So, where do I start? I lived most of my life in the closet, or as my mother called it the “cupboard,” and boy do I regret it. What I am trying to say is that we really build coming out so much in our heads, it really is a big deal, and you come to realize it's all for the better.

I grew up in the Middle East, in a small, tight knit family of macho men and high society women. Looking in, you would think we fit the mold of normalcy that everyone expected of us. We are a strong family, still united in our way but there were things that we brushed under the carpet, including my sexuality. I always knew I was different and I knew something was not like everyone else. You can say I knew I liked men at an early age and it made it weird for me. Not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t know how to process it.

Fortunately, we would spend our summers abroad in Europe, and I was exposed to more open cultures. I was old enough to go explore books stores and shops where I can check out what I was interested in! Then came the internet! Oh, DSL and learning how to navigate a super slow connection without getting caught on the one family computer. Let's just say my dad checked the history one day and asked me questions.

Fast forward, I’m now 18 and still closeted. I was home one day chatting with a cousin of mine online on AOL messenger (dating myself here) and he outright asked if I was gay. I broke a sweat and just wanted the world to swallow me whole. How did he know my secret? did he guess? What is he going to say? Does everyone know? OMG what is going to happen now? How should I reply? Well, I said yes! It took everything out of me, but I admitted it. At this point I was a ball of anxiety, like a rubber band ball wound over 8 billion times. I was ready to snap. I needed an outlet and his reaching out, was just that. He lived abroad and didn’t have the same mentality we did in the Middle East, so I figured he would help me grow, come to terms with myself and get out of this state of anxiety. His reply was supportive, but minimal. Not what I was really hoping for. In retrospect, it turns out my mom put him up to it. I guess she didn’t want to hurt my relationship with her. She knew, moms always know, and she wanted me to be…. Gay.

I was back in the state of anxiety. Sigh.

I headed to college in London. You would think I would just explode on the scene, but no. I always worried what my family would find out. Would I get disowned? Would I get killed? I was too scared to find out. So, I kept the secret to myself, and fell deeper into depression and despair and eventually decided to go back home and care for my mother who got diagnosed with cancer. I never finished my degree in London because I spent the summer working in the Middle East helping my mom, keeping her spirits up, and just figuring out my next steps. A year had passed, mom was in remission and she made me promise I would go back to get my degree. I decided it was time to start a fresh, all new, everything! I decided to move even further away from home to Boston. I was accepted into the schools I wanted and the programs I wanted. Everything was going to change, I was 21 and on my way!

I excelled and grew and the Internet got faster. I was able to connect with other men online and finally one fall I decided to meet one guy. Just like that I finally confirmed what I have always wanted to know, the feeling of being intimate with another man. I continued to explore in college as one would. Finally, I graduated and got my first job.

I started to feel more and more comfortable in my skin. Friends in college would ask if I was gay and I would vaguely answer and never really say I was. Finally I had gotten the courage to think to myself that it is time to really address this and be open about it. I did it in my own way. No, there was no big coming out parade!

One significant step was telling my Middle Eastern best friend. He still is one of my biggest supporters. I was visiting him in Chicago over spring break, we had gone out on the town and had a great night. We stopped for pizza on the way home and after that we were walking home and he just came out and asked me if I was gay? I don’t know if it was the alcohol or my comfort level but I said I yes! Oh how liberating. I was in my twenties and finally able to say it. His reaction was awesome, he said “Finally! I love you and finally you can be who you are.” He was amazing, he asked a million questions and I truthfully answered. Our relationship cemented forever after that night.

The next night was really the night I knew I had the best friend in the world. We were heading out for the night, I had no idea where to. He had said we are meeting friends for drinks after dinner. So we head out, have a great dinner and get to the bar. This bar was called Sidetrack. I had never heard of it before. We walked in and his friends greeted us just as we walked in. They were all men, they were all gay and we were at a gay bar! A Gay bar! In my entire life I never imagined him to go with me to one, yet alone organize a night out with gay guys. IT was sort of a coming out party you can say. That right there is a true friend and Sidetrack still is my favorite gay bar because of these memories.

