By Clayton Maderia
“I Am – Two of the most powerful words; for what you put after them shapes your reality.”
I am a gay man, but first and foremost, I am a human being.
Eleven years ago, when I made the decision to come out, my greatest fear was that my homosexuality would forever be what defined me. Even back then, at a time when I didn’t have a true definition as to what it meant for me. I wanted to simply play sports, and walk through the halls of school without being seen as “that gay guy,” or be automatically grouped in with other queer students, whose effeminacy I resented. But above all else, while hoping to meet a guy and fall in love was the logic behind my decision to come out, there was only one true reason why I chose to share my truth: I wanted my life to finally begin.
My existence at that time was a paradox rooted in deep self-hatred. Coming out was supposed to be the light at the end of the tunnel, but instead, it was only the beginning of a long journey. I knew that I was gay, but had never even hugged another guy; while those around me asked for proof, the truth was that I had none. I spent my nights every evening afraid to fall asleep, for fear of not waking up, and having my life end before I had my first kiss. When I did sleep, my dreams of being with other men would feel so real that I would wake in the morning believing my life had changed; but instead, the realization that nothing was different would eventually hit me, and my life felt like the nightmare. And while many in my liberal town applauded me for being “so ahead of my time” (when most men were known to come out in their mid 20’s) the thought of having to wait any longer to explore that other side of me, made me want to end it all.
I was both afraid to die and wondering if I should end my life – that was the internal battle that waged within my mind. I sat on the sidelines each day watching my friends fall in and out of relationships, constantly wondering when it would finally be my turn. In the end, it was those same people around me, and an unyielding belief in true love, that kept me going.
Four years after coming out, in my senior year of high school, a young man was assaulted with a hatchet at a gay bar on Cape Cod. As my internal fear was only furthered, I was told how lucky I was to have not been physically assaulted and abused for being gay. Although I knew that there was partial truth in the sentiment, all I could think was this: when the comparison of the extent of my “luck” was in direct relation to such an extreme act of violence and hatred, something had to change.
The truth is, it is never easy to realize that you are different. It seems impossible to tell those around you that the person they thought they knew wasn’t exactly as they pictured. At 14, I watched tears fall from both of my parents’ eyes. Whether religious contradictions, or the idea of not having grandchildren was at the forefront of their minds initially, it was the fear of their inability to keep me safe from societal disapproval and the inevitable pain that lay ahead which caused those tears to flow. But what they, and I, did not know at the time, was that the one thing I most feared others would define me as, would in turn lead me to my true definition.
I am who I am today because I am gay.
At times, coming out stories can seem cliche, but for me, and all those around me, the last 11 years have been a process. This shared exploration has strengthened my every relationship, combated my own personal homophobia, and allowed me to truly accept myself. This is who I am:
I am 25 years old, a loving son and brother, a hopeless romantic who believes in true monogamy, an athlete, a writer, a caring friend, and a pretty great waiter. I am competitive, emotional, tenacious, reserved, liberal, corny, sarcastic, stubborn, soft-spoken, tone deaf, faithful, loyal, traditional, but above all else: I am thankful.
For my parents, whose love and acceptance has lifted me, and whose past personal relationship is what drives me. For my sister, who constantly inspires me to be a better man and look at the world with a more open mind. For my friends, past and present, for their acceptance and support. For my first kiss, and the moment I finally got over how truly weird it felt to be kissing another boy. For my education in a high school that taught courses geared toward gays and lesbians, and allowed me to take my first boyfriend to Prom. For the moment at age 19, walking down the streets of Boston when I realized that I was truly in love for the first time; it was the culmination of every moment of past fear and anguish. For the inevitable heartbreak that followed, the moment in which I could not even stand on my own two feet, that forced me to realize the necessity of establishing an honest identity as an individual. For the first time I ever paired the word “proud” with my sexual orientation, the years of wishing it away had finally come to an end. For the queer people, and allies, I am constantly surrounded by, who inspire me through their actions and stories every day. And lastly, for myself, and the voice I have finally found.
In a world where young LGBTQI men and women are taking their own lives before they truly begin, I sit here today, hoping that my voice, and future written words, will somehow help to influence even just one queer youth to not give up on their journey. Although at times the mountains we climb can seem insurmountable, in the end, it is what separates us that helps define who we truly are. And in the end, no matter how different we may be, each and everyone of us holds a common bond at the core; we are all human beings.
What is The Human Experience? It is the validity in your story and the story of 7,000,000,000 other people in this world. How do you put a label on being human? You don’t. You open your heart and listen. This is the foundation of our publication,The Human Experience, and we want to hear your story. Join us in spreading the diversity of the human experience with the world by sharing your story. Find out how to share your story with the world.