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OC HIGH / Student News and Views : GROWING UP GAY

January 06, 1994|This first-person account of being homosexual but not being able to be open about it with classmates and family was written by a senior at an Anaheim high school

Growing up gay and not being able to tell everyone is like hell. It's very hard to have to keep it to yourself.

I realized seven years ago that I was different from the other boys at school. I was in the fifth grade. All my friends started talking about girls and somehow what they said never seemed to interest me. At first I figured that it was something that would pass. Suddenly junior high was upon me and I still felt the same way.

My friends would look at girls and I would look at my friends. By then I knew I could not tell them the truth. I had heard the jokes about gays and I was afraid of what might happen. I went through elementary and junior high school lying to all my friends, but the hardest thing was lying to my parents.

My parents have a real problem with gays. My dad says they're sick and that AIDS is something they deserve to get. It hurts me to think that this is the way they feel. What they don't know is that they're talking about their own son.

Now as a high school senior, I am a little more comfortable with my homosexuality, but I still feel like I am going through hell. Everyone at school thinks I'm a real responsible person, someone who always has a smile on his face and who never has a problem. I keep up this act because I want to appear normal.

I even act like I like girls. I'll tell one of my friends that I sort of like a girl or I'll hang out with her to make people think I have a crush on her.

The hardest thing is trying to keep up this act. For seven years I've had to pretend and I'm getting sick and tired of lying to everyone.

A lot of gay teens grow up unsure of how to deal with what they feel. It's hard because we have no role models.

It got so bad for me that it occupied my thoughts almost every day. My freshman year was OK, it was on my mind, but it didn't bug me. My sophomore year was the same. But my junior year was bad, and my grades took a nose-dive.

Everything's not so great in my senior year, either. My grades are better, but not as good as my freshman and sophomore years. It's impossible to do school work and worry about my sexuality at the same time. I am so afraid of people finding out about me.

I thought a lot of my friends were cool, but if the topic of homosexuality is brought up, they go ballistic. I am really amazed how much it hurts to hear them use words like homo, fag, queer and fairy. My friends who I thought were friends ended up hurting me, but I couldn't show those feelings. I had to keep them suppressed.

I have to think twice before I do everything. I have to watch what I stare at, how I talk, what I say, and how I walk and behave. Trying to worry about all those things and juggle my classes is too much to bear.

Some days I feel dead. People actually started telling me I was looking bad. So I tried even harder to act happy in front of them. It worked for a while, but I felt even worse. It's so hard to feel one way when you feel another. A lot of times I feel like I'm trapped in this box and every day it gets smaller and smaller so that I can't move, breathe or even think.

In the summer of my sophomore year, I saw a program on ABC's "20/20" about a gay community support center and a pen-pal network. I wrote in and was linked with a pen-pal I'll call Greg.

He was the first person I told that I was gay. He has been such a big help to me. It's been more than two years since our first letter and we still write to each other about our problems. I have helped him through a suicide attempt and he's helped me from taking my life. It was the first relationship I had that was totally honest.

But still no one at school knew. So in April of my junior year, I felt I had to tell someone or else I would explode. I confided in my two closest friends, who I'll call Irene and Sam.

Irene was totally understanding. She was glad to finally know what had been bugging me. She had known something was wrong, even though I kept telling her I was just tired. We remain close friends and help each other with problems.

The next person I told was Sam. I had met him last year and he had become my best friend. He told me he suspected I might be gay because it was the only thing he could think of that would bug me as much as it did. At first, Sam was uncomfortable with it, but he eventually accepted it. He said I was the same person he knew before I told him, so it shouldn't change our friendship.

Our relationship developed into something I cherish with all my heart. I love him and he loves me as a brother. He is straight but I am one of his best friends. He has helped me so much, more than he may ever know.

I have thought about suicide and even tried it several times. What keeps me from taking my life is the thought that it would be so hard on Sam. It would totally tear him up.

Sam talks to me about his problems and I try to help. It's my way of thanking him for being so understanding and trying to help me. He knows exactly when I'm down and can usually see right through my acts.

The fact that my parents don't know is one of the hardest things. They think I have no problems. They believe that teen-agers could never have problems. They don't even know I tried to kill myself.

Almost every night I cry myself to sleep. What I want is to tell my parents and all my friends. The guilt that comes with it tortures me and is probably the reason I am still depressed to this day. It is so hard lying to everyone.

To get my mind off my problems, I involve myself with many activities. But no matter how busy I am, I feel my problems are still right there.

If I came out, a whole lot of people would be surprised. I guess I'm just scared. I'm not ready to handle it. I figure someday I will tell my parents, maybe when I graduate from college. But until then, I can't act my "true" self.

Greg, Irene and Sam are the only people with whom I can act my true self. I have to act differently in front of everyone else. It is so hard keeping all this up.

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