John, age 4
Pikeville, N. Carolina (1984)
I always felt different as a kid, but never knew why. I was described as "sweet, loving, empathetic, artistic" - later realizing all those words were code for gay.
I was the middle child of five, with two older sisters and two younger sisters. My childhood was spent playing dress up and putting on impromptu fashion shows with my sisters. I always loved dolls and girly things, but knew it was wrong and was something to hide. Growing up a devout Mormon didn't help the matter.
I prayed for God to change me, and tried to avoid thoughts of other guys. At 17, I realized I could not change who I am, nor could not 'pray the gay away.'
Not knowing there was a world out there that could accept me for who I was, I tried to take my own life.
I was admitted to the hospital and kept for two weeks in a mental ward. It was there that I came out to my first person. It was a therapist, who on the final day of my stay, came into my room and said she knew I was holding something back.
I burst into tears and said:
'I'm gay, and I think I'm going to hell.'
I was so hoping to hear from her what I felt in my heart, such as, "No, you are a good person, that's what counts. Your actions define who you are, not who you are attracted to." All I wanted was a little reassurance, some understanding and comfort. Instead she said, "Now is the time you should turn to God. Now is the time to pray." I smiled and nodded, but I knew she was wrong.
At that moment, I realized that any God who would condemn me for something I could not control, was no God of mine. I left the hospital renewed in my self worth. I was weeks from my 18th birthday, and finally felt like there was a chance for me to be happy. I came out to others, and each time regardless of their reaction, I came to accept myself a little more.
Today I am a 31-year old man with a bright life and a positive outlook. All my struggles have given me the character and strength to overcome obstacles that would easily derail others. I love myself and know that I am not defined by my sexual orientation. I am lucky enough to have a family who accepts me (now), and a sister who is also gay, and she's an inspiration to me.
I hope anyone reading this can realize that they are special and worthy of love, no matter who they are. Our world is changing for the better, and each new day gives me renewed hope for the future. Life is good, and it is definitely worth living, even when things seem the bleakest. So hang in there! It gets better!!!
Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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