That was my first coming out to anyone close to me. It would be years before I told my parents and brother. That story is fun too, stay tuned for chapter 2.

It has been four years since I did the scariest thing in my life and finally embraced my true self and how my story was all along. Before this family dinner that involved penis shaped noodles and awkward cards against humanity. I want to give some background on myself and how I got to this point that took 23 years.

Growing Up

I grew up in a nice Village called Greendale just outside of Milwaukee. I have two older brothers and a twin sister. We were a middle class family that made ends meet, we had our good times and some bad times. We as a family always prevailed because of our Mother who dedicated her life so we can be successful while we grew up. My two brothers were always in sports. Of course just like my brothers I needed to participate in sports to see if I liked them and by no surprise I was horrible. I tried to catch a baseball with my eye when I was six. That was the end of baseball and I faked I had asthma during youth football because I wanted to get out of running laps. Football was a no go. I was never good at sports but thought I needed to fit this mold of what a "boy" was suppose to do at that time and what society makes us believe is acceptable. After my stint with sports I became the kid that played in the woods and made forts with the neighborhood kids and was your average kid but deep down I was living a story that was not mine and as I grew older I started to realize this.

When I knew I was different and what followed

Going through elementary school was fun for me. I loved school and at times was known as the teacher pet because I loved teachers and helping them out. Then 5th grade came along and I started to noticed that I would act differently when trying to talk to the other boys in my class. I became very nervous and would stumble over my words and look like a fool at times. I was confused because this never happened when I talked with the girls in my class. Then I started to look around at lunch one day in 5th grade and I realized I was the only boy at the girls table at lunch. I thought nothing of it. I loved getting their left over rectangle pizza because they hated it and any other food they didn't like. As I got closer to the end of 5th grade I started to get bullied. Boys would always ask me why I liked to hang with all girls and play patty cake and other hand games. I never really gave an answer back at the time besides “because its fun”.

Fast forward to seventh grade going on eighth. This is the time I started to hit puberty and my mind started to act differently. I would still suck at talking to other guys in my class but this time I started to feel differently then when I did in fifth grade. I would say things to myself like “wow, he looks good in those shorts” or “damn wish I had a that body.” These thoughts started to freak me out because that is not what guys are supposed to think when looking at other guys. I would try to blow it off as a weird stage and not how I actually am. I would tell myself “oh Dave you know you like girls, you got this Dave.” I would fight this fight until I watched Jesse McCartney’s music video Beautiful Soul. In this video he would take his shirt off and I remembered in 8th grade thinking “wow he’s cute.” At that moment I knew I was gay. That freaked me out. I was scared because that is not how I was suppose to be. I thought I would marry I nice wife and have three kids and live in a house on a hill with a white picket fence.

As I moved to high school I decided that this was not ok to be gay and I suppressed my true feels so deep down inside of me that I would try and convince myself that I was straight. I would try and watch other “straight guys” and see what they were wearing and try and dress like a “straight” guy. I would be bullied in school by students asking me if I was gay and I would snap and say hell no I would never be that. This strong denial lasted all my years in high school and into college.

When I was in college I continued to convince myself that I was straight and that was the only way my story would go. I would work out constantly because that's what “bros” did. I would have a couple of girlfriends on the way through college. One that was a serious long relationship and it ended on bad terms because I was still fighting with my true identity and how I wanted to live my life.

I had some great times in college but also I hit a very low point in which I didn't think it even mattered anymore. At that moment I looked myself in the mirror and said three words that I was dreading “I am Gay” that was the first time I had ever said those words out loud to myself and the best part was that it felt amazing. I finally opened that door that I closed shut so tightly for so long and embraced my true self. I took ownership of my real story and not the one I plagiarized and tried to make my own. I would go on and tell some of my closest friends in college and all of their responses were “Dave we already know.” I was shocked. I thought I planned this out so well and played “straight” so well. As more and more of my friends knew I struggled with who knew and who didn't know. So I decided to create a facebook post and throw it out there for everyone to see and read and make their own opinion towards it. That moment was terrifying for me. I was scared I would lose friends but I kept reminding myself that this is my story and only I can write it. If people didn’t understand and went their other way then that was their choice. I could not let myself be stopped because of what people thought. This is me and was always me so take it or leave it.

