Hi, my name is Daniel, and for as long as I can remember, I've been different; different from my peers, different from society, and different from what I was expected to be. Growing up, my parents expected a lot from their beautiful baby boy, typically heteronormative male things, but being who I am, I always went against the grain. So, instead of tossing a ball outside, I much preferred playing with Barbies, instead of watching an action movie full of twists and turns, I would beg for my mom to turn on The Little Mermaid once again, and instead of being concerned with how I was acting, I was only concerned with being myself.
Surprisingly, I never knew I was gay until around fifth grade, in spite of the many times I ran around in my grandmother's sparkly heels, or tried to sew a dress, or sing a Britney Spears song atop a school playground table. Sure, I had been called gay since kindergarten, but I never took much stock in it, I always brushed it off as people being mean and poking fun, because that’s generally what people did.
Eventually, I started to see myself from the outside just a bit, I saw that I acted different from the other boys, I always liked spending time with the girls more, I hated sports, no matter how many basketball games I forced myself into, I just felt so different from them all, down to my core. I also noticed I looked at them differently, but I didn't yet know what it meant, so I kept these findings to myself, all the while wondering just what it all meant.
It wasn't until seventh grade that I started to discover who I am. I was exposed to a whole new group of people, and I think that helped me a lot with finding myself, it was the first time I was introduced to LGBTQIA+ people. I was starting to make real friends, who were all so different, and had all seen such different things. By this time, I knew I was attracted to boys, I knew I acted very different from everyone else. I cared about how I looked, I was very flamboyant, and I loved being 100% me, no questions asked.
I wasn't ready to talk about my differences or what I felt until I met a bisexual girl. One night, we were talking and she mentioned that she was bisexual, and that’s when I saw it, my one shimmering chance to tell someone how I felt, and not have to fear so much for myself. I sat there with a simple "I think I am too", or something to that effect, ready to send, but I was so scared, I was shaking, unsure if I should send it, knowing there was no turning back after this, and, in those few moments, I thought long and hard about who I am, and how I felt, and finally, I hit send. It was like my whole body had just given out this huge sigh of relief. I felt unlike I ever had before. I felt just a bit freer, and a lot happier. She replied being nothing less than surprised and accepting, it made me feel safe. I felt like I could tell others, so that’s exactly what I did.
The fear I had been holding in for years, of people not accepting me or loving me, of me being different, was starting to lift away. With every friend I told I felt a bit of weight lifted off my chest, but it didn't stay that way for long. With allies, come enemies. I had my fair share of people questioning me, of people who thought I wouldn't notice their giggles and whispers, but I noticed, and while I didn't like it, I didn't let it bother me. I was coming out, I was living my best life, and nobody was going to bitter that feeling for me. The next year I came out again as gay, and received a similar response, a mix of love and hate, but still the love deafened the hate. Nobody truly bothered me with their words or prejudice, until I came out to my parents.
I didn't even attempt to come out to my parents until eighth grade. I was too afraid that I would be letting them down, that I would be killing their vision of their little boy's future. I didn't want to hurt them like that. I cared more about not hurting them than I cared about myself. Part of me felt like it wouldn't have been a shock to them, I mean, hell, I was GAY. There had been instances where I felt like they would know. Like it was unmistakable how gay I was. I had come home with a full face of makeup on from my theater classes, I would fill my hair with colored spray-paints before school, I wore necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, and pink. Every stereotypical gay thing you can think of, I was. And still, they must have thought their boy was just different, because when I came out to them, they received it as quite a shock.
I decided it was time to tell them right before my fourteenth birthday. My eighth grade year was going extremely well, and I figured it was time to truly free myself. I enlisted some of my best friends and a few members of my social media following to help me make a coming out video of sorts. It turned out beautiful, and I couldn't have been happier with it. I had finished editing it all together the day after my fourteenth birthday, and without a second thought, I uploaded it to YouTube, and emailed it to mom. Shortly after, I fell asleep feeling hopeful, apprehensive, free, and scared, all at the same time.
I woke the next morning to a silent house. It was scarily silent. I didn't know how to go about going upstairs to face my parents. But after a few moments of silence, I shot up the stairs. I walked to my parent's bedroom, knowing that’s probably where thy would be, and there sat my mom. She embraced me, letting me know she would always love me, but that this was a shock to her. She explained that my dad had left the house shortly after watching my video and had locked himself in our camper. It wasn't the reaction I was hoping for, but I understood. I knew what I had just done to him, I had changed his whole life, in an instant. He stayed out there for a while, and when he came in, things were different for a while, but eventually, he came around, he let me know he loved and accepted me, and things felt right again. Now I could be myself no matter what, no matter where I was, I could be me.
Not long after I came out to my parents, I was introduced to my now passion, the art of drag. It started from watching the web show Willam's Beatdown starring Willam Belli on YouTube. I was so intrigued by Willam, and by drag in general, I loved it. I shared Willam with my best friend, and she was hooked too. Willam then led us to RuPaul's Drag Race and, from there, our obsession only grew, until one day I told my friend I really wanted to do drag. Lucky for me, she had all the tools for us to start! She and I dug into her mom's old collection of makeup, wigs, dresses, and shoes, and BAM! stars were born. We did drag for a little online web show of our own titled Beat That Face, just for fun as baby queens. With every look, as we started to wear more and more makeup, I got dangerously closer to my parents finding out, and that was the last thing I needed.
I was so afraid that my parents would find out about it after seeing how my dad reacted to me being gay, I was truly terrified of what would happen if he found out about my doing drag. I was so terrified, in fact, that I was able to hide it until Thanksgiving Day the next year. The day was going normal, I was so excited for the holiday, until, out of the blue, my dad came up to me, and mentioned that he had found one of my friends' Facebook pages. Her Facebook was filled with pictures of our drag, and I knew it was over. My heart sank as terror filled my body. He pulled up some pictures of me in drag, and, expecting the worst, I began to cry. That's when my father surprised me more than he ever had in his entire life. He hugged me and told me it was okay. He accepted me, and my art. He had just defeated every assumption I had had about his reaction in a matter of seconds, and just like that, my world felt whole again. In the years to come, my dad would prove just how accepting he was, in building me an entire room for my drag, and in even being in pictures with me mid-drag, in every change I have thrown at his life, he has adapted, and loved me more and more, with each step.
Ever since then, my high school experience has been a piece of cake. I joined my school's GSA, and eventually became the lead facilitator for the club. I have tried to spread my love and understanding throughout the school and to help people know it's okay to be different.
Over the past year, I have also become more open with how I express myself. I became more familiar with androgyny and began to give hetero-society the finger. I decided I was going to be me no matter what people thought, and now I wear what I want, and I look how I want. I go to school wearing highlighter, with my hair dyed and straightened, in a pair of boots and a mesh shirt, and I couldn't be happier. I am confident in who I am, and in my sex and gender identity, and that’s a feeling I can only describe as true freedom.
I am living my best life, true to myself, not afraid to be me, and that is something I hope everyone can do. I grow every day, I learn, I change, just as everyone else does. This is what makes us all different, this is what makes our differences beautiful.