Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man's World



Changing from my usual format, I wanted to write about my personal experiences of growing up as a gay man in California, and some of the challenges that arose with that and how my story, though may be vastly different from most, may in turn help another going through coming out, or questioning his or her sexuality.  First and foremost, this isn't the forum to debate the following: "gay as a choice or gay as born this way" "the morality of gays" "what the bible has to say" or another personal belief.  So please respect me, and my blog by keeping this commentary either to yourself, or message me privately and any of my social media outlets.  Thank you.  The purpose of this post is to just share about my personal experiences and to encourage and support others.



Growing Up

At a young age, I knew I was different - and by different, yes, I mean I knew I was attracted to the same gender.  I found something very alluring about the male physique and also felt a deeper connection with certain friends that I didn't find in the opposite sex.  I knew from about age 6 or 7, maybe even before then, but it wasn't prevalent until around 4th Grade.  At this age my interests were different from most boys my age, and my mannerisms were also quite different.  I enjoyed spending more time with my grandmother, and could careless about sports, cars, or anything that most of the boys my age would occupy time with.  When it came to how I acted, I was sensitive, emotional and clingy as a child.   I even recall teachers meeting with my grandparents about my sensitivity level, and how I needed to "toughen up".  I recall my first experience noticing I had feelings other than normal amiable friendship feelings towards boys on a bus ride when I was in the 3rd Grade.  I sat with a kid of whom was also portrayed as different from the rest of the boys, and he was being ridiculed and called a "sissy" by other classmates.  I chose to sit with him and ask him how he was doing and what TV shows he liked to watch.  I remember him explicitly saying, "I like you" and kissing me on the cheek.  I felt embarrassed in that moment and didn't know how to react, so I moved to another seat, my face beat red.  This moment in time is one that I never discussed with anyone, because being so young, and also witnessing how people would draw so much emphasis on boy and girl relationships and one day getting a girlfriend, I didn't want to be outcasted or called sissy by the other kids in school, so I retreated.  I remember feeling that day, how nice it felt to have someone say that they liked me.  It's something that even to this day, I remember this so much because it was the first time I felt a genuine sense of who my authentic self was.  It was liberating and scary all at once.  This day is also the day that I realized that other's opinions, at the time, were very important to me.   After that day, I didn't see that boy in the bus again, and I have no idea what happened to him.  I do recall the ridicule was pretty intense for that age, and he may have been transferred to another class, I do not quite know.  

Home Life

Home life for me, was very normal as a child.  Well, as normal as it could be, being raised by my grandparents.  However, for the longest time, even at home, I felt like certain feelings I could not share.  Being that both my uncles would live with us from time to time, I remember there being such an emphasis on being manly, and one day growing up to have a girlfriend, and ultimately a wife.  I felt that masculinity was very important in the household.   And with this overtone being in the air, I felt like a huge disappointment to the men in the family.  My brothers enjoyed working on cars, playing sports and doing "normal" boy things and I felt like they always wanted to participate when my uncles and Grandfather would work on the cars, etc.  And here I was playing Xena the Warrior Princess and Power Rangers on my own or with neighbor friends.  

High School & Coming Out

In high school, and middle school, I felt even more of a disappointment when I took a liking towards gymnastics and cheerleading.  I felt this was the final nail in the coffin for them questioning what outcome this was going to lead to.  There is a stigma that cheerleaders and gymnasts are all gay.  Which though there are many who are, this isn't completely true.   For many years I would defend myself as not being gay, because at that age I wasn't sure what I was, but I knew I had to defend the honor and integrity of the sport (but now looking back, I'm like why does sexuality and sport have anything to do with one another).  I tried dating girls, and found that though it was pleasant, I wanted nothing more than friendships with females and felt anxiety about the feelings of forcing myself to do something because it was the socially accepted way of doing things.

So when did it all change?  Well, it was the Spring of 2004 when I met a cuban guy named Sunel, who was on Van Nuys High School Cheer, and he would attend practices at the same location of my all star cheerleading gym. He admitted a crush on me, and though flattered, I turned him down.  Then that night I went home and could not get the thought of, "how could he do that and why would he think I am gay? Do I look gay? Are boys attracted to me?"  and I pondered this the whole night.  It ate at me, and I remember the year before when I started having conflicting feelings about men and woman, that I made a pact with myself.  I would not pursue a sexual relationship with a man, without first, sleeping with a woman.  And I remember even praying to God to let me fight the urge of my "gay thoughts".  This obviously didn't happen.  The next day I called Sunel and told him that I would be interested in seeing where things would go, but I cannot promise anything.  This led to us hanging out, kissing, and from that point forward dating.  

Almost instantaneously, I came out to my friends and those closest to me, my cheer coaches and team.  To some it was a shock, and to others it was an "I told you so" moment in time.  

The hardest part for me was coming out to family, which I go in to full detail in a YouTube video.  Which I will link below, in interest of time and to avoid excessive repetition.   Just know with this that is does get better, for most.  And if it by any chance doesn't when it comes to family, then realize those who love you in this life, are your true family.  And if you need me, I'll be there.  



Fast Forward To Current Times.

My life now is vastly different, and the social stigmas aren't felt as deeply.  Yet we are not out of the hot water, and the horizon isn't always clear.  In my short time on this earth I have seen the negative, nastiness that humans can inflict upon each other.  And my message is this, please have understanding for others, and an open mind.  Just as you cannot change or choose your race or genetic makeup, do not assume that LGBTQ+ people can choose their sexuality.   To this day I hear men casually joke "that's so gay" or "what a fag" when describing or offending others and I need people to understand that this is not okay.  It's truly hurtful, and it could damage those around you who may be struggling with sexuality.  Be kind to others and end bullying, or at least have a voice and stand up for each other.  Teen suicides are increasing year by year, and many of which are apart of the LGBTQ+ community.  Most could be avoided if these kids were not made to feel like they weren't loved or accepted.  My message is also to the LGBTQ+ community.  Please accept one another, and to not transfer hateful messages on to one another.  We are all we have in this world and community is extremely important.  Before the world can change, we need to change.  Before the world can love us, we need to love each other.  Please stand with your LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters and instead of focusing on body image, cliques, social status, dating apps, or whatever fixations that separate us; take the time to get to know each other and support each other.  A Pride month is great, and a Pride festival is good and fun, but it's not enough.  Spread love and open up to one another.  Make your heart the home of your LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.  I vow from this day forward to be more open minded to others and to put their thought and feelings in to account.   If you or someone you love is struggling with identity, or feeling accepted, please note that I will always be here to support them in any way I can.  My contact info is in the bar to the right of this post.  Thank you all for reading my ramblings, and I appreciate your time invested in supporting me and my blog.   

Until next time.

XoXo
Gary



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