I’m closer with my twin brother than anyone else in the world. When he came out to me as gay after high school, I had already been out since I was 16. He had seen what I had gone through but he never told me he was going through the same thing that I was. At the time I felt like it was a betrayal, but it was harder for him to accept he was gay than it was for me. He realized one day and didn’t know what to do. For me, I had realized for so long, so I was ready for it.
When I told my mom I was gay, she said, “When you were three years old you put a bra on your head and walked out in my heels and said, ‘Mama! I want to be a woman.’” She always thought I’d be transgender, and now that I’ve been doing drag a little bit she’s like, “You’re gonna like it too much. You’re going to want to be a girl.” But I assured her that, no, I don’t want to be a woman.
I feel more comfortable when I’m in drag. I’ve always been more feminine than my male peers. It’s not that I’m transgender or anything, but in the society we live in, I feel more anxious holding hands with my boyfriend as another boy than I do when I’m in drag. When I’m out of drag I dress kind of androgynous, in tight pants and a v-neck t-shirt. When I went to Auburn I could tell people would look at me kind of funny, like, “There’s that gay guy.” But when I was dressed as a woman no one looked at me twice, unless I was getting catcalled. But now that I live in Montevallo, there are so many gay people here. So I’m leaving drag behind a little.
At first my boyfriend didn’t know how to feel about me doing drag. Michael’s more masculine, and I’ve seen pictures of his exes. They’ve always been pretty feminine, and lately all of them have been turning into drag queens. But he’s very supportive.
Michael worked at Disney World with my twin brother. We went to a club and started dating the next month. That was two years ago, and he transferred to Montevallo this year. We’ve been talking about getting engaged, so we want to make sure we can live together first. He has the ring but he won’t show it to me. He wants it to be a surprise.
My parents adore him. My dad’s a really nice guy, but he scared the crap out of Michael. Both of my parents were in the Air Force, and my dad was deployed to Iraq so he had a gun in the house. He was like, “What are your intentions with my son? If you hurt him, I will have to shoot you.” My dad’s not that kind of guy, but he was doing it to make fun of Michael.
I’m very, very lucky my parents are so accepting. The military’s very focused on equality, but more about race and not about homosexuality, which is why I was scared to come out to my parents. It would have been an instantaneous thing if we had talked about it more. But as liberal as they are, it wasn’t something they felt comfortable talking about, I guess.
Because my parents were in the Air Force, we moved around a lot. I was born in Utah and have lived in Japan, Germany, Texas, Virginia and Alabama. I really liked moving around. I make and break friendships very easily. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I got to experience different cultures more than other people get to.
When I was young and naive I thought I’d be a judge advocate general. Then I realized I’m way too individualistic to be in the military. I’m just a protester at heart. I don’t want to stand in line just because people tell me to.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken in Montevallo, AL, 2010
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Lambda Chi doesn’t care if you’re gay or straight, or what race or religion you are. My big brother in the fraternity’s also gay. He’s the fraternity president and dating the rush chair. At mixers we can bring a same-sex date. I really like the brotherhood events and the stories I’ve learned from my fraternity.
I went through rush and got my bid from Lambda Chi. Lambda Chi is the first frat that said no to the pledge system, because it leads to hazing. They don’t even call us pledges. I’m an associate.
When I was looking at colleges, I didn’t think I’d want to go to Montevallo because it’s in a small town in Alabama. But then I saw how represented the GLBT community was. It’s been wonderful.
When I started school, I wanted to be a choral director. I was classically trained at piano and still sing in the choir concert, but I switched my major to social work and psychology. I realized I really want to help people.
It’s so great to be in a place that’s open and cool. It’s definitely a change from high school and middle school. I moved from Michigan to Tuscaloosa in eighth grade. Throughout high school there were people whose parents were like, “We’re not racist but … we don’t want our kids to date people of a different race.”
I got picked on, especially in the South. This guy in eighth grade rode our bus and hit me upside the head. We took it to the police and met with the middle school administrators. Then I had to go to high school with him. I reported every single thing he did to the school counselor. He eventually dropped out of high school.
I was always really quiet and more feminine, so people thought I was gay, but I didn’t want to be. My local church was really conservative. I was really afraid I wasn’t going to make it to heaven. In 10th grade, I was dating someone but wasn’t open about my relationship.
During that time, I was really depressed a lot. I can honestly say I thought of ending everything. There was one day I got in a fight with my mom. I remember crying so hard that day. Later, I was clenching a bottle of her painkillers.
I really think it was divine inspiration that I didn’t die. I just sat there and eventually calmed down. I thought about how I wanted to be a music teacher, and if I died I wouldn’t be able to do that. I talked to a school counselor. I never did tell my mom about that.
After that, I tried to become more optimistic. My absolute BFF was raised Unitarian, and she got me involved in the Unitarian church. I met a lot of other gay people there who gave me lot of inspiration. I still believe in God.
Around 10th grade I started telling a lot of my friends I was gay. I’m kind of glad. Before then I was scared, but once people were like, “Whatever,” I could be more open. That was really great. My dad is really cool about it and my mom has gotten better. I brought my last boyfriend around, but we don’t really talk about it. My grandmother’s amazing. She’s a member of Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). She just wanted to understand.
I’m so happy with how things are now. I’m in one of the best schools ever. I feel really good about myself. I think I’m making a lot of good decisions.
As told to Diana Scholl.
Photo by Laurel Golio, taken at the University of Montevallo, AL, 2010
To tell your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org
After our last post, we drove to photograph and interview Audri, a 15 year old in Laurel, MS. Audri decided to be home schooled after facing constant bullying in the public school system; she is now less than a year away from attending college. We really enjoyed meeting Audri as well as her seven newborn puppies — interview and photo to come!
Fun fact: Laurel, MS is a relatively small town in southeast Mississippi, former home of Lance Bass and Parker Posey (one of whom is gay!).
Post puppy time, we got back in the car and headed to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for our first night off, spent at the lovely La Quinta Inn. The following morning, we met with Anna, a freshman at the University of Alabama, to profile her at her sister’s house in town. We also met with the U of A school paper, article coming soon!
We then drove to Montevallo (the South’s most liberal town) to meet with Trevor, president of the University of Montevallo’s Gay-Straight Alliance, a beautiful drag queen and all around nice guy. Trevor informed us that Montevallo is a (super) liberal oasis in a (super) conservative state. We also interviewed Quincy, a member of Lamba Chi, a progressive fraternity on campus that openly welcomes gay students. Quincy and his frat-brother (another gay!) later took us to the town’s Mexican restaurant, El Agave. After enchiladas and guacamole, we proceeded to a Lamba Chi Halloween Party (yes, we’re 25, and yes, we went to a frat party), where everyone was very welcoming.
In the morning, we drove to Birmingham and went to the Civil Rights Institute, a moving museum that documents the civil rights struggle of Black Americans in Birmingham and throughout the South. Unfortunately, we had to cut our visit short to head back to the Atlanta airport.
All in all, it’s been a most amazing trip, complete with overload on all things fried, lack of sleep and too much time in the car. In all seriousness, though, what we’ll take away from this trip are the moving stories that we’ve heard and the brave people who have told them. We look forward to sharing them in the upcoming weeks.