High school, the place, was absolute hell for me. Because of a rumor my brother started when I was in fifth grade, a rumor that kids don’t forget ever, and because kids are the meanest little creatures on the planet, I was the lowest of the low in the pecking order. It was so bad that, when I was in junior high, I moved to Wisconsin to live with my father so that I could get away from it. And oddly, it had nothing to do with me being gay.
No, I’m not going to tell you what it is. I don’t need more of that trauma in my life by letting the world know or by reminding those with whom I went to school.
When I was in Wisconsin, I had my first sexual experience with the boy next door. It was amazing, it felt right and I finally had the word to put with the feelings I’d been having since I was about, oh, six or so. I also found out that most of society thought it was wrong and that, because of what the Bible said about it, I was going to Hell for it. I didn’t care. I started questioning the Bible and my faith, at the tender age of 12. TWELVE YEARS OLD and I was already a very independent thinker.
After junior high, I chose to move back to Wyoming to go to high school. I was in school for all of three days when people resurrected The Rumor. There were several days in September of my freshman year that I was “sick” due more to stress than anything medical. Sure, I was throwing up several times a day, but again, stress-related, not illness. I finally just started to push through and ignore the bullshit as much as I could and keep my head down and not get involved with anyone or anything that would draw attention to myself.
It was a long four years of band, drama, journalism, Academic Decathlon and keeping to myself. I had a few good friends (Carolyn, Sheila, Stephen, Casey, to name a few). I had more people who were more intimidating than hostile (Mike Green, Brandon Elliot, most of the football team — I use their names because I might forgive but I never forget). The one and only time I got anywhere near being in a fight (from which I ran away) was in my freshman year at the end of lunch. Sean Brandt (again, might forgive, never forget) came up to me on my walk back to school and said, “I heard what you said about my ass,” and swung at me. I moved fast enough to only take a little bit of it on my chin, and then ran my ass back to school. I was already late, but damn, I could have won track meets with that speed. While I was in my locker getting my books for the class for which I was already late (Biology with Mrs. Pollet), he walked behind me and shoved me into my locker and kept going. The halls were empty, so nobody saw it, and I didn’t report it. Keep my head down and get through it. He never brought it up again.
By my senior year, I was a fuckin’ wreck. There was The Rumor, and there was the growing fear that someone would find out about the crushes I had on various people in my school, crushes on guys. Because, really? DAMN, I went to high school with some fine guys (and let’s keep in mind, shall we, that at the time I was age-appropriate. I’m not a pedophile; most of those scum are straight). P.E. classes were my own special hell. Thankfully, I had a lot of self-control and very few opportunities. There was rarely a week when thoughts of suicide weren’t part of my world.
Then I had a friend spend the night (let’s call him Dex). Dex and I had sex that night, and quite a few other times throughout my senior year, all under the noses of my friends at school and my parents. I wasn’t keeping secrets from anyone that most people wouldn’t keep secret anyway. How many high school kids tell their parents or friends that they’re having sex? Dex moved away before I graduated, so I was solo again.
I went to college in Powell. I chose Powell, because I had a scholarship for anywhere in Wyoming, and Powell was the farthest away from Wheatland as I could get and still stay in the state. Somehow The Rumor followed me up to Powell, and it could have only done that through a very few people. I’m pretty sure I know who it was, but I can’t prove it and it doesn’t matter anymore anyway. It died pretty quickly because, well, I don’t think anyone gave a shit.
I met my first real boyfriend, Dwayne, while I was in Powell. He was the husband of a good friend of mine, who introduced us, knowing full well that he was bisexual and I was questioning. We were together for about six months during my sophomore year. When we broke up, I told my friends Sandy and Heather about it and what I went through for high school and up until then with my sexuality.
I moved out of Wyoming and to Wisconsin where I came out at the age of 21. Four years later, in 1998, a young man named Matthew Shepard was killed in Laramie, 70 miles from my hometown of Wheatland, because he was gay and some small-minded bigots decided that they didn’t need any fuckin’ homo faggots in their precious little backwoods.
It could have been me for all of those years. I don’t know which deity was smiling on me, nor do I know why, but I am thankful for His or Her intervention.
Wow, re-reading that was kind of rough. I’d like to add that a great deal has changed in my world since then. I’m out, I’m in a good place, I’m in a great relationship, and I’ve been approached by quite a few of the people I knew in high school. The overwhelmingly vast majority of those interactions have been extremely positive, and I’m glad that all of us have grown up and learned that high school wasn’t the end-all-be-all, and that the high school pecking order, while extending somewhat into the real world, doesn’t really matter to the good people. I’ve learned of or talked to several other people from my home town who have come out since high school, and it’s good to see that they’ve gotten comfortable in themselves and
I’m gay. I’m out. I’m proud of the man I’ve become. My family loves me and, just as importantly, loves Leon. I’ve seen a lot of changes come to the gay side of the world, and there are a great many more to go, but I’m confident that the anti-gay contingent will go away. Not necessarily in my lifetime, because that kind of thing takes generations to disappear, but the big changes will come soon, and the haters will die off.
To those who have stood by me forever, thank you. To those who are back in my life, welcome back. To everyone who reads this, I’m glad you’re here.