In honor of National Coming Out day and Central Arkansas Pride Fest this weekend, I wanted to share a little of my story. Growing up in the south is hard for someone struggling with their identity. At a young age I knew that I was different, I knew that when I stayed with my friends for the weekend that I would get emotional and cry when they left, because I would miss them, my heart would hurt. I knew that I received praise for doing things that boys are "supposed to do," which always left me trying so hard to be the child others wanted me to be. I was a very emotional child, This kind of emotion led to early social shaming. Before I ever knew what the names people were calling me meant, I knew that I was different. Growing up I had no idea who I was or who I would love as I grew older. I just knew that when I surrounded myself with girls, that I was comfortable. Maybe I was comfortable because I was so emotionally connected with my mother, or because my step mother had become the major influence in my life, or because of the fact that my brothers were so much older than me that my sisters and I were very close. Whatever the reason, you could always find me with my "ladies." I was praised by adults for being "such a lady killer," and teased by my peers for being a "girl." Throughout my adventure in discovering the real me, I struggled badly. I struggled with the waking up everyday wondering who I was going to be. If society gave me anything it was a cookie cutter idea of a boy that I stuffed myself into every day. Boys play sports, so I joined, Boys go fishing/hunting, so I went, Boys are mischievous and say bad things to girls, so I angered some of my very best friends. Boys don't feel, boys are strong, boys do not have emotions besides anger and hype. I was so lost. I never gave myself the freedom of realizing it was okay to be yourself. That was never an option for me growing up. I lived each day trying to make someone else happy. Bullies had to see that I was doing "dude things." to refrain from calling me names or putting me down. I am strong and can handle myself in front of others, I never let them see how they affected me. I never went to counselors or my parents because I was ashamed they would figure me out before I ever even had a chance to. I tried to date my best friends because society and my peers told me if I didn't that I would be made fun of for it. I tried and tried to fall in love with a girl that didn't judge me, and liked who I was. I dated girls in high school, I loved some of them and convinced myself I could live my whole life with one of them if they would have me. I dated a girl for almost a year, and knew that this was the one I could force myself to be with forever. When she broke up with me, I cried, and cried. One reason was because I did love her and did love spending time with her, but I was not in love with her. The other reason was that I was so heart broken was because I felt that was my last shot at being who everyone wanted me to be. So much was riding on that relationship.
I prayed. A lot. I went to the one person that would never judge me. I prayed day in and day out, on the bus "please let me pass as normal today." I went to church and read, learned, and prayed some more. I prayed so hard, and for all the wrong things.
My prayers were not prayers, they were cries for help. I prayed God to make me normal. I prayed that I would wake up feeling different or not wake up at all. I prayed that I could move away so that I could build myself a new person that no one would torment me for. I prayed that I would die. I never prayed for my family to accept me, because I felt that I would never accept me. Until my brother died.
My brother died, and my family was torn apart. Devastated and broken, I knew that they could not handle losing another. So I kept pretending and smiling, and ensuring everything would be okay, mostly to them, but also myself. I knew that death was no longer an option and that I had to find a new way to deal with whatever I was feeling.
It wasn't until the end of my junior year that I was watching the movie Prayers For Bobby, in the middle of the night, that I realized I had to give being myself a shot, because death was not an option and should never be. I found a slight relief in a social media outlet under an alias name and image of a sunset. I talked and told my story to many people who related with me and gave me a slight sense of comfort, of course many of them wanted more than to emotionally comfort me behind letters on a keyboards, but I kept my identity a secret, never gave my location or information in fear that someone would find out. I continued to live my life pretending during the day to please other people and talking with others like me in my alone time, until the end of my senior year. I decided that I would meet someone that I had talked to for a consistent year through social media. I met this person in a discrete location away from my home and in public (just in case he was a serial killer, also because I knew I could outrun anyone). I was nervous, not so much that I would die, but that this moment could change my life forever. He was calm, nice, and polite. We talked for about an hour about life and emotions and everything I had been dealing with. The end result was a kiss. One kiss, I instantly burst into tears and jumped out of the car, ran to my car, and drove home. I cried because it was the first time in my life that something I had done felt right. It changed my life forever. Of course he thought I was crying because it was bad or I had made a mistake. Ultimately we remained friends and I had a inch more knowledge about the person I truly was.
College opened so many doors for me. I met new people and began my first real relationship, no pretending, no hiding, he was just like me. We kept our relationship a secret from family and friends. I joined an LGBT club at UALR where we could be ourselves in front of people. I learned so many things from so many people and I learned about National Coming Out day. That day, we held hands. It is so little and such a small thing to do, but was such a huge deal for me. I was inching my way into society as the person I truly was.
Since then relationships have come and passed but I am now happily promised to the man of my dreams! I hold his hand in public, I kiss him in public, I love him with pride. So this National Coming Out Day I am coming out, again. I am not coming out as gay, I am coming out as HUMAN!! I've been given labels my whole life, and I shouldn't have to worry about who understands me or understands what "I am." I am human, I love, I feel, I hurt. I mess up, I try, I fail, I am in love with another human being. Together we are happy, so happy, and that is all that matters. Now we will fight to ensure that everyone has the right to be themselves. My story is unique to me, but very common. There are thousands of youth struggling worse than I did, in worse situations than I was. So I hope that you accept yourself today, come out to yourself, accept yourself, be yourself, and most importantly...
- Love Troy