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Coming Out Stronger MAG
Being gay is never easy. A lot of people are closed-minded and don't accept homosexuals. Many LGBT teens live in fear of being bullied, or worse, being the victims of hate crimes like the horrendous case of Matthew Shepard. I'd always read about the challenges that open LGBT people face, including bullying, hazing, and discrimination, and considered myself lucky I never had to go through any of that. I thought that if I got positive responses from most people, I would be exempt from discrimination. I was wrong.
I always promised myself that being gay wouldn't take over my life. As soon as I figured myself out, I made sure I wasn't like some of the people on TV who made a huge deal out of it. Honestly, I didn't believe that being gay mattered that much. I still thought about the same things as my straight counterparts: I worried about homework, contemplated what I was having for lunch, and waited excitedly for the parties I was sometimes invited to.
I lived out freshman year with few people knowing I was gay, and that was fine. Though life was easier that way, I always felt like I was restricted by not telling others, and I started to wonder if it would be better just to come out.
Before sophomore year, I read a lot of articles by other LGBT teens who said that coming out was a positive experience that made their lives better. So I decided it would be best for me to get rid of all the mystery hanging over me like a dark cloud and just come out already. I never publicly announced I was gay, but I stopped making it a secret. I was honest about who I had a crush on, and I started going out with a girl. If people asked, I made sure they knew I had a girlfriend, not a boyfriend, though I seldom revealed her name.
At first, I loved this new me with nothing to hide. However, not everyone received the news as well as my friends did. If being gay is hard, being gay in a conservative town is even harder. During the 2012 presidential election, marriage equality became a hot issue. Since most people knew I was gay, they expected me to weigh in on the debate, and I did, posting on Facebook a link to an article and stating that by the time I was ready to get married, I hoped I would be able to without going to another state or facing other problems.
This post was the first time I acknowledged in a public forum that I was gay, and I didn't think much about it. My friends were supportive of my post, but a few people I thought were my friends were not. After posting, I went to bed, but during the night, I got angry phone calls, e-mails, and text messages from my so-called “friends” telling me that I was disgusting, that I would go to hell, and that they had thought I was cool but didn't anymore. They called me words that I will not repeat. (Yup, they were that vulgar.)
I started to cry and immediately blocked their phone numbers and e-mail addresses, thinking it was over. How foolish I was. When I checked Facebook the next morning, there were over a hundred ugly, vulgar, abusive comments on my seemingly innocent post about my support of marriage equality.
I knew that not everyone was going to accept or understand this about me, but I had no idea they would be so mean. Most of these former friends claim to follow Christian beliefs – loving and accepting everyone, even those who are hard to understand.
The next few days I was a zombie at school. I started to fall behind in my classes, and I didn't want to talk to anyone, even my girlfriend. I communicated in one-word responses and shrugs, and stopped being my chipper, carefree self. I was so beaten down that I didn't care about anything anymore. The people I thought were my friends had left, and even some who wanted to stay had been pulled away by their homophobic parents. I didn't think being gay really mattered, because I was taught to like people if they were genuinely nice, not just because they follow the “normal” way of living. I guess that's why I never understood racism or homophobia, even when my Sunday school teachers had tried to instill it in me when I was a little kid.
I felt so alone and completely shut myself off from others; I was afraid to trust people. A few days later, I got a text from a girl I knew from band who wasn't really my friend: “I respect you so much for being yourself and being brave enough to put yourself out there like that. You have more supporters than you think. I'm here if you need anyone. I know we don't talk a lot, but I think we could be friends.”
The message opened my eyes. Sure, some people will judge me for being gay, but those people don't really matter. They can try to tear me down, but they won't affect my life unless I let them. When I closed myself off from everyone, I forgot about all those who love and support me, no matter what.
When I got to school the next morning, I held my head up high, and instead of seeing a sad place full of enemies, I saw the allies and friends who have helped me to become stronger.