I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t even near ready for it to be public. But it was. The cat was out of the bag. No going back now. My mom had just found out about a month earlier, and now it was out, out in a big way.
I was scared shitless when I went back to my local public high school for my freshman year. I had been away at a private middle school for the past few years and had been somewhat sheltered and protected there. I was 14 years old. I had known I was gay since I was little and I learned a long time ago that it was just something that people didn’t talk about. I had decided that going back into public school was the time for me to go back into the closet as well.
My mom had found out the month before that I was gay. We were arguing about something and she just blurted out, “Just tell me! Tell me Christopher! Are you gay!?” I turned bright red and yelled back, “Go look at my room! What do you think?!”
*NSync’s “No Strings Attached” tour was in full swing and as a gift from my best friend, I had gotten the Justin Timberlake puppet that hung from the little strings. Not to mention the walls being plastered with pictures of JT, (God do I miss the curls!). I was as gay as gay could be.
My mom said she’d known since I was a little kid. She said she just wanted me to tell her so that I knew it was okay to be myself and not have to be worried at home. But then we talked and knew that going into 9th grade it was not a good idea for me to be public about it.
My freshman year started and I just went about my own thing. I dove head first into the student government. I always wanted to be Class President,I was always fascinated by politics, and this was my chance to do it myself in a much smaller setting.
I got involved in a committee of five students that worked on school safety issues that was formed after a student brought a gun to school. We worked pretty closely together. We spent a lot of time with school administrators and the school board and met many times with local elected officials to bring more attention to the importance of school safety. One of the other kids on the committee always seemed to butt heads with me, we never agreed on anything. No matter what the topic, he was always on the exact opposite side as me. We were always respectful of one another, but there was just something that didn’t work between us.
March rolled around and every year around this time, the foreign language department would throw the International Banquet. Students would do presentations and bring food representing different countries. It was something the entire school came to, from the 8th graders at the middle school to the seniors who would graduate that summer.
The day before I had told one of the girls at school, who I thought I could trust, that I had told Mom I was gay. She was supportive, she told me how great it was and that she didn’t care at all! It went really well and I was pretty happy about it.
The next night, I walked into the International Banquet. One of the first people I saw was the kid from the Committee that I just didn’t get along with. I walked in, smiled at him and simply said hello. He turned and looked at me. He looked me dead in the eye and said, “I don’t intend to work next to a faggot. Especially not you.”
It felt like I got hit in the face with a brick. My brain completely shut down. No one had ever talked to me like that before. But, how did he know? The panic started to kick in. Who else knew? Who told him? Did they tell anyone else? When did they find out? What is everyone going to say? My mind was racing.
I couldn’t just turn around and walk back out it would be too obvious. I was standing in the doorway. Everyone would see if I left. I had helped set the event up, I couldn’t skip it. I just kept walking.
Everyone was looking at me. And I mean everyone. It wasn’t just that thing when people look to see who walked in the door. The staring lasted a bit to long. They knew. Everyone knew.
Two of my closest friends who had known for some time walked over and quickly ushered me out of the cafeteria and into a side hallway. They wanted to know if I was okay. I asked why? They went on to say that the boy from the committee had told just about everyone who was willing to listen to him that I was a faggot and he knew it because someone I told had told him, and surprise, surprise, the chick I had told the day before who had told him.
They asked if I wanted to leave, they wanted to know that I was okay. I just stood there for a minute. I needed to think this one out. There was no point in walking out. I had done a lot of work to make the banquet a success and I deserved to be there. But now I had to deal with the fact that everyone I went to school with, knew I was gay. This was small town Pennsylvania. The whole town, not just the kids at school were going to find out within days.
I told the girls to go and grab a handful of people that were close friends, but that I just hadn’t told yet. We all gathered in that little hallway, about a dozen of us in total. I looked at them and said, “You’re going to hear some pretty nasty stuff about me in the next few days. Some of it is true and some of it isn’t. I want you to know that you can ask me about anything you may hear and I promise to tell you the truth. But the jist is pretty simple. I’m gay.”
No one batted an eye. One of the other guys on the committee was the first one to speak, “I’m shocked. I never would have guessed…” Big grin splashed across his face. He was always a smartass. Everyone was okay. I was okay. I was going to do this and no one was going to scare me out of it. Everyone knew and I just simply not going to hide it anymore. There wasn’t a way to hide it.
As we turned to walk back into the banquet, a group of senior football players walked up to us. “This is it, they’re gonna kick the shit outta me,” I thought.
One of the boys looked at me and said, “We hear Ryan is talking some shit on you dude. We don’t like that. You say the word and we can take care of that.” I was completely caught off guard. The straight boys, the football team boys were asking me if I wanted them to beat up the kid that was telling people I was gay.
I swallowed hard and looked at him and said, “Well, Ronny. Its true. I am gay.” Ronny looked at me and said, “So? I don’t care about that. I care that he’s running his mouth. You want us to shut him up?” I laughed at him. I thanked him for it but said he can say whatever he wanted, I didn’t care.
The group of us, football players included walked back into the banquet together.
I never had a problem after that. I never had to worry, I wasn’t bullied, and I wasn’t picked on. I was very lucky. My popularity skyrocketed. I ended up getting elected class president and student council president throughout high school.
I was one of the lucky ones.
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