Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"The Truth About Who We Are..."

Herschel, Portland, Oregon

by thegaymenproject

photos by Kevin Truong

Herschel, in his own words" "In my eyes being gay means being a part of society that sees the world through a different lens than everyone else; no matter your gender, age, socioeconomic background, or race all of us who identify as LGBT and those who don’t (but know in their hearts they are) see the world in a completely different way. For some, being blessed with this unique gift causes them to label themselves negatively and see themselves as less of a human, which is unfortunate; but fortunately I was blessed to grow up in a home and be surrounded by open minded people who accepted me for who I was, which was a human, just like everybody else, who just so happened to like the same sex. Society has too many labels for people which does not allow them the freedom to express their true colors without judgment from others. When it all comes down to it we’re all just humans whether you’re black, white, Native American, gay, bi, or straight; everyone deserves the same amount of respect and no one should have to live by or up to societies gender standards for men and women. Lastly, how I see it is, being gay isn’t an excuse for anything, it’s not anyone’s fault, and it’s not a punishment it’s simply being a part of a select number of humans who just so happen to like the same sex.

Being a part of two minorities has been something that I’ve struggled with along with not having self-security and a positive self-image of myself after coming to terms with the fact that I was gay. During my younger years I had a hard time identifying with other people of color because I grew up in Portland (which is a majorly Caucasian city.) To add onto that I had a hard time identifying myself as a male because I was unsure of my sexuality starting at a very young age.

I went to a big public elementary school in SE Portland where the majority of my peers were Caucasian, which lead me to adopt some of their unique habits that weren’t similar to the ones that I encountered when I entered a middle school and eventually high school where the majority of the population was of color. While attending the new schools that I did in North and Northeast Portland I didn’t listen to the same music as my peers, I talked differently, had different interests, and dressed differently; for these reasons along with going through the awkward ‘ugly’ stages of puberty and being unsure of my sexual orientation I was teased a lot about how different I was than everyone else. These years were very difficult for me as a young person and although I didn’t show it I was very depressed because of it.

Over time, I was able to adapt to my changing surroundings and come to terms with my sexuality and be comfortable with it. Because of this, I eventually gained more self-confidence and security each and every day. Now, having more confidence in who I was allowed me to open up a door for me to be more social with the people around me at school and in life; Being more social allowed me to make many great friends throughout my middle and high school years and it allowed me to establish more professional connections as well.

While going through these tough transitions though (before I was out) I would always say to myself ‘They are teasing me because they know I’m different, and (the difference) meaning (because I was gay)’ although I was able to cover up my emotions in the spotlight I wasn’t able to handle it in the silent night; even sometimes now, when I feel like people are treating me differently, being rude, or looking or overlooking me altogether I immediately jump to the conclusion that ‘they know I’m gay’ instead of saying to myself ‘Well they must be having a bad day’ or ‘They’re just rude to everyone and I shouldn’t take it personal’.

Emotion isn’t something that I show much of unless its happiness, frustration, or contentment but sometimes still when I think people are treating me differently my feelings get hurt. I say this again because in my mind I see it as them saying or showing me without words that ‘I’m not good enough’ or that ‘I’m less than a human because of my sexuality.’

I can’t speak on the entire gay community in Portland because I feel like I haven’t ‘experienced’ it fully yet as I am still very young, but through my time living in Portland and identifying myself as gay I have encountered nothing but happy, smart, funny, and creative individuals who don’t let societies labels hold them back from doing what the hell they want to do with their life.

My coming out story doesn’t have a traditional ‘start and finish’ well hell most coming out stories don’t; I was about 17 when I fully accepted who I truly was and identified myself proudly that I was gay. Although I’m not super ‘masculine’ some of the people that I considered friends at the time didn’t know. Eventually, in casual conversation between classes (or during classes), it would get brought up and discussed and some would even come up to me and ask. While having this moment of vulnerability with them when I revealed my true self, most didn’t blink an eye.

I was also fortunate enough to have befriended someone who at first, unknowingly, was going through the same thing as I was. We were each other’s right arms and after many years of friendship we grew to be very close. Overtime our self-disclosure about our sexuality and life in general got deeper and deeper and in a weird way we both transitioned into being ‘out’ to our peers together. Throughout our years of friendship in high school we had each other to lean on when times got rough or we just needed someone to talk to. Although we had a very extreme (for lack of a better word) friendship I am so blessed and thankful that I met him and had him by my side through thick and thin.

The only advice I would give my younger self about coming out or anyone who is unsure if it’s the right decision for them is to make sure it’s something that you want to do. No one is forcing you to say anything about your sexuality and you have the power (and right) to let people wonder and whisper about you, or to simply let them see the real you. "

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