Three of Wands

Three of Wands

First, and a point I want to emphasize, I am Mike. I don’t have an aversion to labels, but I also don’t think any particular category describes me fully. I am me. I am a male (he, him, his), 6’2, Scorpio, ENFP, Enneagram type 2, Ravenclaw, romantic, gamer, left-handed, blue-eyed, Tennessean at heart, hiker, runner, plant parent, college graduate, gay, and I’m Mike.

I’m going to describe how being gay has affected my life. It is the part that was the hardest for me, and I want it to be easier for you. We all go through challenges, and my hope is that you can learn from my experiences. Or just relate and know you aren’t alone. With this, I’m going to tell the hard truth, no less, no exaggerating.

The age-old question of “when did you realize you were gay” was answered for me throughout childhood. I remember watching older teens play basketball at my church as a kid. I remember admiring them, their shape, their personality, the way their bodies moved and flowed. I remember wanting, but I don’t remember what it was I wanted. I remember changing in the locker rooms for the first time in school. There was a kid my age there, tan, blond, shorter, with blue eyes. There was a bright circle around his iris that made his eyes shine. I knew you weren’t supposed to look at other people in locker rooms, so I found a corner locker to change so I wouldn’t see anyone.
When did I realize I was gay? I suppose I always knew what I wanted, but I didn’t have a label for it at the time.

It was in middle school that I learned what “gay” meant. In church, I learned that being gay was a choice and it was a sin to choose it. I remember lessons teaching that people turned gay from being bullied, being molested, the absence of a father figure, or spending too much time with another guy. There was hope, though. Through the ultimate sacrifice, fasting, prayer, and scripture study, you could have those feelings washed away.

At home, I learned being gay was to be feared. I remember comments my parents would make. They would talk about how disgusting it was that Kentucky had so many gay bars. They said that we needed to protect ourselves because there was an incident where gay men captured boys and molested them. My dad would tell stories about the time when he served a mission for his church, there was a gay volunteer. As soon as he was discovered, he was promptly sent home. I was expected to serve a similar mission, so I had to be careful.

In school, I learned that being gay was a reason to be hated. There were four people in my school that everyone knew to be gay. I remember the terrible remarks people made about them behind their back. I learned words like “fag”, “faggot”, “flamer”, “fruit”, “queer”. I remember one of them being bullied so badly that he had a meltdown in the cafeteria.

I always knew what I wanted, but I learned what I wanted was wrong. I had never hated that part of me before, but I now did.

I never met those four gays personally. I wasn’t secretly envious of them for their bravery. I didn’t stand up for them. I had my own problems to deal with. Instead, out of fear of being found out, I joked about others being gay. These four were the scapegoats to buy time for me to fix myself. After all, through the ultimate sacrifice, fasting, prayer, and scripture study, I was going to be fixed. One of my best friends, still best friends to this day, told me most homophobic people were secretly homosexual. I stopped calling people gay after that. I pinned up a picture of Angelina Jolie in my room, to which my sister said “now we know Mike isn’t gay.” [How long had it been her question?]

Senior year of high school was the hardest year of it all up to that point. I feel it’s the major milestones in your life that draw out the largest emotional changes, and graduation was a big step. For the four years of high school, I had been trying to change, dodging questions about why I wasn’t dating anyone, why I hadn’t lost my virginity, why I never talked about girls. My answer was always that I was preparing for my church mission, so I couldn’t have distractions. I said I received that as advice on how to prepare. I felt like I hard heard that from someone before, but I don’t know who.

Toward the end of senior year, I had my first full-blown crush. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. He was a little shorter than me, toned, bright hazel eyes, dusty blonde hair. Definitely heterosexual, at least per the rumors that circulated around school of his escapades. I remember trying to decide how to approach him about it. I wanted it to be like the movies. We would have an emotional moment. It would be raining. I’d take that moment to impulsively kiss him. High school years are such a romantic time. The worst that would happen would be a swift punch to my face and me saying I was confused.
I shut down all thought about it. I couldn’t let myself think about it because it was wrong. I thought about how romantic it would be for him to sneak to my window one night. I didn’t hate the thought; I hated myself.
I wanted him.
I wanted to be normal.
I wanted him.

This was the start of my depressive cycles. I’d be perfectly fine for a couple months, then I’d hit a month of self-loathing and downward spiraling. It never lasted forever, and I told myself it was normal. It was cyclic, like many things in life, and you can’t be happy always. I knew that I simply wouldn’t get much accomplished when I was down, and it would be alright.

During times of struggle, I often grasp at anything for reason or insight into the future. A sign.
I remember “V for Vendetta” coming out on TV. I was immensely touched when I saw the scenes depicting Valerie, a brief lesbian protagonist. She fell for a girl in her school, to which her fictional teacher in this fictional story said she was going through a phase. I decided being gay was going to be a phase for me, too.

The summer before my mission, I was assigned to assist the missionaries serving near me. Really, this just meant I would drive them around so they would save gas. One of these missionaries in particular left such an impression on me. He had dark brown hair, warm brown eyes, and such a smile! The way he moved and the way he talked infatuated me. When it came time for him to switch to a different area, he sent me a voicemail singing “You Are My Sunshine”. Adorable, right?? After a long chat with my dad, he admitted he thought we were both gay. It turned out to be just a phase for this one, though. I never saw him again.

I couldn’t stand the secret I was keeping. I hated myself for it. I vowed never to tell anyone about it, even though I wanted everyone to know so I could just be me. To stave this desire off, I drilled a small hole into the wall next to my bed. On a small piece of paper, I wrote “I, [full name], am a homosexual.” I rolled it up, stuffed it into the wall, and sealed the wall with a piece of gum. One day, long after we left the house when someone remodeled, someone would find that paper. They would be the only other person who knew. This scared and thrilled me. My childhood house has since been torn down for a doggy daycare. Nobody found it.

