Updated: July 19, 2013 3:26PM
Patrick says he had the kind of childhood kids dream about. “Summer vacations with the family, playing every sport imaginable, good grades, solid support, insanely close friends.”
His “fit and undeniably Italian father” was a police officer and his “incredible mother” worked in the classroom, assisting children with special needs. He calls them “two of the most loving individuals and devout Catholics.”
But, starting in sixth grade, he began a “personal struggle” that isn’t over. “The realization that you’re different when you’re in middle school is beyond difficult. The realization that you’re different in a way that society views as inferior is incomprehensible at a young age.”
Patrick found a way around his problem. “The solution was easy: You conform out of fear of losing those you care about the most. Fitting in becomes second nature. I became pretty observant.”
In high school, Patrick was No. 1 in his class and Homecoming King. He was a varsity athlete in two sports.
“I was the happiest anyone could be — on the surface. Every incredible day and opportunity was overwhelmed by the fear of people finding out who I truly was. I was afraid I would actually be the outcast I told myself I was.”
At this point in his life, he trained himself to understand people, what motivated them, how they reacted.
“Being observant led to me being extremely aware. Imagine walking through the halls and hearing people refer to an open individual as ‘the gay kid.’ Imagine overhearing your mother make a comment of disapproval when two males kissed on television. Imagine seeing one of your acquaintances in high school completely avoid his best friend who found enough courage to accept his sexuality.
“Imagine society telling you it’s not only wrong for you to marry the person you love, it’s illegal. Imagine hearing stories of individuals who have taken their lives simply because they’re like you. Imagine wishing you could change and trying. And failing. Yet people still claim it’s a choice.
“Imagine friends using a word that classifies you as an insult and imagine having to laugh along with them for fear of being outed. I was observant to an unhealthy degree.”
In the years when he was in the closet, Patrick let society define him. “I was defined by what I failed to accept about myself. But I realized, if I can’t accept who I am, why should the rest of society?”
Patrick knew he’d never have the kind of life he wanted if he allowed others to decide who he was and what that meant. He wanted to be his own man and help others.
“I had a desire to break down barriers and stereotypes for the gay community and show that being gay does not define you unless you let it.
“I knew what the first step was. Senior year, I turned on that light in the closet, found the knob, and walked out with tears in my eyes and some extremely sweaty palms into the loving arms of my best friend and family.”
Next, Patrick comes out.
Are you in the closet? Have you come out? Send your tale to firstname.lastname@example.org.