Growing up in rural North Central Wisconsin is never easy for anyone, but try being one of the very few in the area who identify as homosexual. My coming out story does have a happy ending and as they always say, "IT GETS BETTER." I came out the very young age of 15, to the person I felt closest with, my grandmother June. I will always remember what she told me,
"It doesn't matter to me and shouldn't matter to anyone who you choose to love, you will always be my grandson and I will always support you."
While I had her support, I didn't have the same from the rest of my family. I was scared and uncertain as to what I was going to do or where I was going to go. My grandmother lived with us and the living situation I was in was not healthy, so I had to get out. Through all of the bullying I encountered, ridicule, and hate, I somehow never gave up and continued to live my life for who I was. I remember spotting someone who seemed to be just like me in the hallway of my high school (SPASH) and remember needing to meet him as soon as possible. Paulie was what everyone called him, and we became best friends once I gathered enough courage to finally reach out to him. He took me to a support group for LGTBQA+ students where I met even more people who identified like I did. I never knew there were that many others and I guess I just always thought I was the only one in existence. After a few months of knowing Paulie, I eventually left home where things weren't getting any better, I lived with him and his family. Their invite to stay with them while I was in high school allowed me to finish what I needed to do and not drop out. They loved, supported, cherished Paulie and all of his friends which created a safe haven for many of us. Little do they know, they probably saved a few lives while doing so. Living with Paulie helped me become more comfortable with who I was, helped me find out who I wanted to be, and introduced me to so many new people who were like myself along the way. It was also when I decided to join other support groups for people like myself and I did outreach at the ARCW to help those in the community who didn't have it. All of this helped me become proud of my sexuality and I didn't feel the need to hide it any longer.
A few years passed and at my high school graduation, yes I was fortunate enough to stay focused and finish, I was able to reconnect with my family and come out to them as the proud homosexual man that I am. My family is now my biggest supporters who continue to love and support everything that is me and my friends. It is a total 180° from where it was when I initially started to come out. While they may not always agree with everything that comes with my lifestyle, one thing for sure is, they will always love and support unconditionally while teaching those around them that it is ok. All of this probably saved me from being lost in life or living in fear, potentially ending my life sooner than planned. I will be forever grateful for everyone who helped me become the man I am today and get out of the "country" safely and proudly.
While my story seems rough at first and ends with a happy ending, I am very thankful for all of the life experiences that came in between. Not everyone has the chance to get that happy ending. I do feel times are easier now than they were when I was growing up and I pray it just continues to get better.
Just having the love and support of so many other people who identified as LGBT motivated me to be comfortable & proud of my sexuality.
There are times when life will be extremely difficult and there will be some tough decisions to be made, but keep your head held high and always stay true to yourself, treating others around you how you want to be treated.
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