I hated middle school. I hated high school. Many days I thought, “There has to be more to life than this.”
I know I’m not alone when I say that those years could best be described as Hell on earth. But even the chubbiest, most awkward-looking black girl with blue braces probably doesn’t go through the same things as someone who is struggling with their sexual orientation.
For some, coming out can be as easy as 1-2-3. For others, coming out is pure and absolute torture. I have a friend whose parents simply said “Oh sweetie, we know,” and then went back to making dinner. I have another friend whose mother threatened to stop paying college tuition.
This shouldn’t even be an issue. In an ideal world, all would be able to love whomever they want to love, without ridicule.
Yes, gay marriage has become one of the most-talked about issues in our generation. Yes, gay students want to debate and advocate for laws protecting them and their civil rights. But mostly, gay college students just want to be students.
You know, the kind of student without a spotlight pointed at them. A student who isn’t the “gay friend.” A student who can go out, go to class and just be their generally awesome self. And yes, the student who also dates.
The dating scene at ’SC can be a bit rough — add in the factor of trying to figure out if the person you’re interested in swings a certain way, and the dating situation gets a lot more difficult.
The number of times that I have sat with a gay friend trying to figure out if a girl is a lesbian or a guy is gay is too high to count. Being rejected sucks, but when it’s accompanied by an “Oh, I’m not …” it sucks even more.
But what do you do when you’re not even out yet? How do you function when you feel like you want to scream all the time?
I’m not going to pretend to know what it feels like, since I have no idea what millions of people go through every day. Just like someone who isn’t black can’t tell me what it’s like, I can’t tell a gay person, “Just come out already, it’ll be fine!”
Yet I’ve seen firsthand how such a secret can destroy a life. I’ve seen friends who seemed almost dead inside, self-destructive to the core. Then a light switch on in their eyes when they come to terms with themselves.
Some don’t want to risk coming out to their fraternity brothers, some don’t want to see a look of disappointment on their parents’ faces and some feel like their relationships with certain people will never be the same.
Some even hook up with the “right” gender in order to try and force themselves to be straight.
“I was hoping that if I hooked up with a girl enough it wouldn’t only make me appear straight to outside people, but it may ‘make’ me straight in my own head,” said a long-closeted friend of mine. “That strategy only helped so long and then my situation just kept getting worse until I realized there’s nothing wrong with being who I actually am and having people know.”
Today is National Coming Out Day. Today is a day we should ask ourselves if we’re treating every person with the respect, honor and love they deserve. Today is a day many kids feeling hopeless will hopefully find a way to become one with themselves. Today is a day when even adults might be able to look in the mirror and come to terms with the person reflected back at them.
You can’t be ashamed of who you are. You can’t make yourself different. We were all put on this earth for specific reasons, for specific paths — the second you start doubting yourself is the second the naysayers win. Though there are some that want to deny you your freedom, we all will continue to fight. I, like many others, will stand by you until we’re at the altar, and you get to declare your love in front of whomever you g-ddamn want to.
For now, try and figure out the best way for you to come out. Maybe you start with a close friend, maybe your sibling can help. There’s no rulebook and no script to follow.
Just remember that at our core we are the Trojan Family. Though it might seem dark, though it might seem rocky, you’ll get through this because you’re a Trojan. You fight till the end, and you stand up for yourself and what you believe in. You don’t run away when all seems lost.
You fight on.
Sheridan Watson is a junior majoring in critical studies. Her column “Lovegame” runs Thursdays.