I’m gay. I’ve known that for a long time, even before I knew “gay” was a thing. All I knew when I was younger was that if you’re a boy, you needed to get a girlfriend when you reached a certain age, and if you were a girl, you needed to get a boyfriend. Despite what society told me was supposed to happen, I remember having crushes on boys in my classes in first-grade. I thought that these feelings would just go away. But as I got older, those feelings for boys I long had did not leave; in fact, they got stronger. But, society told me that I had to be attracted to girls because I was a guy, so I continued to suppress those feelings. Anything I thought might make me look anything other than straight, I stopped doing.
As I got older, I started to see different lifestyles and my world opened up. I met people of all different sexualities and genders. I saw that I was not the only person that did not fit into this heterosexual, cisgender world. I was not alone. But I refused to accept it. This was not ok. I had to be straight. That’s what I told myself. I would say I was straight and would come up with crushes on random girls just to seem cool and fit in. Now, I did have a couple straight crushes here and there, but I just did not feel the same way about girls that I did guys.
I started to come to terms with my sexuality when I saw the strength some of my fellow queer friends had; my friend Stephanie (they/them) came out to their mom, despite many obstacles they had faced. I was so inspired by their story when they came out to me. I was also so inspired when my friend Anya (she/her) came out to me because I related to her on another level. We both had so many similar experiences growing up queer, it was insane! And now she is my best friend. I finally felt prepared to come out when I was 15 because I could not keep this inside of me any longer. I came out to my friends in January of 2020. They were more accepting and loving than I could have ever asked for! Then, I came out to my parents in February of 2020. My parents continued to show me unconditional love and support. Now that I was out, I felt so free! I could be my unapologetic self! But was that really true?
Even after coming out, there was still one issue that I faced and continue to face today, internalized homophobia. Internalized homophobia is essentially homophobia you hold inside of you; it’s when you are upset at yourself for not fitting into a heterosexual world. Well, despite being out of the closet, I still struggled with being gay. I would not openly show that I was gay. I would not post about it on my social media accounts. I would not talk about it with my family. This is all despite the fact that I lived in a very accepting and loving environment. I would fret around other queer people because I felt like a fraud for not completely owning my sexuality. The thing was, I was not ready for that.
As time went on, I started to become more open with my sexuality; I would do something subtle like putting a rainbow flag emoji in my social media bios or having my little rainbow flag at the corner of my desk during Zoom classes. That fear still lived inside of me, the fear of not being accepted. I was scared of not being accepted by total strangers or students in my zoom classes. I find it so odd how much we care about the opinions of someone we probably will not see ever again, but that is just part of being human, I guess. Time passed and I started to become more open with my sexuality. I wouldn’t really hide it anymore, but I was not running around with a giant rainbow flag and screaming “I’m gay!” I got to a really good point in my life around October 2020 where I felt comfortable with my sexuality; I would just casually talk about being queer. I really started to accept my sexuality.
Around this time, I also started to talk to a boy from my school named Jacob. We talked day and night, giggling. I knew I was gay, but he really made me feel special. I felt happier than I had ever felt. After a couple of months, I asked him to be my boyfriend, and we are now dating! This inspired me to just stop caring. I told any other significant family members that did not know I was gay that I was gay, and I now post openly about being gay and about my boyfriend. I felt more ready to do this than ever because I felt loved; I felt love from my family, friends, boyfriend, and overall environment. I do not think I would be this open if I did not feel this love.
Today, I do not deal with much internalized homophobia, but that is because I have been out for almost a year, and have truly grown to love my gay self. For those of you reading this questioning your sexuality, take it slow. Consider your environment. Only come out if you feel ready and live in a safe and accepting environment. Internalized homophobia is a sad reality many of us in the queer community face. The best way to combat it, in my opinion, is to learn more about the LGBTQ+ Community. Read queer books. Watch queer movies. If you know other queer people, talk to them. Become comfortable with your sexuality over time, and do not rush the coming out process because it is yours to shape. Your safety is the number one priority in this situation. If you are ever struggling with your sexuality or honestly anything, consider reaching the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or The Trevor Project. They’re available 24/7 and are there for you!