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Out, Without a Doubt
Xavier Reyes

Growing up, I always believed negative stereotypes about gays and lesbians. These stereotypes put down homosexuals and gave me an excuse to not educate myself about them. But when I got older, I learned that the only person I was dogging was myself.

When I was 12, I always acted macho and dogged females and gays so my boys wouldn’t think that I was a “faggot.” We always joked around about “dropping the soap” and never exchanged anything more than just a handshake. I always thought that if two guys exchanged something more than that, something was wrong.

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I was extremely homophobic. I believed all the lies that I heard about gays, like that gays are not real men, they’re sex maniacs, and they’re all going to hell. Anytime my friends and I saw a gay person, we would make fun of him by walking “feminine.”

But when I was 13, my feelings about sex began to change. For example, I once found myself looking at another guy and saying, “Damn, he’s cute.” When this happened, I tried telling myself that it was wrong. I ignored my feelings and they went away. Or at least I thought they did.

When I was 14, the feelings came back stronger. I thought that it was just a phase, so I continued dating girls and putting down gays. But at the same time I was scoping out other men. I still believed that there was no way in hell that I could be gay. After all, I didn’t act like it.

It wasn’t until I moved into Green Chimneys (a group home in New York City) that I had my eyes opened. I was now 15 and still homophobic. When I first moved in I knew there were gays there, but never expected to have one as my roommate. Because I had allowed myself to fall for myths about gays, I was extremely insecure about having a gay roommate.

I wouldn’t change my clothes in front of Mike, I began to sleep in more than just my boxers, and I never walked around in just a towel. I was scared that Mike might try to hit on me or give me a surprise “wake up call” in the middle of the night and make me less of a man.

This insecurity didn’t last too long because I began to get to know Mike for who he was, not what he was. I found out that we liked the same music and loved going clubbing. I didn’t feel like I had to prove something in order to get his respect. But when Mike asked me if I was straight or gay, I lied and told him that I was straight but had a couple of gay friends.

The reality was that I was faking the funk. I knew I had feelings for guys, but I just didn’t want to come out with it. I was afraid of being put down because of it. I didn’t want people to think that I was a sissy, but at the same time I felt miserable. I was sacrificing being happy for my reputation.

After getting to know Mike better, I felt a little more comfortable with my sexuality. I didn’t have to put up a front when I was with him. I grew jealous of Mike because he didn’t care what people thought of him. His motto was “You get what you give.” I wanted to be like him—out and without a doubt. I didn’t want to live my life in a closet.

As much as I wanted to come out and be free, I still had a hard time accepting the fact that I was gay. I couldn’t picture myself sleeping with another guy. I had always believed that straight men had to act masculine, play sports, and lie about what girls they had sex with. They didn’t have sex with each other. If a guy was gay, then he had to be extremely flamboyant, know how to vogue, and listen to Madonna all day.

For some reason, Mike didn’t seem to fit any of the stereotypes I had. He wasn’t feminine, couldn’t vogue to save his life, and hated Madonna. Then it hit me. I realized that I had prejudices about gays and lesbians and, until I was able to free myself from them, I couldn’t accept myself.

Mike really opened my eyes and mind. I started to understand that I didn’t have to be feminine or come out of the closet voguing. After about three weeks, I decided I was ready to unlock all the locks.

I called Mike into the bedroom and told him that there was something that I had to tell him. I was a nervous wreck. I had sweaty palms, shaky knees, and a dry mouth. He saw how nervous I was and immediately closed the door and asked me what was the matter.

“Mike, I want to tell you something. Please don’t tell anyone yet. OK?”

“OK,” he replied with a concerned expression.

“I, I, I’m, well there’s a chance that...”

“What is it?” he asked, getting more and more anxious.

“Well, I could be, you know...”

“Know what?” he asked.

“I might be...”

He looked at me with this “I know you’re gay” look and asked me to finish.

“I’m, well, uhm, I’m gay.”

I swear, the minute I said that, I felt so relieved. I finally felt like I had no more hidden secrets. It’s strange, but it felt like I was even able to breathe a little bit easier now that I had gotten this off my chest.

First Mike laughed, then he looked at me.

“Oh, I knew that,” Mike said with his usual “I know everything” tone of voice. “I was just waiting to see when you were going to come out.”

Mike was the first person I told I was gay. He promised not to tell anybody else. Many of the gay residents swore that I was down, but even they were skeptical.

After Mike, I didn’t tell anybody else for a couple of days. I was still trying to accept who I was. Just thinking about having a boyfriend or lover made me shake my head in disbelief because I was going against everything that I thought I had believed in.

About a week later, I came out to a couple of gay residents. I always received replies like “You’re gay? No way!,” “It’s about time,” and “You need to get a man.” Because my gay friends were supporting me, I decided to take my chances and tell a straight female friend.

“You’re what?” Mary asked in disbelief.

“I’m gay,” I repeated.

“Boy, you need to stop playing.”

“I ain’t playing. I’m dead up,” I replied.

She looked at me and said, “You ain’t one of ‘em ‘cause you don’t act like it.”

“Act like what?” I asked. By this time she was really pissing me off.

“You know,” she said, putting her hand on her hip. “Fem.”

“Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean that I’ve got to act fem,” I said.

“Well, in my book you do ‘cause guys like you aren’t gay.”

image by Julio Juarez

I looked at her and walked away.