Penis noodles and, OH YEAH, my family

After most of my friends knew that I was gay it was time to plan something in which I could let my whole family know. One night after a brewers game I was in a bar with my brother and his girlfriend. I was getting a drink and let's call her Lisa my brothers girlfriend was standing behind me. She started to talk to me as I was ordering a drink and ask “Hey Dave, are you gay?” Since I had a few drinks and was preoccupied by the bartender I quickly turned around and said “yeah! So what?” Then I instantly realized that she was part of my family and they didn't know yet. I asked her to not tell anyone because I wasn’t ready. Lisa was amazing she stated that she knew already but would keep my secret but said she was hosting a dinner that Sunday and that she could buy penis noodles and make a pasta salad for the dinner and see if anyone noticed. At that moment my worriedness went away and I was thinking that would be so funny and a great way to crack the awkwardness of this whole dinner, it was a go. I was actually going to do this and finally be me.

It was the day of the dinner and as we drove to her house I was worried sick and looked sick. My Mom even asked “Dave are you ok?” I told her “yeah just a little tired”. When we arrived Lisa ran out and gave me the biggest hug, but had some bad news. My brother was cooking the penis noodles (unknowingly) and over cooked them so they fell apart. Funny aspect was shot so now it all fell on me and I was even more sick to my stomach. We sat down for dinner and had a great time. Great food and conversation was happening and for a moment I forgot what I was about to do.

After dessert, we played cards against humanity and I realized that it was almost time for me to tell them my true story and who I am and I was freaking out. As we played cards against humanity I was thinking to myself that today wasn’t the day and I was not going to go through with it. Then I picked up my cards and this is what each card said. Card 1: Gay men Card 2: Gay sex Card 4:Gay Parties. At that moment I laughed to myself and then did the unthinkable. I leaned forward and started to talk. I couldn't believe what was happening I was telling myself to stop talking but I continued. I said “I have to say something everyone, This dinner was set up by Lisa and I because you were all invited to my coming out party…..I’m Gay.” I sat there and looked at everyone. There was an awkward pause and then my Mom leaned forward and said “AND?!?!” I looked at her confused and said what Mom all you have to say is and?. My Mom looked at me and said Dave I knew since you were six and I still love you nothing will change that. I started to cry because all the weight was lifted off my shoulders. All my brothers and twin sister were very supportive and showing their love towards me at this time. I felt so relieved I was now able to turn the chapter in my story and now start the new beginning and finally be my true self.


Nothing is ever as it seems, but in the end it all will make sense. This statement is one I try to remember each and every day. So far my life (27 years young) has been filled with great happiness and some sadness.

Someone once told me, “Everything will be okay, I promise!” and regardless of what he was, who he was, or how he treated me, I would have to agree with him. There are things in our lives that seem like they never will get better. Events we think we will never overcome or, that we'll never believe in ourselves again. People who are always willing to put you down at any given moment in life. People we try to steer away from, but always seem to find their way back into our lives to put us down. These things, I promise you, will get better. They will make you stronger. They will help you grow into a better human being. But most of all, these things will make you learn how to love yourself again.

My story, along with others, is unique but different in the same light. To give you context around mine, here is a little about me growing into my own.

I was raised by a hard working blue collar family in a factory city in Wisconsin; Father a factory worker since graduating high school and mother with her associates degree working in an eye doctors office. I was fortunate enough to be raised by both parents, who are still married and by far the cutest couple (bias, I know). I grew up eating, breathing and sleeping sports but my passion was in soccer. My parents did everything they could to raise money for me to go to the Milwaukee Wave soccer camp every year. If you grew up in the 1990s in Wisconsin, you will know how cool it was to meet these great soccer players at the age of 8. If I wasn’t playing soccer, my family was traveling to northern Wisconsin where we would go boating, tubing, fishing, and roast marshmallows over the campfire. It was around the age of 12 I started to realize I was different than all the other kids. But growing up Christian, I knew from church it wasn’t okay to be gay or have these feelings.

