I wrote this back in 2017, but it still fits today.
In the recent years we have witnessed individuals who classify as different decide that the only way out is take their own life because of the words and actions of their peers. Being different is not a crime, rather it is a right we are afforded and each of us should be able to live without the fear, the bullying the physical or mental abuse, or the rash treatment of others because one is considered different.
I am different.
Here is my story, one of an inner pain, an inner battle, and the fight to be what I thought society thought I had to be. The story is not one I claim to be one of happiness. In fact, it is not even easy to tell, but I decided to tell my story in hopes others who are going through something similar will realize that EVERYTHING will be okay, and life will get better. Perhaps my story will inspire you and empower you to share it with someone else. My belief is simple, if one life is saved, a mind is changed in how they view people, or one bully realizes the inner pain they inflict on someone from my story—then my story was worth telling.
I didn’t fit the “mold”.
I grew up knowing I was different, but I wouldn’t even say that I could label myself as gay, straight, bi, confused, etc. I just knew that I wasn’t like most people I encountered. Growing up in a small, conservative town in southeast Missouri, where everyone knew everyone— I struggled to be a person I knew I wasn’t—a straight kid. I was lying to myself, my friends, and my family. Yet, I did not want to be labeled. I didn’t want to show all those kids who made fun of me at school, pushed me down, pulled down my pants after gym, or made me feel very uncomfortable by having to go to gym to change clothes that I was what they all labeled me as being. I wanted to be normal. I wanted to be the typical kid in the classroom. I didn’t want to be gay. I asked myself over and over, why me? How can I change it?
Why did God make me this way?
I later realized that questioning who I am and I can’t question the whys, but rather I must become comfortable in my own skin. The scars of bullying and hatred cover most of the pain, but I wasn’t completely comfortable in my own skin–and until I was the struggle would continue.
I also had to understand that God doesn’t make mistakes, he didn’t screw me up, and he didn’t make me a bad person. In fact, he made me just right.
Each day was a struggle.
My days at school were always rough, even when I went to a catholic school that taught the message to “educate each person in body, soul, and mind. We commit ourselves to foster: Christian service, knowledge, skills for the future, multi-cultural awareness and appreciation, and discipleship guided by the ideals of St. Vincent DePaul. By this we are united in faith, guided by spirit, and transformed through knowledge” (St. Vincent Website, 2010). I wish I could say that I was a protected child—I wish I could say that I was shown this discipleship—but I can’t.
Classmates would make fun of me, call me gay, fag, faggot, queer, and whatever derogatory term they could come up with to try and hurt me. Resilience for me was very strong and I really did not allow them to bring me down. I would walk away. I would hide behind someone. I would keep to myself. I had my few core friends and so I would surround myself around them—just trying to stay off the radar of the bullies.
What the words did do was curb my participation in school events, hide at home, and fear that someone would beat me up. What really hurt the most was that most of the teachers at school didn’t seem to care, I recall some teachers who actually fostered hatred to others—making the bullied even more fearful of seeking help or safety.
When I transferred to the public school system in my seventh grade year, I had high hopes of a more accepting environment, and the ability to fit in as much as possible. While it worked for a while it didn’t last long. Quickly, I noticed hate was even stronger and more bullies existed within the walls of the school.
I would pack all my books in my book bag so I never had to go to my locker because I didn’t want to get beat up, or called names. I would hide out in the library during lunches; many days I would avoid eating because people would make fun of me. I tried to hide as much as possible, because I thought if I took myself off the radar it would make things better.
It didn’t work.
Hatred and bullies seemed to find me and while I was never physically hit or touched the verbal abuse and simple comments like, “gay” “faggot” or whatever else really struck a chord with me. I remember the librarian at the local high school being different and being talked about behind his back and people would often snicker and call him names as he passed. I remember me thinking, “I am glad they have turned their attention off me and onto someone else.”
In high school, I don’t think I really knew who or what I was because I was confused about what was okay what wasn’t. I could not confide in my parents or friends, because I felt they would condone me or disown me.
I felt all alone.
I remember when my family would make gay bashing comments and I would listen and suppress my feelings even more because I didn’t want to be the one they were talking about.
Gym in high school was horrible. I disliked the locker room because I was required to change clothes; it was a horrible feeling. I refused to shower and always tried to find a spot in the locker room where I could change without being noticed. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.
I always skipped school events because I was afraid of the bullies and the fear someone would try to hurt me. I really hated school. I had a few friends, who either knew who I really was and did not care, or were just more accepting than others. I had a few teachers who really showed compassion and helped me achieve my goals and towards the end I think they instilled in me that I would soon escape high school and become the person I needed to be. One teacher, Gail Crader always taught me never to hate—she always said, “Never say hate—you can strongly dislike, but never hate.” I thought about that as I grew up and how true those words are. Hate is a mean, cruel, and crippling word. It sends a message that can’t be replaced. It promotes inequality and bullies and allows for bad things to happen.
I could not wait to graduate because I thought it would make everything better; it didn’t. I realized high school was like an umbrella that kept me relatively safe from an even meaner world and society. I kept to myself. Life in high school was hell, there is no other word to describe what I lived each day of my high school life.
