In my last installment of “Growing Up, Gay” I discussed fear and how it influenced me as a young gay man, in this entry I’d like to discuss how I began to accept myself for who I am and eventually “come out of the closet.”

When I was around the age of twelve, I began realize that the feelings I was having for other males were not by choice. I couldn’t have chosen to be gay, just like I couldn’t possibly have chosen to be straight – it just wasn’t possible. I know, because I tried. I tried my hardest to be attracted to women, but I just couldn’t make it happen. Once this realization hit home, I began to realize that whatever negative feelings I was having were unnecessary. I’ve never found myself to be a very religious person, but if there is a God, I know that He would not feel anger towards His creations for something that they did not choose to be.

I was born gay, and there is nothing that can change that. Nobody would ever choose to be gay.

Once I began to accept who and what I was, I started coming out to my friends. It was very slow at first, I started with only a few female friends who I was close with at the time. Everything went mostly well in that department, and they mostly kept my secret until I was ready to tell others. Middle school ended with only about five people knowing about my homosexuality, it wouldn’t be until high school that I would really open myself up to the world.

About two months into my freshman year at high school, I started openly identifying as gay to my friends. I didn’t have anything to hide, and nobody really had a problem with who I was. There were a few people who weren’t comfortable with who I was, but at that point I didn’t care. I felt that if somebody didn’t like who I was, then they weren’t worth my time and I shouldn’t lose any sleep over it. This was, mostly, a healthy attitude to have, but it did get me into some trouble at times – I vividly recall a few verbal disputes between my peers and I on the subject, but nothing ever got physical. Unfortunately, this attitude of mine didn’t carry over to my life at home, as I was still terrified of what my family would think.

My sister found out I was gay that year, but didn’t really say much about it. At first, she thought the guy who brought it up to her was just being “an asshole” — her words, not mine — and he probably was, but he wasn’t lying at all. He knew first hand that I was gay, because we shared the same circle of friends and I didn’t do anything to hide the fact from them. Should he have told my sister that I was gay? Probably not, but he knew my sister well enough to know she wouldn’t have made a big deal about it. (I’m sure he would have had a fit if I had outed him to his family at the time, but I wouldn’t have done that.) My sister didn’t have a problem with it at all, and it wasn’t hard telling her as I just assumed she already knew.

I came out to my mom when we were in the car, driving home from the grocery store. That day I had been slowly trying to get myself to tell her, but I couldn’t. I kept trying, and trying, and trying, but the harder I tried the more scared and empty I felt. I was terrified that she wouldn’t love me anymore if she knew I was gay. On the ride to the grocery store, I kept trying to speak but as soon as I would open my mouth the words would be gone – like the air needed to form them was being sucked into a vacuum in my chest. I practiced, and practiced, and practiced what I was going to say in my mind, but the more I practiced the more scared I became. In the grocery store, this same feeling of dread and hopelessness prevented my words from coming out. On our way home, the thoughts stampeding through my mind were terrible — if she didn’t love me anymore, what would I do? I finally decided that if I was going to tell her, I needed to do it soon. As she was rounding a corner in the car, I finally told her.

I said “Mom… I’m gay.”

It felt like all of the noise in the world had suddenly stopped as I waited what seemed like a lifetime for her response. As the words were coming out, I seriously thought that if she was going to freak out, at least she would reck the car and I wouldn’t have to confront the problem. What I had just told her had the power to change both of our lives forever.

And then, she broke the silence. She finally said the words “I sort of figured.”

She sort of figured. What a relief. I instantly knew that from the tone of her voice, she didn’t have a problem with it, and that she had known all along. At that instant all of the pain and suffering and bad thoughts in my mind and all of the negativity in life that I was carrying was gone. I let out a breath and I smiled. All I could feel was happiness. I was no longer burdened by the shame and fear hanging on my back.

The lie I had been living was over.

After that, the rest is a blur. One day, she mentioned that I was going to have to tell my father eventually and I just said that I was hoping she would do it. So she did — twice. The second time was when it finally sank in for him, he had hoped it was just a phase before that, but then I brought home my first boyfriend. (Who happens to be Levi.) He wasn’t as easy going as my mom was, but he took it much better than I thought he would. When my father and I first talked about me being gay, he asked me to look at it from his point of view as a father. He wasn’t sure what he had done wrong. I looked at him, and I told him that there was nothing wrong with me. When I said this, I could see his point of view begin to change. It took him a little while longer to accept that the man I had become was not the man he had thought I would be — It took him a little while longer to accept that the man I was bringing into his home was not just my friend, but also somebody who I planned to spend the rest of my life with.

Eventually, he did.

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