But amidst these happy times came some gloom. When I was in the first grade I was sexually assaulted, and this would forever change the dynamic of my life and the way I thought of myself.

Throughout my middle school days, I was the kid who loved Student Council and leadership camps. The one who was always afraid of showing up late to class and disappointing my parents, teachers, and family members. To me, I was your normal Wisconsin kid. One who tried their hardest in school, played sports, and loved hunting, fishing, and being in the woods. You could say I grew up in the “masc” world. I looked up to men who were kind, hard-working, chivalrous, and overall fun to be around. These handful of men have molded a part of me and who I aspired to be when I grew up. However, these men are entitled to their own opinion, and in that, there was some chauvinistic rhetoric that came along. Hearing this hatred of a fellow human, where I have secretly placed myself in the gay category since I was 12, was hard to swallow. How could someone who is so kind and helpful be so hateful? Instead of growing farther apart from these men, I grew closer to them in the hopes if I act like them, these feelings of being gay would dissipate or go away. Rather I had more questions than ever. Why was it okay for two women to kiss but not two men? Why would God create someone who he didn’t love? Why would we treat one act of sin different from the others?

After middle school, high school was a bigger challenge. High school is a place where adolescents are finding themselves but sometimes at the expense of others. Yes, I’ve been bullied, been an outcast, hazed because others thought of me to be different or gay. But thinking back it wasn’t all too bad. It may sound bad, but like I mentioned before,

“Everything will be okay, I promise."

For me, I found my safety in work. Whether it be with my job outside of school, managing the school store, competing in business clubs, or spending time with my family at the cabin, my family and friends were very proud of what I have done but there was always a missing piece. I knew what this missing piece was, but I couldn’t come to terms with what it was. I wasn’t gay, I liked doing “masculine” things like hunting, fishing, and playing sports – stereotypically straight activities. I volunteered at church, went on service projects to help rebuild homes for the less fortunate, didn’t have anyone in my family that was gay. This couldn’t be me – or was it? Was something wrong with me? Was it because of the sexual abuse when I was younger…Yes, that had to be it. It was the only thing at the time to explain these feelings I was having. Again, I pushed these feelings deep down and worked through the “confusion”.

High school passed with a few girlfriends – that all ended a few months after they started. Then came college.

For some, college is a time for exploration and self-identification. The first two years, I continued to trap myself into thinking I wasn’t gay. Once I was a junior, I started to live a double life for the next three years. I was coming to realize who I was and started to live that way… but behind closed doors. It wasn’t until I hit a mental breaking point due to a secret fling that became mentally abusive that I decided I didn’t care what others thought and I came out for the first time to my best friend from college. Which brings me to my first short story.

1. Coming out for the first time – Brandon

The funny part of how I came out was how it came about. At the time, I was living in Madison and my best friend from college was in Milwaukee. On a Saturday night, I had set up a Tinder date with a female in Milwaukee, which as you can imagine didn’t work out. It was after dinner and I texted my buddy and told him I was in town. It is important to note he is gay as well. He told me to stop on over as he was at his friend's aunt's place for a dinner party. I walked over and he introduced me to his friend and we chatted over a few bottles of wine. It was getting late and both wanted to get to bed, but something weird was happening. Not sure if it was the failed Tinder date, the bottle of wine, or just me sick of keeping this secret. I told him we should grab a drink and catch up. He agreed and off we went to the nearest bar in the third ward. Palms sweaty, heart pounding and the fear of rejection – though in retrospect he was gay, too. Why would he reject me or not be happy for me? We sat down at a table not far off from the bar. It was loud, and the wine was hitting us both hard, but the conversation went something like this:

Me: “So, I have something I want to tell you?”
Him: “Okay… like?”
Me: “Well, it is kinda hard for me to say it so I guess it’s easier to show you.”
Him: “LOL Okay.”

