Everybody wants to be normal. We all strive to fit in, to conform for fear of being judged. That is what I used to think, and I am pretty sure most other people my age did too. For a nation built on the convergence of many cultures with different languages, customs, religions and morals, one would be led to believe that Americans must be pretty open-minded and accepting. However, in the halls at schools across the country, including HUHS, another picture is painted. “Fag!” “Queer!” “Gay!” “Homo!” The list goes on.
The standard derogatory phrase has become “that’s gay” or “don’t be a queer.” Regardless of the traditional meanings of the words “queer” and “gay,” today everybody uses them to refer to homosexuals. Nobody would dispute that. Growing up hearing such phrases constantly throughout the day pretty much ingrained in my head the idea that “gay” was a bad thing, and that nobody wanted to be called gay, or much less be gay. This was further entrenched into my brain due to the fact that many of the jokes my friends told me and TV shows I watched involved homosexual characters that were being ridiculed and laughed at. Making fun of a gay person is funny. That is what I learned throughout my childhood. Reading the newspaper or paying attention to politics on the news revealed to me that even the President of the United States, Mr. George W. Bush, was fighting to ban marriage between two homosexuals. Obviously, after taking all of this into account, the idea of being homosexual was nearly unthinkable. Who would actually want to be gay, given the society’s friendly attitude toward gays? This was certainly something I had to think about.
After 10 years at St. Hubert School and going to mass most Sundays, I learned that committing a homosexual act was a terrible sin, and homosexuals were perverted abominations of nature. Nobody in fact was born gay, but it was a choice that one makes later in life. Once someone “becomes a homosexual,” he or she needs to immediately seek help, spiritually and mentally. Homosexuals are sick people that need healing.
Since this was the lesson of my school and my church, I had never even considered that I might be gay. At school dances, I always danced with girls, because boys are supposed to dance with girls. (Hence, when all of the guys put a shoe in a pile to decide their partners, I always found it funny to toss one of the guy’s shoes into the wrong pile…) Teachers and other adults always told me that I was going to be a very smart man, make a lot of money, and have kids with a beautiful woman. Guys are supposed to ask girls out, according to my grandpa. My family members frequently asked if there were any girls I liked, and looking good for the girls was always the entire purpose of grooming and staying clean. I suspect most guys my age led similar lives as a young person. Guys are supposed to get the girls after all.
As I progressed through middle school, those inevitable bodily changes certainly occurred. My height increased, and my voice went from being as shrill as a cricket’s chirp to being as low as a bloodhound’s bark. Other changes occurred too. One thing that did not change, though, was my attitude toward the other gender, girls. I did not know when I was supposed to start liking girls, so I just assumed that I did, since that is how it is supposed to be. I made Valentines for the girls every year, danced with girls at dances, and even took part in the twisted game of love. Towards the end of middle school, class gossip was often about which guy liked which girl, and who was doing what with whom. Upon entering high school, I even went as far as getting a girlfriend.
It was never a real definite process. One of my best friends and I gradually started talking more and more about what it would be like to be together, and then gradually we became a couple. After a few months and a homecoming dance together, I was not sure what I was supposed to be feeling. I know I liked her. After all, she was my close friend. School never taught me what love was, so I had nothing to judge my relationship on. It was always awkward for me though, as far as the intimate part of the relationship goes. Many weeks passed by before we even held hands, and kissing…well that was a ways down an unpaved road. The physical aspect of the relationship moved like a horse-drawn carriage with a broken axle, and the horse ran away.
It became apparent to me that I was never going to repair that axle and get a new horse, because on the first Valentine’s Day of high school, I started being totally ignored by my girlfriend. I did not understand, and friends tried various ways of explaining the issue. “She’s going through a phase.” “You’re being too nice.” It all made perfect sense, except it didn’t. Through one person’s story, it was my fault, and others insisted it was her. I knew not what to do, so I decided to do nothing. I waited, in hope that someday she would return to me.
Through my waiting, I was able to thoroughly consider almost every aspect of myself. I came to realize that my complete and utter lack of physical attraction to my girlfriend, or any girl for that matter, might not be without reason. I knew I was not exactly dying to have sex or anything, but that was fine because it worked well with my Catholic upbringing. I later made some more connections in my head. Maybe the reason that I was not feeling attracted to girls was because I was not meant to like girls sexually. I further pursued this idea, and noticed that it helped to explain a few things I did earlier in life. I messed around with other boys more than once as a child, but it never struck me as a sign of things to come. Perhaps the reason for this was because boys are supposed to like girls, and being gay is bad. It was this line of thinking that blinded me from seeing the truth. I was a fish in a pond, oblivious to the entire world that was just above the surface, for my society never gave me any reason to look anywhere else for an answer.
I was searching for an answer. I wanted a solution, something to remedy my lack of direction in love and life. Finally, during the summer before my sophomore year, I had an experience in a wave pool at Noah’s Ark that made up my mind. Without going into more detail, I basically realized that girls were not attracting me because I was attracted to guys. After speaking with that mysterious guy, I was well on my way down a new path of self-discovery. There were many things I was unsure of, but I could not deny what my body was telling me. I was gay, am now, and probably always was. Who knew? Obviously not I.
So I now know that I am indeed a homosexual, but there is a new dilemma. What do I do about it? At first I did not even imagine myself telling anybody until I was much older. Then one night, in an online conversation with a good female friend, I found out that she was a lesbian. I had to tell her that I was gay. The snowball began to roll. I told one more girl friend of mine who coincidentally also admitted her attraction towards girls to me. For a long time, it was just those two that knew. Then I told a guy from school, for a third time during an online conversation. I told him because he and I got along well and shared many interests. Part of me hoped we would share one more trait, but that did not happen. That is okay though, because I had now told three people, which is three more than none.
It was the middle of February, and that snowball was starting to get bigger. I swore to myself that I would try to come out to friends in a year, and family…well, maybe never. However, after being introduced to someone else from Hartford who is gay, my thinking changed considerably. I made a decision to tell some friends, and within three days I had told most of the people I knew in the school. I even wrote letters to my parents and stuck them in with their stuff they take to work. That was it, I was done with the bulk of the work. I could not believe I had told everyone that I was gay, but I did.
I was surprised at first by the lack of rejection. Most people were either totally flabbergasted, in awe, or completely at peace with the idea. There were a few though that expressed immediate disapproval. The worst came from the people whom I did not tell personally, especially some of the football players and some of the farmer-types. To this day, I still get verbally harassed, though this year has not been quite so bad. I never let it affect me though, because I am perfectly at peace knowing who I am.
I know now that life is not about trying to fit in. Life is not about conforming to other people’s standards. Rather, my life is what I make it. Being my own person and working toward a better tomorrow is the basis for my life, and having a little fun along the way is not necessarily a bad thing. Life is a journey; there are many different paths one can take. My path is one of acceptance for all life, fighting for liberty, and pursuing what I define as happiness.