I did go on a church mission, amidst the confusion of everyone around me who thought I was putting it off or against it. It is such a story! But unrelated to this one.

I applied for colleges. I asked my mom which one she thought I should go to. She chose for me.
I went to a religious college after returning. This school had reputations for many things, but the one that seemed most prominently mentioned to me was that “nobody graduated unmarried.” I had a renewed faith that I could change. I was going to give it my all.

My freshman year, I quasi-dated a beautiful girl with rich, brown hair and warm, brown eyes. The Twilight movies were coming to an end at that time, but still quite popular. Our friends made “Team Mike” shirts. I forget my excuse for not pursuing her further. The next year, I pretended to be overwhelmed by the number of “fans” I had. My cousin told me it was because I was tall, not unattractive, and incredibly considerate. I couldn’t honestly be expected to date someone when so many people wanted my attention; I was overwhelmed!

I met the girl I was anticipated to marry. We agreed on everything. Our tastes in music, food, entertainment, everything lined up. With this, we spent a lot of time together. We even took a trip to Disneyland! I genuinely loved her. This wasn’t a romantic love but a deep connection I thrived on. I decided if I was going to change for anyone, it would be her. At the end of a summer semester, before exams finished, my mom suddenly passed away from cardiac arrest.

I could not be comforted. I had never known sorrow up to that point. The more people surrounded me, the more I felt as though I was in another room altogether. I wanted to be by myself. I was shattered and needed to pick up the pieces, but the pieces simply wouldn’t fit together anymore. I felt as though I was unraveling. I wanted to sit on the floor in a corner. The firm, coolness of the walls and floor was the only comfort I wanted. I failed my classes the next semester.

I finally decided to seek help. I went to a church leader and a school therapist in our counseling center. After talking about my mom, I told the church leader I was gay and couldn’t make sense of it. It was a very vulnerable experience, as he was the very first person I told. He asked if I was bullied as a kid. I did have someone that picked on me at one point, so I said yes. He told me there was a young boy crying inside me for help, and that’s why I desired someone masculine in my life to take care of me. I needed to let that young boy grow up. He kept telling me how proud he was that I was facing this.
My therapist told me it was possible to change. He emailed me a copy of a magazine that talked about how to change. That was all I needed from him, as I didn’t receive any emotional support, so I stopped going. All the magazine ended up saying, after quoting such success stories, was that those people realized they simply weren’t trying hard enough.

I decided to try harder.

The following spring, my “crush” left on her mission. Everyone knew we would get married on her return. My aunt had already chosen our colors and purchased the tablecloths (plumb and turquoise – not the colors I’d choose today). I drove to her parents’ house to say goodbye before she left. We hugged in her driveway while she cried in my chest. I said my most earnest prayer on my drive home. I cried the entire way, windows down, cold air rushing in. If it was going to work with anyone, it would work with her. If I was going to change, I would change for her. All my eggs were in that basket.

That summer, I was smitten with another guy. He was slightly taller than me, blond, lanky, blue eyes. His irises were smaller, so you had to be closer to see the shade of blue. He was quiet and confident. He seemed to win at everything he did. I couldn’t be with him because I was waiting for my friend to get back from her mission.

But I wanted to be with him so badly.

That summer into the fall, I would go on long walks through the city at night. It was all I could do to keep myself moving. I would tell myself to just breathe and walk. That’s it. Inside, I felt as though I was being torn apart. I was grasping at my idealized world of being heterosexual and my fantasy world of being with this guy. It generated a very real, physical pain in my chest. I was constantly on the edge of a panic attack and my heart was warning me of it. It didn’t get better. I was used to phases of depression and highs. This depression didn’t seem to end, though. I needed help. I went back to the school counseling center.

This experience was very different than the first. My therapist wanted to know about me and my family. She wanted to know about this guy I liked. She wanted to keep meeting to work through it. She wasn’t going to try to make me straight because it didn’t work. She’s the first who told me directly that it was alright to be me. She helped me unpack the unbearable weights I was carrying.

After a few visits, she told me that she loved talking to me, but she couldn’t be there forever. She gave me a challenge: tell one other person I was gay. Just one and before we next met. She addressed a fear I didn’t realize I had. How could I fully trust my friends if I didn’t trust them with this piece of me?
I went stargazing with one of my best friends that weekend. I told her I had something to tell her and she couldn’t let me leave until I said it. She agreed. I told her I was gay and didn’t want to be, but I was. I wasn’t going to change because I couldn’t change because I’d tried. I just wanted her to know this didn’t mean I was a different person because I was still me. Just this one extra thing is now something I wanted to tell her. She told me it was fine, and I cried, and we stargazed for hours.

I told my next friend while we were driving around looking at Christmas lights. She came out to me also, as the first person she’d told. I told my dad in tears while we visited Tennessee. He asked why I was crying because it was fine. Five people turned to ten, ten to twenty, twenty to thirty. I moved to a new city, and this part of me simply became part of me. I told myself I’d never lie about it again, and I haven’t.

I no longer have the low periods I used to. Not hating this part of me led to accepting it, and accepting it turned into loving me for me. I am me for so many reasons, and I love what makes me, me. Truth be told, I’d like to be Mike with abs, but that’s not the story I’m telling! I get the feeling that I’m behind in the game sometimes, but I’m proud of who I am and confident in my future. I am Mike.

Happy Pride!

This incredible story was shared by a human named Mike