Krueger: From a gay man: Labels do not define us

Jonathan Krueger

Barbies and hot wheels. Nail polish and sports gear.

Growing up as a gay man I was trying to hide some things about my life that didn’t fit the social norms. I grew up in a family where my parents were supportive of me being myself for the most part. I was able to play with the toys I wanted to and my parents didn’t care. I played with dolls a lot but I also played sports. When visiting my grandparents my cousins liked to put nail polish on me and I would run upstairs showing it off to my mother, who told me to go wash it off.

In elementary school I was the one with the “cooties.” I was teased and bullied constantly. I remember when I started to realize I was different than the other boys. Yes I played football and basketball right along with them, however sometimes I found myself wanting to play with the girls. Some of the guys started to harass me about me having a crush on the girls I hung out with. When a rumor was spread about me liking some girl her brother chased me down in the playground and beat the living crap out of me.

Upon the entrance to middle school I was starting to realize some things. When I looked at girls I found them to be pretty but nothing more; however, I had feelings for male friends that I found to be wrong and bottled it all up inside. I wasn’t friends with many people and I was considered an outcast. I only had one really good friend but I didn’t deserve the way he treated me. Despite that, throughout middle school and high school he was my friend.

Around eighth grade, I started learning about homosexuality. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was a gay man. I remembered since fourth grade that my classmates had called me gay and a fag and I did the what I felt I had to: I bottled myself up some more and pretended I was the most heterosexual male you would meet. I even pretended to be seeing a girl.

In my adolescence I dealt with terrible anxiety and depression with constant bouts of anger. My parents never understood what was wrong, but I wasn’t happy with myself, I hated myself and I wished I could change. I was scared of people knowing about me and I was scared of what people would think. So instead I pretended everything was all right, my depression and anxiety getting worse as time went on.

Then it clicked – sophomore year is when I finally accepted myself for who I was. I was still nervous for people to know, but I no longer thought I was an evil to society. My junior year of high school I started dating a boy and I realized it was time to stop living in the closet.

I came out to my mother, who was shocked by my eruption of tears as she dropped me off at school. I asked her not to tell my dad but the next weekend she did. He was only upset because I hadn’t told him myself. My brother on the other hand didn’t get to hear from me or my parents but from the gossip that traveled all the way to his school about me.

Since my childhood I’ve come to accept many things about myself. I can be whatever kind of person I want to be. I don’t have to be the feminine guy everybody expects from the gay community, I can be myself.

The stereotypes of a gay male are that we are sissies, that we make sure our hair looks priceless and that our shoes match our outfits, but this is not the case. I grew up in a family of hardcore Cyclones fans, I play a lot of different sports and half the time you will probably see me in gym shorts and a t-shirt.

I have long given up on trying to match the social norms of a gay man because I am my own person and labels will not define me.