I was 22, standing at the podium, microphone in hand, facing easily over one hundred people. I took the moment in, both knowing and not knowing how I got there. I finished my closing speech as president of the most influential fraternity at a university of nearly 20,000, only to hear the uproar of people chanting my name.
I must have done something right, I thought to myself.
It wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I fully accepted that girls just weren’t for me and that there was nothing I could do about it. I was a closeted 18-year-old in the midst of pledging the biggest “bro” fraternity on campus. Now what?
I took a step back and analyzed my current situation. My findings were what you would call unfavorable in a world where “faggot” had linguistic currency. So I analyzed further to find my outlet.
It wasn’t the word that annoyed me; it was the idea that they didn’t understand how people could interpret it. Whether it offends me is one thing, but what about their friends/family that aren’t out?
These guys are good people, I thought to myself. Maybe if they knew a gay person, let alone that one was right in front of them, then they’d understand.
Well, I was about to change a lot for those 50 some-odd college fraternity guys.
Fast-forward one year. The fear inside me was real, but my desire to be real with myself was getting stronger by the day. Eventually, truth overcame fear, and one by one, I strategically started coming out to my new family of brothers.
To my surprise, the responses consisted of an overwhelming amount of one-liners and support, not to mention respect. I was lucky. Not everyone has the same story.
We’re all human and eventually have to come out of some comfort zone, out of some shell or out of some closet. It’s when people realize that life’s too short to stress the uncontrollable that they begin to take action. Stressing things you cannot change only limits the things you can accomplish.
Change can be uncomfortable, and fighting the internal fight is never easy. Actually, it’s more of an epic battle in life’s greatest war, but necessary nonetheless. It’s debatable whether there’s ever a ‘right time’ for such undertakings, but being ready to deal with the aftermath if things do go to shit is a start.
Equality Advocate and Public Preacher of wisdom Ash Beckham once said: “If you’re going to be real with someone, you better be ready for real in return.”
Sometimes, realness comes in the form of life-altering disapproval. Disapproval sourced from an ideology and dream that your loved ones have created in their head as to whom you’re ‘supposed’ to be. In turn, when you enlighten them with the truth, you significantly alter those dreams. You must give them the time to mourn the death of those dreams so they can celebrate the new you. Time heals all, so have faith in knowing that it does get better.
For an unhealthy period of time, my thoughts were built on fear. The fear that any and all of the negative scenarios in my head may become my reality. The mind can be a warzone at times, as we all know firsthand. You must rage a strong conscious battle against this fear if you seek a life of victory. Will Smith say’s it best: “Fear is NOT real. It is a product of our imagination.” Why live at the mercy of negativity when you can live a life of true success?
So, would I change anything?
In those final moments of your collegiate career, in front of a family of the realist people you’ve ever known, all chanting your name because they love you for the ‘queer-less leader’ they believe you to be, what would you say?
To the same extent that my career path, favorite activity or the color of my eyes doesn’t define me, who I love will not define me. My sexuality is just a small piece in the greater pie that makes up who I am and who I strive to be. There is still much to come, as the crusade has just begun.
“Live with purpose and inspire always.” – Kevin Coop
This post is dedicated to the LGBT of the USA and our historic victory felt around the world!