Deep breathes and go...
Lesbian. Gay. Bisexual. Transgender. Queer. +
Growing up, these terms never applied to me. Or at least I didn't want to admit that they applied to me. When asked how long I have known I was gay, it's a very easy answer. I've always known that I was different. I didn't always fully understand that I was gay, but I knew that I was different.
By the time I got to middle school, I knew without a doubt that I was gay. I liked boys. Growing up with this realization was hard. I was raised in a religious Christian family. This topic wasn't really talked about. But I knew that people at church told me it was wrong. In fear of being a "bad kid," I hid this secret. I did everything I could to try to hide the fact that I liked boys. I had "crushes" on girls. I wrote them notes and left them in lockers. But every once in a while, someone would make a comment. I remember the first time I was called gay. It was in sixth grade. School had just let out and another boy came up to me in the hallway and flat out said, "You're so gay," to my face. I knew the word gay wasn't being used in the manner that means, "Oh that's so lame," or "That's stupid." He looked at me and said, "I know you're gay. You like boys." I insisted he wasn't right, but deep down, I was terrified. Had I been caught? Were my parents going to find out? What was I going to do?
I somehow made it through middle school and high school without coming out of the closet. As if puberty wasn't hard enough, I was faced with the internal struggle about my sexuality that never left me. I would lie in bed at night crying, praying to God that I would just be straight. I was afraid of what people would think. How I would be treated.
College was the worst for me. I fell into deep depression and dealt with it by heavily drinking during my freshman year. A year later, my sister finally convinced me to see a therapist (I had come up with every excuse for my depression except the fact that I was gay). While I still wasn't out of the closet (I was still very much in denial of my sexuality), I found that having someone to talk to every week helped. I still struggled with who I was, every single day, but other things in my life seemed okay. I thought to myself, maybe I am just meant to be single for the rest of my life.
Not much changed after college. I had stopped trying to pray away the gay. I knew now that this is who I was. I knew that I was gay. I knew that I was born this way. I knew that no matter how hard it was and how much I didn't want to be this way, it wasn't going to change. To the outside world, I was just Tommy, trying to find his place in the world, not interested in dating. I would tell family and friends that I wanted to focus on figuring out what I wanted to do with my life.
It wasn't until 2015 that my mentality started to change. I still wasn't comfortable talking about my sexuality with anyone, so I held it in. I never spoke a word about it to anyone, although I was finally able to look at myself in the mirror and admit to myself that I was gay. I found myself going to the Internet and social media in search of some kind of community. I watched YouTube videos of peoples coming out stories. Kyle Krieger. Tyler Oakley. The Rhodes brothers. Troye Sivan. Connor Franta. Gus Kenworthy. I didn't know any of these men, but they were my community. They were the people that I went to to simply try to feel normal.
About two and a half years ago I met someone that began rocking my world. He never pushed my sexuality on me or outed me. He simply allowed me to be. He was there as a friend. There as a sounding board. He taught me how to let people in. How to love. How to be proud of where I've been and where I am going. For the first time in a very long time, largely thanks to the impact this person has had on my life, I truly love Tommy Engstrom. I love that I am a son and a brother. I love that I am a blogger. I love that I have had my share of ups and downs - as hard as they've been, I've learned something from each and every experience. I love that I have my faith and beliefs. I love that I am gay. I love that I can finally be open with the world and be proud of who I am. Don’t ever let someone tell you that you have to fit into a certain mold. Be who you are. Love who you are. Don’t ever doubt who you are.
Why did I write this article? Do I owe it to the everyone on the Internet or social media to tell them that I am gay? No. But I hope that somehow my story, my coming out, my pride will help someone who isn't quite at this point in their journey. It is hard. But I cannot say it enough. It gets better. Life is worth living and worth loving yourself. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.