CJ, 19, Macon, GA

I told my grandmother I was gay last year and she made her religious convictions about it apparent, but she said it wouldn’t change the fact that she’d still love me. My grandmother’s always been one of the role models of my life, but I didn’t want her to change her morals just because I was gay. If she did that, then she could change them for any reason. But I understand her reasons, and I’m thankful she’s still supportive and still loving. We’ll have to agree to disagree on that one.

I go to a Baptist church and to the Reformed University Fellowship on campus. I identify as Christian. I view the Bible as encouraging love and compassion for all. Those morals are the same. That’s more important to me than one or two Bible verses that condemn same-sex relationships.

I don’t hang out with that many gay people. I hang out with people who are gay-friendly. Since there was no controversy when I came out freshman year, I’ve stayed with those friends. I’ve been one time to the gay club in Macon. It’s not exactly my cup of tea.

I do like to hang out with friends and party that way, and I’m very involved on campus. You have professors and get to know everyone on campus. It’s a very active and loving campus.

If I was giving advice to other gays, I’d say it’s important to be self-confident. But I would also say not to advertise it. You don’t have to act straight, but when you meet someone don’t say, “Hi, I’m gay.” When I was meeting gay freshmen last year. I always thought it was weird if that was one of the things they said when they introduced themselves.

Mercer’s small, so everybody knows everybody. It’s a good thing sometimes, but when it comes to dating it’s not a good thing because you’ve known everyone so long. I dated someone freshman year and he moved to Florida, and after that I haven’t found anyone I’m interested in.

My first kiss was weird. Not because it was a guy; it was just weird because I had never kissed anyone before. In high school I was still straight. Well, I wasn’t straight, but I wasn’t out. I had girlfriends in early high school. I was still kind of young.

I went to a really small Georgia high school. The graduating class was 38. High school’s never good for anyone unless you’re a football player or cheerleader, and life’s pretty much over for them after high school. I was asked a million times if I was gay, and I had a cracking voice, so I got picked on for that.

I think people thought I was gay partly because of the voice. Because my high school was so small, you were categorized. I wasn’t the only person thought to be gay. The other people who were thought to be gay weren’t gay. They were just different.

As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken at Macon University, Macon, GA, 2010
To tell your story, email hello@wearetheyouth.org

Keep Alabama Beautiful

Hi y’all! We’re currently in Laurel, Mississippi (very exciting for one of us) at the lovely Rodeway Inn. Since we don’t have a minute to waste on this trip (putting our donor money to good use!) let’s recap the past 3 days:

Day 2 at Mercer was jam-packed with six interviews and portrait sessions. Although the community was small, the LGBT population was incredibly diverse and excited to share their stories. That evening we attended the Common Ground meeting, which was interesting and informative!

Post-meeting, Noah took us to the (best) wing place near campus where we ordered fried okra, pickle chips, delicious wings and $2 beer! And here’s a fun fact that Noah shared: Macon, Georgia is home to more churches per capita than ANYWHERE IN THE UNITED STATES.

The next morning we woke up at 6 am (ugh), stumbled to our sweet ride (see above!) and drove two hours to Statesboro, Georgia. There we met with Derrick Martin, a super-impressive freshman at Georgia Southern. You may have heard of Derrick last spring when he made national news after being kicked out of his home for wanting to take his boyfriend to prom. He later founded Project Life Vest, an amazing organization that helps LGBT youth in crisis.

For lunch: Shrimp and grits, fried shrimp and sweet tea, of course.  All for a total of $12! What a Southern steal (can you tell we’re from NYC?!). Laurel, suffering from a migraine, finally relinquished control of the car to Diana who did a superb driving job from Statesboro to Auburn, Alabama, a long, long drive.

That evening we attended the Auburn University Gay-Straight Alliance meeting. Being in the heart of the Bible Belt (and an SEC school where football is the second religion), we were happily shocked at the huge turnout – about 60 people. We then had a lovely dinner with the group and the next day we met with four students and a pet lizard. Interviews and portraits to come!

Last night we were back on the open road to Mississippi, stopping in Selma, Alabama for dinner and historical significance! Downtown Selma looks right out of the 1960s (really amazing), reminding us that the road to equality is not an easy one.

After Laurel pulled over at every historical marker, we made our way out of town and onto Mississippi! Thanks to Kandace for housing us in Auburn, Braxton for coordinating, the AGSA for being awesome and all the wonderful people we met at Auburn.

War Eagle!