“Into the Out” by Ari Goodfriend

How do you classify a human being? Who fits into categories, and more importantly, why does the classification matter more than the character of the human? Over the past three years, I have gone through the process of coming out as gay, first to myself, then to my parents, and finally to my peers at school. My situation was more of a transformation than an experience. Thus, in this essay, I will take you through the different stages and explain why my journey makes me diverse.

 

Stage One: Denial

 

Ever since I can remember, I had feelings that set me apart from other children. However, I grew up in a society where I was constantly bombarded with man and woman couples, hearing, “You may kiss the bride” at various weddings, then watching Disney Channel shows where everyone cheers as the boy asks the girl out. Almost like a reflex, I would look at other girls my age. I knew this was how I was supposed to act, what I was supposed to do. However, deep down I felt there was something wrong. But, when you are that young, you push away those feelings for fear of standing out, thinking it’s not right, you can’t be different. I learned later that I didn’t want to be different. I did not want to deal with hate and harsh experiences.  Thus, I convinced myself I was just like everyone else.

 

Stage Two: Self Abuse

 

Some feelings are so strong that as hard as you try to push them down, they just come popping right back up. It is like holding a beach ball underwater and saying: The beach ball isn’t there, see? You can’t see it! The beach ball is not there! Unfortunately, the beach ball will not stay underwater forever. And the sooner you realize it, the better. As these feelings got stronger, my self-confidence decreased.  I thought having these different feelings was unacceptable, that I was unacceptable. I thought that there was something wrong with me, and someone could come and fix it. I wanted to change, to be someone else, in a different body, with a normal look on life. The bad feeling spread. First, I felt that I did not belong, then I thought there is nothing good about me. By fifth grade, I had reached the depths of my sadness peaked and fell into depression. My parents grew increasingly worried, and one Saturday afternoon sat me down on the couch and begged me to open up to them. I barely breathed out the words, “ I think I might be gay.” It felt like throwing up a bug or virus. You feel increasingly worse, until you finally have that moment of release.

 

Stage Three: Acceptance

 

Although it is never easy, I was incredibly lucky to live in a family that is supportive, in a time period that is open-minded. After my parents, I gradually worked through the family tree, spreading the news, each time healing my heart more. I knew those feelings were real. I was not messed up, the rest of the world was.

Stage Four: School

I knew middle school was a harsh time to open up to kids. Starting at the beginning of seventh grade, I told more and more people. Yet that feeling came back, the one I had been dreading. The one I knew would return. Kids looked at me differently, stayed away from me, and gossiped about how I constantly sought attention. One morning, at school, a frenzy of kids stood discussing big news. Kids ran up to me, asking if I made it up, guys asking me if I thought they were attractive. I ran to my next period, and focused solely on school. Each day I moved quickly from one period to another. But when lunch came, I walked into the lunch room to see two isolated tables. One with boys, and one with girls. The boys table glared at me, not wanting me near for fear I would be attracted to them. The girls looked at me with pity, their lips curling as they cocked their head to the side.  In its own way this was worse, knowing they felt bad for me but never wanted to include me in their circles of girls. I ran into the bathroom and ate in the stalls for about two weeks, hoping the days would go by quicker. Then, one day, an idea emerged. If I make myself vulnerable, I thought, then of course people would take advantage of that. You can’t make yourself an easy target. You can’t sulk or wallow in your own sadness, hoping it will go away. It’s up for you to set the standards for everyone else. If you do not believe in yourself, then how can anyone else? I walked out of the stall and into the lunchroom, plopped myself down at one of the girls tables, and started eating. I started talking, and they talked back. The boys realized I wouldn’t take their insults, and slowly I made peace with them again. Of course, things are not perfect now. I do not feel comfortable in the locker room, and neither do the other boys. My best friends that are girls do not 100% of the time include me in everything. But I have learned an important lesson about being different. About diversity.

Diversity is being unique. Diversity is being different. Diversity is standing out like a sore thumb. You have to be proud of how different you are. Proud that you can overcome everyone else’s hate, that you are part of a community that shares something. You show everyone else you will not take their unkind remarks. They are at fault for not realizing how they have embarrassed themselves.  Love yourself for who you are. Black or White, Jewish or Christian, Straight or Gay. How do you classify a human being? Which area do you put them in? That one is easy. You don’t. Diversity matters to remember why you stay proud. But equality matters to remember why you felt neglected in the first place.

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