It has been a little over three years since I have been out. I went through the steps of accepting myself, telling some close friends first, and then working up to telling my family. That process could not have gone better for me; I remember my parents telling me that there is nothing I could do that would make them love me less. I had the support of a great, loving group of people, and I felt strong with them behind my back, knowing they would always be there for me.
October of my junior year, I gave a speech in front of my entire high school about what it was like to come out and the two-year process that it took to build up the courage to finally do it. My high school career from that point on was focused on one goal: not to care what other people thought about me, and for the most part, succeeded. Granted I am from the San Francisco area of California where the culture tends to be very open and accepting, but I didn’t care when I heard someone say “look at that dude, he’s so gay.” They had their opinions, I had mine, and I would never see them again in my life, so why are they worth my time? Junior and senior year of high school were great for me.
However, when I arrived at Duke, that mantra of not caring was harder to keep as a part of my life. I found it really difficult adjusting to campus life here. The overall mood of campus that I felt towards gay people on campus was tolerant but not accepting: it felt like people were ok with gay people being on campus, but not all too accepting of us. The typical homophobic slurs “that’s so gay” and “what a fag” seemed to be said on a daily basis.
Along with other personal reasons, I decided to transfer to the University of Southern California in hopes of finding a more accepting environment. But, to my surprise, I did not. I felt the exact same way about USC as I did about Duke. I felt just as uncomfortable as I did in North Carolina in Los Angeles.
Last year sent me on a process very similar to the one I had previously experienced in high school. I had to accept myself as being gay all over again and that was something I could not change about myself, but had to embrace and love myself for, because otherwise, I would not be Connor. I had lost track of my goal of not caring what other people think about me, and in reconnecting with this goal I realized this: it does not matter what place you are in. You can be in the south or on the west coast and there will be bigots everywhere. The location does not determine happiness. What does is just not caring what other people think about my life, living my life for me, and surrounding myself with a loving group of people. Upon my arrival back at Duke, I have done just that: I have amazing friends who give me the love and support I need and I have my life back on track. It is my life, not the life of the place I am located.-Connor