I had just entered my senior year of high school, and having held up a reputation as a straight “serial dater” of multiple girls both at my school and those neighboring the district I grew up in, the thought of me being gay would have never crossed anyone’s mind. You’ll find that the foundations of my story are not remotely unique – in attempts to conceal that part of myself that I was too afraid to acknowledge, I would have sex with girls, participate in varsity athletics, and even enjoy such activities as skateboarding with my “boys” after school. A part of me figured that this overcompensation would help me hide, or might even help to change (and hopefully bury) that part of me who liked boys. The part of me who stared a little too long at the wrong ass. That part that would make sure to delete the search history on my computer every night.
Secretly I knew my family would be fine with my being gay. Despite the occasional gay jokes my Dad would make and the political leanings of my grandparents, I knew that I would be accepted at the end of the day. Unlike the horror stories of gay kids being cast out of their homes I would hear about on the news, I knew that there was no way I would ever be kicked out of my household for my sexuality.
But for some reason I also felt shame whenever I tried to face that part of myself. I looked around at the openly gay kids I went to school with and felt no similarity, no solidarity with them. I was not flamboyant. I was not in musical theatre. I played sports. I didn’t have any female friends. I also thought about how exposing my sexuality to my family would change how they thought of me. I thought about my sisters, my parents, and cringed at the thought of having to repeatedly come out to people I knew. It felt disgusting to me – not my sexuality, but the thought of being constantly vulnerable to people who cared about me. I thought “it’s not my responsibility to tell them – it’s not any of their business anyway.” And I was right. However, I would later come to learn that no one really cared in the first place.
And yet I knew my sexual leanings weren’t entirely normal. Far from it. I would try my hardest to imagine the girls in my class when masturbating, but boys from my swim team would peak out from the corners of my mind to assist with my climax, and having regularly seen them all naked in the showers after practice, no image needed to be left to the imagination. When I would hook up with girls I would imagine these same boys and successfully get hard, thus proving to myself and the girls I would have sex with that I was “straight,” right? Because that makes sense. Even during those times, I could recognize that I was lying to myself, but that didn’t stop me from striving to form an exterior that I thought everyone else wanted from me. But it wasn’t me, and in hindsight I don’t think it was even who I wanted to be.
All I knew is that the last thing I wanted this late in my high school career was change. Why come this far with a high school class I grew up with just to turn around and alter everything everyone knew about me? All for what? I would undoubtedly lose friends in the process, and attract the last kind of attention I would want during a phase in my life that I figured was rapidly coming to an end anyway. I decided that I could wait it out until college, and then I could be the person I wanted to be. I could be anyone I wanted to be. But not now. Not yet.
Forming a Friendship
During my time in high school general sentiment towards gay kids was also shifting. My class had significantly matured, and with this newfound maturity the majority of my graduating class was experiencing came a general tendency toward acceptance and inclusion. In fact, it was generally regarded as “cool” to have a gay in your diverse friend group. In my mind, I thought what better way to prove your heterosexuality to the world than to make friends with a homosexual? I chose the one on my swim team. His name was Andy.
Andy wasn’t anything special, and I feel bad for saying this now, but he also wasn’t particularly attractive either. At least not to me. This, however, made it quite easy for me to form an authentic relationship with him. He lived close to where I lived, so we would occasionally walk home together after school, do homework together, or get lunch.
To be honest, it was my curiosity in other boys and my own questionable sexuality that drew me to seek out his friendship. I was not interested in him in particular, but would find his stories about dating other boys enthralling. I marveled at how openly he talked about his pursuits, and I found his recounts of sexual encounters especially exciting. I mastered an ability to both conceal my own enjoyment in hearing his narration while simultaneously urging him to disclose more.
On one particular day Andy showed me a picture of a guy he had found on Facebook. He was an openly gay kid in a grade below me who went to a neighboring school. He had dark green eyes, stark features, dark brown hair, and flawless olive skin that I found particularly attractive (in contrast to my very white complexion). I thought he was both beautiful and alluring, and I immediately felt jealous that my friend was even trying to talk to him. Naturally I showed no interest in the moment, but I made sure to remember his name. It was Ian. After leaving my friend’s place I immediately went home and looked him up.
I learned that he loved Pokémon. I quickly stalked all of his pictures and found out that he was heavily involved in team sports. He had an impeccable body – abs, impressive chest muscles, and broad shoulders. He had lots of friends, both boys and girls. In learning about him I realized that this was the first tangible, real gay boy that I felt even remotely similar to. I was like him. I was also extremely attracted to him.
Regularly I would come home from school and look at his pictures on Facebook. His profile was set to public, so I could browse all I wanted without needing to be friends with him. Sometimes at night, I would fantasize about what it would be like to meet him. To touch him. To feel his warm skin against my own.
Three weeks had passed since Andy had first showed me the picture of Ian. Three weeks had also passed that I thought about him almost every day, looked him up, and even dreamt about him. Much to my satisfaction, it was also during these three weeks that conversation between Andy and Ian had fizzled out entirely. Andy told me that Ian had given him the “you seem like a nice guy, but let’s just be friends” answer after being invited out. I comforted my friend, and assured him that another guy, the right guy, would eventually come his way. As usual, I concealed my excitement and relief that this boy was now fair game.
It was around this same time that I was dating a girl in my class. Her name was Abby. She was beautiful, smart, and entirely obsessed with me. She would bring me food and presents in the middle of our school day, leave me notes at my locker, and I would regularly spend weekends at her house watching movies and hooking up. Ironically the sex was great, and Ian was the one to thank.
Shortly after learning that my friend had moved on and was no longer pursuing the boy I was enthralled with, I decided to make a bold move. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time, or if I thought anything would result from my action at the time, but I knew that something had to be done. Contact had to be made. So I did it. I Facebook friended Ian.
Back when I was in high school, friending people you didn’t know on Facebook was no unusual practice. People did it all the time – so much so that profiles with friend counts in the near thousands were considered more popular. Having lots of friends have always been cool, even those you’ve never met. My high school experience was no exception.
But my action was no small step. As harmless as I thought this click of a button was at the time, I would quickly learn that it would change my life forever. It would catapult me into a world I never knew existed. It would lead me to make contact.
In a matter of moments, my request was accepted and a message from Ian would appear on my screen. I froze with both excitement and terror as I read it: “Hey you” it said.