Growing Up Gay will be a regular feature that profiles the stories of various members of the Gay-Nerds community. Taken from the thread of the same name, a personal account will be chosen to be published on the front page to give insight to the backgrounds of other LBGT nerds. Many of us grow up with no way to process a lot of the feelings of adolescence coupled with the recognition that being queer is often the fodder for jokes. Many of us didn’t. What matters is the thread is a place to tell your story. The inaugural installment of Growing Up Gay will be fishingthesky’s story, set in the northeastern United States.
I was supposedly a very calm child. I got along with a lot of people and didn’t fuss over a lot of things. I was surprisingly “balanced” in terms of play and the other “early triggers” of “gayness”. While I liked Legos and doing more constructive things, I played tag, tried to play football and basketball, did martial arts and joined Boy Scouts. I never remember really thinking about sex or crushes or anything. I remember liking girls because they listened and stuff, but I had mostly guy friends because we liked the same things and joked about nerdy things. I would also think of people more neutrally; I could see why men would be handsome or women would be “hot” by association with my perceived notions of what was attractive.
I didn’t start exploring sexuality until the middle of junior high. One of the big triggers was the first X-Men movie and watching Hugh Jackman waltz around without a shirt on in his introductory scene. I popped the hardest erection I have ever had and tried to hide it with the popcorn bucket, resulting in the most awkward ten seconds of my life as my mom dug around for the last of the decent pieces of popcorn. To this day I can’t recall this without chuckling. But at this point I didn’t “get it”. Even though I had this major hard on for him, I never stopped watching straight porn or evaluating girls.
There were no real visible gay people in my life until high school. We just didn’t talk about “them” frequently, and when “we” did, it was always in a negative light. My grandparents spat bile, my brother roughed them up at school, and my parents never talked about it. The first openly gay person I knew was ridiculed so frequently by other kids and a few teachers that he tried to kill himself twice in one quarter.
So, with the lack of any visible figures of the LGBT community outside of what I saw on newscasts (PRIDE PA RAAAAADE!!!), I knew I felt that the worst thing I could be was gay. I just suppressed it. Everyone in my environment seemed to hate it, so I should to.
Now, combine this with the mindset of being in love and connecting with girls, but not being physically attracted with them. (this will be key later)
In late high school, I started asking myself what girls saw in different guys. I spent hours online looking at pictures of dudes, but didn’t really accept that this wasn’t “normal.” In my seniror year, I thought it was just a phase and I would be knee deep in pussy at college. I buried myself in academia and Scouting. Even when I figured out I liked dudes to come degree, I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to be ostracized or get kicked out of Scouts. Those dudes were a second family. I knew my brother wouldn’t accept me if I came out. I knew my extended family wouldn’t accept it (Italian guilt AND Catholic guilt!) I was also sure that my parents wouldn’t accept it either.
This guilt kept me from being around people. I was afraid people would find out and abandon me, so I just shut myself from people. When the first term of college started, I was stretching myself way too thin to impress everyone, maintain a nice GPA (didnt happen) and meet girls. I failed at all of these things.
I tend to catastrophize. Every failure is my fault and my doing and I punish myself for doing so/ I felt as though I was letting everyone back home down. I was letting myself down for being weak and failing. People who I thought were my friends abandoned me without a second thought. I’m going to spare some details, but I felt completely and utterly alone for the first year of college and did a number of things I wish I could take back.
Luckily, I met some awesome people my second year of college through clubs and my classes. I could talk about random things and relax with them. I had to frequently calm myself down and stop freaking out in order to share my story, but every time I did, it got easier and I found that I could let my guard down and take risks. In time, I fell for one of the girls, and we became almost inseparable (people though we were dating, which was amusing to her boyfriend at the time). I tried to make it work with her, but I couldn’t deny that I just wasn’t into her sexually. If it couldn’t work with her, it wouldn’t have worked with any girl.
When I told her this, she was completely okay with it. Meeting her and having a support group of people who didn’t give a shit about you other than you being a decent person and awesome friend… holy shit! I worked to change my self defeating thoughts and actions and started taking little bits of time to make me happy. I had never done that before and it felt AWESOME! Over the next year I told my parents and brother, and they have been incredibly supportive. They just want me to lead a life that I can be proud of and to be safe and happy. I am lucky to have a supportive core and am grateful to have experienced all of this.
To read fishingthesky’s full account or leave your own, join the forum and check out the Growing Up Gay thread.