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My Coming Out Story

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by James Alexander

James Alexander Photo: Courtesy of James Alexander
James Alexander
Photo: Courtesy of James Alexander

My name is James Alexander. I’m 20 years old and reside in a conservative area of Texas where I was born and raised. Throughout my childhood I could tell that I was different. I was quiet, unsure of myself, socially anxious at most times. Before I even connected the word “gay” with two men liking each other, the other kids already had made it part of their vocabulary and readily let me know that I was. However, it didn’t really hit me until middle school when the guys started liking girls and I was stuck with the realization that I wasn’t at all interested in girls—my interest was strictly men. Growing up in a traditional conservative environment, I strived for normalcy. I didn’t want to be gay, simply because it wasn’t “normal” according to the majority around me. Finally, in my freshman year of high school, I had gained confidence in myself and realized that what others thought about me—whether I was normal or fit into their small box of acceptable behavior or not—was their problem, not mine.

After a long day at school dealing with classmates talking about me as if I wasn’t right next to them, I decided to use Facebook to my advantage. I’ve always been a quiet guy, but when something is important to me, I write about it. I came out to everyone I knew on Facebook, which consisted of friends and no family members. I had the unexpected support from many of my classmates who went on to say that if anyone had a problem with me that they would have to take it up with them. Unfortunately, coming out to my family was a huge challenge for me. The very thought of it made me extremely anxious.

One day in December during my sophomore year of high school I decided to come out to my mom as “bisexual,” since I knew she’d have something to say along the lines of “well, as long as you marry a girl.” I sat her down and just told her point-blank. After that, It seemed like coming out to her had been a mistake. She would cry and make it an issue as if I had a mental problem and that it needed to be corrected. We both went to a counseling session in which we were both separated to talk about my “problem.” I was done with my session after five minutes, because the counselor had no issue with my sexuality. I assume my mother’s session consisted of the counselor telling her it’s her “problem” to deal with and not mine.

Despite the counseling session, she was unwilling to accept that her son was not of a traditional sexual orientation. Over a span of two years my mom stalked my texting and calling habits to the point where I had to get a separate number just to have any kind of privacy. I was even called a liar several times after telling her who I was talking to or texting. As I got closer to graduating from high school, I devised a plan to move out.

I picked a liberal in-state university five hours away that felt safe as if it was my home. I applied, got accepted, went to orientation—the usual freshman itinerary. For the first time in my life I felt a sense of acknowledgement and belonging. Over that one summer I developed my social skills and became a little more extroverted. The one thing I hadn’t planned on was not receiving enough financial aid to even consider living there, much less attend classes. Two days before I planned to move into my dorm, I cancelled my classes, housing, and meal plan and enrolled in community college. I had to tolerate my parents or move out, and seeing as I didn’t have a job and needed to go to college, I decided to tough it out and stay for as long as I could.

My first week in community college I made several friends and kept contact with those I had made at the university as well. I went to class, talked with friends, and then I’d go home to study. My second week of school I decided to join the LGBT alliance to meet new people who may have been in the same position as me. The club became a haven for me. I felt safe and validated there, but at home things started to get increasingly worse. My father, mother, and brother-in-law made several homophobic remarks on a regular basis that ate away at my self-esteem which became apparent after several weeks.

I kept doing the same routine: school, study, sleep, repeat. Sleep became increasingly cumbersome as my mental health started to deteriorate. I started having dreams where I’d speak, but not be heard. During much of this reoccurring dream I would speak to the crowds of people around me in an ever-increasing volume and receive no response. Then, my dreams started to get violent. I remember waking up from a very graphic and brutal nightmare, and then knew I had two choices: come out, or sit by while my mental health plummeted. I chose to come out.

