One Young Man's Letter Of Courage To A Friend
by Justin Clouse

Back in high school in Kentucky, I had a friend who was still dealing with his own self acceptance when I was a little further down the tracks. --We're all basically on the same tracks at different places.-- Here's the letter I wrote him. Maybe it'll help you as well...

Sometimes in life you get something you didn't exactly want. Maybe you're just a little different from what seems like everyone else. Maybe you're left handed, maybe you're flat footed, or maybe you're gay. Granted, being left handed isn't a big deal now, but it used to be. Even in our parents' generation, people were made to write with their right hand because the left hand was considered evil. But now being left handed will maybe set you back a little in life, maybe you'll have a few difficulties, a few obstacles, but you can get around them. But being gay is the same thing, you'll have a few difficulties and obstacles, but you can get around them.

You can be happy, really happy. You can have friends that know you're gay and don't harass you. You can have lots of friends that will accept you for who you are. Believe it or not, one day your parents will accept it. But all you see is the negative side of being gay. Queer jokes, negative comments, from everyone, including your parents.

So you think you can fool everyone by going out with some girls. But each time you're afraid something's going to happen on your date that's going to make you feel uncomfortable. Deep down, you know who you are but you just can't admit it to anyone. So you go out with girls, but you make it not work. You then set the unattainable goal so everyone will think you're straight and stop harassing you about going out. No one's good enough. With me, it was no one had enough morals. No one was quite pure enough. But it was still that I was setting the unattainable goal. It doesn't work, though. The only person you're fooling is yourself. I've been there.

But lying to everyone makes you feel trapped. It's like you're smothering and you can't get out. It's like society is forcing you into a mold that you just don't fit. But you don't have to change to fit the mold. There are other people out there that don't fit the mold either. You're just so scared that the whole world will turn on you. But they won't, I won't, and others won't. In fact, of all the people I've told, that know for a fact, not one has ever rejected me.

I am gay. It took me so long to be able to say that. But I can say it. I can joke about it. But, now I'm secure in who I am.

But I've been where you are. Everyone, the movies, t.v., show gays as being sissies or child molesters or sexual deviants. But you aren't like that, you're a normal guy who happens to be gay. But from what you've seen and heard, those kinds of people don't exist. But they do, and you don't notice them as being different and neither does anyone else, unless you're looking. -- I knew you were gay when I told you that I'm gay, back in tenth grade. You've probably got this sixth sense. You can probably tell who's gay and who isn't. If not now, you'll have it later.

And you just want to go away to the big city, to New York, to Los Angeles, to Europe. Anywhere that gay people are accepted, anywhere that you won't be an outcast. For me, it was New York, I told my parents that I wanted to go to college there, but I just really wanted to go there where I could be who I am. Why do you think I got accepted to college a year early? It wasn't because I wanted to further my education quickly. It was because I wanted to get out. Be free from the closed mindedness of Richmond. But then Chris and I became friends and I focused all my energy on him. I didn't worry about sexuality. I did "best friend things" with him and it was enough. I was scared about going off to college in New York, I worried about the college being Catholic, and I wanted to stay for Chris, so I didn't go.

But, now in two and a half weeks, I'm going to Boston University and it's like heaven on earth. Just from two days at Orientation I know I will be absolutely happy there. For example, after only knowing these people for four hours, I just sat there and said "I'm gay". They said okay, and for the next day and a half, we just hung out. They could have cared less that I was gay. They still touched me, they still talked with me, it was exactly the same. And before I went to Orientation, I'd been writing with a gay student advisor for the program, so when I got there several of the other student advisors (juniors & seniors volunteers) knew who I was and said stuff like "Andy's really looking forward to seeing you." and "I've heard so much about you." I had no idea who these people were, but they knew me, they knew Andy's gay, and they knew I was his friend. I was sure that if Andy hadn't told them directly, they could put 2 and 2 together to realize that I'm gay. And once again, I couldn't have cared less. -- And I know you're staying here, but you still don't have to hide. Granted, everything won't be as great as in Boston, but you can still be happy.

And before, you've thought about killing yourself, but you really don't want to kill yourself. You just want to make it look like you want to kill yourself. You want to make it look real, just real enough to get a lot of attention, but you don't want to kill yourself. You've still got some glimmer of hope of living a happy life. Believe me, I was there too. I thought about wrecking my car, but then that would cost a lot of insurance, and if I wore my seatbelt, like I always do, I wouldn't get hurt enough to get the attention I wanted, enough for people to ask what my problem was. If I didn't wear my seatbelt, it would look like something was up.

You've thought about running away, but you don't know where to go. You don't know where to go so that you won't be found. You've thought about leaving you're parents a note and not coming home until they can signal that they're O.K. with you're being gay. I know you have. I have, but for one reason or another something wouldn't work exactly right.

But I can't say all that you've thought or all you've done, I'm not you. I know you're beyond some of these thoughts now, but I know you thought them before. I'm writing to let you know that you are not alone, that everything will be okay.

I'm not asking for a reply. I just want to help you.


More To Come...

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