I’m gay... as if you didn’t already know that from the many times I’ve said it before! This upcoming weekend is LGBTQ+ PRIDE weekend in Memphis, TN (also known as Mid-South PRIDE) and I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about my experience coming out and growing into my homosexuality.
It was at the very tender age of 13, the summer before high school started, that I came to realize what 'homosexuality' was and what gender I was attracted to. You see ever since I was a little boy I always knew that I was different… but that difference wasn’t something we were taught about in school, church, or even at home. Though my family, a pretty open one, there wasn’t a moment where we discussed the topic of homosexuality or even had anyone in our family that was of the LGBT community. So back to growing up—Of course, I knew I was different— my family and people I grew up around didn't let me forget it! There’s a large population of the world that thinks if a man is feminine that makes them gay, and of course, that’s not the case at all, but we’ll leave this topic for another blog post. Ever since my toddler years I showcased some more effeminate traits, but I still played outside in the mud. I remember thinking that I was just a normal 6 or 8-year-old kid, but as you probably already know kids can be cruel. Growing up I remember kids telling me that I was gay and family members telling me to fix my posture or how I held my wrist because it was how a woman acted and not how men were supposed to compose themselves. I still at this point didn’t know what the heck a “gay” was. I just knew that I was a happy kid wanting to play in the mud and also spend time at my grandma’s house watching her cook. People were forcing this idea of homosexuality on me simply for the fact of being a little more feminine than other boys.
It wasn’t until I started to get “crushes” on kids that I started to realize that I could be a little different than other boys around me, such as my brother and friends. From the moments of telling my mother that I thought a boy in school was cute, but then there’s those “Jeremie you can’t say that! Boy’s aren’t supposed to like boys!” kinda conversations that made me suppress those feelings. See I think that’s the biggest problem with parents and society, whether you agree with homosexuality or not, they force heterosexual relationships and gender norms to children at a very young age. Whether it was me saying a kid was cute, having my wrist slightly more tilted than the rest of the boys, or wanting to play with a barbie, it’s always a “You’re a boy! Boy’s don’t play with dolls they play with Hot Wheels!” Or there's the experiences I had growing up where people were forcing this idea of you being gay that takes away from your 'coming out' experience and doesn't allow you to grow up properly. It makes you feel ashamed for something that is completely normal. I truly believe if society didn't put us in this so called closet from a young age then we wouldn't have to come out in the first place.
Fast forward to pre-freshman Jeremie who is about to enter high school and is introduced to his first boyfriend at the age of 13. It was at this very moment after having forced “relationships” with girls throughout my adolescent life that I realized I was in fact attracted to the male population. It also wasn’t until this time that I finally began to be myself. A new, happier, and brighter Jeremie. I finally found something that made me happier, something worth living for. Of course, with anything great comes downfalls and setbacks. As a child, who happens to be feminine, you get bullied by people telling you that you’re gay. As a teenager who has just come out… you get that and way more that you never asked for. I remember hanging around the city and those bullies would roll down their car windows and yell the “f” word around like no tomorrow. Or the times of getting stared at or harassed, simply for just being, well, me. This is the second tough part after deciding to come out as if that’s not hard enough, you now have to deal with the taunting of other human beings who don’t agree with your sexuality. Unfortunately, we lived in a society that many times does not agree with who we choose to love. But for some reason at this point in my life, everything was different. I was different. It’s like I didn’t even care anymore and none of that bothered me- I had officially started to become more comfortable in my own skin and gain a self-confidence that no one could take away from me. The younger Jeremie was a shy kid who would’ve left crying and crawled under his sheets. But this new Jeremie, he just knew who he was and that none of this could faze him anymore. Having to confront the whole world, or what felt like it in my mind, from family to friends to strangers who just heard about the new gay kid in town, I just didn’t care what anyone thought anymore and I was ready to be myself. My happy self.
Coming out is like a crab or a turtle that can no longer fit their old shells due to outgrowing them and are now moving onto a bigger, more comfortable home. When I could finally say those two words: I’m gay! and not feel shame or disappointed, I knew that I was home. I knew that I had finally arrived. At 13 years of age,I had arrived. Now I sit here at 24 years of age (so weird saying that!) I can now say that I’ve made it. I have gone through some of the worst bullying and taunting. I have come across many people from family to strangers and have been none other than my very confident gay self without hesitation. I have found love and have been with him for almost 5 years. Those times where people bothered me for being me or when I would run home from school to my safe space, home. Those times where I had to go to job interviews and sit through uncomfortable situations, knowing that I wouldn’t be hired simply for being myself and not for what was on my resume. For every single “f” word screamed at me, for every single stare that my boyfriend and I receive, for every single person that tells me I’m going to hell… just know that here I stand. I’ve made it. I’m here.
The world will try to tear you down and people will tell you that you are not worthy simply for the gender that you are attracted to or who you identify as. But if there’s one thing I know, you are loved and no one can take that love away from you. I stick to the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” because no matter what people may think of us, we are survivors. We’ve made it through one of that hardest experiences in our lives and here we are. Happy. Surviving. Striving. And Living. Living our truest, happiest forms. May we continue to bask in our glory and brightness, for better days are coming and you need to be around to see it.