I was always different from everyone else, at least everyone I knew. I was born in Johnson City Tennessee, and raised in Georgetown Kentucky. Guess some of you are thinking what is life like living in Kentucky or being gay in Kentucky? It’s pretty much the same as it is everywhere else. Shockingly some cities are very open about accepting people’s sexuality. I’m one of the few family relatives who are out and proud in Kentucky. It’s been and still is a roller coaster ride of successes and struggles.
My story takes place in a town where it went from being a very narrow-minded town to a slowly progressive area. I grew up in a very conservative family. At the time, it was frowned upon to date out of your own race, or date the same sex. Being little and what I could remember, there was no discussion about interracial or same sex marriage. Thinking everything was fine, because my mom and dad never reacted negatively about it. That doesn’t mean they were against it, it just never was discussed. It wasn’t easy growing up as a child at least in school. There were decent number of friends but I remember more times that I was bullied throughout school.
In fifth grade at Anne Mason Elementary the way I acted around people wasn’t considered “normal”. The way I would do my hand gestures and talked gave it away. The bullying was to the point that only a small handful of people talked to me but the rest would just make fun or tease me talking behind my back. Also, I wouldn’t be able to be near some of them because they didn’t like me that much, guess my weirdness was existing. Begging my mom at times to not take me to school, because the teasing and name calling was bad. I got held back in fifth grade again which made my life a lot harder because I had to start over with making friends that I made in the previous years. To be honest I am glad getting held back happened, because not only did I improve my grades, but I made so many more friends and felt more respected than some people in the last class treated me.
Middle School didn’t seem to be a problem and when people asked me about girls I just played along and did what other guys did just to fit in the crowd. I feared my peers for many reasons, number one reason was bullying, what would happen to me if someone did find out? Would the teachers like me? Would my close friends like me? Would they tell my family? When it came down to my eighth-grade year I would consider that year a very dark time in my life. That was the year I realized that this feeling wasn’t a phase that I constantly told myself over and over, it was real and this was me. Learning that society frowned upon that highly and it broke my heart to know that the possibility of being thrown out of my family or even losing friends could happen. I couldn’t change myself before and I can’t now so what was I supposed to do? At that time, I tried to kill myself by overdosing with my father’s medicine pills and was very close to it. Managing to swallow at least two pills in my mouth and then just stopped and cried trying to figure out what I was doing with myself. I couldn’t go through it because I felt like I would only hurt my family and friends if I did. I tried to block out all the bad thoughts and just kept telling myself again it was just a phase. As the year was slowly nearing to a conclusion I ended up doing homebound and homeschooling because I was afraid of my peers at school.
Then came high school, friends were asking me quite a bit where I was. I did not really know a good answer, so I instead answered what my parents told me to say I went to a different school. Socializing with my friends again felt good almost like having a clean slate at school. Unfortunately, there was still bullying and teasing by other students, and this time it was being called a faggot. Being stressed out so much due to my parents’ divorce and sexuality led me to smoking cigarettes, Marijuana, and drinking at a minor age, which lasted for just that year. My dad kept trying to push the idea of going to youth group. I didn’t really want to go, but we gave it a try feeling that maybe that’s what we needed to get our minds off the divorce. At first it was a very welcoming atmosphere, so many people were once nice to me and it made me just have a breath of fresh air. I made some friends along the way and some keep in touch with me today.
Sophomore year comes along and I started to quit smoking and drinking all together, things were starting to look up and get better. The only thing that didn’t change was me pretending to be straight, it was still copying what other guys would do or say, and just play along in the crowd so no one would notice something off about me. Even asking girls out when there was no attraction to them was so awkward they would just eventually break up with me in a matter of weeks or days. I felt bad for not being honest about my real feelings and not telling them I was gay, but I was scared that I would be thrown under the bus or exposed. It sounds terrible but I simply didn’t want anyone to know at all I liked guys so I did what I needed to do.
While graduating high school and starting college, I had a clean slate and started to focus on school, and making new friends, while keeping in touch with old friends. Got my first job at Maysville Community College as a work study and things were looking up. Over the years some friends of mine came out of the closet, I supported them even though I would still pretend and often would say I’m not into this but I am happy for you. Even in politics, same-sex marriage started to slowly become legalized one state at a time, and even in other countries. It was around May of 2014 and I kept on hearing about how more and more states were legalizing same-sex marriage. This was important to me because I wanted to have the same rights as everyone else and to also love someone without judgement. I watched YouTube videos and read many articles of people coming out and sharing their stories because I wanted to see how others handled coming out and what it’s like in their experience.
A few weeks passed and I started to watch more coming out stories then finally realized it was time to quit pretending and hiding my true feelings. I had so many thoughts and emotions running in my head about whether I should or should not do this. I called my mom and asked her if I could come over and talk to her about something important. She said sure, so I got dressed and drove to her house being a nervous wreck. We sat down and it was very quiet and it was hard for me to say it because it would either make it or break it with my mom. Then the words “I’m Gay” finally came out and she smiled and gave me a hug while I cried and she told me she was so proud of me and was glad I didn’t have to keep hiding anymore. Then she continued saying she always knew about my sexuality and I looked at her thinking? How? I put a lot of effort into straight acting. I felt like I was very convincing but apparently, I need more practice in acting. She brought up the times where I would dress up in dresses, high heels, when I was a kid, and demonstrated my hand motions and gestures which basically gave it away. She then
reminded me of the time I danced to Spice Girls, Shania Twain, and Destiny’s Child at my sister’s birthday in ’98. We both laughed and the feeling I had felt amazing it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could breath.