I feared that if I came out in person, things would get violent between me and my father. I then decided the best way for me to come out would require me to be as far away from family as possible. After talking it over with my friends at the university, they agreed to let me stay with them for the weekend while I came out through an email to my parents. I made sure to state the issues I’d been having in the house, how I felt, and I also aimed to debunk a few common myths in the process. The email went as followed:

Over the past several years, you and dad have said and done many hurtful things. You two have cause much physical, mental, and emotional stress and turmoil within my life. Both of you have tried to raise me as if I was my sister, and most recently, dad tried to flat out control me in an “alpha male” defense from his clear insecurity. I’m not my sister. I’m an individual who’s very smart, kind, passionate, and strong. You may know that already, but you honestly don’t know your son at all.

For years I’ve had to hide that I’m gay because my parents’ own words and actions hurt me so much. I’ve had to make plans that no child should have to make that include ways I’d survive if I were to be kicked out because of my sexual orientation. You may think you raised me well, and in some ways you did—I have great values, morals, and a great sense for the world around me. I’m able to sympathize and empathize in ways that not many other people can, and I can see every angle on any issue because of my willingness to learn. It is clear that my own father is the exact opposite.

I’m tired of him trying to push his views on me. I’m an individual, and I’m capable of making educated decisions instead of blind opinions, and I’m tired of him judging anyone who isn’t white or straight. As for you, you took me to a counselor as if something was wrong with me, but in reality, I’m perfectly fine. The American Psychology Association even agrees there is no problem with homosexuality, bisexuality, or any sexuality that is non-traditional, and the Association goes on to say that any therapy to try and change someone’s sexuality is extremely detrimental to their well-being and does not work. Your actions hurt me. Especially when you decided to make grand assumptions that I’d go around sleeping with my male friends, that I was promiscuous in the first place, [to go] as far as monitoring all my phone calls and texts, and even call me a liar. I’ve avoided such confrontation from happening again by simply changing the number I text from. My friends and anyone who knows me knows that your actions and dad’s actions are awful, and they can tell it upsets me.

What I need from my parents is not someone constantly looking over my shoulder to make sure I’m being good. I need my parents to let me make my own mistakes and learn from them, because the mistakes I’ve allowed myself to make so far have given me insight about the world and made me smarter and wiser. If you and dad keep trying to monitor everything I do, checking my phone calls and texts, checking my bank account, I will not be able to grow much more, and if so, only at a snail’s pace.

For the past several months, I’ve been having one unique reoccurring dream which I’ve managed to decipher. The dream comes and goes, and the more nights in a row I have it, the stronger and more violent it gets. It starts out with a simple dream where I speak, but no one hears me. It progresses the next night to me yelling at the top of my lungs and still no one hears me. The next night, It’s a full-on scream in you and dad’s faces while you repeat the same words over and over that I can’t understand but know aren’t good. The worst it got was right before I found out I couldn’t go to the university. I yelled and hit dad while trying to understand that his son can’t change, never will change, and that he needs to accept it. These dreams stem from a place of anger that can only be fixed with the understanding and support I need from my family.

College was going to be my escape from all of that stuff. All the stress, the dreams, the anxiety; I wouldn’t have to deal with it because you two would be nowhere in sight and I’d be around tons of people who accept me for who I am,  love me for who I am, and will always support me no matter what. Both of you have yet to prove you could do so, and I will be astounded when that day comes, if it ever does. I desire a proper, supportive, and loving family.

My sexuality is not a phase, it never was, it is not a disease, it is not a mental disability, it is not a demonic plague, it is not a choice, and it is certainly not a disgrace to our family. Both of you have a chance to become greater people not only in my eyes, but everyone else’s as well. To have a gay son and handle it so well and support and love them is a challenge, but it is also very simple. All you have to do is say “okay, I’ll do it” and to defend you son for who he is, is a show of strength many people do not ever get to experience.

Because I’m gay, I’ve gone through so many stages of turmoil, ultimately leading to acceptance. I know who I am as a person. I do not waiver in my views just to fit the crowd. I proudly would stand alone for who I am, than with everyone else, and I’d rather be homeless than in a family that will treat me horribly for something that isn’t under anyone’s control. As for religious beliefs conflicting with sexuality, homosexuality has been known all throughout history. The word for it was not created till the late 1800s. There were even sanctified gay marriage ceremonies back before the dark ages, only after was it forbidden because the way it was translated from Latin to English. If any religious text is read from the time it is written, there are no negative ties to sexuality in any way. Thusly, the only choice I’ve made is to be happy and proud of whom I am. The choice you must make is—are you willing to stand side by side as a family and support me, or abandon me.

