Levi Wilder

Events National Coming Out Day

I came out from a closet created by the church and the expectations of my family. I was terrified of anyone knowing I was gay because I would be removed from my fellowship with my church I had grown up in. I feared my father would disown me, or if he didn’t he would at the very least make my life miserable trying to control me; either by trying to fix me (my worst fear being him sending me off to a conversion camp) or by being disappointed in me and expecting me to “choose” to be straight.

Early on I knew I was different from the norm. Mostly by being much more emotional, sympathetic, and empathetic than other boys my age. I was also more comfortable talking to girls and befriending them more often than boys. This kind-heartedness and tenderness were, thankfully, appreciated by both of my parents. I was not pushed hard to be “manly.” But I always had to worry about learning outward displays of masculinity to avoid ridicule at school.

What took me a long time to realize of myself was that I crushed on male characters in shows and movies. Especially those around my age or a bit older. I thought I just admired them or wanted to be like them somehow, which was true, but it was more than that. I had romantic feelings for them. Maybe I felt safe crushing on boys who weren’t exactly real. I don’t think I had crushes on guys in school, but it is hard to say. I moved around a lot.

It eventually dawned on me, “I am gay.” I can’t say what exact age but I would say around 12 or so. Once I knew, fear gripped me. I wanted no one to find out. I could not trust friends. I could not trust figures in authority, counselors, or psychiatrists. Because, if I were to try, I could only imagine all the things that could go wrong. I could not even trust my twin sister.

If I admitted that I was gay to anyone it couldn’t be taken back. So I didn’t. I couldn’t even admit it to myself. I told myself I wasn’t gay. I was just being tormented by evil thoughts. But living this way hurt me. I felt beleaguered. Boxed in by something I could not seem to control. Definitely nothing I asked for or wanted.

When I was 20 years old I met Andrew Nicholson. We met at Texarkana College taking a Ceramics class together. I admit I barely talked to him in the class. I even ignored him at times. Maybe part of me knew he liked me on some level and I avoided him. It was not a conscious action. At the end of the school year he asked for my number explaining we should hang out outside of the college. I could find no reason to say no so I gave him my number.

A few months later he called. I was surprised but glad to hear from him. When he asked if we could hang out I agreed so we started going out to the movies and eating meals together to talk; get to know one another. (Seems a bit like dating huh?) He took the time to befriend me. Early on he confided in me that he was gay. My immediate action was worry, but I took the time to think about staying friends with him. I was an adult now. I could make decisions for myself and I found no good reason to avoid a friend just because he was gay. So I told him it was not a problem.

Months pass and I developed feelings for him. Yet again I experienced worry and fear, but I didn’t stop seeing him. We talked so much and I felt we developed a strong emotional bond. Finally, I gathered enough courage to tell him. It was the hardest thing I had ever done because I had conditioned myself to never say that I am gay. Let alone I was unsure how he would respond. He was the first person I came out to. He had feelings for me too! I cannot emphasize enough that it was through him and our developing love for one another that I eventually came out to others; friends, family, and acquaintances. It took years and I was cautious but I came out!

It released me from the confines I had allowed myself to be in. I don’t live a life of fear anymore. Even though there are still people who want to reject me, hurt me, or demonize me. It doesn’t matter now. I have the love of a man who loves me in return. I’ve known him for a decade. We have stayed together through good times and bad. Soon we will be married. Coming out was the best thing that has happened to me. I don’t regret it even for a moment.