My name is Jaden, and I am a 16-year-old gay student that attends high school in one of the most conservative counties in the state. I have often wondered the “what, when, where, and why” of how my life became what it is, but being able to express myself, my struggles, my ambitions, my pain, and my triumphs has given me the platform to answer some of the deepest questions I have had to face. My journey, like others, began when I was very young. I have been told of my extreme sensitivity to others, and there are multiple recorded stories of my genuine and sincere heartfelt actions. Although the accolades I received were real and assumedly well deserved, the persona I was providing left me wondering how I could ever communicate the things that really made me who I was. I was 10-years-old when I asked my mother to walk with me to a stream behind our house. There was a log there that provided me an escape to look into the sky and really contemplate the mysteries I was trying to understand myself. As my mother sat with me, I began to cry uncontrollably. After much cajoling, I explained that I had packed my suitcase and I was prepared to leave home in order to negate the ridicule my family would receive when our community, our neighbors, and our friends found out that their brother, son, and neighbor was gay. My mother’s response was “of course you are too young to identify with these feelings,” and she immediately found counseling for me to help correct the assumed false assumptions I had of myself. As you, the reader, view this story, you can possibly identify with the outcome. There are not enough degrees, trainings, or achievements that can offer any individual the authority to convincingly change the knowledge of what we know is in our hearts. I knew who I was, and having the many counseling visits did nothing but reiterate that there would be no one in life that could ever or would ever force me to make the assumption that only I have to offer myself. My life carried on, and no mention was made regarding what was still the source of so much heartache and loneliness.
At 15, I decided to tell my mother of this secret that I no longer wanted to carry. It was as if I was supporting a boa constrictor and the grip was tightening more and more every day. Eventually, I knew that I could no longer breathe, and the burden I was carrying was torture. Although I did not know what the outcome would be, I knew that being true to myself was all I had left to offer. Although it has taken time, my family has been very supportive and has chosen to learn with me on this journey. It has taken them to new places, and if you were to ask my mother today, she would tell you that although it was been a roller coaster ride, she would not change a thing, as it has created a new a beautiful environment for our family to truly love. I would concur that this journey has definitely been a roller coaster, but coming down the hill after reaching the top with anticipation of anxiety and fear has allowed me to more fully experience the thrill of putting myself out there. I would never say that getting on this (roller coaster) ride would be my preference one hundred percent of the time, but I know that I am the one that has chosen this journey, and I can choose to be afraid of the climb to the top or to enjoy the exhilaration of holding my hands in the air and the thrill of the descent.
This year I have been a student in a creative writing class and this opportunity has given me the platform to truly reach further into the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that have been a part of me since I was very young. The truth is that being gay is very hard to articulate. It is not a poem or a prose and can’t be explained away. It has made me both raw and vulnerable. Being vulnerable has allowed me to feel both love and pain and often times, the two overlap more frequently than I would expect. The pain has made me put up walls. These walls I know are meant to protect my emotions, but like many they not only prevent heartache from coming in but the ability to fully let love out. Being able to share myself, my journey, my heartaches and triumphs not only gives me the opportunity to shed the layers of the boy that I have been, but hopefully take down this wall, brick by brick. I know there is hope, I know there is support and most importantly, I know there is love.
“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” - Andre Gide
My hope is that through my journey, you too can learn as I have that as I work on being in love with the person in the mirror who has been through so much, the truth is that I am still standing.
Much (unconditional) love,