I GREW UP GAY IN INDIANA

What with the 'Religious Freedom' bill and the HIV epidemic in Scott County, I thought some perspective might be interesting.
  1. I'm 26. I grew up after the AIDS epidemic amidst the "Don't Ask Don't Tell, "It doesn't get better" part of the 90's.
  2. During my adolescence my neighbors were married lesbians, Debbie and Carol. I was lucky to have an example of what same-sex love could look like (they're still together).
  3. I had a lot of feelings from day one and a habit of playing Spice Girls instead of Power Rangers (Posh). Naturally, I was bullied. Constantly. Everyday. All day. Fag. Girl. Baby. It started young and didn't stop. I took 60 sick days in first grade, they tried to hold me back but my mom fought 'em.
  4. It felt weird to be called gay before I even had sexual desire. It made me feel like I had no control.
  5. Even though my parents were liberal (for Indiana) I didn't tell them. Fear is powerful and makes you think the impossible possible. Plus, at Brownsburg High School two of the other gay kids (there were four of us) got sent to gay conversion camps.
  6. I told my mom I was gay when I was 15. She cried. And then she got real quiet. She told me not to tell anyone else, including my family. She started taking anti-depressants.
  7. When I finally turned 16 everything changed. I did the musical "Chess" at a theater in downtown Indianapolis. I met other gay people my age who were totally out of the closet. I fell in love with a boy named Chris - he was 20, in college, and African-American.
  8. One time Chris and I held hands outside the theater and a man through a glass bottle at my head from outside a car window.
  9. I told my sister that year and she threw me a 'coming out party'.🎉
  10. My dad took me out to dinner at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse one night to "have a talk". He sounded serious. We finished our meal and he leaned in and said, "I know you smoke pot, it's cool, I do too." Totally thought it was going in a different direction.
  11. My junior year of HS I finally came out to everyone. It was very brazen. I was Nicky Arnstein in "Funny Girl" and after the show when we greeted the audience Chris took me in his arms and kissed me in front of the whole school.
  12. My mom felt really guilty about getting depressed when I came out, but I already understood, even at that age, that life was hard and it's best to forgive and move on. My mom is the best and I wouldn't have picked another.
  13. My dad told me that his best friend in HS was gay and died very young from cancer. I'll never forget how easy my dad made it for me. Ever.
  14. My class had 300 people in it. Only two people went to college out of state. It was the two gay kids, me, and our salutatorian, Nathaniel.
  15. It's weird to think that as progressive as this country has become regarding sexuality, my own state is still lagging behind. Fear is powerful, but I still think love is stronger (cheesy, I know, but cheesy is nice).
  16. I'm a very lucky person and I'm grateful for my childhood, the good and bad. A lot of people have it a lot worse. The negative aspects taught me important lessons, and the positive aspects act as beautiful memories that I can go back to and relive again and again.