Overcoming Fear & Hoping for a Better Tomorrow
I could never have imagined finding the person I knew I would want to spend the rest of my life with by this point in my life. I could never have even imagined being in a relationship with a guy that my parents accepted.
When I was younger I didn't think finding love would be in my future. I knew I liked men but had no examples of same-sex relationships at all to look to. Nothing like the fairytale romance I read in so many books growing up. It wasn't something I thought attainable for me.
Hoping for a Better Tomorrow - A Better Tomorrow Includes Marriage Equality
Accepting myself wasn't the issue. I knew I was gay before entering high school. It was something I'd struggled with a little but I knew wasn't going to change.
My issue was fear.
Throughout high school, I believed my sexuality was something my parents would not be able to accept. I knew I wasn't going to be able to handle that rejection from them. I also didn't want to deal with any additional bullying in school. I was already bullied for being the black nerdy kid who spent his time in all the academic clubs & reading.
I wasn't prepared to deal with bullying on an elevated level.
Coming Out to My Family
Not everyone has the best experiences coming out to their family.
There was a major coming out experience that shaped my early years & influenced my decision to not come out to my parents until much later in life. I watched a friend get treated badly after their coming out. Their parents did not use kind words when they found out. Then they tried to keep my friend away from their girlfriend.
I saw what the struggle was doing to my friend. It was the worst feeling not being able to help & not even being able to bring myself to admit that I was gay too. The struggles culminated with that friend running away from home. My fear of a similar situation happening is part of the reason I made sure to keep myself hidden for so long.
I even avoided befriending the few openly gay boys in my high school. Even ones I had crushes on from afar.
I was always too afraid of someone finding out about me.
I think back & wish I had reached out to people who could understand what I was going through. I wish I had found a friend group to talk with about the issues I was having sooner.
Finding Myself & Finding Love
Going away to college was amazing for a lot of reasons. I was out on campus almost immediately. I felt that I could be myself fully for the first time.
The freedom I felt made me happier than I ever was before. I found a second family with the universities LGBTQ+ group pride. I had people who I felt comfortable with & who felt comfortable being themselves with me for the first time.
I started dating a lot when I started college.
The dates weren't always great. I was just happy that I felt comfortable seeking love for myself finally. I was able to spread my wings. I was able to learn to fully love myself. Then after a while, I fell in love with someone before I even started dating them. I fell in love with him as a friend first. It wasn't a fairytale romance like I read in fantasy novels for years...
It was something better.
On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court ruled that state-level bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.
My boyfriend & I already decided we were getting married one day. We were engaged the year before after only being together for 3 years. Learning that we'd be able to have a marriage that would be recognised anywhere in our country was an amazing moment for us.
We'd both been involved with LGBTQ+ issues throughout college. We'd heard of people's real-life struggles. We experienced the resistance when we spoke out about the rights we deserved.
I saw this as a statement saying that my relationship & my love is just as valid as anyone else.
High school me could not have envisioned this happening. Not with all of the fear he still needed to overcome. On the day we gained the right to marry I remember thinking about how this would change things for LGBTQ+ youth to see that people care about their rights.
To know that people see them as valid. To know that their love matters. To know that they matter. I hope that LGBTQ+ people everywhere can have that. I think it would have helped so many if it had happened here sooner. I think it would have saved lives. I know it would have made a difference for me.
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About The Author - Christopher Richards
Christopher is an aspiring author from Chicago, Illinois.
He immersed himself in LGBTQ+ books and media while growing up & continues to do that today. He reviews diverse books on his blog. He also talks about books, LGBT films, & music on his YouTube channel.
Christopher wants to one day have his own publishing company that highlights works from LGBTQ+ writers.