One thing that I think sets us gays apart is our undoubtable strength and ability to endure enormous pain as children and adolescents and make art from that pain as adults. It's no wonder we excel in nearly every area and are especially well-represented in entertainment and media; however, to many young people, the future looks bleak and without hope.
I'd like to share my personal story in hopes that I can help even one person see that life really is what you make of it, and nothing is too much to bear when you lean on those who love you and give them the benefit of the doubt once in a while.
I grew up in a very tolerant household with parents who are self-described organic-vegetarian-alternative folks. We never fit the traditional mold that society says families should be; for instance, my parents forbade TV-watching, turned down all the regular immunizations and fostered our imaginations more than anything else. To this day, I credit my sharp wit and creativity to this. Emotionally, my mother was always there 100 percent for me and my siblings, and we had a community of like-minded families who helped make my childhood magical and exciting. I can vividly recall the magic that I felt with my brother and my best girl friend while we were playing make-believe in our backyards, envisioning that our hedges were Robin Hood's great Sherwood Forest.
However, despite all this, I always had a sneaking suspicion that I was different from the other boys. For one, I preferred dressing up and playing "make believe" over throwing the ball around with my classmates (partly due, I'm sure, to my complete lack of hand-eye coordination!). On the outside I played the part of the class clown, always getting laughs from my friends at school. But on the inside I was miserable and extremely confused. It was at this time, around middle school, that I began to feel worlds apart from my peers.
It saddens me to remember that despite the fact that I knew my parents would love me no matter what, I could never bring myself to talk to them about my feelings toward other boys. I tried very hard for many years to suppress those feelings while I focused on the feelings that I so wished would be there, that were "supposed" to be there. It was feasible for a while, and then it began to hurt, a hurt so deep, sharp and constant that it began to rule my waking hours. I would spend hours convincing myself that being gay was just a phase, or that I wasn't really feeling these feelings. Apparently, I am a very good actor, because no one ever suspected anything from me, or at the very least never confronted me.
After many years of pain, a hilariously failed straight relationship and countless hours of avoiding the truth, I finally said it to myself in my sophomore year of college: "I am gay." Those three words changed my life. It's funny how you can know something, but once it's said out loud, its realness can't be denied. Once I was able to admit to myself who I was, I began to be curious about the whole gay world out there waiting for me! It was an exciting but also very scary time.
From that moment until about a year later, an intense feeling grew in me to tell my family. I felt as if they had this fabricated understanding of who I was based on my Oscar-worthy role as a straight teenager, and I really wanted them to know the real me.
Not long after, my sister connected the dots in an anticlimactic encounter that went like, "I really want to tell you something," followed by her immediate response: "You're gay." Having had this as my first declaration to the world of my gayness and realizing the banality of it all, the desire to tell my parents and brother was only more solidified.
Not one for small displays, I decided to come out on New Year's Day, just as the family was sitting down to watch the queen of cinema herself, Meryl Streep, in Julie & Julia. I began with something I knew my mother, with her affinity for self-reflection, would love: "Hold up, everyone," I uttered. "Do you want to hear my New Year's resolution?" My mom responded affirmatively. "It's that I want to be completely open and honest with my family, starting now: I'm gay, I am totally fine with it, now let's watch the movie." The room went silent. My sister, who had drunk herself into a stupor in preparation for my parents' reactions, reached for my hand. Within a few moments my father gave me his full support, although my brother and mother took it quite hard but have since come around.
Since then, of course, there have been happy times, sad times, boyfriends, one-night stands, anxiety, happiness, love and the full gamut of human emotion and experience. It is by no means a fairy tale (pun intended), but it is life, and it is real. And living your truth, my dear friends, is what matters.