The Challenge, by Robert

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014


It was an interesting life, coming of age. Being gay could have been perceived as 90 percent of the struggles I endured. Life in the Midwest can be SO closed-minded--even when you grew up in a city.

I knew I was gay for as long as I could remember. In elementary middle school...definitely in high school. In each and every one of these settings, there was never a doubt as to who I was. But that didn't make a lick of difference to me, because I wanted to assimilate into the homophobic surroundings I was a product of. I was willing to do whatever it took to make it happen.

No matter how hard I tried, the truth was going to come out, eventually. I wasn't just hiding my sexual preference: I was hiding my TRUE personality. My humor, my self-worth, my heart--it's as if I were a walking brain with no emotion. A mere instruction manual:

...don't swish your hips when you walk...

...add some bass to your voice...

...don't make eye contact in the locker room...

And on...and on...and on. My life was a theatrical production and I was constantly trying to improve my blocking.

Then came college. I fell in love with a guy for the very first time. The walls around my "secret" were starting to crumble. Keep in mind, though, that it wasn't only MY secret to protect, at this point.

I got all the way to my sophomore year and the relationship got rockier and rockier. By the time I finally came out to my mother, the guy had completely abandoned me. And Mom? Let's just say that when you see MY mother at the kitchen table with a Bible in front of her, she's feeling some kind of way. Her wording, exactly: "I don't want my family to know that I raised a faggot." Soon after, I attempted to take my own life.

I eventually came to terms with everything. I had a very supportive group of friends and counselors who kept me grounded and motivated to live the life I always knew I was meant to live. And then I lived happily ever after, right? Not a chance in Hell.

I was, later, ridiculed by my frat brothers. To them, my only task was to honor a life-long pledge I made to a brotherhood that is SUPPOSED to be devoted to the "inclusive we" rather than the "exclusive we." So, when I wanted to be active in PRISM (a campus LGBTQ/straight alliance) it came to an increasingly difficult decision: to choose between what I had become when I joined the fraternity and the person who I was born to be. I chose the latter.

With undergrad finally behind me, I've made the most of my adult life. I'm hardly what you call an activist, but I've taken some stands to get to the place where I am, now, in my mind.

I originally heard of the NOH8 Campaign when I was an intern at a small-town news station. Prop 8 had just been repealed. The campaign had such a vivid purpose. Each of the iconic photos it boasted were dripping with purpose and oozing with subdued ferocity. I always observed, but never participated. Not until that fateful Friday afternoon in Topeka.

Kansas: the state of my birth. Dare I say this experience has made me born, again? You're talking about a person who was utterly TERRIFIED to come out of the closet for 20 years. I took a stand to finally come out with who I was--to those around me. Through this campaign, I took a stand to fight for love and the right to marry who I damn well please--for the world.

Sadly, there are people who STILL struggle with the acceptance of themselves due to the negativity that exists on this Earth. In so many ways, I took this picture for THEM. To them, I say these words: I see your silence and your plight--and I raise you a lifetime of laughter and love. The challenge? tape. There are people out here who love you, unconditionally. Myself included.



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