I was soon to be 17 years old. He recently turned 17 years old. In the three months that separated our birthdays, he and I befriended then best friended each other.
What also happened during these three months is that I fell in love with my best friend and began to finally question my sexuality, a word I wasn’t familiar with at the time. More than a year later as a freshman in college, I felt scared but ready to take on the world by saying, I’m gay.
Five years later, I think how awed, at points disappointed and overall proud a younger Jarryd would be of what’s transpired since then. If I could tell him what I know five years later, it would be:
- I’m so proud of you for deciding to unapologetically own who you are. However, maybe you should directly own who are to every person you love, even against the fear of what they might say or do. You’re standing in your truth and will be fine even if things don’t get well with everyone. But they’ll love you anyway.
- Speaking of love, “Being in love doesn’t always mean you know how to love. Being in love can be a need, a fantasy, or an obsession. Whereas loving truly is a much kinder and happier state.” Guys will love you but not know how to love you. Guys will also give you the attention you yearn to get what they want. You have to actively remember to offer your time and the affection you’re capable of to only those who deserve it. I’m sorry there’s no way to protect you from the heartache ahead.
- Dating isn’t easy. While we all need people to love and love us back, you’re not defined by a man liking or loving you at any moment. However, your family will ask you often if you’ve found a special someone and isn’t it nice they care to ask.
- In the journey of finding a special someone besides yourself, always get the guy’s number if you know there is a chance you won’t see him again. Yet don’t romanticize it too much, as time is slowly convincing a 2015 you that your friends are your special someones.
- Focus on the love and light your friends bring into your life, because they help bring you back to the center of who you are. Yet, not everyone is meant to be in your life forever. That’s okay, because life is ever changing, including who you are.
- Accepting yourself as gay doesn’t allow you to just accept your attraction to men. Be open to living beyond gender norms – wearing, watching, and embracing what makes you feel most comfortable and powerful. Look beyond others’ judgement, because confidence and happiness come from within through the daily decisions you decide, especially when you choose to speak up for yourself.
- Speak up for others, including the rest of the LGBTQ+ community. You don’t understand gender identity and other sexualities fully, but their struggles are similar or more complex, so fight for them as you would your own sexuality.
Lastly, continue to feel hope in all moments and always accept yourself for the beautiful soul you are.