Pride Month Blogathon: Day 1 – Introduction to Pride Month Blogathon
by Brent Lambert
Writing this makes me a bit sad because I really wanted better for all of you. I hoped that by the time I got the courage to tell this story that it would be antiquated and an experience that felt too far removed for any teenager of today to really be able to grasp. Unfortunately, I hoped too much for the future and we are where we are. And now instead of looking forward to my story being a relic, I find that I am hoping it has value in a world of ever creeping shadows.
Being a gay teenager was rough, and quite frankly, it remains to this day the darkest period of my life. Sugar coating that fact would be disingenuous. There were many days I wished I just didn’t exist. Fear dominated every aspect of my life then. The emotion lived with me like a constant companion, stifling my ambitions for love, for friends and all the other things teenagers should get to experience freely. Because I was gay, it constantly whispered to me my worthlessness: nothing could possibly be worse than being attracted to another man.
I kept most friendships on a surface level, always afraid that a deeper look would reveal my shame. I didn’t play the sports I actually wanted to because I was scared of doing something that would expose me. The locker room, full of hormones and admittedly attractive guys, might as well have been the last walk to the electric chair, as much as I wanted to go into it. I avoided male friendships because my sexuality felt like a wall that would keep me from ever meaning anything worthwhile to them. I became the person that people poured their problems on because helping them through theirs worked so well in helping me avoid mine.
I did great in school academically because it was all I had. I didn’t have friends to convince me to skip a day, to sneak in a beer or get away for the weekend. I spent nights crying myself to sleep because I was sure it would never get any better and no one would ever want me to have any substantial part of their lives. Navigating romantic feelings was a no-go because the idea of even confessing feelings for a guy felt like pushing the red button and ending the world. So I walled that part of myself off and just tried to appear uninterested in it all. Good grades became a refuge and one of the few sources of actual self-validation I had.
Satisfaction came in the form of a blank page instead. I always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until my 10th grade Creative Writing elective that it became something therapeutic. In those pages, I was able to become the outgoing, attractive guy I always wanted to be, hopelessly in love with all the various crushes I had throughout the years. Those stories gave me hope, but in the end they also built the walls higher. I turned in more on myself because the fantasy of the page allowed me to dream of a better life.
But it’s not actually a solution to turn something you love into a drug to avoid all the things you hate. You’ll just poison it and all those problems will still be right there.
Horrible times can’t always be beaten and sometimes all you can do is weather the storm. No one walks away from a hurricane and calls it a resounding success, but somehow that’s what us queer folks are expected to name it. Society always expects action. It commands we take life by the horns and control it. They neglect to mention that those horns can rip you apart and leave lasting wounds. There’s no shame in wanting to avoid that. If that’s where you are, then be that. Simply outlasting a bleak time is still a victory.
For many of us, our teenage years were simply a landscape of devastation we spend our adult lives rebuilding from. I know that isn’t uplifting or inspirational, but it’s honest. And I have a strong feeling you would rather hear that than an empty platitude. But you can and you will fix all that has been broken. You’ll build monuments to joy, museums of happy moments and libraries full of love.
But in this moment; survive, outlast and endure. And feel no shame in it. The world demands enough of us, so don’t demand so much of yourself.