and the heavy. While I may not have directly experienced what was written in these testimonial, I have noticed a common idea that links all three: Coming out isn't easy. It can be terrifying. But once you gain the confidence to do it, things get better. All three of these writers have made it to the other side - they have all come out and still have lots of people that care about them. I can only encourage young and/or closeted homosexuals to keep that in mind.

And for Josh's full testimonial click here.

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