When I thought about it later on that night, I kept asking myself, “Why should I have to be fem just because I’m gay?” I finally made up my mind that I was going to be me. Regardless of what anybody said. No one could tell me how to act.

I began hanging out with my gay friends more often. We went to clubs, gay neighborhoods, and lots of gay house parties. I met a lot of kids who were my age and who were out of the closet. Some were extremely feminine while others were straight up ruffnecks. Either way, I grew really confident with myself.

When I came out to the staff in the group home, they couldn’t believe it. One staff member even said, “A good-looking guy like yourself is gay? Boy, I hope there are some men left out there for my daughter.”

It seemed like the more I told people, the more I wanted to come out.

Eventually, I made sure that the whole world knew. I didn’t want to live my life in a closet. I had pride in who I was. The only person who didn’t know was my adoptive mother.

My adoptive mother and I have always had a bad relationship. I ran away from home when I was 13 years old because I stole $1,200 from her and got caught. Growing up, my adoptive mother always spoke bad about gays. She used to say that they needed mental help, that it was immoral to be gay, and that it was “just a phase.” To make matters worse, she is a Roman Catholic. They strongly believe that homosexuality is a sin. Believe me, I was not running to tell her any time soon that I was gay.

It was very easy for me to avoid having to come out to my adoptive mother. I hardly spoke with her and hardly saw her since I was living in foster care at Green Chimneys. But when I was 17 years old, I went AWOL from the group home and moved in with a friend of mine. My friend was also gay but he was much older than I was—19 years older to be exact.

The agency called my adoptive mother to let her know that I had left foster care to live on my own. My adoptive mother, of course, wanted to know where I was and who I was with. The agency gave her my telephone number and she called me.

“Hello,” I asked, trying to shake the effects of deep sleep from my head.

“Xavier, this is your mother!” she screamed at me.

“Oh,” I said holding the phone away from my ear. “Hello mom.”

I sat up in bed while preparing my verbal weapons just in case there was an attack from the enemy lines.

“Do you know what the hell you’re doing?” she asked, her voice higher than it was before.

“Here we go,” I mumbled to myself.

“What!?” she screamed into my ear.

“Listen ma, this is my life. You can’t tell me what to do anymore. I don’t wanna be in foster care. I’m tired of being in a group home. I can take care of myself!” I screamed back at her, shocked that I actually yelled back for once.

“Well, who are you living with?” she asked. I could tell she was taken aback by my tone of independence.

“A friend, ma,” I replied, trying to figure out where she was going with her questions.

“I don’t know about you. But I find it pretty strange that a 17-year-old is living with a 36-year-old man!” she screamed at me.

“Ma! What do you want? So what if he’s 36?” I replied.

“Is he doing anything to you?” she asked. By this time I was really upset with her.

“No, he’s not doing anything to me,” I said.

“Then why would a 36-year-old take in a 17-year-old?”

I thought about it for a second, then said, “He didn’t take me in. I have to pay rent and pay bills just like anyone else would.”

“Are you a homosexual?” she asked.

I almost dropped the damn phone on my foot. My adoptive mother was so blunt and straightforward. “Am I what?” I asked, trying to get out of telling her the truth.

“Are you a ho-mo-sex-u-al?” she said, sounding out the word as if I was learning it for the first time.

I paused for a minute, debating whether or not I should tell her. I was mad scared but I felt that this would prove to her that I was my own person. I knew that there was only so much thinking that I could do, so I let my mouth make the decision.

“Yes, I am a homosexual, “ I said, emphasizing the word.

After I told my adoptive mother I was gay, she tried to tell me that I needed help. I, of course, pointed out that homosexuality was not a mental disorder. Then she tried telling me how society wouldn’t accept me. I told her I didn’t care what society accepts. After that, she tried dissing me by telling me that I’m not a real man. I told her straight up:

“Mom, the last time I checked below my belly button, everything was still intact. Who I decide to sleep with is my business, not yours. As long as I’m not sleeping with anybody you know, that part of my life has nothing to do with you.”

She hung up on me.

Although my adoptive mother wasn’t accepting of the fact that I was gay, I still felt relieved that I’d told her. I had no more secrets from her and she knew who I really was. I wasn’t bothered by her homophobia. We didn’t have a relationship before I came out, so it really didn’t matter if we still didn’t have one after I came out.

I moved back into Green Chimneys about a month later. It took three months for my adoptive mother to speak to me again. Although we still don’t have a close relationship, she has come to accept me. She has told me that she is extremely old-fashioned and she knows that things have changed. She also has told me that there is nothing she can do to change my sexuality and that she has no choice but to accept it.

We had that talk eight months ago. Now she has taken the easy way out: Don’t ask, don’t tell. Whenever I do talk to her nowadays, she doesn’t ask, say, or even suggest anything about me being gay. It bothers me that she does this, but I also understand that she has accepted me for who I am.

Out of all the things that I have learned, the most important thing is that I cannot allow any kinds of stereotypes or prejudices to come between me and the rest of the world. I’ve learned the hard way that I should never judge a book by its cover. Ever since I’ve come out, I try to get to know people for who they are, not what they are.

I’m not scared anymore to tell people I’m gay. In fact, I enjoy telling them because I don’t fit into the stereotypes that people have about gays, and that really makes them stop and think twice. I never know when I might bump into someone who could be going through what I went through. The least that I can do for them is be out of the closet.

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