growing up gay: the experience you never hear about

Isaac, age 7, Karratha, Western Australia, 1995

We are constantly told stories about the struggles of growing up gay. We hear about it in the news, we see it portrayed in movies and television, and we read cries for help on social media. I cannot tell you how many gay-themed films I have watched where the protagonist either dies or ends the movie as both single and alone. What kind of crap is that? At the age of twenty-two, I am still clinging on to the fairy tale of finding true love in the most romantic and most unexpected way. But instead, all I see is death and loneliness.

The media does not seem to want to convey stories of young, gay individuals making a difference in the world. We only hear about the same-sex couple that was denied the right to marry–even though marriage equality passed a few weeks ago. Or we hear about the transgender woman who was beaten to death for finally coming to terms with who she was. The coverage is great, in terms of bringing awareness to the issues, but what impact does that have on the LGBTQIA+ community? How are these stories supposed to make the younger generation feel about growing up gay?

I’m going to attempt to combat the pessimism and tell you a somewhat uplifting story: my story. Here is my tale about growing up gay.

I have known I was gay since I was in elementary school, but I did not know exactly what it was called back then. I am pretty sure my mom knew as well. I think it is just something mothers know. I watched “girly” television shows, listened to girl groups, and twisted my hips like nobody’s business. It did not affect how she loved me, though. I was always healthy, happy, and dressed to perfection. There were a few instances where I was forced to play sports, but after seeing how bad I was at them, I was yanked away from my non-existent future athletic career. Thank goodness!

I always had friends throughout school. I was, and still am, a funny guy (at least that is what I have been told). I have always been a social butterfly and I think being gay has always contributed to that. When I was younger, I had more guys as friends. But as I entered high school, I drifted more towards girls. I never understood why, but it just seemed like that was the way things were supposed to be.

I was never bullied, threatened, or discriminated against. I had sleepovers with my girlfriends, worked at fast food restaurants, and struggled in school. I went to college, came out, learned more about myself, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree. Now, I’m a post-grad trying to get my foot through the door, pay back student loans, and traveling around the country to visit my college friends. The end.

That is my story. Basic, right? That is the point. I was neither a target for violence nor was I prom king. I was simply a normal teenager, who just happened to like guys. Growing up gay does not have to be an episode of the “Real Housewives” or “Pretty Little Liars.” Growing up gay is really just growing up in America. Please do not let the mainstream media direct your life and predict your future. Write your own story.