I first became aware of my sexual identity when I was in high school. At the time, I was not open about it and did not know how to express it. It was very hard for me to accept myself because throughout my life, I had only heard negative comments about gay people.
I found out about The Attic though a friend. My first time at The Attic, I watched some people dance and they were amazing. They seemed so comfortable being themselves. I was not used to being around people that were so relaxed about their sexuality and with being “out” as gay. I wanted to be like them, but in terms of self-acceptance, I had a long way to go.
Over the next year, I started coming to The Attic more often and participating in Mpowerment, the safer sex support group for young gay men. At first, the group was overwhelming — no one at my school or home had ever had these kinds of honest discussions with me. I learned a lot from these discussions, and found the support groups to be really helpful and informative. I also started participating in The Attic’s drag and dance groups.
Over time, with the support of the wonderful youth and staff, I began to finally feel comfortable being who I am. It was a great feeling to be able to “come out” to my friends. I performed in Attic drag shows. I danced with The Attic’s dance team. I also participated in a summer service learning program at The Attic and learned how to be an activist and stand up for myself and the greater LGBT community.
The Attic has become very important to me as a place to connect with other young African American gay men, as well as other LGBT organizations in the community. My friends and the Attic staff have given me the tools I need to be open about my sexuality and to succeed in life. Currently, I am a Peer Support and Prevention leader, and I assist in leading The Attic’s sexual health education and HIV prevention programming. I also sit on The Attic’s Youth Planning Committee.
Overall, I think the greatest gift that you can give yourself is to accept who you are. It has taken time and courage, and it is because of The Attic that I have given myself this gift.