Noah, 19, Macon, GA

Before I left for college, my parents told me not to tell anyone at school I was gay. But I was so excited about being in a gay-friendly place, the first thing I did when I got to campus was find out who was in charge of Common Ground, Mercer’s Gay-Straight Alliance. Now I’m the president.

I made the decision to get involved with a lot of different things at school. I’m the photo editor of the school paper. I’m in Amnesty International. I’m on the table tennis team. I also do my own photography, and I’m having my first gallery exhibit this winter. Plus I’m trying to keep my grades up while having a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend, Kayden, in Atlanta, which takes the commitment of a full-time job. I have to force myself to sleep.

Mercer is a small Baptist school in the South, so it’s not going to be a liberal school. But it has a history of gay activism on campus that I didn’t tell my parents about when I was applying. My parents know I’m president of Common Ground, but I don’t think they realize what a big part of my life it is. I didn’t know any gay people before I came out, so I figure it’s my job and responsibility to make sure it’s easier for other people.

I was 16 when I came out. I told my friend, and he thought I should tell my parents because he was worried about my soul. They weren’t thrilled. I had to go to several Christian therapists. Not ex-gay therapy, but ones that try to work out what’s best for you.

A month later I actually got kicked out of my school. I told only two people at the school I was gay, so I know exactly who told the administration. It was a private school, and they had a secret meeting. It was about a week before my senior year was about to start. I had enough credits, so I just graduated early. It was rough. I didn’t feel like God loved me or my parents loved me. All those things happened at once, and it was intense.

December of that year I tried to commit suicide. I tried to swallow a bunch of pills. A friend called when I was doing it, and she talked me out of it. Then I decided not to feel so sorry for myself.

Looking back, I think it was a half-hearted attempt. But back then I thought I was so serious. I really did believe it was the only option. I really did.

Afterwards, I sent my parents a garbled letter in emotional language. I don’t think they know the extent of how serious it was. I think they thought I was being a hormonal teenager, which I sort of was.

That was two years ago. Everything is so much better now. At college, no one cares that I’m gay. My brothers and sisters don’t care, and my father’s trying to be accepting. This summer, my mother said she’d rather I be a drug dealer than be gay, because there’s rehab for being a drug dealer. But just recently she told my dad, “I’m not going to be one of those Christian people who hates gays.” She’s making an effort, and in turn I’m trying to be as sensitive as I can be to her needs.

Like, I try not talking about gay stuff around her, and when I’m with Kayden I try not to be handsy. It may not be the best situation, but it’s improved dramatically.

Kayden’s coming over Christmas Eve. He’s never been here on a holiday with my extended family. I anticipate that no one will say anything. It usually bothers me when people don’t talk about stuff, but in this particular case I’m kind of cool with it. I used to think that when people didn’t say anything, they were thinking all sorts of bad things. But now I realize it’s that they’re making a conscious effort to be more accepting.

Kayden and I have been together two years. We met when we both lived in Alpharetta, Georgia. Now he lives in Atlanta and I live in Macon, but we try to see each other every weekend. It’s actually good on a small campus like Mercer, where everyone’s in everyone’s business, to date someone from outside the bubble.

But we don’t have that connection you have in a relationship where you see each other all the time. But we work at it. Skype helps. I feel very lucky to be with him. He balances out of all the things I can’t take care of on my own.

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

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