I was raised in small town Indiana, amid cornfields and conservatives. If you remember a story back in 2013 where a group of parents implemented a “heterosexuals only” prom; that was at my high school and that sets the backdrop perfectly.
I was bullied, mercilessly. Being a small town, I had the same set of bullies for over ten years. I had my mom. I had my childhood best friend. But even then, that wasn’t enough. I had this lingering dread, I knew I was gay; the bullies had dubbed me “Fulford the Faggot.” The churches preached my damnation. I listened to them; I thought I was going to be abandoned if I came out and burn in Hell afterwards.
College was totally different. I joined the honors program, majored in cell and molecular biology; I even found a research lab that fostered my sojourn into cancer research. On the outside, I was flourishing but on the inside I was already in a spiral.
By junior year, I had joined a fraternity. I built a staggering network of friends. I even had a serious girlfriend; she loved me and I was still lying to myself. I used to hold her close to me at night and pray for God to take away my urges for men. The depression became too much. I partied a bit too hard and one night, in the grip of self-loathing, I drank more than I ever have in my life, I had given up. Thanks to some quick thinking friends, I’m alive.
That was it; I needed to come out. Lying to myself was also breaking a commandment. My friends had mixed responses, my religious friends distanced themselves and an unlikely group of people came closer and became my real friends.
I came out to my mom next; I was sobbing and told her. She responded, “I know sweets, now will you go decorate the bathroom?” She always had a way to diffuse tension with humor. Slowly, I came out one by one: my sister, my hometown friends and even my dad. Everybody was supportive.
Nowadays, I’m finishing my PhD in medical research next year, on the hunt for the cure to cancer. My sexuality is just one small part of a much more complete and happy version of who I used to be. In the end, coming out was the best thing I ever did for myself. It just goes to show, I had let so many people tell me how wrong I was for being homosexual that I believed it myself. I was so scared of rejection that when I ultimately came out, my real supporters were the ones that stuck around. And now, when I go home and look those bullies and bigots in the eyes, it makes me smile. Nobody is going to hurt me like that again. Nobody. I love myself, I love where I am in life and everyone out there deserves to feel the same way.