I grabbed my phone and pulled up a picture of my crush, still to this day, Ben Cohen. And just to clarify, the rugby player, not the businessman – just in case you Google him. Again, in retrospect, I don’t know why I thought showing a picture would be easier compared to texting it or whispering it.

With the picture of Ben on my phone, I slid it across the table while half covering it up thinking someone behind me would see a professional photo of Ben and assume I’m gay… But I was about to tell my best friend just that: “I’m gay."

Him: “Whaaa, really? You’re gay… OMG this is awesome. Wait, have you told anyone else?”
Me: “No, you’re the first person I told.”

In an instant, I could feel the weight lift off my shoulders. The fact I told only one person and I wasn’t rejected or cursed at felt amazing. All my worst fears were all for naught. It felt better than a brand new pair of socks, ice cream on a hot day, or winning $200 on a scratch off.

Him: “Wow, well I’m truly honored and happy you felt comfortable to tell me. Wait, have you ever been to a gay bar?
Me: “Yes, but not with friends.”
Him: “Okay, we are leaving and going to one right now.”

As we sat at the bar catching up and reliving our college days I couldn’t help but think,
even though this gay bar wasn’t packed with people, it was packed with acceptance and I was with my best friend who loved me inside and out.

I remember the first time I had questioned my sexuality; I was 17 and it was late at night. I had my headphones on to make sure no one in my house could hear the videos I was about to play. I was in my normal scope of watching porn, but for a moment I started to focus more and more on the man in the video rather than the woman. The excitement of his climax made me reach mine. After catching my breath, I was brought back to reality and was scared. Days afterward, I kept thinking about it, the fear but also the thrill of that one climax... completely different from my previous ones. Though, being raised Roman Catholic and in a Latino family, I knew it was something I could not pursue. I had internalized the thought of it being wrong, for I believed at the time I was meant to be with a woman, and I had only dated or only showed interest in girls.

But after that one video, I started to catch a glimpse of the guys around me. Tennis, soccer, Taekwondo, track, and archery practice made it harder to not look. However, I punished myself for my actions. I would slam my fists into walls and lose myself to my anger, only to cause myself to cry in the shower as I sank into my tub, praying for the thoughts to stop. Hoping that the pouring of water would drown out my sorrows.

My high school years ended, and I went off to college, with graduation the only thought in mind. At the time, my mind was so conflicted, because I had found interest in a girl (we will call her Ali), but at the same time I had also found interest in a guy named Alex, my neighbor. Ali was beautiful, and I would photograph her as my muse. For some time, I thought my curiosities were "fixed" and that it was truly just a phase. I imagined Ali and I dating, and met most of her family and felt that this would be my life. That is, until my roommate and I stepped out of the communal showers at the same time one day. Normally, one would have their towel already wrapped, but Alex just liked to "air dry." He shook his arms and legs to get a good amount of water off and gave me a smirked grin with a nod. I stared deep into him, and took a mental photo of him, with each detail of him being recorded from the front to the back as he walked towards the sinks. Once again, I was shocked back into reality.

My heart felt like it was cracking, and I could feel a tear start to form in my left eye.

I tried to push the thought of Alex away and avoided him, and spent as much time with Ali as possible. Someone else obtained Ali's attention and they started to date, leaving me feeling lonely and regretful that I did not ask her out, and that someone else was happy with her, while I was hoping to have her to make me "happy" in the same way.

Night after night, I would have thoughts of Alex looming in the back of my head, but the fictitious words of my family would follow.

"You cannot be gay, you're Catholic."
"Are you trying to embarrass me with my friends."
"You upset God, and this is his punishment."
"You disgust me."
"I never want to see your faggot face again."
"You're not my son."

I remember waking from these nightmares, my eyes burning and my skin dried out from where the tears ran across my face as I slept. This continued for many weeks.

Come the summer of my second year, I was preparing to be a resident assistant and distracted myself with the training, the energy of my teammates, and being generally exhausted. My friend, Kyle, saw that I had been more sad than usual and wanted to take me to his girlfriend's party being held in a neighboring town. I refused multiple times, but was dragged along in the end.

