As a young gay man deep in the Bible belt, I never truly felt comfortable with who I am. I lied to fit into what society and my family wanted me to be.
At age 14, I was finally starting to realize that all the feelings and emotions I was going through were not right and that I did not need to fit in. I began to feel like it was OK to tell certain people about the secret I kept buried deep within me.
In 7th grade, I finally told a small circle of friends that I was a homosexual. Thankfully they were all OK with it. But I was still not ready to tell my Baptist family in fear of being pushed away. I was in a relationship at the time but was keeping it a secret. Unknowingly, he went public about our relationship on social media.
It spread over my small town overnight and within a few days, everyone knew. On Nov. 19, 2016, my father told me I would be going to live with my grandparents due to him not being able to deal with the way I choose to live my life. The relationship with that person soon ended, because in my eyes he had ruined my life.
It was a moment in my life when I truly felt alone. Organizations such as Safe Space are working to build a community for LGBT people so they never feel such a terrible emotion.
“There needs to be something for everyone,” said Dina Canup, the Safe Space-trained student support and outreach coordinator at the Department of Theatre and Film Studies.
Safe Space trains faculty and staff who work with LGBTQ students who so they can become more supportive of a student’s needs. The organization works to build a network of support on campuses across the country.
Although many people are scared to come out and stand up for what they believe in due to the fear of how society will view them, people like Canup keep pushing the topic, hoping the more open-minded people will be, the more caring people will be.
“I think it's important for students to be involved in advocacy work and to keep pushing for these discussions, sometimes people don’t want to have discussions because they are uncomfortable or scared of PR,” Canup said.
Being concerned about these types of discussions is something that I have felt far too much in my life.
With my grandparents, my sexuality was something we did not talk about, but deep down I knew that they all did not have the same feelings as my father. As the years passed, they became a lot more accepting of the situation, often asking me if I was being accepted at school or if I was subject to bullying.
To my surprise, I was not bullied in school nor have I been made to feel uncomfortable. Most are accepting and understanding. Though it has been tough, I know that there are many other teens that had it a million times worse.
I am now lucky enough to have a relationship with my father, however, I will always be reluctant to discuss this part of my life. I feel that I will not be able to bring my significant other around them. The strain this has put on my relationships sometimes makes me wish I could change who I am. However, I do not regret the person I am neither do I regret the freedom I have chosen to live.