This blog is very near and dear to me because it's about my brother, Nick. Nick at the age of 18 made the call to me, coming out. I remember the day like it was yesterday, I was driving home from work and my phone rang, it was Nick. He asked me if I could talk and that he needed to tell me something important. His next words kill me because he asked if I would still love him no matter what. I said "yes" and he went on to tell me he was gay.
Our family always knew he was gay, it didn't change the way we cared for him then and it wasn't going to change the way we did now. I now know that not everyone has the same love and support for their family but sometimes family isn't the blood that makes you it's the love.
I recently had the pleasure of interview my brother on his experience growing up being told he was gay leading to where he is in his life now and his future. This post isn't about how you feel about the LGTBQ community but for those who are afraid of someone liking the same gender. This choice doesn't affect your life but the way you treat them can affect them.
Below I will be sharing his experience in hopes that one person reading it knows you are loved, supported and valued. You have a friend, someone who is willing you help you and be there for us all you need to do is ask.
How did you feel growing up and having people tell, not ask if you were gay?
"Coming from where I am from, in the "Heart if the Florida Keys" you'd think people would be extremely accepting. Just an hour drive from Key West where you can find an entire community supporting LGTBQ. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me. I was taunted since I could walk. I was told to run like a boy, not a girl. I was pinned against the back of our townhomes. All because I was gay. The family and friends I could trust were always extremely supportive, accepting me before I knew what "being gay" was or before I came to terms with who I was."
Did you know you weren't interested in women?
"Honestly, yes, I have always known. I dated women girls growing up just to go along with the norm of what the other boys my age did. It helped a little bit with the taunting but it still happened. I have never been interested in women, coming from a family that has more women than men you pick up on things quickly."
How long after you realized you were gay did you tell the first person?
"I'm grateful that I have a younger cousin, who is also gay. He came out to me first, and then I turned around and did the same thing. We are close in age and have always been together so it's a bond we share. That day we made a promise to never date each other's exes, although our taste varies. It's something we laugh about, our version of "Girl Code"."
Was it easier to tell more people after?
"Once I started to understand my feelings and knew more things about sexuality, I did. One of the first, was a new friend I had just been introduced to. Twelve years later, we're still best friends. Most people close to me heard it from my own mouth, but my mom. Unfortunately, someone told her before I could. It's something that still bothers me to this day."
What feelings did you have before telling people and how did you feel after you told them?
"I was more anxious then anything. I never had a doubt that either of my families would shun me. My mom's side told me they'd accept me no matter who I liked. This was all before I even really knew what homosexuality was. My father's side though, there's more of us gay's and lesbian's. It's something that give us character, we're all very accepting."
How did it feel knowing you had a cousin who was also gay? Was it easier to relate?
"It felt AMAZING, to know I wasn't alone in the world. Easier to relate is an understatement. He's more like my brother, it made our bond stronger. We always told each other everything. As we grew older, we grew apart in friends and some interest, but I know if I needed him or vice versa we're there."
What has been your hardest moment since coming out?
"My hardest moment, has probably been opening to someone. I withdrew from my family and life in general after I finished my bachelor's degree. I don't trust like I use to, and it even effects new friendship."
Did you feel differently being around friends and family after coming out?
"I felt like my truer self. I mean we don't sit around braiding each other's hair or things like that but I know if I need to talk about something I have a select few that would always give me their ear."
Are you at peace with your decision to come out when you did?
"I am at peace with my decision but I do wish I would have come out sooner. People always told me I was gay, but being judged from the beginning made it even harder."
What are your hopes and dreams?
"As of right now I have no hopes and dreams. I just want to find a job that can help pay off the debt I've accrued. Every time I aspire for something it usually doesn't happen, so these days I just let the chips fall where they may"
What advice would you give to someone struggling with the idea to come out?
"The only advise I can give to someone that's having a hard time coming out, is to just DO IT! Rip the band aid off and be who you are, these days there is such a spectrum of gay. By that I mean you see gay men that are muscle heads, "gaymers", even CEO's. We don't all wear makeup and we don't all feel we were born into wrong body. We're people just like everybody else, we're just a little more unique. Even if your family doesn't accept, you can pick and choose who you call family. There options available to the LGBT youth these days, don't hesitate to reach out for help."
I encourage you to join us this week for a Facebook live this week answering some of your questions and offering support.