LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Dancing Queen, Only Seventeen

"Thank you to the friends who taught me to love myself."

Storming through my closet, I was trying to piece together the perfect costume for the night. A pair of chinos matched my striped Oxford shirt. Along with my father's vintage pretentious blazer, accented with an obnoxious chain necklace, and paired with some Ray-Ban aviators, my uniform was disco savvy for tonight's 70s themed Homecoming Dance. I was ready to depart for my date with the dance floor. Entering the chauffeur's room, I found her in front of the television watching a movie.

"Mom," I droned, "let's go."

At that moment, I recognized the film she was watching. There was Julia Roberts sitting at a white, linen-covered table talking on her cell phone to her gay best friend.

"Maybe there won't be marriage ... maybe there won't be sex ... but, by God, there'll be dancing!" Rupert Everett says as he swoops her onto the dance floor and closes the ever-popular film, My Best Friend's Wedding.

With her own perfect timing, my mother turned around to find her son decked out in "Dancing Queen" dress. As she eyed me up and down, her expression showed she was finally processing reality. She smiled and shook her head.

Lucky for me, I was not someone whose friends, family, and strangers all knew he was gay before he even uttered the word. I knew first, thanks to Leonardo DiCaprio. (I confess, those baby blues of his made me swoon.) As a child, I actually managed to come out of the closet, go back in, come out again, and, subsequently go back again. This joking-Jekyll and homo-Hyde routine tired quickly, and as the sharp sting of the word "fag" hit my prepubescent ears, I decided I was better off staying in.

Middle school was torture for me. Not necessarily because I liked boys, although that certainly didn't help. As a refuge, I did what many boys like me did and adopted new identities. The theater allowed me to escape insecurity and take control of my surroundings, as well as integrate myself into an accepting group of my peers. Yet, however open they may have been, I still wasn't comfortable with openly embracing that part of me. But, come sophomore year of high school, I was ready.

The joke is that I never actually "came out" of the closet; rather I sort of just "fell out." I'd be with a friend of mine and accidentally catch the eye of a cute guy, pointing him out to her. Often, she would look back at me with an inquisitive grin and then agree. Likewise, I never formally told my parents, but I knew they perceived it.

However, let me say that being gay is not all it's cracked up to be. There is one unfortunate detail that comes with the territory of liking boys — you have to actually deal with them too. My close friend came out to me this past summer. He has had a far rougher time than I, but I stuck by his side, always ready to listen and care for him. Sometimes I cared too much, but he didn't mind.

It's been good getting to know myself more. These experiences have taught me to love life and have given me a sense of humanity. With the greatest humility, I can only say thank you. Thank you to the friends who taught me to love myself. I think of them, how they treated me, and then I think of this quote by Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City: "... the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the "you" you love, well, that's just fabulous."

This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk High School: 101 Stories of Life, Love, and Learning for Older Teens  © 2008 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.

Cover image via g-stockstudio I Shutterstock

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