I dreamed a dream: Finding my LGBT family thicker than blood

Wednesday, June 1, 2016. On this date, LGBTQ bloggers, their family members, and allies from across the U.S. and around the world will celebrate the 11th annual Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day. The event, developed and run by the GLAAD award-winning (for Outstanding Blog) LGBTQ-parenting site Mombian, and sponsored by the Family Equality Council, aims to celebrate LGBTQ families, their diverse natures, and raise awareness of how current prejudices and laws have a negative impact on their lives and children.  Mombian is asking LGBT families, straight allies and all other supporters to write and submit to Mombian.com, a blog post on any topic relating to LGBT families.

I was eleven years old when I first visited New York City. Walking down 5th Avenue looking at the stores, pushing through the busy crowds, admiring the skyscrapers, smelling the... smells, and hearing all the noises, I fell in love. I turned to my dad and said, “I’m going to live here one day.”

He smiled and gave me the look a parent gives when their child says something unrealistic, but he said, “Go for it.”

Eight years later, at the age of 19, the same father who encouraged my dreams of being a New Yorker publicly denounced me to his church the same week I came out of the closet.

September 25, 2014, I sent a letter to my mother. I told her how much I loved her. I told her I had wanted to change. I told her I wanted to live a life she would be pleased with and one in which I wouldn’t face ridicule and judgment. I told her I had tried everything in my power to be ‘normal’ in her eyes. But, it never happened. Then, I told her I had no longer believed it was wrong to be gay and to live a life true to who I am. I told her I wanted nothing to change between my family and me, and I just wanted the ability to love who I wanted to love. I told her all of these things and between each paragraph, I reminded her how much I loved her.

Her only response: “I'm sorry you have chosen to leave our family.... My heart is breaking.”

I could go into all the dramatic details of how difficult this was for me, but instead, I will skip that part, change direction, and focus on the positives that have now formed in my life from coming out.

A few months later, Preston (pictured above at Nashville pride with me) entered my life. I met him how all people in the South meet one another: at church. After a series of meaningful conversations where I shared my heart with him and he shared how he already cared so much about me after just a few minutes of talking, he established me as his little brother. Preston and his husband, Wesley, are my closest friends to this day. Though we live states apart, we get together at least twice a year. Other than that, we talk daily about life, love, dating, and how to become who I want to be in life. I made a family member who I know will always be here for me. Holidays are not nearly as lonely, and birthdays aren't just another day. They are special events I spend with him as my family. The greatest part about our brotherhood relationship is I can be 100% who I am with him. There’s no lying or pretending to be something I’m not. I hadn’t had that before meeting him.

Then two other men and I crossed paths thanks to my coming out, Gerald and his husband Bruce--New Yorkers. They found out about me through people at the college I attend, which Gerald also attended. They invited me to New York City and showed me around. We had an amazing time and connected by shopping, going out to gay bars, and simply walking around the city. I don't recall ever feeling as accepted by an enviroment or by people for who I am than when I was in New York City with Gerald and Bruce. They soon became my "uncles," and I know they will always be watching out for me.

While I was visiting them for the first time, they introduced me to GLAAD’s Vice President of Programs, Zeke Stokes.

Now, here I sit in his office writing this blog post in the middle of Manhattan. The sirens and horns are going off outside continuously. The sound of construction gives me a sense of being productive. People shout at each other with no qualms about what others may think of them. Gay couples walk by hand-in-hand in public. Skyscrapers reach to the heavens. I have a room in Brooklyn (with a view that makes me feel like I’m from Sex and the City). I’m in the process of moving to the city I love. My dreams, as the cliché goes, are coming true.

But, none of this would have ever happened if I hadn’t come out of the closet. If I hadn’t told my family I was gay, they wouldn’t have cut me off. My adopted brother and my uncles in New York would have never reached out to me because our paths would not have crossed if I had stayed in the closet. My uncles would have never introduced me to GLAAD, where I get to help accelerate acceptance for people like me--including LGBT Southerners--and I wouldn’t have made the connections I am making now to make my dreams of living in Manhattan a reality.

Coming out was the most painful and excruciating thing I had ever done. But, my life is a dream because I came out. I gained so much, but most of all, I have a family who loves me unconditionally.