47: Not Your Average Joe

47: Not Your Average Joe

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness

Not Your Average Joe

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.

~e.e. cummings

The burden of my secret was weighing me down. It was like a ticking time bomb, waiting to explode.

“Why don’t you go hang yourself?”

“People like you should shoot themselves.”

“You should be burned to death.”

“God looks down on people like you.”

It’s hard to believe that by the age of sixteen I’d heard every single one of these phrases and hundreds more. Some came from the mouths of my peers, but what’s even scarier is that some came from the mouths of adults, the people who we respect and look up to the most.

I had always been asked if I was gay. Most of the time people would just assume I was and tease me about it. I never came out and said I was, because I wasn’t sure, and I was also afraid of the reaction I would get.

In middle school most of my days were spent observing how I was “supposed” to act and who I was “supposed” to like. I spent a lot of time arguing with myself as I tried to figure it out. By high school I had a clear understanding of who I was. It had finally clicked. I knew I was gay, it was something I would never be able to change, and I accepted that. I was not a mistake, and my confidence and acceptance of myself grew every day. I knew that my family loved me, my friends loved me, but most importantly, I loved myself.

I knew my very close friends wouldn’t have a problem with my sexuality, so I decided to tell them first. I still had to do the biggest thing of all — tell my parents.

I have a dad who’s as conservative as it gets, and a mom who, god bless her, is the complete opposite. I was raised in an open-minded household. This taught me to be myself, show emotion, and listen to both sides. I had an amazing family unit, which made it even harder to tell them because I didn’t want to risk losing that. I knew when I told my friends, I could risk losing them and make new ones, but I couldn’t make a new family. I waited half a year for the right time to tell them, but it didn’t happen the way I planned.

It was a Saturday night and I had just gotten home from a friend’s house. The news was on. Surprisingly, it was about gay people serving in the military. My parents asked me why I looked confused.

“Gay people can’t serve in the military? What kind of crap is that?” I said.

“Yeah,” my dad said, “it has been that way for a while.”

The questions started, and then as usual, a debate erupted. I was very curious about this, not understanding why someone’s sexuality should be a factor in determining whether or not they could serve their country. I had many questions and my dad was getting angry because I didn’t think it was right.

“Why is this so important to you? Are you gay or something?” he asked red-faced.

My heart skipped a beat and time slowed. This was not how I had planned to tell them.

“Yes,” I said firmly.

The room quieted. My dad started to say something but nothing came out. Eventually he took a deep breath and said, “Well, that’s fine with me.”

I was shocked and a little upset. It didn’t sound sincere. I had heard all those horror stories about parents making their kids move out. I eventually walked out of the room, leaving my dad in there to grasp the situation, to look for my mom so I could tell her too. The words came out easier when I told her, probably in part because she had gay friends and was completely fine with them. She was shocked; she said she had no idea, but that she would love me until the day she died. My dad eventually came and hugged me. He said he was in shock but didn’t want me to think he would ever not love me because of the person I loved. This put all my worries to rest, but I knew I still had a long road ahead of me.

The support that I had from my parents and my friends was unbelievably satisfying. I finally felt like I had nothing to hide, and I could be myself. My sexuality does not define me. I am not a stereotype — I am a human being. My journey is not over, but the hard part is. Yes, I want to get married, and yes, it’s to a person of the same sex, but why does that matter? Love is love. I’m truly happy with who I am.

Hi, my name is Ian and yes, I’m gay.

~Ian McCammon

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