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Outed at 13,
activist at 16

Outed at 13,
activist at 16

Tullysatre_9

In the first of a series written exclusively for The Advocate, a 16-year-old gay activist from Virginia describes how a cruel shove out of the closet turned into a mobilizing kick in the pants

"I...I am the Queen!" I was the early bird--the 4-year-old child who walked into a room full of family and friends in his mother's baby-blue robe and white slippers.

My Aunt M.J. leaned against the red brick wall of our classic Southern home in Altus, Okla., smiling down at me: a blond, long-haired boy wearing his mother's clothes. "He's gay," she said to my parents.

"I hope not," my father said.

A plethora of memories stereotyped every aspect of my life into minute portions of significance. This particular memory was noted by my elder cousin Katie, who consistently claims to have been one of the first people to know I would come out one day. She was half right. I did turn out to be gay--but I never had the chance to come out.

September 18, 2002: Just an ordinary day for my Catholic middle school in Warrenton, Va. I was 13 at the time and had been living in Virginia for seven years. School administrators called me into the office and said they found out I told a fellow student I was gay. They asked me if it was true. My silence told all, and they immediately took the matter into their own hands. The school called in my parents and demanded that everyone be silent on the issue, threatening suspension or expulsion of any student who spoke about my homosexuality.

My mother was told I had a problem. My mother was told something completely personal that I was not ready to reveal to the world, and it soon became news in small-town Warrenton. My mother was told that the boy who once wanted to be a priest was pagan. My mother was told lies, threads of truth, and threatening stories of angry parents who complained that "faggots" had "no place at a Catholic school."

My mother was told that this was all of who I was, that it was my very definition, my path in life, my mistake, my sin, my defeat, and my damnation. My mother was told on her birthday that her son is "a homosexual."

After I was finally out(ed), my parents and I trailed down a path of intricate emotion--detailed in every aspect and form imaginable. We felt awkward, to say the least, but to say the most: We felt alone. Nowhere in the area was there a single resource, group, or person who was willing to help any of us as we struggled for self-identity and understanding. My parents had no resources. I had no resources. We were truly alone, caught up in a world that categorizes the gay community as scum--the very pebble that gets stuck in your shoe.

Allow me to clarify. My parents never had a problem with homosexuality. My father, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and class of '76 graduate from the United States Air Force Academy (where one of my older brothers now attends as a third-class cadet), saw me in my mother's robe that day in Altus when I was 4 and hoped his son was not gay for the very reason a parent wishes their child to be born without stigma. My father knew the climate for gay and lesbian citizens in this country--my father knew I would struggle for societal acceptance and equality. My father did not want to see me suffer and struggle, as he has since I was outed. I am the luckiest kid alive to have the most loving and accepting parents, who wish for nothing more than happiness for my brothers and me.

Now I am 16 and a junior at Notre Dame Academy, a private Catholic high school in Middleburg, Va.

One event set me on a course of political activism and I founded what the local Culpeper News called "the most controversial group" in the area. Equality Fauquier-Culpeper covers two of the most conservative counties in the Virginia commonwealth. Within a few weeks of appearing on the radar, Equality Fauquier-Culpeper joined forces with other county and state groups in Virginia and hit the national press.

My family and I were no longer alone. The Washington Post headlined Equality Fauquier-Culpeper's story, "Once shunned, student no longer feels alone." Since the group was formed in June 2005, as we approach our first year as an official organization in the commonwealth, we have grown tremendously and affected the community as a team and as a force. But most of all we have affected the community as a family for equality, a family that no longer stands alone.

Here, with my personal online journal, I share my experiences and thoughts with the world. I share what I believe and what I see. I share what I hope is hope. I share what little I can give to the world to bring about understanding, tolerance, and, hopefully, acceptance. I share my heart and soul for the world to explore. But most of all, I share my voice.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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