By Steve HoskingI could say that I had always known I was different - different in some way, but that would have been untrue. When you’re seven years old, open to the world, and eager to explore everything that captivates you…you don’t think of yourself as different...you just like a lot of things, the same things everyone else does. I didn’t see anything wrong with playing sports or playing dress-up, or even having crushes on both girls and boys. If I liked doing an activity, then I liked to do it. If I liked someone then I liked him or her! I never questioned it.
Then came 6th grade. One day at lunch a new boy that had just moved in town, trying to fit in, he called me “gay” in front of the whole table. Whether it was meant as sexually derogatory or not everyone else at the table started harassing and laughing at me. In the end, I was sent to the school psychologist along with my parents. The questions never ended, “Did you start this?” “Do you understand the term?” “…Are you gay?”
The voice in my head wanted to scream out to the psychologist, to my teacher, to my parents, “YES, I think I do like guys, so what’s the big deal?” but I wouldn’t let it out. After everything, I thought I had misbehaved or done something terribly wrong. The kids had made it clear: I was different.
It was done. I went through the door – and locked it, never to come out.
For the rest of my schooling I was determined to be normal and accepted by my friends. While I still participated in the activities that I loved, the visual and performing arts, I was always aware of how I acted and tried to keep as “straight” a profile I could. I was happy wearing this mask and by my senior year I was well liked by everyone. I thought it was because I was finally normal enough, but it was probably just cause I was a nice guy.
It wasn’t until the last month of my senior year of High school that I began to see the error of my ways. My best friend Ryan, who I thought was straight, to my shock had come out to me in the beginning of the year. I supported him, yet I still denied the fact to myself. I stood clear of the Gay Straight Alliance club and even kept my mouth shut when Ryan came out to the whole school a few weeks before graduation. I admired him for doing it, but there I stood, wearing my “straight” mask and refusing to take it off.
After graduation, I felt disconnected from everyone. I was severely depressed and anxious to leave home and start college. I realized that it wasn’t so much that I was upset at being different or never having had a real relationship, but that I hadn’t been honest with myself for the past four years. Before I started college, I made a vow to myself:
Sometimes you just gotta let yourself out.
I didn’t care what people would say or even the potential dangers that awaited me. I was going to be open about my sexuality no matter what.
“I’m bisexual. I’m gay. I’m unlabeled.” - I’ve used them all, to my friends, peers, teachers, siblings, and eventually my parents. All of them describe me in some way and in doing so, I felt such a release in spirit. My sexuality is such a small part of my own spectrum and who I am as a human being. It was just as important to accept that small piece, as it was to accept anything else that defined who I was. Since opening up, I have been more confident and have found if you accept yourself, the people in your life will find a way to accept you into theirs.
My coming out is still in its journey, but it is a happy one, one in which I am rediscovering the playful, inquisitive, and open-minded child I started out to be in the first place. We can all “open the door,” and in doing so we start creating a safe and supportive world for our children.