Ever since I was little, I always knew I was different. I have always been your stereotypical gay boy. I played with Barbie’s, I played with my mom’s makeup, I always wanted to be the damsel in distress when playing with other kids, I liked artsy things instead of sports, I dressed up in princess dresses, I wore cowboy boots because they sounded like high heels with each step. I typically bonded and played with girls in school. I also always felt that I had a special connection with all of my teachers (all my teachers were women) I’m not sure if that is a stereotype of being gay or if I have just always been personable and witty, but even at a young age I noticed that I had different relationships with my teachers than other kids in my class. Regardless, very stereotypical gay boy.

When I was young, I didn’t even know what being gay was. In elementary school, no one really knew what being gay was either. When I lived in Las Vegas, I was never bullied. In fact, I had a very good childhood filled with many found memories and friends. But like I said, I knew that I was different. I didn’t know what that difference was, and I didn’t think being different was a bad thing.

It wasn’t until I moved to Utah that I began experiencing bullying. I was teased and made fun of for my clothes, as I was very preppy and “fashion forward” (as forward as a 5th grader could be) and all the other boys wore athletic clothes every day. After 5th grade the bullying turned from making fun of my clothes to calling me gay. What? What do you even mean? How am I gay? What is gay about wearing skinny jeans and sweater vests? And what’s so wrong about being gay? Why is being called gay an insult? At such a young age I was truly baffled at why people were calling me gay, and why that was such a bad thing if I was. The bullying went on for years.

Fast forward to 2017. I went to the Mormon camp called EFY for a week and I came home an emotional wreck because after being around a bunch of cute boys all week I knew without a doubt that I was gay lol. I came out to my parents that weekend. The next year was filled with many sleepless nights, many tears, many unanswered prayers. I wish I had written down my thoughts through that time because I can’t remember everything now. But for a time I believe I wanted to try to remain in the church and marry a women and “overcome” my “same sex attraction”. Luckily that didn’t last for long and I became more and more comfortable in my own skin everyday. I stopped going to church because it was truly painful to be there. Even when there wasn’t a hurtful message given in a talk, the whole idea of church was painful because it’s all centered around the traditional family and just knowing there’s no place for my family within those walls was heartbreaking.

In 2018, I made a public coming out post with photos of me and a rainbow flag, and ever since then I have been living my life more and more authentically every day.

In high school, I faced unimaginable hardships and bullying every single day. Hate crimes, food being thrown at me, being called a faggot every single day multiple times, my car was vandalized, spit on, told to kill myself every day. Just imagine the worst things possible and multiply it by 10, and that was my life for years. I battled my mental health every day. I attempted suicide and self-harmed many times. But I still got up every single day and marched into that war zone of a school and was myself. I graduated a year early and started working full time at Homegoods, and three years later I am the assistant store manager at Banana Republic.

This was just a very very brief summary of my coming out experience because I wanted this post be to more about why I kept getting up every day in high school, and why I still get up every day, put on a dress and makeup and live true to myself, paying no mind to the scoffs.

In every elementary school, I know there is a boy like me. One who feels different but doesn’t know what that difference is. In every middle school, there is a boy like me. One who is confused and scared and just wants to fit in. In every chapel, there is a boy whose heart is hurting because there is no place for him. In every high school, there is a boy who is quietly hurting behind his smile.

Not only do I live my life and have #pride in who I am because I deserve it, and I can’t imagine living life untrue to myself, but I also do it for that little boy in elementary school. I do it so that when I walk past a little gay boy in the mall, I can smile and wave and show them that it’s okay. It’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay if you’re a boy and you want to wear a dress. It’s okay to play with Barbie’s instead of trucks. I want them to see me, a beautiful, happy, and successful gay man and think, I can do that too. I never saw anyone who looked like me when I was young, and I think a big reason is because it was not the norm at all. It by no means is the norm today, but knowing I am paving a path for the future generations of little gay boys to live their authentic lives in a world with more color, love, authenticity, and acceptance is why I keep marching.

Happy PRIDE!

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