It’s an interesting thing to see how times have changed. I was never out of the closet in grammar school or high school. In college, I was out to myself, but not very open about it all. These days it is not unusual to hear about kids coming out in high school or grammar school even. How great that they feel that confident about themselves to do so, and that they have supportive family and friends to support their decisions.
I always felt different even if I wasn’t sure what that meant in reality. I tell people I always felt like the giraffe in class, someone who didn’t fit in and stood out from the pack. I was the round peg trying to fit in a square hole. I was a good student in class, but also very shy and quiet. And not very good at sports.
So I was picked on a lot by the time I was in junior high. I remember that my family tried sending me to these group therapy sessions at school with one of the teacher’s husbands who was a therapist. I was called fag and gay a lot, because I was the shy, sensitive one. I didn’t think I was that — but somehow the kids around me knew better. I remember that I felt very stressed at times, and my family even took me to the hospital to see if I had an ulcer. Turns out I didn’t have one.
In high school, the taunting continued especially that first year. I was now at an all-boys private high school. I was regularly subjected to verbal and physical abuse at the hands of some hooligans. They proceeded to make my life a bit of a living hell that first year. I thought about suicide, but never attempted or seriously considered it. I prayed for God to change me though. I remember being slapped on the back of my head countless times by these jerks. I remember being depressed a lot, but as usual I threw myself into my studies and excelled at them.
I used to think I just had low self esteem, that if I had better self esteem, less acne and was good at sports that girls would like me and I would like them. How fucked up was my thinking? As Lady GaGa would say today, “I Was Born That Way.” And there was nothing wrong with me! But it would take some time to feel that way.
Things cooled some in my second year in high school as I wasn’t in the same homeroom as the jerks, and I actually made some friends in high school, surprise! Tony and Joe were my 2 best friends. Joe knew more of what I went through, and he was the first person I talked to about my possible gay feelings. He was very supportive and I will never forget how much his friendship meant to me during those trying years. By the third year of high school, the jerks were gone, dropped out or flunked out (not sure), I was glad they were gone.
College was a different experience for me. Now I was just one of thousands of freshman. Joe and I maintained our friendship, he even went to the same college briefly too. I knew that I was gay, but had never acted on it. I started to see a therapist at school and that lead me to the LA Gay and Lesbian Center… and then things really changed for me. (See previous blog post here).
It’s interesting that I have reconnected with some friends from grammar school in the last few years due to Facebook. Yeah, there was one token bigot that I quickly unfriended. But the overwhelming response to me and my being gay has been totally positive. We are all in our late 40’s now and people don’t seem to care about it. They also seem impressed with that fact that I have had a relationship for so long. I also was touched by the people I talked to at my 20th high school reunion. People had been worried about me, and was glad to see that I had come out of the darkness and done well with my life.
To those kids still in school and thinking about coming out, I applaud you for your bravery. Be sure you have a supportive system around you: family and friends to support your decision. Don’t feel rushed though either. You will know when the time is right. Life may be tough at times, but believe me, things do get better. They did for me.