My coming out story probably isn’t any different from anyone else’s really. It’s not amazing or worthy of a movie adaptation but it was all fueled by one boy and how my feelings for him led me to do break myself free.

6th grade is as far back as I can remember that I started noticing boys. I played soccer in middle school and in high school and I had a small crush on this 8th grader who was also on the team. I would hurry up and get to practice after school just so I could see him. Not undressing or anything because I don’t think I was ready for all that but it was more of a fascination. I would catch myself thinking more and more about him and wondered why I couldn’t get him out of my head. Of course, I just assumed I wanted to be his friend but one day I saw him kiss his girlfriend before practice. It was really creepy but I just stood there. My feet were planted to the ground as I watched him embrace her and I desperately wished it was me instead of her.

That’s when I knew I wanted to be more than friends with him.

But that would mean I was…gay? I couldn’t be. I definitely didn’t want to be. I mean, I had been told that it was a sin and besides that, I’d seen the other guys mercilessly mock and torment other guys who they thought were gay. I didn’t want that to be me so I bottled that up. I shock it off and I went on. The infatuation I had with the 8th grader faded as he went on to high school and I went to the next grade. Every year thought it seemed harder and harder to pretend that what I was feeling wasn’t real.

It wasn’t until I was a freshman in high school that I decided to sort of indulge my curiosity. I would tell my mom that I would be going to the movies with friends and when she’d drop me off I’d go inside to meet the guy I had been talking with. He was a few years older and it was my first date so I was extremely nervous. Of course, neither of us were out so we’d sit with space in between us so we wouldn’t catch attention and one of us would always have to go in before the other. It worked for a while but I began to feel constricted. I would see gay people on TV and movies and I wanted nothing more than to not have to hide.

My sophomore year in high school is when everything changed. Remember that 8th grader I told you about? Well, he transferred to my high school.

So there he was…still as gorgeous as ever. I really couldn’t believe he was actually here. My mind began to race with all the possibilities of what he was doing here and what I could say to him. Would he even remember the little 6th grader that used to follow him around like a lost puppy? There was only one way to find out. It took everything I had to will my feet to move toward him…but then I had a thought; it was the beginning of my sophomore year and that meant he was a senior. What could he possibly want with a 15-year-old sophomore?

I wasn’t much to look at back then and he was almost inhumanly attractive. Besides that, he seemed popular and well-adjusted whereas I only had a handful of friends and was very socially awkward. That doesn’t exactly scream well adjusted. As much as I didn’t want to face it, there was the matter of his heterosexuality that came as a hot slap to the face.

So I put a tight cap on my desires.

The year got going, classes went on by and before I knew it, the school year was almost to an end which meant the seniors would be graduating soon. I spent the entire year drooling over this boy and didn’t even consider the fact that I wouldn’t be able to see him anymore. But fate would give me my day with him.

Some teachers in my school had student assistants that would make copies for them and get coffee and stuff and I was an assistant for a 12th grade English teacher. One day I was dropping some copies off at his classroom when he wasn’t there and in walks the love of my life. He was looking for the teacher so that he could turn in his last assignment but I told him he was on lunch.

I stared at him as he turned around and walked out the door. Kicking myself for not saying anything else to him but then he walks back in with an almost confused look on his face. He asked me if I remembered him from junior high. I don’t know where the courage came from but I replied “of course I do. It’s hard to forget your first crush.”

I stared at him. Waiting for him to laugh at me, make fun of me, or call me a f****t but he just smiled and said, “That’s so crazy. I was just a skinny little kid back then but I’m flattered though. And it’s cool that you’re so open and honest with yourself. I wish I could be like that.”

He didn’t know. He didn’t know that he was the only person I ever admitted that to. When he turned around and walked out of that room it was the last time I saw him ever again.

I felt such a relief that I could tell him that I had feelings for him. It was a relief to tell anyone. Hell, I was just happy to have finally said it out loud. Those two words, open and honest, were ringing in my head so loudly. I couldn’t ignore what I was feeling anymore. He was absolute proof that this was so much more than mild curiosity. It was who I was; it was in my DNA and I realized that in that little 5-minute exchange with him, I had felt freer than I had ever felt. It was natural and fluid and I wanted to be able to feel that for the rest of my life.

I knew what I had to do.

I gathered my little group of friends together that day after school and with a nervous knot in my stomach, I blurted out, simply, that I liked boys. I thought it’d be dramatic. I thought we’d cry and have a big moment but they took it with a grain of salt. Some of them said they knew, while others said they had no clue but the main consensus was that nobody really cared. Of course, word spread through the school like wildfire and before I knew it I was the talk of the town but it was better than the alternatives.

Now it was time to break the news to my family. I didn’t know how I’d face my mother so I decided to tell my sister first and have her break the news to my mama while I was at school. I didn’t have to worry about telling aunts or cousins or my grandmother because we’re a pretty tight family so the entire family tree knew within an hour of my releasing the information and everyone was fine with it.

My mom was the only one I was worried about. As far as I knew, she wasn’t homophobic or anything but I had heard horror stories about mothers throwing their kids out and all that so I was extremely nervous. But she was very accepting and open-minded. She warned that my life would be a little harder because of my sexuality and she was right. I’ve been called every name in the book, had drinks and food thrown on me, and even been spit on but I’ve overcome it all. And now I use any platform I have to empower and help those who were once me.

And as for the boy? Well, it turns out he was gay too. And the last time I checked Facebook he is living happily in Texas with his boyfriend (who’s also gorgeous). Honestly, if it weren’t for him I’m not sure if I would’ve come out. It’s crazy how one person can’t change everything for you and probably not even realize it.

My coming out story isn’t anything spectacular or dramatic but it’s my story. I want to thank my friends and my family for being so supportive. And ultimately, I have to thank the person who was the catalyst for my transformation: so thanks, Matt. For everything.