Q: Tell us about your time at smyal:
A: I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC and was very insulated and removed from the gay community. My high school was filled with wealthy, entitled, good-ol-boy jocks. . . not exactly the image that I was portraying. Needless to say, I was very different and only had girl friends that I could relate to. I enjoyed sharing stories with my girl friends and talking about boys and who was cute, etc. Although I was not “out” per se, I assume everyone knew I was gay. Luckily I was never bullied. However, it took me a long time to build up the courage to meet with a group of other gay men/women. So one day, I drove down to Dupont Circle, which was still a little bit scary at the time, and built up the courage to attend a SMYAL meeting. As soon as I walked in the room, I felt a sense of belonging, that I had never experienced before. I shared my feelings about boys, how my family treated me, and what I wanted my future to look like. It was so nice to hear that other people had similar ambitions who were gay, too. I kept coming to the SMYAL weekly meetings because it strengthened my sense of belonging, and it helped to shape the end of my high school experience and gave me a sense of confidence that I hadn’t had previously. It was a great feeling!
Q: Where are you now?
A: I attended college in Atlanta and came out of the closet there. To my surprise, my parents were fantastic when I told them. They told me that they always knew and that they wanted me to tell them when I felt the time was right. To this day they are my biggest fans. In fact, both my mother AND my grandmother have set me up on blind dates with other gay men that they knew. What a support network! Since that time, I attended graduate school at NYU and now have a career in management consulting in the DC area. I’m now working for Volkswagen/Audi as one of the leads on a major IT program that impacts thousands of employees. My boss is also an out and proud gay man, and he gave me a platform to be comfortable coming out to my team.
Q: What advice would you give current smyal youth?
A: The older you get, the less isolated you feel. The best thing I ever did was to join a group activity (sports league) where I shared a common interest with other gay people that had nothing to do with sexuality at all. There I met many friends and really built up my support network. I would definitely advise others to take an interest and find a group of others who share the love of that interest. It’s truly grounding and comfortable—the best move I’ve ever made.