I’m 16 And Coming Out Of The Closet Ahead Of Schedule
By Jay S
One brisk morning in mid-February, I woke up knowing that it was time to divulge my biggest secret. I’d been planning my coming-out day for the previous five years, but thought my announcement wouldn’t come until at least after high school. But on this day, out of the blue, for reasons I can’t explain, everything changed. My secrets were expired.
This is a “becoming who you are” story and I hope you understand. I am gay, I’m 16, and I’m coming out of the closet ahead of schedule.
When I was 11 years old, I knew that I was different. Like many LGBT youth, I kept my feelings hidden from public view. I did not decide to come out until now because of fear — fear of losing my social status, the love of my father, and my circle of close friends. Fear of meeting a boy who could break my heart. Fear of becoming my grandfather’s least favorite grandson.
Many factors kept me from coming out and being honest. During my sophomore year of high school, I was publicly humiliated online about my sexuality. For a week, my gayness was a talking point in the small Wisconsin town that I am from. I received threatening phone calls, text messages, and tweets that caused deep suffering and self-hatred. My decision to come out was deterred by a combination of internet cruelty and personal embarrassment.
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I thought that God would never love me if I was gay. I struggled with an uncomfortable juxtaposition of loving God and loving somebody like me at the same time. The week of Christmas Day, I was on my way to church and thought to myself, “It’s okay Jay, it’s okay to be who you are and to love who you love. It’s okay to love someone like you and be open about it.” I believe in a God who loves me for following my heart and falling in love.
Occasionally, I scroll through my Facebook feed and see the darker side of coming out stories. I remember in 2014, shortly after my freshman year ended, I read the story of Daniel Pierce. He came out to his father, stepmother, and grandparents in a situation that ended in a violent physical altercation. In a harrowing five-minute video, the camera rolls as his stepmother beats him. I knew that this would never happen in my family, but the video still haunts me to this day. It’s disheartening to hear stories of parents who accept their children until they come out as gay or lesbian. Stories of teens and young adults with disapproving parents continually delayed my coming out process. I have always wanted my parents and cousins and siblings to love me for who I am, instead of who I love.
You’re probably wondering why I’ve decided to come out of the closet in such a public way. It’s simply time — time to stop hiding from my past, burying my pain, and disregarding my future. LGBT teens all over the world are commonly silenced by gender stereotypes, social stigmas, and public shame. As a writer, I’d like to shift the narrative to personal stories surrounding gay, lesbian, and transgender teenagers. Some adults hypothesize that gay and lesbian teens are coming out of the closet for self regard and recognition. I think that it’s unfair to characterize somebody’s sexuality as a method for personal gain. More than anything, it’s important to be honest, to be brave, and to come out when you’re ready.
It’s time to stop hiding from my past, burying my pain, and disregarding my future.
This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with finding love. Someday I’ll meet a boy, he’ll change my life, and it will never be the same. I want to love the same as everyone else — in a small town or a big city. I want to have kids and a white picket fence in the suburbs. I want to drive my kids to school and drop them off in the front and go to work and come home to the love of my life. I want the same things as everybody who’s looking to fall in love with a sense of normalcy.
I was going to wait to come out until after I was done with high school graduation and college applications. Until after I’d moved to a big city and fallen in love and chased my dream job; after I’d spent four years in a college town or traveling abroad. I never wanted my sexual preferences to take precedent over my personal accomplishments.
But on that mystifying Sunday morning in February, I realized that it’s time. I want to fall in love, face my fears, and crack the glass closet I’ve been hiding behind.
The hardest thing I ever had to do was admit that I loved someone like me. I told my best friend in a restaurant after midnight in early December. I told another friend in a 10 p.m. text message, and another as we cruised down the highway. Coming out to close friends was the perfect cure for five years of mystery. Until now, I have only confided in my closest friends and confidantes. I have always thought it would be easier to avoid alienation by telling everybody all at once.
If you’re someone I know who’s reading this, I am sorry it took so long to tell you. And if you’re reading this and you’re struggling, I hope you know that it’s okay to love someone like yourself. I still have the same friends, I still read the same novels, I still watch the same movies. I still love God. I’m still 16. I’m coming out of the closet. And I am gay.