Growing up gay in the rural area of Appalachian southern Ohio hasn't always provided the type of experiences you'd consider ideal. I remember hearing of a man who was kicked out of his church when the congregation discovered his sexual orientation and whenever it was suspected that someone in the community might be involved with someone of the same sex it was discussed in hushed whispers among friends and never around family or the kids.
So as you can see, information about what it meant to be LGBT when I was little was scarce. When I was little I had always had an inkling that I was different, however the thought that I may be gay never really crossed my mind, I just knew that I was slightly more effeminate and had more girls for friends than most boys my age.
It wasn't until I entered my early teens that I began to really explore the possibility that maybe I was more than just slightly effeminate. Crushes ensued, awkward glances at boys on the soccer team, and many nights spent pleading with a god that I believed in at the time to let me be anything but gay. Shortly after my seventeenth birthday I began to accept the fact that these feelings I had weren’t going to go anywhere and I had better learn how to live with myself and them.
So I began the long and arduous process that most of us know of, coming out. First to my fantastic friends who told me they’d always known and gave me nothing but support throughout the whole process. Next to my stepmother who cried happy tears with me and told me that she would always love me as her own unconditionally. But then came my mother and father. I knew that their responses would be less than ecstatic at the revelation that their oldest son was in my father’s words a “fairy” and in my mother’s an “abnormality”.
Nevertheless, I kept checking off the list and when my father found out I was promptly told to not enter his house and that I was not to contact him anymore. While this was discouraging to say the least I felt that I had to tell my mother now. So I did. In a two page handwritten note I left on her bathroom mirror I told my mom everything. I told her how I had been struggling for years, I told her of my struggle with god and praying that he would magically change me, I told her that I didn't expect her to wrap me in her arms and tell me that she knew along, but I asked that she never stop loving me as her son as my father had.
When I got home that day I was met with my mother’s tear stricken face and when I looked in her eyes I saw a large assortment of emotions. Despair, confusion, anger. We talked briefly and she quickly let me know that she was not happy with my “decision” as she put it. She made it very clear to me that no family was to ever know about my orientation and my two little brothers would be kept in the dark about it until they were at “a proper age” to understand. For the next year or so my relationship with all my parents deteriorated. We no longer spent time together watching evening television, I didn't accompany them to family events where I had to be kept secret.
Eventually when I entered into a relationship with my first boyfriend I was told that he would never be allowed in my home or to come with me to any gathering that would involve family including my birthday and graduation party. However my story isn’t completely negative. I grew closer with my friends during this time, I fell head over heels in love with a boy and had a wonderful relationship for awhile, I attended a pride march in a nearby town, and I went to college and met people who loved and appreciated me exactly for who I am.
I hope that by sharing my story I’ve helped someone else that may be in the same situation I am. Being gay and coming out isn’t easy, but hiding and pretending to be someone you’re not is so much harder.