The film Love, Simon, has been getting millions of people talking all over again regarding how truly difficult the coming out process is for anyone who has experienced it. Truth be told, the one that Simon (played by Nick Robinson) experiences is not so different from many others in real life who have their identity threatened for the world to see. I'm one of them.
Here's a fun little story about how this gay kid pictured above told the wrong person his sexuality, dealt with the fallout of that, and came out (pun intended) smelling roses and eventually developing an IDGAF attitude about the whole experience.
I've known, from a very young age, that I was different from the other boys at school. Vivid memories of watching Baywatch with my buddies was definitely an eye opening one, as they would ogle over Pamela Anderson and Carmen Electra whereas I would beeline for David Chokachi and David Charvet. Something was up.
Take that and put several situations in real life, when I vaguely remember having a thing for my 2nd grade teacher, to developing my first major (the word major here is a, well, MAJOR understatement) crush on a guy named Derek who moved to our school in the 5th grade. Then, with the addition of homoeroticism in music videos, guys in muscle magazines, the underwear ads in the Macy's catalog and many many other things, I came to the realization that I was in fact, gay.
I didn't really even know what gay totally meant at this point, to be honest. The realization happened before high school, I would say around the 7th grade. Keep in mind, this is in the late 90's when being cool with the gays was just "starting" to be a thing. I knew I liked guys, but I didn't know how to really explore what this was back then. The internet was in its primitive stages, and a lot of what i saw on television only made homosexuality seem like it was a bad thing, so naturally, I told nobody.
9th grade comes around, and I decided to join the junior varsity football team, the main reason being that it was a sport I played since I was young and I actually performed pretty decently on it throughout the years. Then, another crush happened. One that was almost as deep as the first one, only with more mature feelings. It became almost like word vomit at this point to actually want to scream "I'M GAY!" but I didn't out of fear that I would get my ass kicked both in and out of the locker room.
For most kids who play fall sports, you generally start practicing about 2 weeks before the school year begins. This rang true for the football team I was on, and one day, I remember talking to my friend about a girl I liked. Obviously, I was lying as I have never found girls sexually attractive and that still is my truth to this day (sorry ladies, but you are still freaking awesome). Then, another guy on my team came up to me mid-conversation, and said "You know Ryan, we all know you're gay."
I went totally pale, pale enough to actually see in my football helmet. I immediately went on the defense and said, "No... I'm not." He replied with "Most people who deny it actually are." This guy, who I am still friends with to this day, was being a crafty mother f***er, but I knew his intentions were in the right place, as he was just trying to get me to admit my truth. I went over to him shortly after, one on one, and told him I was, in fact, gay.
He didn't care. He said that he knew, a lot of people knew, and he was happy I told him. I grew up with him and the rest of my class since kindergarten, and even though I come from a very conservative area, there was a likability that my classmates had towards me that made me feel as if I wouldn't be in trouble of any kind if I came out. My family is and was a different story with this, as this tale only has to do with what happened shortly after at school.
So I told my friend, I told another guy who I knew since we were young, and they didn't care. Told one more, and then... the last guy. This last guy was someone who I was neighbors with growing up, was a bit older than me, and from what I remember, was a pretty nice guy. Little did I know that his reputation was one that can only be described as a dick, and he wound up telling the entire freaking school.
This was my biggest nightmare. My freshman year hasn't even started yet, and now i have to go into the first day knowing that everyone is aware that I'm gay. Am I going to get teased? Bullied? Harassed? Beat up? All of those things played into my mind as I walked into school that September.
I have to admit... I was one of the lucky ones. Yes, there was a ton of tension on the football team which caused me to quit shortly after (a decision I still regret to this day), but for the most part... no one cared. When you have a community around you that not only grows up with you but has a level of respect and care for you, it makes the coming out process that much better. So it was a complete 180 type of experience for me when I thought the worst was going to happen, and in the end, everything turned out OK and I wound up having an incredible four years there that I only look back on with fond memories and happiness.
The funniest thing happened years later at our ten year reunion. The guy who outed me in question wound up marrying a girl from my grade (a girl who was and is WAYYYYYY out of his league and I still scratch my head over why she's with him in the first place. Shade.) I said hello and gave him a brief hug, but that was it. He looked very uncomfortable around me, which made me hope that it was because of how he treated me in high school and not because of me being gay. Because seriously dude, if the latter was true, then you really need to reevaluate your life.
I found out a year or two ago, from a mutual friend, that his friend since childhood came out to him only a month or two before our reunion. Allegedly, he cried his eyes out later that night at an after party, as he spoke about how terribly he treated me and how he would've never done that to his best friend who is now gay. It's interesting how the tables truly turned there, and even though I have no plans to talk to this dude in the future, I'm glad that he came around and owned up to what he did and I hope he teaches his kids one day to have respect for all people no matter who they are.
I only wish that what happened with guys like me can happen to the rest of us in today's society. You should never, ever be punished for living your truth, and I do hope one day that homophobia and bigotry will become a thing of the past so every living person can be who they authentically want to be. If that doesn't work, and the homophobes still exist, keep one thing in mind then: f**k them.
This was created by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the opinion of Instinct Magazine or the other Contributing Writers when it comes to this subject.