“Concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends. Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. You say what you want to say when you don’t care who’s listening.” : Allen Ginsberg
The Edison bulbs are hanging in a line over my head, looking full of a buzzing light and ready to pop. I’m 21 now, so I ordered sangria. Not because of a craving or anything; it wasn’t on my mind when I walked into this busy coffee shop on a Monday morning. It was a dark, stunning purple in its container at the counter and, to be honest, I thought it was some kind of lemonade. I’m still not used to drinking [legally] in public, so I’m going to indulge. Rub their faces in my ID while it still gets a reaction.
And I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t ordered on the second thought that maybe it would help relaxed words flow.
It’s warm outside, cool within. I wish I would have brought a jacket. Maybe that I would have worn pants instead of these shorts that expose, stopping just above the knee.
I’m cold. My heart is racing.
Eight keystrokes, and my hands are shaking.
I’m gay. I am.
And that’s okay.
For ten years now, I have held on to this. I have held it close, like some venomous thing that I feared would go wild in the presence of others. I have bargained pleas of change with myself; hell was in store at the end of this life if I didn’t hand over what I continued to carry.
For ten years, I prayed, angry, against this abomination. This shameful desire. This animalistic, bestial, unnatural trait. I am a mistake, they say, in line with the murderers and adulterers.
Hellfire would surely be warmer than this coffee shop. Doesn’t sound too bad right now.
Though, of course, I kid. Still, I’m pretty sure I could immediately feel the heat from not-too-distant relatives whose faces are grimacing, whose foreheads are shifting into deep lines of equal concern and disgust at the joke and forthcoming confession.
Growing up in West Texas, it was drilled, stamped, hammered into my brain: men do not kiss men. Fathers do not even kiss their sons past a certain age (and maybe not even when they’re younger). Human sexuality is never discussed. And when it is, in private, it is in embarrassed whispers with minimal eye contact.
Men do not love other men like that.
California is for the AIDS-spreading faggots, the dirty liberals. Not this, the proud South and Lone Star State, the state still shamelessly fighting to protect (what we call) “individual religious liberties” as we shoot our rightly-bared arms into the air. Many are so ashamed, in fact, that I’ve recently heard of some threatening to move to Canada. (Let’s let them go through the trouble of moving, and then we’ll tell them the bad news.)
But that’s for a different post entirely.
Point is, I have known that this is who I am for around a decade. And let me tell you some other quick things about that.
When I was in elementary school, I kissed a boy. By accident, but it happened. And I remember being more curious than embarrassed. But it felt right, not wrong at all, though I had been told my entire life up until that point how it should be. I had been conditioned from the start. I remember this.
When I was in junior high, I was short and chunky. I had acne (not too terrible) and braces (not for too long). I was unappealing even to myself, though, in retrospect, I am quite aware that I had it quite easy. But during this time, I discovered sexuality. And porn. I got in a lot of trouble for that one. Of course, in the beginning, I was watching women (dodged a bullet there, so I wasn’t in too much trouble), though I know now that that was something dangerously forced. Without getting too deep into the TMI of it all, junior high slowly became a personal battle to repress. And it all came at me at once. That couldn’t be me, I couldn’t look at, like, or even love men like that, though I looked at them every day in the same way that I knew my cousin and his friends looked at and talked about women’s breasts and asses. (Here’s looking at you, Ricky Ullman. My eyes were on Phil Diffy.)
So I repressed. And I attempted to feel the same toward the correct sex, the opposite, as it was encouraged to me in my surroundings.
In high school, I tried dating. But I was very noncommittal. I knew it, they knew it. And at first, I wasn’t sure what was wrong. I felt horrible, because I was stringing people along, and I wanted to be dating, because it’s what everyone with raging hormones was doing. Ultimately, in depression, I turned to the internet where I found a community of people just like me. I found an outlet. And I concealed in public.
My grandmother–my Mams (as I call her)–was the first to accept me wholly. She made it clear that I was loved unconditionally, and that nothing could ever change that. And I cried later, after she left. I could go on and on about how uplifting it is to hear someone tell you that you are loved as you are when you feel embarrassed in your own body.
The same year, my senior year, and a few weeks later, I came out to my parents. Not so much voluntary, this coming out was seemingly forced out of me (though I had made a very audible mistake previously that had set events into motion). The events that followed could (and will) be put into future writing, so I won’t be putting too much focus on them now. I will say for now, however, that my parents both love and support me, and that’s all I could ever ask of them. They are very proud of me.
Come college, I could become independent. In the personal sense, at least. I could decide the course of my life (though this, too, may be seen as selfish to many). I could be myself if I wanted. And that’s what I have continued to do, however I couldn’t help but to continue to feel an incredible weight from the secret that’s been fed for ten years. It’s time to starve it.
I give a very, very limited and general scope of my life to paint (as best I can with a limited number of words) a decade of repression.
The last thing that I’m trying to do is convert–to spread some fictional homosexual agenda. I may wish to bring an awareness to an issue, but I’m smart enough to know that many will not be swayed.
Now, I know many who believe that this country is headed straight to hell. (Or, maybe, gay to hell? Hyuck hyuck hyuck.) These same people have told me my whole life about how wrong I am. That I, along with my generation, am living for instant gratification. That I am selfish.
What’s truly selfish, is making someone feel as if they are not good enough.
What’s truly selfish, is making someone feel as if they should repress how they feel in order for one’s own self to feel comfortable.
What’s truly selfish, is driving someone to a point in which they feel like they will not be missed; that they are not loved as they are, completely and without condition; that death would be more welcome.
That, is selfish. That, is not love.
I could speak for the entire LGBT community when it comes to suicide, but that, too, would be selfish. I have never self-harmed, and I have never attempted to kill myself. The abuse I have experienced has been purely psychological, purely mental. And though the abuse has been heavy and ridden in anxiety and depression which I know will ultimately never really go away, I am completely aware that I do not fall under the overwhelming statistic that grows and plagues our nation daily.
The Trevor Project–a brilliant organization that provides resources for the prevention of suicide within the LGBT youth community–pegs suicide as being 4 times more likely to an LGB youth in comparison with their straight peers. That is astounding. That is disturbing.
I would be lying if I said that I’ve never thought of suicide. In fact, within the past couple of years, I have gone from the how-could-anybody mentality to one of understanding. And let me tell you something else, and you don’t have to agree with it (as much as I would love you to, that goes for anything I write) . . . it’s just for thought. So think, hear, understand: these men, women and children who fall victim to suicide are constantly branded as cowards. But suicide is brave. They died brave.
They simply lost a great battle.
So, this will not completely be made all about me. This is for those boys and girls who never had or will have the chance to come out. Because I am incredibly blessed to be where I am. I am incredibly blessed to be able to say these words. I am incredibly blessed to be able to hit “publish” and walk out of this coffee shop–the butterflies spinning around and around in the pit of my stomach, a smile on my face, a weight, finally, lifted–without any immediate negative effects.
I may never be assaulted. I may never become the victim of a hate crime. But it happens every day.
So, I am blessed. I am gay.
And I am loved.