This tribute is for my friends Joey and Ricky. I went through a really difficult time when I was younger, and without these two people I don’t think I would be where I am today. I’m thankful for their presence in my life and for the emotional support they continue to give me.
When I was in high school I really struggled with my identity. I was raised in a supportive but religious family. My aunt, uncle, and cousins lived about 10 minutes away from my immediate family, and my grandparents lived down the street from them. My grandfather is a minister at a church, and through my entire childhood the entire family would attend his 9 am Sunday service at the church. Afterwards, we would meet up at my aunt’s house for breakfast and discuss life but also the messages from the service. Many of my childhood memories focus around attending baptisms, communions, and other religious services for my cousins and brothers and sister. It was nice to have a large and caring family, but as I grew older I began to feel trapped.
As I entered high school, I began to question my sexuality. I had crushes on male pop stars and celebrities when I was younger and felt that I was attracted to boys even as I grew older. However, I also began to be attracted to women. I knew that my family would disapprove of me if they knew that I even felt an attraction to someone of the same sex. I felt that I could lose the support of my entire family and would feel lost. I attempted to push them away first before they could abandon me. I wore all black clothing, changed my taste in music, and fought against attending Sunday services. I also fought against my own sexuality. I would only talk about women I found attractive in derogatory terms and would force myself to talk overtly about being interested in men.
One day in high school I suffered an emotional breakdown. I just couldn’t seem to escape the negative and conflicting thoughts in my own head. I slipped out of the building and ran into a stairwell, where I stayed for almost an hour until Joey found me. Joey had a reputation as one of the few gay kids in school, and at first I fought his help because I was fighting myself. He brought me to the school’s LGBT club meeting that afternoon. I was surprised to see Ricky there, because I didn’t know he was gay. The two of them helped me through the next two years of high school to confront and accept my sexuality. I learned that Ricky was not gay, but just an ally, and that I was not gay but instead that I am bisexual.
Without the help and support from Joey and Ricky, I’m not sure what would have happened to me in high school. They guided me through my formative years and continue to support me today. I’m thankful for their love and guidance every day.
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