I hated being forced to go somewhere I didn't want to be.

I was introduced to Emily's (Kyle's girlfriend) sorority sisters, and was being complimented on my looks and asked if I had someone in my life. Still angry that I was dragged along but too polite to be rude to them, I stated I was single and had not dated in a long time. This got a weird response from many of the girls, but they acted as if nothing was wrong. One of the girls introduced me to Daniel, the man who would upset the frail balance I had created.

Daniel was a track athlete and was attractive but, still being absent minded due to the desire not to be present, I didn't really notice at the time. But my distance and lack of presence seemed to attract him more. I remember talking with him over trivial aspects that I do not remember, and talking about where he came from, but once again... I do not remember anything he told me. As the night went on and drinks were poured, I started to lose myself to the fluids and beats that went through my body, and loosened up. One other fun fact, this was the first time I'd ever had a whole alcoholic drink. My inhibitions lowered, I started to dance with the crowd and forgot many of my problems.

The night continued to pass and people started to slowly disappear, or so it seemed to me. Kyle, Emily, and I ended up on the couch at one point in time, but I needed to grab water. I was having difficulty getting up and an arm reached out for me... Daniel's arm. He flung me up, and I stumbled into his body.

He looked at me with a smile, and I could feel his warmth. He walked me over to grab water and complimented a feature of me that I could not really hear due to the music. For some reason, I said, "Thank you, same to you," as I placed my cup down, which then tipped over and fell. I looked down to see if I got anything wet and looked up to have Daniel's lips lock with mine. It felt like an eternity, but it was truly only three seconds or less. As he pulled away, I felt his arm yank mine, but release as his friends pulled him away, and I stood there stunned. I could not move. I felt the deep throb of my heart in my ears, goosebumps fluttered on my arm, and all the thoughts of my family's words flooded my head all at once. I noticed people had seen the kiss and were staring at me to see if something was wrong with me, for I had not moved an inch for the last minute or so. I shook myself free and angrily chased after Daniel. I looked all over the house, but not a single sight of him. Kyle pulled me away from my search to see if I was ok, for he had heard what happened. I told him to never speak of what just happened. He agreed and told me he'd finally take me home.

Days after the kiss, I would cry in the shower and hit the walls again. I was back to my old habits and while I did my best to bury them, the thoughts kept coming back and watching porn was too difficult for me to do because I just kept looking at the guy more than the girl. So I did what any questioning male in college during the peak of Fraternity Rush would do... I joined a fraternity.

During this time, I was so busy with school, work, and the fraternity that I forgot about the kiss and my troubles most of the time. Yet there would be other times where it would creep up. However, I did my best to hide it.

My pledge brothers and I grew closer to one another, each of them sharing deep and even "dark" secrets about themselves. But I could not bear to tell them owhat was going on inside my head. Until one day, a pledge brother that I had grown incredibly close with asked me a question,

"Are you straight, or something else?"

I told him, not even thinking about it,

"I don't know."

Which I instantly regretted the moment I said it. For I did not realize that another person in the fraternity had heard me say those three words. Like a plane taking off, I was not fast enough to catch him. He was out of reach and I missed the chance to stop him from sending out those dreaded words via text, "Serphos is gay."

A sorority girl who was just a few tables away from where I had been received a text message and stared at me. I could feel her eyes locked on me, and as I turned my attention to her she looked away knowing she had been caught staring. I could hear more and more text messages go off, and the whispers that echoed in the den of our library bounced off the walls. It felt as though I could hear each one as if they were whispering it into my ears. I ran out of the library as fast as possible, making sure not to stop for anyone, my heart thumping faster and faster as I ran down the hill towards my hall. My lungs burning from trying to squeeze in to cry and the effort it took to keep going.

I finally got to my room and locked myself away for three days. I turned off my cell, turned off my Facebook account, and prayed that no one would find me.

