The Most Life-Altering Text Message I Have Ever Received.

Sometime in the summer of 2011

“Hey, this may be a weird question and I don’t mean to offend you, but are you bi or gay? I’m kinda getting that vibe” This was probably followed by some emoji to relieve some of the tension.

“Hahaha no I’m not.” I didn’t think so.

People made “gay” jokes towards me while growing up, but I never took offense to it because I genuinely didn’t believe I was gay. I also went to a Catholic elementary school, so I guess the jokes were really only jokes in my head. Flash forward to the summer I was going into 10th grade – the first time I began seriously questioning my sexuality.

Were people right all along and I never really noticed?

I had girlfriends in middle school. I know that doesn’t really count, but it still says something. At this point, I’ve realized that attraction and sexual orientation are two seperate things.

October 31, 2011

I celebrated Halloween night the way any 10th grader would. I went to a local elementary school with some of my friends then walked around the town and did 10th-grade stuff.

“Hey, Tom. Where are you? Want to meet at the middle school playground?”

“Hey! I’m walking back to my friend’s house now. Once we get there, I can probably sneak away.”

This was the first night I had ever made out with a guy.

Making out with boys is the same as making out with girls. I don’t think after this night I knew I was gay, but it furthered my understanding of the difference between attraction and sexual orientation. It didn’t feel wrong. I didn’t feel uncomfortable. For me, this night verified that I’m attracted to both boys and girls, but I was still figuring out the whole sexual orientation thing.

November 2, 2011

“Tom, want to come over and watch some TV?”

“Sure! I’ll be over soon.”

I don’t remember what we watched, but I remember we made out again.

I wasn’t very sexually active at this point in my life, so I had a boundary that I wasn’t going to go any further than making out until things were exclusive. Remember… I was in 10th grade. But after this night, I began to catch “the feels” for this guy and it was way different than with any girl I’ve been with beforehand. I never felt the need to be sexually active with a girl, but now, I was starting to feel like I wanted to be. It was weird af for me. I finally began understanding what sexual orientation is.

I had been told being gay was wrong while growing up. Well, maybe not that it was wrong, but I always got the hint from teachers, family members, and my parents. I grew up in the age where “You’re so gay!” was yelled at someone who wasn’t doing what was desired. And I can’t forget to mention how my mom would mutter snarky comments under her breath if we ever saw someone who was “feminine” walking around in the stores she dragged me into. C’mon mom, we’re in Khol’s. What do you expect?

I never really thought about it because I guess I was never encouraged to. I wasn’t ever in a situation where I felt like I could explore the thought of myself being gay. Not that I was suppressed by any means, I just was never put in a situation where I felt like I was gay. So, why even think about it?

December 4, 2011

“Hey, Mom. I have something to tell you…”

Not going to lie, I chugged a whole 4 Loko in 5 minutes after doing this. It was 10th grade.

The next year was the hardest of my life so far. My dad then found out, then my brother. “Don’t you dare tell your sister.” Constant tension in the hallways of my house. Texting fights so no one could hear. I never felt suppressed until this time of my life by the person who mattered most.

Strangely, things started looking up when I brought my first “boyfriend” home to meet my parents. Maybe my family was seeing that I’m still who I was before coming out and it’s not a big deal. Everything was all out on the table and my dad started making jokes about it. I’m the type of person who likes to laugh at myself, and these jokes weren’t offensive. It became normal. It got better.

It’s better than ever before.

We’ve never been living in a better time in terms of the views on LGBTQ+. Yes, the big guy in the White House isn’t necessarily the ideal candidate for this community. Yes, there are so many tremendous problems in our world due to ignorance for other communities of people. Yes, we could be in an even better time. This may be just my opinion, but being part of the LGBTQ+ has never been so, okay.

We still have a long way to go until America is really “great again.” People need to stop killing other people; people need to start respecting each other. We’re all alive for a reason. It’s time to encourage each other to fulfil our passions and let each other do it in their own unique way.


What was your coming out story like? Are you part of a suppressed community in modern society? I want to hear what you guys go through because the more we know, the more we can feel empathy for each other. Please share your stories in the comments below.


