Take a moment and think about your high school years. How many of you can remember countless times you tried to find yourself, and found something new about yourself? How many of you also remember it being pushed aside by countless people saying, “You’re young, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” or my favorite, “It’s just a phase”?
Nothing has changed. I honestly don’t know if it ever will.
The only difference between the generations is that as time goes on, there’s more to push aside. Now we have so many people in high schools trying to express themselves in new ways and having every attempt disregarded by at least one person. Unless it’s a test with a perfect score, most all parents will push it aside or only half listen.
I understand the constant pressure of being a teenager where no one can accept your choices and the ways society are changing. And like a lot of people, I let it control me, I let it hide me.
Senior year. Pretty much a bottomless hell hole without emotions and personal growth involved. You have your schoolwork, teachers, finals, graduation, college, and that’s not taking into account friends, dating, sports, clubs, Prom, and all the countless other high school drama there is. Why not throw more fuel on the fire? Maybe the smoke will kill us faster.
I’m Joshua, I turn 18 in July. I have an awesome mom and dad who work hard and love me, I also have a sister a grade below me who I can’t imagine life without. I’ve only had one girlfriend, and I never did anything more than kiss her on the cheek. I’m taking a few AP classes and usually hang out with my family on weekends I’m not working. Oh, and to top it all off...
Only my sister knows. It fucking sucks.
The one girlfriend I had back in my freshman year was great, she was pretty and smart and always made me laugh. I just never understood why I didn’t feel anything when I held her hand or kissed her. She dumped me a few weeks after Christmas break because she thought our relationship was one sided and I wasn’t putting in effort. My sister laughed at how dramatic she was, honestly so did I.
After that, I felt different, almost free but not quite there. I spent the rest of the school year confused and unsure what to think or feel. It was only after school got out for the summer that I started to understand.
Arriana, my sister, convinced me to help her sneak out to a party one of my classmates was having to celebrate no more school. After some bribery, I agreed to go, and things got a bit out of hand.
While Arriana was having fun I decided why not try to be social, there were enough people here for it, even if most of them were blindly drunk. I ended up talking with this guy who I guess turned out to be the friend of a brother of a dude at the party or whatever. And he was great, he was in college and as we were talking he asked me if I was straight.
“What do you mean?” I mean, what else could I be? His laughter is drowned out but the painfully loud music.
“Do you do chicks, or do you do dudes?”
“I haven’t really done either I guess, the most I’ve done is kiss a girl.”
He looked at me funny for a few minutes before grabbing my arm, “Come on, I want you to meet someone.”
I followed closely behind him as we push past the crowds of teenagers. I ignore the close contact and awkward dancing as I push past, trying not to knock anyone’s cups out of their hand. We entered the back yard and came up to a small group of people who looked about the same age as the guy who pulled me out here. They seemed to form their own bubble outside the party, at least they can probably hear themselves think.
“Look what the cat dragged in, who’d you bring us this time Ty?” A girl who I had to guess was at least six feet tall sat down on a planter with her legs spread and her chin in her hand. I watch her down the contents of her cup and put down with a smile.
“I personally think this little guy, whatever his name is, needs a little help understanding what all is out there. I asked him if he was straight and all he said was ‘what do you mean’, like come on.”
They all turned pale as ghosts and looked at me, the same girl as before looks me up and down before letting her head drop, “We’re doomed.”
“What am I missing?” I ask looking around as if I missed some big neon sign.
“Do you think people can only be straight kid?” The guy named Ty sits down next to his friends and stares at me.
“No, I know that some people aren’t, I guess I just don’t see what you mean. I’ve never been with a guy, why wouldn’t I be straight?”
They burst out laughing and one of them stands up, bringing attention to the fact that I can’t tell if they’re a boy or girl, “What do you think I am?”
“I don’t know, I can’t even tell if you’re a dude or not,” I shrug my shoulders in surrender.
