By Scott Hendershot, Elon Staff

“Mrs. L” (that’s what I called my 6th grade teacher), “why am I different, why don’t like I like all the things the other boys like?” as an 11 year old these were the most profound questions that I could ever ask and never know what I was really asking. It took 13 more years for me to actually accept the answer that Mrs. L never gave me. When she said to me, “Well Scott, just because you feel different is not a bad things, your individuality is what makes you wonderful”. Those words have stuck with me, and have been a piece of inspiration that I have been able to hold onto ever since that day. Now in my late 20’s I have a new understanding of what that individuality means for me. I am gay, and I am not afraid of that. I am happy with who I am and can fully accept myself for who I am. But it has taken some time for me to get to this point, let’s step back a few years. It was 2006 and I was a first year grad student at Indiana State University. It was my first time to be outside my “Christian” bubble, I went to Anderson University for my undergraduate education. During my time at Anderson I had lived the “Academic and Christian Discovery” that they preach. However, while I “lived” this on the outside, I was not living it on the inside, well at least not up to the standards of AU. I wanted so bad to conform to the hetero/Christian life that “everyone” at AU had, but never felt like that was me. Deep down I knew that I was “different” but wasn’t willing to accept the fact that I was Gay. So after 4 years in the bubble, starting grad school at a state school, I was definitely out of my comfort zone. It was 2 days after the RA’s returned and one of the RA’s came up to me and asked if I would go to Starbucks with him, I thought oh this is great I will get to make a student connection early. So we get in his car and he has music from Rent playing, and says, “Oh by the way I am Gay, you are too, right?” So here I am riding in a car with someone I have known for less than 48 hours, and he has already picked up on something that I haven’t even accepted myself. Needless to say but I was so SCARED, what had I gotten myself into, how would I ever hide my true sexuality. Well I was able to mask it; well what I thought was masking it for my 2 years of grad school. During those 2 years I probably learned more about myself than any other time in my life, I was able to understand my identity, and was coming to a point where I was more comfortable with my sexuality but was not able to admit it myself let alone to anyone else. In June 2008, I had graduated from Indiana State and was moving to North Carolina, I was about to start my first professional job, and moving 9 hours away from home. It was June 15, 2008 and I started work at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and I was in for some eye opening experiences. I encountered more diversity in my first 2 months of work at UNCSA than I probably had my whole life, and I LOVED it, I felt so at home and comfortable. Yes I was still trying to hide in the closet, but I knew that if anyone would accept me it would be the people at UNCSA. So fast forward to October, one of my coworkers and friends, who I thought was straight, hosted a presidential debate party! Well after a couple of glasses of wine, it was decided that I would stay there for the night instead of going home. This was the night of my first homosexual exploration. So I was still in the closet, but I allowed myself to explore and see what I felt about everything. Well it didn’t take long for me to accept that I was Gay, it just felt to good to not be true. In December of 2008, I started the process of coming out, I start with close friends and each time I came out to someone was a heart racing, sweaty pits, and scary moment. However it did get easier over time. It took about a year before I felt that everyone who I wanted to know, knew. Yes there are still times when I have to tell someone, but I have made it part of who I am and don’t get scared anymore and actually enjoy telling my story to people. It has been 3 years since I first came out, these have been some of the best and hardest years of my life, but I would not change one thing. I am a better stronger person and so thankful for the life I have. My story does not end with my coming out, but that will be for another entry. Thanks for reading my story, please feel free to email me if you would like to chat or know more. shendershot@elon.edu

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