“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love.”
In the wake of several recent suicides among LGBT youth and youth who were simply perceived to be LGBT I have a strong need to tell my story. For the most part I lived an uneventful childhood. My parents loved me, I grew up in an average working class household where I was safe and I was loved. I suppose on some level I always knew that I was different, but I never quite knew how. I knew that I was attracted to the other boys in school, but I never once considered that I might be gay. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I even began to consider it and I was finally able to admit that I am gay. Coming to this admission was a relief, but it was also a terrible burden- how do I tell others? How will they react? I found myself enveloped in fear and torment. I knew in my heart that it was okay for me to be gay; I just didn’t know if others would know that it was okay. I started by telling a few friends, but I feared my family knowing.
I entered a very, very deep depression. I felt alone and very afraid. What if people found out? How would they react? I really cannot begin to explain the level of fear and despair that I was experiencing. I tried over the counter, herbal anti depressants, but they didn’t work, I wanted so badly to be normal, but I knew I never could make myself un-gay and so I started to think of suicide. I knew that I had to come up with a fool proof plan, otherwise I would back out at the last second and just end up with more issues to deal with. If I took pills I would likely just end up vomiting them back up. I knew that if I slit my wrists I would just stop when I felt the pain. Most importantly I didn’t want to make a mess for anyone to clean up. I thought about it for some time and I came up with a plan that I knew would work, that would ensure that no one came home to a horrific scene. For the sake of those who love me I won’t explain the method I came up with. I will just say that it was 100% foolproof and had I gone through with it I would have been successful in ending my life. I wanted to end my life because I thought that it would be easier for me to be dead than to have to admit to the world who I am.
My very good friend Kalem knew that I was in pain and he was keeping an eye on me and offering me support. I don’t know if he knows this or not, but one simple action of his saved my life. He and I stopped to get some ice cream one summer night and as usual he knew something was wrong. We talked for a while and before parting ways that night he handed me Melissa Etheridge’s Yes I Am album and just said to me “listen to track four.” And so I did. I listened to Silent Legacy over and over and over again. I listened, I sang, I cried. And as I drove around for hours I tried to absorb it all. In listening to that song and in paying close attention to the lyrics I came to realize that it’s okay. I was not alone- others had been in the same position before and others would be in the same position after me. As I listened to the rest of the songs on that album another one spoke to me. If Silent Legacy let me know that I wasn’t alone then Talking to My Angel let me to know that I would be okay as long as I had people who loved me. The music helped me to realize that I can live my life and if people find out, then so be it. I can move on and if me being gay is a problem for them, then it is just that- a problem for them, not for me. I am who I am and though my sexuality impacts who I am, it does not define who I am. I am the same person I always was, the only thing that had changed was that I came to learn who I was and in doing so I found a freedom that no one can ever take away from me.
Years ago I was out with my friend Chris and one day and after having lunch we stopped into this little shop in Portland that specialized in silver jewelry. Never before had I worn any jewelry but Chris always seemed to have multiple rings on. He decided that afternoon that I should buy something for myself so while we were there and I picked out a very simple silver ring that consists of three silver strands woven together. I purchased it and they sized it to my finger and I started to wear it to remind myself of who I am- just a little bit different, just a little bit flashy, but still just simple, plain old’ me.
In the ten years that have passed since then I truly have come to learn that it gets better. I moved on from where I was, I became a paramedic, I came out to everyone and my world didn’t fall apart. In fact, my world became much more solid. I found my family, not just those who are related to me, but my true family; those with whom I do not share blood but nonetheless will stand by my side no matter what. And I can safely say, with 100% certainty, that because I persevered and because I lived I’ve impacted people’s lives in a positive manner and that alone gives me reason to go on.
I have worn that ring every day of my life since I bought it and I will continue to wear it so that when I see it and feel it on my finger I will remember who I am and know that it’s just fine to be me, and that for me, not only did it get better, it got glorious. I realized that I can’t hide my sexuality, I don’t necessarily need to flaunt it, but it is a part of me, just as much as my brown eyes and the gray hairs that are sprouting on my head. It got better for me, a whole lot better just like it will for you, so long as you can hold on. It won’t be easy and you will cry along the way, but it will get better. I can promise you that.