By: Taisa Strouse
This month, we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. The Stonewall Uprising, that began in 1969, is known as a “tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement” and thus is commerated every year in June. Worldwide, you’ll see masses of people decked out in rainbow colors honoring their own identities and those of the entire LGBTQ+ community.
John didn’t always know who he was. In rural Rhode Island, he grew up surrounded by societal pressures to like women, to dream of marrying one. He rationalized his attraction to men by deeming it something that would never turn into anything more, suppressing any attraction with recurring denial. He dated a girl for a few years in his early teens, all the while knowing it felt wrong and was not true to who he was.
He underwent hardships in middle school, incessantly teased by a group of his male classmates. Every day was a burden. Rafael was in therapy, but because he was in denial to himself about his identity, the long sessions went nowhere. He quit sports, and felt alone.
But when he got to high school, John made genuine friends that made him feel more sure of himself. His friends were honest and unconditionally accepting.
He first came out to one person, then to his closer circle of family and friends. Soon after, he decided to come out to people by texting them on Snapchat – copying and pasting the message to multiple people. He was tired of keeping his secret, so in one fell swoop, he came out to his community.
The next day at school, John was terrified. In his small town in Rhode Island, he was unsure of how he would be treated. But, thankfully, not only did his worst expectations not materialize, but actually, he felt deep relief. It was as if he had taken a huge weight off his chest. No one gave him dirty looks in the hallways. There were no rude remarks to his face. He had done it! He had shown everyone his true identity, the one he tried to conceal for so many years, and it was OK.
Once he came out, he realized he could “be who [he] wanted to be” and dress [how] he wanted to dress].” He no longer had to pretend to be the person he thought others wanted to see him as, but instead could be his true, authentic self, in all aspects of his life.
John concedes that he’s lucky: his family and community were supportive, unlike those of so many others. But he gives this advice to both his past self and anyone in the position he was in before coming out: anyone’s malicious actions or words are more a representation of them than they are of you.
He built a strong community that supported and uplifted himself in ways that he could not do for himself. He’s more resilient now than ever; he’s been able to explore new avenues and gain new experiences that he wouldn’t have been able to discover when he was in the closet.
Children’s Author Dr. Seuss wrote: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” We can all apply this lesson to some facet of our lives.
This month, and always, we celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.