“I knew I was gay at a young age when I developed a crush on Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (yes, Shredder). I also knew that I didn’t have anyone to ask questions or talk to about this. I grew up with a homophobic family — with gay slurs thrown around. Later in life, I had a sibling physically attack me many times to ‘toughen me up’ because I was ‘acting queer.’
“School wasn’t any better. I’d hear the same anti-LGBT rhetoric and teasing. At the end of my high school years, I built the courage to come out to my only friend, one of 12 years. He wanted nothing to do with me after that. So throughout my childhood, teenage years, and even my early adult years, I felt alone. I felt like I couldn’t be me and there was something wrong with me. I felt like I couldn’t connect with other people.
“I really struggled with all of it. Alone. Had some really dark days, long bouts of depression, and a few suicide attempts. So the message I wish I could have gotten myself but can share with others is that you will eventually find people who truly love and support you. And you will eventually find yourself being able to happily express who you are. I eventually did. I came out to a coworker. Was beyond terrified, but it ended up being the best decision ever. Because after nine years, they are still one of my best friends and are always there for me and help build me up. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m comfortable proudly expressing who I am to other people. And I integrate LGBT representation into my preschool classroom, which my school parents are fully supportive of. Eventually you do find people who truly love and support you, as well as you proudly expressing who you are!”