After reading this, you must not know what to think, you may even want to call me. But I urge you to sit down with dad, talk with him and educate him, so that you both may have an educated view on this matter. I am not going to fight you over this, I am not going to cry over this, I will not sit down and discuss anything more, because this is all I have to say. If you feel that it’s not safe to be a gay male, well it is not. Buy me a taser if that makes you feel safe. Give me money for prophylactics if you are going to assume I will have sex, but I guarantee if either of you or my sister dare to make assumptions about me, stereotype me, say hurtful things, I will brush it off and tell you to stop, and if it continues, I will no longer be able to live in your household.

I’m here with my friends who love me. Do not call me, do not text me, and do not ruin my much-needed break. I will be home on Sunday. If my stuff is sitting at the front door, then I’ll leave and find somewhere to stay and go to college. Once again, this is something for you and dad to discuss, not something I feel the need to discuss any further than this letter unless you two have an apology. Once we can move forward as a family, I’ll no longer be so angry, and the harmful environment should change with the values of the family. This was written because I’m tired of the hurting, tired of feeling less human, and feeling like my home is not safe, is not a loving environment, and is not supportive. I’ve done all I can do, it’s your turn to make things right.

Read the many attached articles linked below and then I will talk to you.

See you Sunday.

I hope you make the right choice,

Your son, James.

http://www.pflag.com/pdf/pf_bro_parents_eng09.pdf

http://www.apa.org/topics/sexuality/sorientation.pdf

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/113/6/1827.long

http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=539&fb_source=message

http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=290

http://community.pflag.org/document.doc?id=495

http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=541

http://www.rochester.edu/ucc/parents/glbchildren.html

I was tired of how I was being treated and wanted to be respected as a human being. After sending the email, I became very anxious. I decided to go on a walk with my friends without my phone, so I wouldn’t have to deal with any incoming negative messages I assumed I would receive. After a few hours, I returned to the dorm and was blown away by what I had waiting for me—a response from my father.

James,

Your Mother and I have read your email and fully love and support you. We always have. We want the very best for you and that means YOUR happiness. We want you to excel in whatever makes you happy academically and become a successful adult. I’m extremely sorry that you don’t feel emotionally safe in your home or that you could come talk to me. I guess that I don’t exactly project an open-minded perspective on life. We will fix that. If you want to talk when you come home, that would be great. We have no desire whatsoever to change you or anything about you. We fully accept you as a brilliant and creative adult. We know you gave this a lot of thought and we stand beside you.

We both love you very much!

See you Sunday.

– Dad

I was astounded that my father would ever apologize to me as I was fully prepared to be one of the many homeless gay youth of America. I returned home Sunday morning and received an apology for all that I had to deal with. Things were rocky at first and sometimes they still are, but while I was willing to leave my family behind, I had overlooked their capability to learn.

Over the past couple years, my parents have made a conscious effort to learn about LGBT issues and to become more politically aware. Their newfound respect and knowledge for the LGBT community has not only allowed an open dialogue between me and them, it has led to education of their peers and co-workers and even the implementation of a gender-neutral bathroom as well as more inclusive anti-discrimination policies in my mother’s workplace.

In addition to their LGBT efforts, my family wholeheartedly supports me as a son and a brother. My parents make sure to let me know how proud they are of me and my achievements and have no problem bragging about me to others. However, I am not introduced as their “gay son,” I am their son, which is all that really matters.

October 18, 2014, marks the two-year anniversary of my coming out—only a week after national coming out day (October 11). This year I urge others to share their story, or if you are an ally, share my story! Create an open dialogue and educate those around you. Most importantly, to those who have yet to come out, it does get better.

If you’d like to follow me on twitter, you can do so at @jamezwalexander.

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