Growing up in a Catholic household, I was always under the impression that it was “wrong” for me to identify as LGBTQIA. When I was little, I was able in my life to repress or deny my feelings for guys in my school and pass it off as an odd circumstance or consider them close friends. I told myself that it was wrong for me to be this way because I figured my family would hate me for who I am, and I thought I would burden and ruin us with my “issue.” Throughout high school I advocated for my friends who identified as LGBTQIA, but I never let that extend to myself for some reason. I stood up for what deep down I knew was right for them and, unknowingly, for me.

It took me 16 years to finally admit to myself what I knew all along: I was not straight, and it was no longer something that I could just hide or try to deny. My truth had been building up in me for so long that it exploded inside of me and threw me into a storm of confusion, anxiety, and self-hatred in a way. The first person I came out to was my best friend who was bisexual. I told her that I thought I was also bisexual, but I was so unsure. I thought I liked girls, but did I just convince myself that I did to please my family? My inner turmoil was so much for me to handle that I went to such a dark place in my life that I almost ended it then and there. Luckily, I met an amazing psychologist who helped me accept who I am as a person, not hate myself for it. I gradually built a network of sorts of my closest friends to support me. But now I had another obstacle to face: my sexuality was not something that I could keep from my family, we were far too close for me to try. Throughout my life I always thought it would cause trouble, but I had to face my fear to truly realize that it is not something that my loved ones have a right to “hate” me for or think differently of me about. I hadn’t changed at all in life. I really did always know who I was, I was just too afraid to acknowledge it. I realized that society imprinted so many false stereotypes in my head of what it meant to identify as LGBTQIA. It did not define me, it was not something that changed over time, and it was not something that could be altered. It was only a characteristic of me, and there are so many other things that go into who I am as a person. I am compassionate, I am righteous when I need to be, I procrastinate too often, I trust far too easily, I love dogs just as much as I love food, I believe in an after-life once my time here is done. And I just so happen to occasionally like a guy. For the first time in my life I could just breathe. There was no weight on me, no overbearing stress that consumed my every thought or ounce of energy. I stopped fighting myself,  I knew who I was through and through, and at times I forgot that my sexuality was even an “issue” in my life because I had such loving and supporting friends who were there for me. But I didn’t have my family. So finally, with packed bags and a car ready to go, I sat my mother down and after what felt like hours, I was finally able to tell her that I was bisexual. It was so hard for me to face her with this because she was always my best friend, and she sacrificed so much in her life for me. And when I finally did tell her, she was angry with me. But not at all for what I expected her to be angry about. She said she couldn’t believe me, that I waited ALL THE WAY UNTIL GRADUATION to tell her this about myself, that I didn’t do it sooner. Wow. I spent countless nights crying in fear for losing the most important person in my life, but in the end, she laughed with me about how silly it was to doubt her and her unconditional love for me through anything. But then, she feared for me and what the rest of my life may be like, particularly at a Catholic campus for the next 4 years.

I didn’t consider my sexuality all that much when choosing a school, so when I came to Saint Joe’s in the fall last year I didn’t know what to expect. I was shaken on my arrival and immediately fell back into hiding, with no support system like I had back home with friends, only people who lived with me and made ignorant comments and whispered about me behind my back. But then, in November, a new fire was ignited inside me. I had seen how a man who could say such horrible things could still be elected to lead a nation, and I decided something needed to change, and I would have to fight for it to happen. So I told my entire family: siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all. I was met with overwhelming love and support, which I never would have expected in my wildest dreams. Looking back, I realize how lucky I am to have so many people I know are in my corner, which is more than most people can say unfortunately. Then, I took to the world of social media to proclaim not only was I bisexual, but also I was someone who would speak out for all those that are marginalized, because it cannot become normal for people to oppress and abuse and get away with it. I thought that my journey of coming out would end here, but unfortunately, I was wrong.

Coming out is something that I have found I do almost every day. We live in a world where it is assumed that everyone is straight, so I often have mini “battles” every day where I need to decide if it’s worth it for me to tell someone I’m actually not straight, or if I just let them place me into something I’m really not. On top of that, I face criticism, doubt, and phobia for being bisexual. People assume that I am using my identity as a stepping stone, which sometimes people do, but that does not mean all bisexual people will. People think I can’t commit to a relationship, and sometimes women can’t even consider dating me. So that is why today, national Coming Out Day, is so important to me. The changes I have gone through in my life regarding myself are amazing to me. I have gone from someone who couldn’t even admit in my head who I truly loved, to a person who struggled to say the word bisexual to the mirror, to someone who is happily my true self. And now, I have the opportunity to meet so many amazing people who are just like me. I have a new perspective of the world, and I see how privileged I was growing up, which I may not have noticed if I was just another cis, straight, white person. I have learned that love is infinite, undefinable, and so unbelievably amazing that I can find so many people beautiful, and have so many people support me and others. I am no longer a child who fears himself, and my hope is that one day, this holiday will not be restricted to a single day in the year. I hope for the day that little kids grow up, and they do not fear who it is that they love or who they truly are inside. I hope that one day this world will accept everyone for who they are and who they love. But until then, I will use my newfound voice, and I will scream with passion for everyone who is oppressed or hiding so that they can feel a true breath of freedom that I wake up and appreciate every single day, and that I will use to push for normalization and advocation until it is finally available.

Yours truly, with all the love in the universe,