On the third day, my fraternity brothers found a way into my hall and learned where my room was. The constant bangs on the doors made me quiver, for I thought this was the part where they'd beat me up or shun me for my secrets. After thirty minutes, I finally got the courage to fight back if it came to it, and walked towards the door. As I opened it up and saw the latent fists that were swinging on the door, I took that as an attack, and lunged forward, hoping to have the upper hand. I attempted to swing, but heard,

"Serphos, calm down, calm down."

"Hold him so he can't hit you."

I was pinned by five men, the one I tackled and one on each of my extremities. I was rabid, and felt like an animal in danger, my eyes closed tightly to hold back the tears, until I heard,

"Serphos, it's ok, we don't care. Stop fighting."

I told myself that it was a lie and tried to pull away, but was still restrained.

"Serphos, stop. We don't care if you're bi, gay, or straight. Just stop fighting."

My breathing was ferocious, and my panting to get them off of me was not helping. I exhausted myself from pulling and thrashing about. I finally looked and heard,

"We will carry your burden, you're not alone, you're our brother and friend. So let us help."

With me exhausted and a bit less angry, they finally let go of me after thirty minutes of having me pinned down. That's when I finally spoke to them about everything, yet having pauses and concerns about revealing the truth.

After hours of talking, they each hugged me and showed me their caring support. I felt lighter from that experience, and I wanted to cry from feeling free of the secret.

Days and months passed, and even though most of the whole school knew my secret, my family didn't. I managed to keep my school life separate from my home life, a two separate personas formed. This lasted for a while and I was able to keep my true self hidden from my family. That is... until Grindr became a thing.

My Aunt had a very flamboyant and gay friend that one tends to stereotype in the gay and especially in the Latino community, that I had forgotten was in town from West Hollywood. It so happened, at the time, that he used Grindr. I was not made aware of this until a "fun" conversation with my aunt started to occur while we were pumping gas during my winter vacation home.

She started to tell me about her daughter that was suffering from depression and not "being able to be herself," to which I replied about my feelings of condolences. She then stated,

"I wish there was an app she could use to speak to other girls like herself, kind of like what gays have on their phones."

I told her that would be nice, but that I didn't even know there was a thing like that for gay guys. Then she said,

"But you use Grindr to talk to other guys don't you?"

I was stunned once again, and tried to act like she was confused. Yet, she reinforced her statement,

"I mean, Pablo (the friend that was visiting) has seen you on it."

I was in disbelief and forgot that I had been pumping gas, which lead to me spraying at least fifty cents' worth on the ground.

She told me to get into the car and we could chat. She told me that many of the family was guessing about my sexuality but that no one was too sure. That she was the only one who knew for sure, and that she had not told anyone. I could not say a word, but she kept reinforcing that she would not tell anyone and that she still loved me. I felt like I was being tricked, but she continued to keep her promise for a few months.

After I went back to school, the concerns of my aunt telling people faded as no one in my family had mentioned it to me yet. So that put me at ease. I proceeded in my College Serphos mode for a while, until one day I was driving in the car with my friends on our way back to the University from In-N-Out. I saw my mother's phone number show up on my stereo system and my friends went into the routine of "no one is in the car."

I answer, "Hey mom, what's up?"
She replies, "Why is your Aunt Yeni telling me that you are gay...?"

By this time, you'd think I would stop being so stunned by the revelations and people learning about my sexual orientation. But no, I froze once again... mind you, while driving this time.

"Serphos... what is going on? Are you gay?" my mom asked.

I hung up on her and continued to drive, showing no emotion but the tears that flooded down my cheeks. I did not blink, I did not gasp for air. To me, it felt like I was dying... and driving even faster, mind you. More attempted phone calls kept coming through, and I kept ignoring them and sending them to voicemail. My friends were trying to aid me and were attempting to get me to pull over so that one of them could drive. But I still sped back to the University, wanting to die faster and faster and just start all over.

Once back, I tried to flee, but started to hyperventilate. My fraternity brothers and friends heard what happened and met me at my car, phone calls still chiming in, more being sent to voicemail.

After an hour of getting me to relax and come back to a stable status, they convinced me to just hear what she would say. That if it went bad, I had them, and that I would create a new family.

The next phone call came in. This time, I answered.