After I had talked to my mom I eventually told both of my sisters I wasn’t as worried to come out to them. Then I told my dad which I was more nervous to tell. I had to have my mom with me to come out to him. It took him time to get use to this but he has come a long way to being more accepting of it than he was two years ago and I can talk about my love life with him and get advice. It felt great having those moments with my parents instead of having to make up stories about girlfriends. After coming out to my family, it was time to come out to some relatives which some didn’t agree with my lifestyle, and some were okay. They still accepted me and took it better than I thought. I then came out to some of my closest friends and they all supported me and were happy for me. The more I came out to others the easier it was for me to be more confident about myself. A couple months passed it was August 25th 2014. I was doing some homework and watching a movie on tv and was contemplating whether I should come out to the rest of my friends and family. Then I made the decision to tell everyone else and get it over with so I can be completely out.
I made the announcement on Facebook expecting to have a good portion of angry family and friends, but instead most of my friends and family were happy and proud of me whether they agreed or not. What a wonderful feeling it was to finally be yourself around everyone else and it’s no longer a secret to hide. A wall was lifted off my shoulders, I was completely out! I started to meet people right away on social media and with the help of my friends hoping to make some new friends within the community. While I had some support, I also received negative feedback from family and friends. Some people I went to church with sent me messages saying I would burn in hell, I would be thrown in the lake of fire. I had some tell me they would stop talking to me and my family. I had family tell me that I wasn’t blood.
After I came out one of my coworkers told me about a Fairness Ordinance in Cynthiana, KY and invited me to join a meeting. I, always so nervous meeting new people and having to speak in front of people, I have major stage fright. So, I went there which was a great experience and I got to meet three members from the Lexington Fairness Organization and they were Josh, Roy, and Zack whom went out of their way to make a difference for the community. I didn’t do much talking until one of the members broke my silence and asked me a question. I ended up telling them that I was fresh out of the closet and shared to them what I’ve dealt with so far being out of the closet.
During the summer on June 26th 2015 same sex marriage was legalized across the U.S.A. I was at my mom’s about to head to work and I saw through Facebook first then all over the news. I got so excited with a smile cheek to cheek over that news. After decades of people fighting for rights we came this far and could finally love who we wanted without fear. It was a day to remember for generations to come. History was made. I went to my first pride festival the following day I enjoyed seeing friends and coworkers and felt so much love that day. The vibe you got was just a comfortable happy feeling. There were no protestors, no negativity it was just a loving positive crowd of people.
A year passes, during the winter I still remember the chilling night that will forever hold a bad memory. I was in town at night making a trip to grab a bite to eat while my mom and step dad were out of town. As I was heading home a big red truck was behind me which I didn’t really think much of it at first then the truck started to speed up following behind me riding my bumper on the road I started to make turns to unusual places to see if this person would go away but the truck kept following me. So, then I started to head out to champion way and the next thing I hear is a guy yelling” faggot” and some other foul language as they followed me closely so I started to speed up then he started to speed up. I started to freak out then noticed the turn to Hilton Garden Inn was coming up so I made a signal to turn right and made a sharp fast turn going in there, and the truck left. I sat in the parking lot for a bit to calm myself down. Then told coworkers a few days later and some of them at the time was watching me leave to make sure nothing shady was going on while leaving.
I also got harassed on Facebook by a person from my personal life. I have yet to know who it is, but me and my family narrowed it down to either relatives or friends of the family to be the possibility. But the bigot had this to say and I quote “I wish you would cut the whole gay act. I pray for you every day hoping this sin you have committed changes. I hope you find the path of light. I unfortunately cannot be your friend on Facebook anymore. It’s a disgusting way of life and you know it. If you don’t repent you will burn in the lake of fire. Do you really want that Tyler??? I feel sorry for you and everyone else who supports you. You all are not obeying the word of God. You need to repent. If you’re wondering who this is. Don’t bother I used to be on your friends list, I made another account to say my peace without being bombarded by other family members to whom I will not say names. They know who they are. I am a Christian and will stick to my beliefs.” The conversation goes on to be more insults and foul language until I blocked him and told him my peace. Never had a situation like that ever again since then.
Around the fall that year the town I was raised in had their very first LGBT Pride festival cookout along with other counties such as Morehead. It was a huge step in the right direction for our town to come together and enjoy each other’s company. I also had the honor to meet Chris Hartman who is the director of the Fairness Campaign in Kentucky and has been fighting for LGBTQIA rights throughout the state and has done so much for others. I don’t know if thanks would be even enough compared to how much effort he has put into his work. Earlier in the summer I submitted a smaller censored version of this story I am telling now which was later accepted and thanks to Donna Ison for collecting these stories and Lexington Fairness for helping me and other people find this opportunity and share our stories, and poetic voices to others.
You can be gay or transgender and have different political views, religious affiliation, and ethnicity. Being yourself in a different but progressing world you feel like you are alone. Ashamed. Frowned upon because of who you are or who you love. Just remember this, you are beautiful. You are amazing. Be proud of who you are. Smile. Love Yourself. You are precious. You are worth so much that whoever falls in love with you will see how bright you shine.
To those of you in the closet. I am talking to you specifically right now. It’s normal to feel the way you do. It’s normal to be nervous and scared of the unknown. Without those
emotions how could we learn about ourselves and mature? I was scared just like you about telling the family, but I took a chance to be free and I am happier than I was hiding in the closet. I know you will be too. Coming out is like jumping into a cold swimming pool on a hot summer day, you got to be ready to jump in when you feel like you are prepared. Never think there is no hope. There will always be hope even when we think it’s impossible. We still have work to be done, but at least we can form a family, and marry the person you love and watch our kids grow up and do the same.