When I was younger, around 14 years olds, the realization hit me that I was gay. It all started with a lesbian kiss I saw on TV...it made me feel some sort of way I'd never felt before. Of course, it was the scariest feeling because I was raised in a super religious household where same-sex couples were rarely brought up, and when they were, my family looked disgusted. I was extremely narrow minded and never thought about the fact that gay people were totally normal and that being gay is nothing to be ashamed of or anything to hide. It took me years to come to that realization. Years of hiding in the closet, slowly tip-toeing my way out. Years of denying who I was. Years of becoming a more open minded person. I never officially got to come out to my parents, they found out because they went through one of my journals at the time. However, it was from that point forward that I said to myself, my biggest fear was coming out to them-so I might as well come out to everyone else too. Coming out can be a long process depending on who you are and what your situation is (and I'm a teen in the bible-thumping South), but it's one of the most liberating and rewarding feelings to be open about your sexuality. It helped a lot that all my friends were accepting, despite the fact my family wasn't. I would've never been able to imagine that I'd walk proudly to high school football games holding hands with a girl, but I've done it. And despite the stares and whispers strangers give one another regardless of where I go, the benefits of being who I am outweigh the judgement I receive from others.