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People Like Me

The following is something that I wrote and published on Facebook on October 11, 2010.  October 11 is  National Coming Out Day and I thought it was time that I told my story so that others can know that life does get better.

Coming out was not necessarily an event for me like it has been for many people.  It was more of making a conscious decision to stop pretending I was someone who I was not.  I always knew that I was different from other boys, but I did not really have a name for it.  I don’t know why,  but I had the feeling that I should keep this to myself and not let my secret be known. When I finally realized what this secret about me was, I had also learned how society looked at it.

I grew up in a rather large family and was raised Catholic.  Although we were not very religious, being Catholic had a great influence on how I thought about myself.  I always loved going to church until I learned how the church felt about people like me.  This was the beginning of the self hating period of my life.  I had  no clue yet how my family felt about it, but I was certain it would not be good.   I had to keep my secret no matter what.

I remember one evening watching the television show “Family”   In this particular episode  one of the main character’s best friends told him he was gay. “Wow! Someone like me,”  I thought.  My eyes and ears were glued to the television.  I never did see the entire episode.  My grandmother came into the room and heard what was on.  She turned it off and told me that I should not be watching this.  I learned how my grandmother felt and was certain that the rest of my family felt the same.  Another reason to keep my secret.

From time to time I would hear news reports and see in the newspaper stories about people like me  and I would gauge how people felt about us by their reactions.  It was usually ranged from mild jokes to cruel threats.  Another reason to keep my secret.

I did have a friend who was also like me.  His mother knew about us and made sure that we could talk to her about anything that we wanted with her.    I could not talk to my family.  They hated fags, or so I thought.

I grew up like this carrying this secret.  I was bullied often. At times it was too much to bear.  I learned how to drink and drank very hard.  Alcohol was this great savior.  It helped me forget, at least for a little while. Whenever I felt tortured I drank and then I felt good.  I soon discovered my first gay bar.  This was great for me because I could be around people like me and feel good at the same time.  I was around people who knew what I felt and they did not care.  They felt it too.  They all drank for the same reason I did,  to feel good.  I soon started using drugs.  Wow they made me feel good.  How could anything bad make someone feel this good.  I did not care about anything anymore.  Drinking and getting high were a priority because I knew they would make me feel good.  I flunked out of my first year of college.  I did not care.  I took some fluff courses so that I could stay enrolled.  I was able to still feel good and still stay in school.

Eventually all of this feeling good started feeling bad.  A day did not go by that I did not want to die.  I knew this was not good but I did not know how to make it stop.  I saw an ad in the college newspaper about counseling.  I made several appointments, but kept canceling them.  I finally kept one appointment after the scare of my life.  I woke up one morning after a big night of feeling good, but had no clue how I had gotten home.  My car was in the driveway, but how did I get home.  I wanted to die.  I made one of those appointments again and kept it this time.  It saved my life.

To make a long story short I found sobriety.  I did not like it either.  I could not feel good.  The counseling led me to people who knew how to feel good with out the alcohol and drugs.  After a period of time I really did begin feeling good and learned to accept myself.  At the age of 28 I came to the realization that I had to be who I am regardless of what others think.  There was no big coming out event.  I just began living my life for me and not anyone else. It was difficult at first but now I had people to show me how. If someone could not accept me then they had no place in my life, including my family.  I was shocked when I eventually figured out that most of my family accepted me without a second thought.  My oldest brother had the hardest time accepting me.  It took his wife almost 5 years to convince him that being gay was not some kind of disease you could catch.  On the whole it has been good.

I consider myself lucky that I have the family that I have.  Things could have been worse.  I know many that were disowned by their families.  Many were bullied and harassed and even beaten up for being themselves. I feel lucky that I only had to put up with the harassment and bullying as bad as it was, it wasn’t as bad as being disowned and beaten.  I owe it to every young person struggling with their sexuality to be myself and show them that life gets better.  I am heart-broken by the recent news stories of those who could no longer deal with it.  I used to think National Coming Out Day was a waste of time, but I now realize it is not.  Everyone needs to hear my story and every one else’s story to know that life gets better and there is plenty of help out there when you don’t want to cope any more.  So for someone who’s coming out was not a big event, I am making it a big event today.

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  1. June 13, 2011 at 8:47 am

    Phenomenal post, Patrick! Love the honesty!

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