“I’m what is known as transgender, I was born Lola but I never felt secure in my own skin, I felt like a boy so I’m in transition to become one. Now I’m Liam and it changed my life. Sandra over there is bi and has done just about everyone she can because she’s attracted to both genders. Ty is as straight as a bendy straw and has tried to take Tommy home countless times even though Tommy is asexual and doesn’t want to get jiggy with it. Not only am I trans, I’m also pan meaning I couldn’t care less what’s in your pants or how you identify, if I like you I like you.”
I look them all over and realize just how similar they all look, they have these huge differences between them but they seem just like every other person I’ve ever met.
“How do you figure out stuff like this about yourself? How do you decide you want to be a guy or want to do a guy?” I sit down and stare at them, trying to wrap my head around the insanity I’ve just been exposed to.
Sandra, the tall one, looks at Liam and laughs, “I think you explained it a little too fast. The poor kids brain is going to short circuit. Look kid, it’s about how you feel, it’s who you are. It’s the kind of thing that you try to understand most of your life, and usually it is confusing. How do you think I felt when I felt hot kissing both guys and girls, I thought I was a freak. Ty almost had his parents send him to a shrink when he couldn’t figure out why he felt nothing with girls.”
I look at him and watch him look down in embarrassment.
“My girlfriend dumped me a few months ago, I felt relieved, I felt nothing with her. Every time she kissed me I felt awkward and numb to it.”
Sandra looks at Tommy, who looks at Liam before they all turn to Ty, he sighs, “Ok we need another gay dude, because he’s cute and all but I’m sick of being the experiment,” They all laugh before Ty comes up to me and shrugs, “You at all curious to try and kiss me? I won’t kiss you if you don’t want me to.”
I feel my stomach do flips, and I start sweating. Yet the nerves I feel don’t feel bad or scary, it’s more like I’m nervous because I’m excited. I look back at the others and nod.
He smiles before leaning down and pressing his lips to mine.
His lips are rough, unlike my ex who always had soft lips, and kissing him tastes different too. My mind races as I fall deeper into this kiss and realize, I like it. My heart races and I feel myself shake a little.
Ty pulls away and looks back at his friends, “I think he gets it now.”
They all sit there and ask me how I feel, but I can’t find the words to explain it. Liam sits next to me and nudges me with his shoulder.
“That’s what a kiss should feel like. It’s supposed to knock you off your feet and leave you speechless, that’s how you know it meant something, and you felt something real. The stomach flutters and sweating palms and shuddering, those are all the feelings you should get when you’re attracted to someone, and that wasn’t even crazy hot or freaky.”
“How do I know it wasn’t a fluke? Maybe I just wasn’t attracted to my ex, I could be like Sandra, right?”
“Yeah, for sure, you need to keep searching for yourself and find out where you stand. And whatever you decide you are is cool, because it’s your life and your choice. Don’t let anyone tell you different.”
I look over to Ty and start to smile, I realize I’m looking at him the way my ex looked at me.
I stand up and tell them I have to go but that I appreciate them trying to help. They wish me luck as I take off to find my sister to beg to go home.
I find her dancing like a maniac and offer her a week of chocolate to go home.
After a 30 minute walk home, she goes straight to bed and I hop on my laptop and start searching what it means to be gay. Some of what I see scares me, like stuff people post about how being gay is an abomination and those who engage in homosexuality will burn in hell. Other stuff, though, comforts me and makes sense, like reading the many stories of people finally feeling confident after discovering they weren’t broken, just different.
I didn’t sleep that night, I searched for hours before I finally felt secure in my mind.
That’s when I discovered I’m gay.
I told my sister the next day because I was too scared to tell my parents. She hugged me and started saying that she thought it was cool and was happy I felt secure enough to share it with her.
It was the first summer in a while that I didn’t feel like something was suffocating me. The first summer I felt like I really understood myself in the way a person should.
By the start of my sophomore year, I knew without a doubt that I identified as gay, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit it to anyone but Arriana.
Still trapped, but more free than I was before. It was a start.