by Billy Clouse
You awkwardly walk into the locker room on the first day the class is required to change. You smell sweat and musk, but you don't seem to mind it as much as the other boys do.
You change quickly, and while waiting for the other guys to finish, your eyes start to drift up from the floor. You are looking at the boys before you realize what you're doing.
You start to love, and hate, P.E. at the same time.
Your eyes linger a little too long on the guy wearing especially tight, and therefore revealing, underwear, and when he asks you if you're a faggot, you blush and lie. You go to the nurse's office and say you feel sick so you can go home early and hide out under your blankets.
You spend the year trying, and failing, to control your eyes.
You tell yourself that just because you think about Mike when you jerk off and can't think straight when he wears a compression shirt doesn't mean you're into guys.
You realize during high school that you are, in fact, 100% gay, and you start to hate yourself because of it. You wake up every day and call yourself a fag, a queer, a homo.
You get a girlfriend to feel normal, and when you are out in the rain with her talking about life, you just can't bring yourself to kiss her.
You do research and discover that sexual and gender orientations aren't choices; they're determined before birth. You accept who you are, but you kick yourself because you still don't tell your friends.
You go to your first Pride event in college, pretending you're there just to take photos.
You see what your life could be, but it's too dangerous to come out, so you go home and cry in the shower.
You start to plan your own suicide before you realize what you’re thinking, and then you start sobbing more. You can't tell the difference between the tears and bathwater.
You go to work the next morning, and you thank the God you no longer believe in for Kate and Kendra and Daysa and Diana and Kirk. You might not be alive without the kindness they showed you every day.
You avoid unmarried men, because friends too often become love interests. You get attached to the boys you wish you could live without, and when they stab you in the back, you wish for the end yet again.
You start writing your suicide note while eating and crying and listening to sad music, but the emotional pain is getting to be too much. You swallow a hospital-strength pain pill knowing it'll make you fall asleep, because at least you can't kill yourself when you're unconscious.
You feel empty inside the next morning, so after getting food from the store, you consider speeding through an intersection at double the speed limit. You decide against it only because the family in the car you would hit doesn't deserve to die because you hate your life.
You are assigned a group for a class project, and before you know it, you're falling for the blonde boy. You love his laugh, his personality, his outlook on life, and you can't help but smile when you're around him. You want more than just a hookup—you want a long-term relationship.
You give him a dress shirt for the presentation because he doesn't own one, and it takes everything in you not to stare when he takes off the shirt he was wearing right in front of you.
You can't stand it anymore, so you open up to him after class only to find out he's straight. You spend the rest of the day in bed, crying into the shirt that still smells like him.
You go to another Pride event a few weeks into the next semester. You watch the performances and choose not to talk to any strangers so you don't have to lie. You go home, but instead of crying, you're overjoyed because one day, you can be out and proud as well.
You have a dream about your future a few weeks later, and you wake up crying.
You saw a world where you could be who you are on the inside.
You don’t want to live an unhappy life. You don’t want to spend time with people who are intolerant. You don’t want to exist in a world where who you are is considered a preexisting condition.
So you begin planning, but this time for a new beginning instead of the end.
You no longer care who will cut you off.
You no longer care that you could face violent backlash.
You no longer care what the world thinks of you.
You were born as a gay man, and you are ready to live your truth.