In honor of Pride Awareness Month (June) and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community it is really important to me to do my part in order to raise awareness and help support causes that continue to fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and make a more understanding and safe world for members of the community to live in!
Before I get into MY story about coming out I think it’s important for those that don’t know to understand a little bit of the history and how we got to this point today. Even if you don’t identify as LGBTQ+ being a supporter of the community because you have a friend or family in the community or simply because you want to be actively apart of a world that is accepting of others it’s important to show whatever level of support you are comfortable with. Some famous man once said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” ….and then I got that tattooed on me. But that’s another story for another time 😉
The history of same sex relationships dates back as early to the Roman empire, but it wasn’t until the church was actively spreading its message during the Middle Ages and especially during the Renaissance that homophobia really started to take route in our culture. This carried over into the New World and in 1776 being gay in America was illegal. Were not talking lock you in jail illegal, were talking punishment by death. Like a full blown witch hunt puritans were foaming at the mouth. Remember….’love thy neighbor’…..unless they’re gay!
In the 20th century we started to see progress where more and more people, who were taking a HUGE risk, were being more vocal and coming out and openly accepting their sexuality. Gay bars were popping up in major cities but were frequently being raided because being gay was still illegal. Mad respect to all these people who literally FOUGHT for the rights I get to enjoy today:
- Marsha P. Johnson is sometimes referred to as the “Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement,” but Johnson is a celebrated icon in her own right. Johnson was an activist, drag performer, sex worker, and model for Andy Warhol. She was black, queer, and trans — and fearlessly advocated for her rights and the rights of the LGBTQ community at a time when doing so put her safety in jeopardy.
- Harvey Milk, the subject of the Oscar-winning film Milk, was the first openly gay politician to be elected in California. Milk was assassinated in 1978, but during his short tenure in office he pushed legislation to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
- James Baldwin was an essayist, novelist, playwright, poet, and social justice advocate. Baldwin is regarded as one of the foremost intellectual thinkers of the 20th century for voicing his concerns around identity, creativity and freedom.
- Tennis champion Billie Jean King has been a longtime pioneer on and off the court, using her status as a prominent athlete to champion gender equality and LGBTQ visibility.She was the first tennis player — and woman — to be named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the year in 1972
……….. and so so so many others that literally risked their lives, liberty and careers to create a better world for everyone!
Whether we realize it or not, no matter how small we may feel or how we may not feel like were unable to make any change we do not realize that even in our everyday actions and decisions we make CONSTANTLY shift and change the world around us. Even to this day in May 20th 2020 when I am very confident and matter of fact in my statement of “I am gay” that may confuse or throw off someone but the conversation keeps going I have just changed the perspective and the reality of someone who may not have thought otherwise. Countless times this has happened in my life and I am proud enough to say that I hope that by my actions I am able to positively impact the world around me and make change for the better no matter how small.
This is how I came to be at this point in my life…
This is my story…
As young as I can remember I have always been “different.” I could never verbalize how or why but I always felt like I never belonged. I wasn’t “normal.” This was for many different reasons, including my sexuality which wasn’t even a “thing” at this point but it just felt like all around I had a difficult time connecting with others. Sure, I had plenty of friends and people in school that I got along with, but deep down I was always very guarded and very distant from everyone. Once I got older and the thoughts and feelings on sex became something on the forefront is more and more I realized HOW different I was. This difference of being “not normal” just further drove a wedge between me and other people and the walls just got thicker and taller…
I can remember the first time I thought another guy was attractive was during a middle school summer trip. I was one of a few people selected from my school to attend a local universities Biology program that you had to get invited to. We got to stay in the dorm and attend this camp for the week doing all kinds of activities centered around biology, wildlife and conservation biology. One of the guys from another school attending this trip caught my eye and it was then I realized that I was at the very least curious about other men.
All throughout high school I dated girls, but the whole time I knew it wasn’t right and it definitely wasn’t what I wanted. It was just the “thing” to do. Everyone had or wanted that “perfect couple” in high school. So I followed suit, because that’s what I was supposed to do! It wasn’t until my freshmen year of college that I actively set out to explore my curiosity with men. At that time a popular website was Gay.com which was the only way I knew how to meet other gay men. Hell, in my mind I didn’t even know if other people felt the same way I did. This was a very lonely period of my life.
It was during my freshmen year that I decided to come out to friends and family. Most of my college friends I had made had no issue with me being interested in men. In fact, because of this is what gave me the courage to come out to my family as well. Although my sister was always very positive and supportive of this the rest of my family was not on the same page. In fact I remember the day I told my mother she said “Satan is clouding your eyes and keeping you from God.” We didn’t speak about it again for many years, in fact, during that time of my life we didn’t speak much at all.
Today I am very fortunate that my family overall is very accepting of me. All of the people I choose to surround myself in life are also very accepting. Honestly it’s extremely rare that I ever encounter anyone who has a problem with my sexuality and I am very fortunate that I didn’t experience the things that so many people experience when coming out. I have heard so many horror stories in my lifetime from meeting other people who identify as LGBTQ+ from loosing all contact with family or friends to physical violence, homicide or suicide.
The Trevor Project, founded in 1998, is the premier organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ teens and young adults. According to the Trevor Project and leading behavioral health organizations:
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people age 10-24
- LBGTQ+ youth contemplate suicide at 3 times the rate of heterosexual youth and are five times as likely to have attempted suicide
- Of the suicide attempts by LGBTQ+ youth were 5 times more likely to require medical treatment over heterosexual youth. and 4-6 times more likely to result in injury, poisioning or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse.
- In a national study 40% of transgender adults have reported to attempt suicide, 92% of which was before the age of 25.
- Each episode of LGBTQ+ victimication, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average
Personally….I would like to live in a world where the thought of self-harm or ending one’s life was not even a thought. ESPECIALLY over something you can not control. WE ALL need to be a more open and accepting society where differences are appreciated and not shunned.
Being active not only during Pride Awareness Month but every day, every month, every year in the way you feel comfortable is what is going to make the change. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community it is my duty to BE proud, and confident in who I am and because I am in a position to do so use my voice and my platform to make what change I can !