Accepting my queer identity and coming out has been nothing short of a process, and one that is far from over, but for now I am happy. If at any point in my life God, my parents, a doctor or ANYONE ever asked me if I would like to be straight, I would have jumped at the opportunity in mere seconds.

One instance from my childhood has always stuck with me. When on a car ride with my dad, he said, “May God bless the gays with AIDS and Ebola.” As he said this, I sat in the passenger seat quietly fearful about how he’d feel if he knew that he was wishing such ailment on his only son.

Dealing with emotions related to my sexuality was not easy; self-denial became a lifestyle for me, and it then developed into self-hatred. It was the summer before my senior year that I met the first boy I would ever have real feelings toward. He came from a similar family as I; one with strict moral, Christian values coupled with cultural ideologies that have no leeway for sexualities other than the hetero. We spent time talking about what life would be like if we were actually allowed to be together in the open; how amazing it would be. I had just turned 17.

In 2011, I came to campus and entered the world of Ann Arbor, a bubble where queer persons were seemingly valued for their identities. Every time I saw a queer individual walking around, I would have an overwhelming sense of jealousy as I remained silently screaming inside the closet. They were so lucky to have everything I was afraid of: being themselves and not rejected by those around them.

Multiple situations caused me to challenge and validate who I was in my identity. The first was when I helped a not-so-sober girl to bed and she asked me to sleep with her. When I said no, she accused me of being gay. I got upset and insisted that I was straight, gave her water and left. That night I drenched my pillow with tears of shame because even in my buzzed state I was not “man enough” to sleep with a female who was begging for my affection.

My second recollection is of a cold night during the first week of March sophomore year. I was studying with a friend at the Law Library. I finally had mustered up the courage to lean over to my friend and whisper in her ear that I was dating a boy. Just like that, the closet door flew open and I breathed, for what felt like the very first time. Her face was frozen, and she smacked me before pulling me from my chair to the chilly air of the Quad, screaming at me for telling her such news in a place I knew she couldn’t respond appropriately. She immediately embraced me, told me how happy she was and at that moment I knew I had never wanted anything more.

A few weeks later, the guy I had so proudly told my friend about broke things off, and I again felt the loneliness of the closet grab onto me. Going through the emotions of a break-up, I needed the one thing I had depended on during my times of weakness: my mom. She came to Ann Arbor and took me out to dinner. Growing up, I was taught that image was everything, and it was exemplified that night as I would not let a tear fall in front of her. She ate her salad in my silence, determined to prove nothing was out of the ordinary. Back in the car she refused to let me leave her presence without telling her exactly what was going on with me; the tears poured but the words remained mute. After an eternity had passed, she broke the silence, “You’re gay, aren’t you?”

I was expecting a glorious embrace, her telling me it would all be okay. I wanted her to give me the opportunity to live my life as the person I was, not the appearance I was scrambling to uphold. Instead, with tear drops running down her face, my mom started praying for me, desperate for my soul’s salvation and deliverance from this “affliction” onset by the devil. At that moment, I would have given anything to be back in my closet; I would have been willing to venture to Narnia if it meant I did not have to experience this humiliation, rejection and shame.

“It gets better” has been a myth associated with coming out of the closet for me; in reality, life sucks. You get your heart broken by friends, family and lovers, and in turn, your break hearts. It is a vicious cycle. But the truth behind the myth is that you get better. Not knowing it at the time, that moment of rejection from my mother laid the foundation for me to fall in love with the most important man in my life: myself. If there are any words of support and/or advice I can give to any person, regardless of any of their identities, it is that your own self-validation is worth more than the words of parents, professors, friends, lovers or anyone else you have come through your life. If I had waited for my mom to come around on the idea of my homosexuality and accept it before I embraced myself and the happiness that came with it, I would sadly still be waiting.

Q & A is the Daily’s section designated as a space by and for LGBTQ students at the University of Michigan. To contribute your voice or find out more about Q & A, e-mail Michael Schramm at mschramm@umich.edu.

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