"Serphos, don't hang up on me, I have called you more than 20 times, this is ridiculous."

I said, "What do you want? To yell at me, to get angry? Yes, ok, yes, I am gay. I'm sorry that I cannot be perfect or if it embarrasses you, but I am gay. So hate me, disown me, forget about me if you have a problem with it, but I am tired of it, and I just want to be me once and for all."

...nothing. Just silence from her end, and the wind from the Sierras flooding the parking lot. All my friends were silent, holding one another's hands, afraid of what was about to happen.

"That's fine, Serphos, I still love you," she said. "I just wish you'd told me, and I didn't have to find out from one of your aunts."

I felt euphorically light after she said, "I still love you." My only response to her was, "I'll call you back." I hung up and sunk into my seat. I felt like a rag doll, my body finally able to go limp from the release of stress, anger, sadness, and fear. My friends cried for me and leaned into the car to hug me. I still felt like a rag doll - on the outside I was emotionless - but on the inside I felt amazing.

After days of talking to my mother and discussing everything, it became easier to talk with others about my sexuality and I was able to tell people who I was with less hesitation. I became more confident in who I was, and did not have to exert so much stress on being two people. I was able to be me.

Since then, I have broken free from my own anger and have stopped allowing others' opinions of me or the fears of what they would say to me shape who I am. Rather, I have ventured into life events that I wanted to do, and have had an open mind about such things. I had allowed myself to live for years bending to thoughts constructed by religious institutions and the norms that one hears that everyone should follow too. I've truly become a happier person.

I didn’t have a conscious interest in women until my sophomore year in college. Looking back now, it’s clear to me that I had been interested in both men and women growing up, but I simply leaned toward the more socially acceptable match-up in my younger years.

My first girlfriend was actually my “Big Sister” in my sorority. Somehow, we cautiously courted each other and ended up confessing a mutual interest in one another. We didn’t tell anyone. We dated for over a year – no labels, no public admission. Eventually, she broke up with me. She didn’t think that her parents would support her decision to date a woman. She supplemented her reasoning by claiming that she wasn’t actually interested in women at all, saying that she always wanted that white picket fence, American family dream; I obviously couldn’t be a part of that.

Despite being crushed, we both tried to infuse some platonic normalcy into our redefined relationship. I started seeing a guy that I met through Greek Life. No matter what we did, however, my ex-girlfriend and I just couldn’t seem to re-establish a healthy friendship. She became jealous, manipulative, and emotionally and physically abusive. I felt completely and unavoidably stuck. All of the friends that I had before I started dating her weren’t really talking to me anymore; from their perspective, I had found a new best friend, and I refused to share that part of my life with them. Even if I thought I could turn to one of them for support, I didn’t feel like it was my place to out someone else.

Everything was building up and up, my emotional stress accumulating, until I just broke down and left campus.

I drove back home to my parents’ house. I was on autopilot. I wasn’t even really sure what I was going to say, but I was quickly losing my grasp on my sanity and my mental health, and I desperately needed someone to talk to. I opened up to my mom first; she had always wanted me to share more of my life with her, when I was growing up. I thought if anything she’d be happy that I was finally talking to her about something real. I was lucky. Her acceptance and support was the lifeline that I needed. I asked her to talk to my dad for me, because I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him one-on-one. He was just as understanding. At that moment, it was crazy to think that I had prolonged my own despair and isolation, because I had been too afraid to share that part of me with anyone. I had been consumed by “what if” scenarios, that I would play over in my head. As I said, I was lucky to be able to rely on my parents; but after feeling that enormous sense of relief, I realized that reaching out to anyone who might have been supportive – even a stranger – would have helped save me. Now, I can confidently say that I would rather openly be myself, than pretend to be someone else that people might have an easier time accepting.

It’s so easy to feel stuck and to let yourself live there, because at least it’s familiar territory. We think it’s safer than the unknown. I know it’s stereotypical, but coming out was like ripping off a Band-Aid. It had the potential to feel horrible in the moment, but deep down I knew that it would also allow me to properly heal.

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