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June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month, and even though this month is ending soon, I thought I would share my own experiences growing up as African American gay male and coming to terms with my sexuality. Even though the world has progressed to where civil rights have become custom, it wasn’t too long ago where being gay could get you assaulted, fired, or worse. And those things still happen today, even if they don’t always make the news cycle. So I write this blog intending to share my own experiences so that others who can relate or want more insight into coming out can better understand what individuals can go through.
I always knew that I wasn’t heterosexual. Gay was not a word that was part of a young kid’s terminology, but sometimes kids can have an innate perspective of themselves. As a male child, I thought it was so puzzling that family members would ask about having a girlfriend or a girl that I liked pretty much all the time growing up. In the past, there was the standard narrative that kids should only decide to embrace their authentic selves once they get older and have more experience, that being gay was too complex to understand for youth. Yet heterosexuality is so normalized that society doesn’t even realize that they put kids in a challenging position when they know they aren’t straight. Being heterosexual is considered the default, and when you don’t fall under that umbrella, it can feel isolating when you realize that you aren’t like your peers. What’s important for kids is to experience their childhood without feeling like they have to be put in a particular box; otherwise, they are “normal” (I dislike that word by the way).
My Mother was an integral part of learning to accept myself growing up. One of her favorite shows was the Oprah Winfrey show, a famous talk show host and LGBTQ+ advocate. When a show focused on an LGBT topic or was interviewing a gay celebrity, she would invite me to watch the show with her. She silently let me know when I was ready to come out, there was nothing to be afraid of because she purposefully watched LGBTQ content with me.
I came out later in adulthood to the rest of my family, and I had a great reception overall. There was no tension, but I still took my time because I’ve seen LGBTQ youth lose their entire family just because they decided to be their authentic selves. Other family members have also spoken to me about their own identities, and I’m happy I could be that trusted confidant for them.
Society progresses at a snail’s pace sometimes. The stonewall riots led to the advent of LGBTQ activism, and eventually, came marriage equality and equal protection under the law. With that said, trans youth have been unfairly targeted with bigoted sentiments, so we must always be vigilant to protect the most vulnerable in our society. As a gay male, just because things have worked out well for me doesn’t mean that others aren’t struggling and may need help and support, and I intend to do just that going forward with my advocacy work.