I realized people were mean.
Graduation day arrived and I was scared to death to walk across the stage because I thought someone, just one person would yell—“GAY, FAG, or QUEER” as I walked across the stage, thankfully it didn’t happen, but immediately after graduation I left–I didn’t stick around for photos or goodbyes. I didn’t attend the all-night party because I was fearful of how I would be treated and I just felt avoidance was better than risking embarrassment or torment.
I was finally closing this chapter of my life.
Many times I thought during my junior high and high school days how easy it would be to take my life–I was tormented and beat down for being different. Thankfully, I always had my faith to keep me going. I didn’t have people to turn to for help, though.
I felt lost.
I remember when my aunt told me it was okay if I were gay, and that they would love me anyway… I denied it.
I always knew my family had an idea I was gay, but, it wasn’t time for me to be real to who I was. I would hang out at the police department on the weekends because I felt secure and safe–I mean they were cops–who served and protected. Yet, even there I was made fun of and called a girl many times by some of the officers. I stood my ground.
I remember when one of the officers came to me and when I was alone in dispatch and said I had passed his test and from then on he treated me so much differently. He protected me. He kept the other officers away from me and the bullying stopped.
I felt safe.
Entering college I always felt I had to be quiet at least at first, but soon I realized things were changing–graduating college and working I slowly began to come to understand who I was and it was okay to be the way that I am.
I was a human being with feelings and emotions like everyone else and all I wanted was to be accepted for who I was.
Many times I thought about ending my life–It was hard. I remember when I told the first person—I was gay. His name was Ken and when I told him about me, I finally began to feel like me. I felt like a real person. I had an identity. I felt this overwhelming relief come over me—for the first time I was Nick. He became the sole person I could talk to and I think he always will be my saving grace.
Over the years I worked in media which again I had to put on the “straight face” and live in a plastic world—while I loved the media spotlight it wasn’t helping my personal growth and development. I decided to leave my passion and pursue a more private life and so I became a movie theater manager. The night before Thanksgiving 2004 I had a horrible breakup—and it was at that point I did NOT care who knew I was gay. My parents found out on Thanksgiving and I still remember the call from my mom as I was at work… “Do you have something to tell me?”
I replied, “You already know…” Of course the shock of hearing me say what she always knew became a reality.
I realized my time to be who I was NOW.
When I started telling people who I considered friends, I was scared because I didn’t know how they would react, yet after I told them, they all remained in my life–I knew things were getting better–simply because I knew life was great and I had a lot to offer and the previous thoughts of suicide were silly, but very real.
I started loving myself and loving the person I was and am today! When I moved to St. Louis it was a great and refreshing moment in my life. It was a time when I could let myself come out—and be who I was and something that was suppressed for most of my life, yet existed.
The call from a new co-worker at my first job in St. Louis was the first sign I was accepted. He said, “Since you are family… you need to come hang out sometime…” At first, I was a little uncertain about it, but I realized it was the olive branch I needed in my life.
It has not always been easy, but it has been a learning experience and proof things do get better. I remember where I came from and I knew where I wanted to go. I realized if people didn’t like me because I was gay, it there problem, not mine.
One day while in the mall in St. Louis I started using the code 10-86 (gay) to pick people out. It was at that moment my mom said to me, “Mothers only want one thing for their children… That they are happy…If you are happy with who you are…I can only be happy for you…” She went on to say, “I don’t want you to be alone in your life and I want you to find love and be happy…”
My relationship with my mom became forever sealed.
It was getting better.
Life has its struggles, but it’s not about my sexuality, but just life. What does not kill us; only makes us stronger. I can say I have achieved most of my goals in life and I am happy a person today.
It gets better and better.
37 years later I am married. I am loved. I have dear friends. I am comfortable with who I am. I decided being gay does not define me, but only adds to the makeup of who I am today.
Just remember wherever you are in this world it is important to remember if you are made fun of or bullied it does get better–while you may not be able to see it clearly at that exact moment–never give up.
Never give in to the bullies of the world–because most bullies only fear what they don’t know. Some of the bullies in my past have a lot to learn and some even are gay too!
If you are struggling now with who you are–just remember it does get better… It really does.
This is my story–through the tears and pain–it has become a learning experience based on making me a stronger person and realizing that YOU are loved and things do get better.
Thanks for listening and for those who may have been a bully of my past –I forgive you–because YOU made me stronger and hopefully you can find it in yourself to spread love instead of hate in the world.
Today, I am happy for with whom I am and for the life I live. I have no regrets and I love life completely and while some may question faith and God… God has given me the faith and gifts of knowing it will get better and that I am loved. God loves me. God made me in his image and we all need to remember that we make mistakes, not God.
I encourage you to think about the things you say and the things you do to others for it can have a very real and lasting impact on a person’s life. I learned to forgive all those who have made fun of me, judged me, and hated me through the course of my life–because I realize that HATE is a very strong word, but LOVE is much stronger and when we love over hate we can do great things.
It gets better.