Growing up, I knew I was different. While most of the kids in Elementary school were looking at the girls and were developing crushes, I had the biggest crush on the cutest boy that I knew would never in a million years feel the same way about me as I felt about him. We would eat lunch together, we would play on the playground together and we would walk home together sometimes whenever my parents didn’t come pick me up because of their jobs. We jokingly kissed each other on the cheek because we thought that’s what you are supposed to do.
I was slower at reading books and doing homework than others that were my age. I would take my time going over every single letter of the words and try to understand the purpose behind it. My teachers expressed their concerns to my parents during parent teacher conferences, then I started to feel horrible about myself because of what the teachers would say to me and talking to my parents like I am not even standing there. They mentioned to my parents about how I act around boys and that I was always hanging around the girls and talking about boys.
I started collecting Littlest Pet Shop toys at a very young age and eventually had every single one of them at some point. I was bullied immensely because I would be bringing all of my pet shop toys to school and would play with the girls in the class that also had the pet shop toys. It felt amazing to be around people with the same interest that I did. Shortly after the bullying started, I was introduced to religion. I never knew about religion as well as some of the other kids did. There was a student that was telling the teachers that I was going to hell for being who I am- a gay child at that point.
I never grew up around religion, and I didn’t know what “gay” was. I went home and asked my parents what the word gay meant, and they told me that I would find out whenever I was old enough. I finished elementary school and then went into middle school, which was the beginning of the end- or at least what it felt like for some time. It only got worse from there on out. The first day of 6th grade, I made a new friend. I won’t mention names, but he was gay too. We would walk each other to classes, and we would sneak off to the bathroom to make out, until we were both caught by a teacher in the bathroom. We were sent to the principal’s office and got seperated and were forced to take separate classes, it felt like my heart was ripped away from my chest because I was truly alone. They had a specific way of handling issues in the school and none of them were very effective, but were enforced. We had a “zero touch” policy, which was where you wouldn’t even be allowed to give someone a high five without administration or a teacher stopping you and writing you up with the possibility of receiving out of school or in school suspension. All I wanted was for someone to give me hugs to make me feel wanted in the school.
I never participated in sports because I wasn’t allowed to be in the locker room with the other boys because all I would do is stare at them and I was isolated from the other boys because the gym teacher at that point caught me staring. He told me that I was disgusting and a disgrace to the school. He would force me to wait until everyone else in the class was done getting dressed for PE then I was finally allowed to go into the locker room when no one else was. If someone forgot something, he would make them wait until I was done to go in. I felt like I was doing everything wrong and that nothing that I would do would make me stop staring at boys in the locker room. I was always late for going to the next class because everyone else always took longer than they should to get their belongings on purpose to make me late.
I started getting involved in theater and trying out for plays but I wasn’t allowed to show my “flamboyant ways” because no one would accept it. I can’t even think of how many plays I tried out for and didn’t get the part because I was too “flamboyant” but I was allowed to attend the plays and see the parts that I should have got because I worked very hard at impressing the director of the plays, but I was isolated. Sports wasn’t a thing that I was ever allowed to participate in because I was too “girly” for playing a “manly” sport. I was pushed down a flight of stairs by the jocks of the school and they would walk by and kick me in my stomach whenever I was laying there in pain and they would walk away like nothing even happened. I reported it several times to the principal and nothing was ever done about it and the issues were never talked about, it’s like I was invisible, but not at the same time.
I started feeling down about myself towards heading into high school. I went to church for the first time and was having a lot of fun with the other kids that were in the youth group of the church I was attending. The youth group leader seemed like an amazing person- until they found out that I was gay and was living happily. I had a boyfriend that I brought to the church with me and whenever I introduced him as my boyfriend- they made us sit on opposite sides of the room we were in and weren’t allowed to be around each other because we were known as a “abomination to society” and were a “disgrace to god and to the church”.
It got to the point where the main pastor of the church would pull me aside and he told me that his day job was working as a Psychologist and he wanted to help cure me. We would go into rooms with a projector that was just me and him in the room and he would attach electrodes to my genitalia and he would show pictures of “homosexuals in action” and then when I would get “aroused” he would send a shock and it would make me become nauseous- which was the goal. It like he got some kind of thrill because of my pain and suffering. We read bible verses that were directly about homosexuality and I was forced to repeat them to him and if I didn’t say it correctly, I had to continue to repeat it until I said it correctly. He would talk about me to the other members of the church and every single time I would go to church every Wednesday, I would spend at least 4–5 hours with him in a room with no windows. I went home and went straight to bed without even telling my parents goodnight or how my day was. They knew something was wrong, but they gave me my space.
I was 16 at this point and the pastor told me to never talk about what we talked about in that room to my parents or anyone else, or I would be severely punished. He told me that it was fully legal what he was doing and we didn’t need parental permission to “do the curing nature of god” and we continued moving forward with the process of brainwashing me. A close friend that I knew for several years came out my sophomore/junior year of high school, and I was literally the only friend that he had. I became extremely homophobic and was throwing bible verses at him and was shaming him for being gay. I pushed him around and told the other students to punch him and to not allow him to participate in anything because he didn’t deserve to live. He felt isolated, and was ashamed and I took him to the church with me to talk to the pastor and we both were going through conversion therapy, but unfortunately it got too much for him to handle and he took his own life right in front of me with my hand holding his. He was my first true love and he meant the entire world to me and I knew that me and him would always be together because we had no one else. No one understood me the way he did, and after he passed away, My whole world came crumbling down on top of me and I was once again back to where I have been so many dark times- alone. I was devastated, broken, confused and disassociated with society norms.
Locking myself in my room and my parents became aware that I was struggling deeply and they knew that I needed help. My mom walked in on me trying to take my life by overdosing on pain medication and I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance where I was placed on a psych hold for 24 hours and was released to go directly to a mental hospital, where even there, they were doing “reparative therapy” and at that time I didn’t know what they were talking about, and if I didn’t participate, they would lock me in my room until the next morning and would attempt to get me to participate once again, and I finally gave in to it and I went through this dangerous “practice” all over again.
I finally broke down and wrote my parents a note about what I was going through at school and told them that I was truly feeling suicidal. While being in my room at home, all I did was sit there in my room and cry myself to sleep countless numbers of times, and I would wake up screaming because I kept hearing voices telling me to just end my life, no one cares anyways. It truly felt like I was alone, my parents always came in to check on me and I always told them I was fine and to leave me the alone. They would let me calm down because they knew I was going to be okay and I would talk whenever I felt like talking. I never figured out what my triggers truly were. I sat through the support groups, but whenever it came time for me to share my thoughts and feelings and to mention about my emotions to certain topics, I never paid any attention and sat in the back of the room and listen to music in my head, even though I physically didn’t have any music, there was still music in my mind. I was listening to Janet Jackson and Tina Turner in my mind and was getting looked at strangely. I attempted suicide twice before getting on the life saving medications that helped me regulate my feelings and emotions.
I went back to the church my senior year of high school and the pastor asked me if the “de-gaying” strategies worked, and I shook my head and told him that I was proud to be who I am and that no matter what he or anyone else would try to do, I was still living my life the way I wanted to and I will not be silenced from telling my story. I knew that I wouldn’t be allowed back in the church and I was fine with that, but I needed the closure and I needed to speak up for myself and for everyone else who has been through this.