by Billy Clouse
Originally published in Revolt — Vol. 1, Issue 2
Walking across campus, he has no doubt about who he is.
He is a theater and dance student. He is a brother of Sigma Chi. He is the Vice President of Academics.
And he is unapologetically gay.
Parker Hess, a senior from Rocky Mountain, Missouri, took awhile to understand his sexuality, but he is now out and proud.
Upon arriving at SUU, Hess knew he was gay, but he kept it to himself. After talking with two of his friends, he decided not to hide it.
“I spent the rest of that semester just having fun and doing my thing and being me,” he said. “I just lived not feeling like I had something I wasn’t sharing with people.”
During the break between fall and spring semesters, Hess decided to come out to his family.
His sister and her fiance took him to Jack in the Box, and around 10:30 p.m., he told them. Hess then went to the bathroom, and when he turned, his sister was crying.
The exchange that followed went something like this:
Hess: “Are you mad?”
After this, he proceeded to tell the rest of his family.
He told his younger sister when he took her to dinner following a performance. She said, “That’s fine, I’m sure I’ll meet plenty of you guys in college when I get there.”
Later, he told his older brother. The conversation following the announcement went something like this:
Brother: “That’s cool. Is your favorite color still purple?”
According to Hess, his brother was in a fraternity as well, so the concept of gay people wasn’t new to him.
Hess waited until before a haircut to tell his mother, who was cleaning at the time. The entire conversation went something like this:
Hess: “I have something to tell you.”
Hess didn’t tell his father until he visited him four months later.
Ever since he came out, Hess said he hasn’t been treated differently.
“I feel the same as I was before,” he said. “People always ask what is it like being gay,. It feels normal — breathing and blinking all the time. It’s the exact same way. I don’t do it more colorful than you do. The best part of being gay is just the best part of being a human being: behaving the way you want to behave and acting on things you want to act on regardless.”
It was during high school when Hess started to realize he was gay.
“I always felt like something was a little off about me,” he said. “I felt uncomfortable around the other guys, especially when we would change in locker rooms. I couldn’t stare because people would think I was gay, but I realized in the process that I wanted to (look).”
Internally, he struggled with these feelings for awhile.
“I had a couple of gay experiences that probably weren’t the most positive things in the world, but they had taken place,” he said. “Physically, I acted on it, but mentally, I hadn’t accepted it.”
On March 18, 2013, Hess admitted to himself that he was, in fact, gay.
“I had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment with me and my mirror, and it was a really great time,” he said. “It was really awkward, but that’s where I think I developed my sense of awkwardness.”
The conversation with himself went something like this:
Hess: “You’re gay.”
For the next few days, he felt weird before he acknowledged it.
“It was another thing to accept, like how I’m a redhead and that I’m going to burn and never tan,” Hess said. “I had to have that conversation too.”
Hess said that when members of the LGBTQ community are coming to terms with their sexuality or planning to come out, they should talk with others.
“You’ve got to find your close friends and discuss it with them,” he said. “If they’re close friends, they’re not going to leave you regardless of who you are. They shouldn’t give a rat’s ass, but if they do, they’re in (the friendship) for some other reason, and they’re a poison to you.”
Although his coming out experience was positive, Hess said he can’t give general advice about how to come out.
“It’s hard because every human has a different paradigm,” he said. “I can’t always see through their lens. Coming out can be hard for some people, but it was easy for me.”