Growing up, I never thought I would have to worry about whether people liked me or not. I always thought that as long as I did the right thing, things would just come naturally. I never imagined someone would treat me differently simply because I liked the same-sex. Yet, I quickly learned that it was possible.
When I got to middle school, I found myself in an entirely brand new environment with new people. I continued to be myself and assumed that as long as I was myself, people would like me. I found great comfort with one of my guy friends and we grew really close throughout the school year, so close that we eventually started dating. It was confusing. I was taught that I should like girls, but I couldn’t stop my attraction to guys.
I confided in a couple of friends about my sexual orientation, but in middle school, a secret is never a secret for long. Word began to get out and I slowly became ashamed of who I was. I was the only openly gay kid in my school and questions about my sexuality never seemed to end. It was hard. By the time high school came, things got a little better. However, I did not want to be known as the “gay kid” so I pushed my sexuality to the back of my mind. My school had a LGBT club where I met some other gay people. But I thought I would always have the label “gay” over my head wherever I went. For some reason I still did not feel comfortable talking about my sexuality and expressing myself.
I found out about The Attic from some members of my school’s LGBT club and I was always curious about it. I heard it was a safe space where LGBT teens can come together, hang out, and learn new things, all while being themselves. So, I pushed myself to go.
In May of 2013, I visited The Attic for the first time and I loved it! I had never been around so many LGBTQ people, it was inspiring! I participated in many groups like, “Gacting” (Gay Acting) and “Boy’s Room” (a HIV prevention and support group) and I started coming to groups every day. I made a bunch of new friends and learned a lot about being true to who I am and not changing yourself for anyone. Although I have only been coming to The Attic for less than a year, it has already become my home away from home and I appreciate every single minute of it. Currently, I am a Peer Support and Prevention leader at The Attic and I help educate other youth on safer sex education and HIV prevention. Everyone at The Attic has helped to give me the tools and skills I need to be comfortable with myself and to go far in life.
I really believe that in life if there’s one thing you should always be able to do is be yourself and because of The Attic I now have the courage to say: “I am Stuart and I am PROUD to say I’m gay!”