Donald Jackson, 20, Pennsylvania
Growing up in Philadelphia all twenty years of my life I have seen a lot of the city’s views and experienced the ways of the city’s people and their manner. I have realized since elementary school that I was different besides being teased and bullied I felt more attracted or more drawn to the same sex. But I was young and the word gay or sexual orientation for that matter was not even in my vocabulary. So as I was growing up I heard a lot of stereotypes and judgment on the gay community. The act of being with the same sex was looked at as a disgrace in my surroundings, the neighborhoods I grew up in, and even worse in my own family.
Religion was kind of a big thing in my family, so that took a toll in the journey of accepting my sexual orientation. It lead me to the point where I suffered from internalized homophobia. So as years passed I felt my attraction towards the same sex become more intense and that led to me becoming more uncomfortable with myself denying myself even the chance to understand the change that I was going through. I didn’t want to understand it. I figured by denying the fact that I might be gay will make it disappear,and the fear of my family the thought of them finding out about me helped me keep that thought process. I hated everything about myself I hated my life and I had no hope at all.
Since the age of 14 I have been in and out of nine mental hospitals due to suicide attempts, depression, PTSD, and mood disorder, all of this steaming from the trauma and self esteem issues I was experiencing. So through this experience of being in different chaotic environments I started to learn more about people, learning more about how the world works and about sexual orientation. Bouncing from different high schools and hospitals since I was 14 took a toll on me. I was experiencing a lot of different things and events. I needed a guide. I was scared, confused, and not very accepting of things within myself. When I was around 16 I was inside yet another hospital and I had a meeting with my mom and my social worker. To talk about my progress and my mom came out and said I know you’re gay and I immediately freaked, crying and denying it even though she was accepting and still loved me same. The hatred I had for myself still overpowered any type of acceptance for myself.
When I attended north east high school I was recommended to the Attic Youth Center by my school counselor. I signed in at the front desk of the Attic at the age of 14 and I have been here ever since, now at the age of 20. They have helped me with so much in my life. This place became my vision of hope. By attending the attic off and on I started to slowly understand and accept my sexual orientation. This led to me coming out slowly in my 11th grade year of school, to then being fully out and proud of myself, Proud of being gay. Proud of Donald and being able to actually say I like myself, but with all this the true gift I got within this journey is understanding. Being gay does not define me as a person it is only a small part of what makes me. My sexual orientation does not define me as an individual. My actions and the mark I leave from where ever I step shows the person I am not whom I love.