This is our (LGBTQ) youth: The internal struggle of growing up LGBTQ
Being uncertain about your identity can be tough at any age. Add in the troubles of being a teen or adolescent, and you’ve got a really rough go of things. Here’s what I learned from my own experiences as I learned to embrace my identity as LGBTQ in my youth.
The struggles of borrowed dreams
Growing up, I felt a deep internal conflict about my identity. On the outside, I was a very conservative, church-going guy. In those circles, all the young men around me seemed to dream about finding the right lady to marry.
During this time I was trying to understand why I didn’t feel like everyone else around me. I wasn’t attracted to the girls around me, except in as much as it kept the “dream” alive. The dream that I would live the so-called “normal life,” complete with a beautiful wife and lovely kids.
The problem was that this was a borrowed dream. It was what I wanted for one big reason: to please those around me. And the more I wrestled with the balance of what “they” wanted and what I truly wanted, the worse I felt. Not only did my brain hurt from thinking and criticizing myself, but all the stress also made me feel physically ill. I couldn’t figure an easy way out.
I kept my inner self hidden during my teen years and into the start of college. I rationed in my head that I was only attracted to other guys because I was looking at their clothing or hairstyle. I didn’t want to be with them, I wanted to be them.
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The hope for LGBTQ youth
I managed to keep up this double life for a long time. Finally, after years of hiding myself, I decided to try and live what felt like my authentic life. The first step – separate myself from the church family I had known for years. I was quite sure they would not accept my new identity.
My next step: sign up for dating and so-called “hookup” apps for the LGBTQ community. It didn’t take long for me to meet the man who would become my first boyfriend.
Boy did I fall hard. Finally, someone seemed to love me despite being gay, and it felt really, really good. But the relationship was doomed from the beginning. I didn’t truly love myself, and it was clear in the way I acted. It also opened the gate for my first boyfriend to treat me the way I treated myself. Which was to say, not very well. And you had better believe he walked, perhaps ran, through that open gate.
We were together for several months before he dumped me – by text message. In fact, I had to ask him about it for him to let me know that we were done. My begging didn’t help, except to make me feel worse and increase the power he had over me.
This first real breakup sent me into a spiral like I never really experienced. What was this strange mix of feelings and this awful sense of missing someone else?
So, I ran to the two people who I had relied on for years to fix my messes: my parents. The trouble was that I had not come out to them yet. So, I approached it the way that felt the best at the moment: I came to their house a crying mess and asked to speak to them one at a time. Finally, the weight of that had been lifted off my chest.
Over the next year or so, I came out to my friends, colleagues, and family. I did not, however, come out to the former members of my church family (with a few very specific exceptions).
The triumphs and some takeaways for LGBTQ youth who may be struggling.
So, now, here I am an out gay Christian man. The struggle has been hard, but some thoughts I picked up along the way have made a significant difference:
I am valuable.
This was a really hard idea to accept for me for such a long time. But it’s true no matter who you are. You are perfect just the way you are.
It’s okay to feel pain and find joy in your own ways.
The last couple of years have seen more tears than probably the twenty years before them. I am allowing myself to cry and experience pain in whatever ways feel necessary. I am also letting myself experience joy in ways that I never thought possible.
Trying something and finding it is not right for me does not mean I have failed.
Instead, I am trying things to experience what brings me joy and not being afraid to take a different road when what I do try doesn’t deliver the happiness I expected.
Chris Adam is an experienced writer, journalist, marketer and public relations professional who has held positions in the academic, non-profit and corporate sectors. He has a passion for music and being a mental health advocate. Check out his blog, Instagram, and Twitter.