When I was in 5th grade, there was one time my dad asked if I had a boyfriend or girlfriend. At the time, I didn’t understand why he asked that, but then I realized that he had known I was gay long before I did.
I remember when I was 8 years old, I told my mom, “I want to be just like you when I grow up.” She told me, “You can’t be me; you can only be yourself.” She had leukemia and she would let me wear her wig around the house. I think that’s when I knew I was different.
After taking so much after her characteristics — dressing like a girl, crossing my hands, talking with my hands — everyone kept trying to “hone” me. They’d say, “You’re a boy AJ, you’re not a female.” I’d think to myself, “Okay, but one day I’m going to come out the closet because I’m not going to be putting up with this.”
In high school, I was pretty much the obvious, class-clown, flamboyant one. I guess I was so far in denial of my sexuality from all those religious views I was raised with. It wasn’t that I was trying to hide it; I was just protecting myself. But everyone would tell me if I saw a guy I liked, my face would show it. That was the embarrassing part.
I had not been with a guy or a girl when I initially came out, so at first, I said I was bisexual. I had more female friends than guy friends, but they were always more like sister and motherly figures to me.
After my first experience with a guy during my freshman year, then I knew I was gay.
When I finally came out
The first people I told were my long-time friends Adam and Brittany. Brittany actually kind of helped me come out. I had told her I liked her dad and her brother, and she pushed me to talk more in general, so that was easy breezy telling her. But I was most nervous about telling Adam since he is a guy and I didn’t want it to ruin our friendship. It didn’t.
I mean, I didn’t hit on straight guys, and I was normally too afraid to hit on anyone. At some point, though, I was done caring about what people would say. I was bullied in school because I was different, but there were some people who liked and respected me for being true to myself.
When I did come out officially to my family, it was like the weight lifted off my shoulders. Shows and movies Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy also helped me realize it was okay to be gay.
My older brother, even though he really knew I was gay, I guess he didn’t really want to face it. He’d call me names, but I knew there was still love there. He was just looking out for me and didn’t want anything to happen to me. We eventually made up and are on good terms now.
When I finally came out, I realized how so many people already knew all the way back from when I was in elementary school. I thought, “How do you all know something about me and I didn’t even know it myself?”
When I was in high school, I was a part of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). That gave me a community and a group I could lean on for support.
I used to wonder about being gay and having a family. You watch those shows and you see them explain how some kids have two moms, some have two dads. I had so many parents between my mom, dad, stepmom, and stepdad, and so many other motherly figures in my life, that I don’t think it’s anything that can’t gay people can’t also have a happy family.
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Join different groups inside and out of school so you can get to know people who are part of the community. For instance, I joined the North Coast Men’s Chorus.
For anyone who is struggling with accepting their identity, come out when you’re ready, don’t let anyone force you. But once you do, it’s going to be a weight lifted off your shoulders. You love who you love, that’s what it’s about. It’s hard being in the closet, pretending to like one thing when you really don’t. Just be true to yourself.