Freedom of Speaking is an online store building a brand around expressing who you are and not being afraid. Their mission is to provide a one-stop-shop for people to purchase apparel and accessories so they can express who they are, and what they support, with pride. They’re giving away some free stuff and discounted items! Check out their sales page for more details.

Sales

South Africa (Day 1)

Typically, 5:45 am is not my favorite time to wake up.  I’m just completing three hours of sleep when my iPhone alarm goes off and I force my eyes open.  I stretch for a second and turn to see my packed suitcase just a few feet from the door.  This only means one thing… it’s travel day.

As I’m driving to my parent’s house, my boyfriend, Brandon, and I are pretty quiet.  First of all, it is 6:15 am.  Secondly, I don’t even know what to say.  There are so many thoughts going through my head.  What is Cape Town like?  How close am I going to get to a lion?  Ugh, a 14 hour flight followed by another two hour flight.  My mind rambles as much as it can for having only three hours of rest.

IMG_6297.JPG

“Have the bestest time ever!” my mom yells in my ear as I’m getting set to board the bus to depart for John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.  I hug and kiss her goodbye and tell her, “I love you.”  I do the same to Brandon and step on the bus to begin my adventure.

The hustle of JFK Airport starts to fuel my excitement.  Everyone is scattering to find where they have to check-in.  Everyone is rummaging through their bags for their boarding passes and passports.  Everyone is going somewhere different in this gigantic world.

IMG_6298.JPG

I double check that my ACIS Educational Tours luggage tag is fastened to my suitcase before putting it on the scale to be weighed.  Yes!  It’s not overweight!  I scurry over to Wendy Way, my travel guru and tour leader, after I’ve completely checked-in.  She tells me that the flight is delayed two hours.  Oh well, South Africa isn’t going anywhere.

The whole group successfully makes it through security and to the gate.  We have some time, so we disperse to find a snack before we embark on 17 hour expedition to Cape Town, South Africa.  As time creeps closer to boarding time, I feel the grip of excitement around my heart getting tighter and tighter.  It isn’t until the flight attendant says, “thank you, enjoy your flight,” after I hand her my boarding pass that I feel the relief in my chest – I’m on my way to South Africa!

FullSizeRender.jpg

With two flights down, one connection complete, and 17 hours since we took off from John F. Kennedy Airport, we have finally made it to Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa.

IMG_6313.JPG

A huge weight is lifted from my shoulder as I see my suitcase turn the corner of the carousel.  I use all of the energy I have remaining after the long travel to pick it up and wheel it away from the crowd.  I open it, grab a change of clothes along with my contacts, and run to the bathroom.  After the change, I feel refreshed and recharged.  I’m ready to start exploring Cape Town, South Africa.

IMG_6346.JPG

Our first stop, Table Top Aerial cableway to the top of Table Top Mountain (one of the new seven wonders of the world).  Our whole group crowds into one car (34 people plus other adventurers trying to get to the top of Table Top Mountain).  The five minute journey embarks.  To my surprise, about 30 seconds into the trip, the floor begins to rotate!  As we climb up the 1,089 meter mountain, the car makes a 360 degree rotation.  My breathe is sucked out of me as we reach the top and I can see various mountains and waters surrounding the beautiful town of Cape Town.

IMG_6385.JPG

IMG_6360.JPG

IMG_6443.JPG

IMG_6399.JPG

I wish I could put the feeling of exploring Table Top Mountain into words better.  After breathing recycled air in the airplane for so many hours, my lungs open widely when I inhale as I looked out into the Atlantic Ocean.  My chest became lighter and I felt so small.

IMG_6455.JPG

After the ride to the bottom of the mountain and a short bus ride, we were finally at Meloncino.  YES!  A meal that wasn’t airplane food… finally.  My friend and I (we’re both 21 years old) shared a bottle of Pinotage with our incredible dinner.  I had Yellow Tail fish over rice.  Amazing.

IMG_6458.JPG

As dinner came to a close, I found my mind beginning to fog.  At this point, it had been many hours of restless flying and exploring.  I was beat.  We all piled back onto the bus and fought to stay awake until we arrived at the Sunsquare Cape Town Hotel.  We got our keys after a slight speed bump in rooming assignments and off to bed I went.  Until tomorrow, Cape Town, South Africa.

 


 

To see the highlight video of the day, click here!

Follow my Instagram page!