by Daniel Hedrick
I grew up in an Air Force household. Originally from Missouri, but I’ve lived everywhere else too. My family was very conservative and southern Baptist. Some would argue that it’s probably the worst combination ever. I’d have to agree. My mother raised my brother and I while my father was defending our country and the rights we were all born with. I went to school and was friends with kids of different nationalities and religions. I grew up really thinking the world was a rainbow. I’m very grateful for that exposure.
I think I’ve always known I was gay, or different at least. “Gay” was never a word I heard growing up, so I wasn’t able to identify those unusual feelings I was having until I was a teenager. My teenage years were interesting, my weird years as I call them. Things definitely started clicking. I don’t know if I started showing more signs that I was gay as I got older, but it seemed that more concerns were raised and negative remarks of the lifestyle were vocalized more. I went to a Christian school for a short time and I remember being terrified of their teachings. I don’t know if it was a kind of “Scared Straight” attempt, but it certainly didn’t work. Instead it filled me with fear. By that time I had figured out that I was in fact gay and there wasn’t anything I could do about it, but unfortunately what I didn’t know was that it was perfectly fine. Years of denial and secrets passed and I kept my deep dark secret to myself as best as I could.
I moved to New York when I was 20 years old, and didn’t know what the hell I was doing or how the hell I was going to do it, but I knew I was going to. Somehow. I came out to my mom when I was 22. In fact, I came out to my mom the day before my 22nd birthday. I had a revelation while sitting at Starbucks as I was drinking my latte; this is who I am and I need to come clean. At that point I had been living in New York for almost two years. In those two years I started a life for myself. I had a decent job, good friends, and a healthy relationship with my boyfriend. But I never associated my mom or family in that life. They were in my other life, my life back home. But that life was over. No more lies, no more denial, no more taking it to heart when crazy southern Baptists would make remarks about homosexuals spending an eternity burning in hell. I left my mom in that life, and I can’t possibly begin to explain how guilty I felt for it. It’s not like she didn’t know. I knew she knew. She knew years before I was even able to make peace with it, but I never had the courage to actually tell her. For some reason I felt like I still needed to keep it secret.
I was terrified. After pacing the floor for about an hour I picked up the phone and called her. I stuttered just a couple words, “Mom, I have something to tell you…” She responded, “Daniel, I know you’re gay and I’ve known for a long time. It’s okay, really. I love you no matter what.” Yes, I cried. To this day it’s still one of the most traumatic, most wonderful experiences of my life.
I haven’t heard everyone else’s coming out stories, but speaking for my own, I have to say that the challenges and the revelations I’ve faced have been nothing but profound. It’s all worth it. You’re so much more capable of loving yourself when you can look back and see how you rose above the adversity.
I am not scared or ashamed. I am proud of the person I’ve become and the love I have to give. Love is truth. Truth is love. I am truly sorry for anyone who is unable to understand that.
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