I knew I liked girls when I was 5 years old. I told my best friend that when we were old enough, I would cut my hair to look like a boy so I could marry her. To me, that was the only requirement. Fast forward to my freshman year in high school, I finally came to terms with being gay and I told my closest friend. A week later, I was the biggest talk of the Freshman Hallway.
Everyone seemed to know my name, and my story. Whispers as I passed, eyes darting to and averting at the same time. People I didn’t even know seemed to know everything about me. I knew at that moment my worst fear had been realized: I had been outed.
I wasn’t ready for the world to know yet, but it was too late. I was no longer able to pass quietly under the radar of the high school rumor mill, I was the top and only priority. If I knew one thing for certain at 14 years old, it was that high school was the most important time in my life and with this flame started, I could control how big the blaze became. There were two ways to go about the absolute worst thing 14 year old me could imagine: I could keep my head down and just let the whispering become a yell, or I could stand up taller, reach over the voices until I was heard. With the support from some true friends, and a little fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence, I decided I was going to own being outed and use my newfound high school fame to be honest, hopeful, and here for what the world had in store.
I stood in front of the sea of rumors and judging eyes and said “yes, I am gay, but I am so much more.”
As soon as I did, everything stopped. No more whispering behind my back, no more averted gazes. Sure there were still a few girls claiming I had a crush on them, but the negative energy I had felt before had mostly dissipated, which was shocking to me in a Catholic school. I went about the rest of that year, and the following three, able to present myself so openly and honestly, and wholly. Once it was shown that you could be out, and proud, and *there*, others followed suit. They always came to me first to ask advice or support or just to share in that similar experience. I was both a beacon and a safe harbor: a sign that it did get better.
I’ve seen the negative ways being outed affects some people. I’ve seen people lose the fight, stories cut off before the ending. I knew my story was far from over and that I was going to be the one to tell it. People thought they knew everything about me based on only a part. If they wanted to know, I would tell them more. It would always be the truth, and it would always come from me, because it was *me*.
To this day, I am proud of my reaction. I could have let it bury me. I chose not to be buried. I chose to be here.