Josh

Chicago + Illinois + USA

I Can Be Loved…

Gay + Male / 17 and Under + 18-22 + 23-29 / Christian

I grew up very religious. And, in typical fashion, I didn’t know what “being gay” meant until I went to an actual middle school (one that wasn’t my living room). And as I started gaining interest in art, music and theatre, that gave room for people to insult me and bully me. Despite me excelling in school and sports, too, I had people telling me I wasn’t lovable, a faggot, and not worth anything.

I had my childhood pastor take me into a back room of the church and tell me my parents didn’t love me. He would say God didn’t love me – I was a mistake because of my queer tendencies. But not only did I know, deep down, that God did love me, but I knew I had a story worth living.

Fast forward to my freshman year in college, where I started experimenting with and talking with guys online.  One convinced me to meet him in person. It was this person who showed me how beautiful I was, despite what people thought of me.

He was the first person – beyond my conservative upbringing – I believed when he said I was worth something. When my Mom finally connected the dots of me constantly staying over at this “friend’s” house, I was told to pack up and move out.

I was told I was unsuitable to work with children and lost my job as a big brother. I lost some of my dearest friends, but I had gained a community of people who accepted me, loved me. Years later, I’ve grown. I’ve had my family realize my struggles and love me. I have a job. I have a group of friends who are real, authentic and care about me.

Coming out was one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to experience, but I’m stronger because of it. I’m free to be me and be unashamed. Because I can be loved. And I do have a story worth living.

And so do you.