I’ve always felt different. To a certain degree, I’ve always felt alone.
Growing up in a small town in upstate New York, I was the goody-two-shoes, the teacher’s pet, and the little prince of arts and crafts. My family was well-known – my Dad a celebrated athlete and television personality, my brothers also athletes likely to follow in his footsteps. The differences between us were always evident. I never fully fit in, with my family or the kids at school.
So, when my Dad’s marital affair came to light and the WASPs of upstate New York fed like hawks on the gossip of our family, life got even harder. But my parent’s eventual divorce resulted in the opportunity to move to Toronto – a fresh start.
That fresh start, however, proved to be more difficult than I expected, and for the last three years of high school I was again on the outside – the ‘artistic’ kid, the one eating lunches alone, often hiding from the rest of my peers in the yearbook classroom.
After years of feeling like the odd-one-out, I was determined to make my university experience different; and I did. I had friends to party with, to study with, to eat lunch with. I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was normal. For four years, I relished in that feeling – partying with the bros, dating a beautiful girl for nearly three years.
But, in my heart of hearts, I knew that I wasn’t one of the bros. I knew that as much as I cared about my girlfriend, something was missing. I knew that I was gay. I had worked so hard to feel like I fit in, how could I throw that all away? How could I come out… How could I risk losing it all? There’s no way they would like the real me.
And my family? How could I tell my dad, my brothers… the jocks… that I was gay? Could my Dad lose his job for having a gay son? Would my little brother be bullied for having a gay brother? Would they all be better off without me? The ideas ran rampant and so I continued to hide. Until I fell in love.
For the first time – in my entire life – I felt like myself. Truly, honestly, one-hundred percent myself. I felt at peace sitting next to this boy, hugging him, kissing him. Within a month of meeting him, I realized that I deserved to feel like that all of the time. I owed it to myself to be happy.
So, I ripped off the Band-Aid. Too nervous to face my family in person, I e-mailed my parents. I anxiously waited, minute by minute, waiting for my world to implode. But it didn’t. The world didn’t end. My Dad, the athlete, the public personality, still loved me. He said to me: “Today, as your dad, I am telling you this, you need to hold your head up high, be who you are, and live your life as you see fit! We are all different – that’s what makes this world such a cool place.”
And so, my new life – as the real Jay – started.