Just last night there was a message on my answering machine with one of my good friends from grade school telling me to call him so we can gossip. Now me trying to stay drama free for the fresh year, I didn't want to be all up in the kool-aid. But, let's be real—I could not hold back so you better believe I picked up the phone as soon as the message ended. Let me back track to the not-so-good old days.
Growing up as a fledgling homosexual—who for obvious reasons remained closeted until high school—I was always jealous of people in grade school who were allowed to openly express their crushes or their 'puppy love' relationships. You cannot even imagine how much I wanted to hold hands and give a little Valentine's Day bouquet to the cute little hip-hop boy in my homeroom class in the 7th grade. But because 'gayness' was something that was used to insult your peers, I turned into an a-sexual, questionable boy to whom all the girls came and spilled their guts to about their boyfriends. While I comforted, consoled, and advised my friends, I was longing to love another boy.
Not until I came out in high school did I find a great person to share the wonders of being in a relationship with. Walking down the halls in a predominately Latino high school, holding hands with my boyfriend was not only freeing and sometimes terrifying, it was also political. Students, friends, and even teachers were judging my relationship. I wanted to get out. I wanted to be in a place where I could be me and not have to worry about being judged.
Ironically, at that moment, I thought that place existed in Boys Town where there were clubs, sex shops, and wild fun. I was young, impressionable, and wanted to live 'gay life.' To be gay for me meant an exciting life on Clark and Belmont with the boys. After the mess of dating and meeting different guys, I became tired of so desperately trying to find a guy who made my stomach fill up with butterflies. I—no longer impressed by charm, looks, or possessions—stopped looking for this word called love. I entranced myself in this whole 'I'm too young to fully love someone at my age mentality,' and 'I don't need a man to make me whole' type deal.
This Queer world almost jaded me into not believing in love. I forgot what it was to feel the anticipation of holding hands with my boyfriend or experiencing the anxiety of my first kiss. I thought that all gay men were the same until I was fortunate enough to make it past the sometimes true and unfortunate stereotypes surrounding our community—and most unfortunately our youth.
I stopped doubting my age, my maturity, and my unfound love and let myself live and embrace everything that my life encountered. It's so hard because there are so few people my age looking for a long-term committed relationship. My only role models are my older gay and lesbian friends who have been with their partners for years.
But here I was searching to surround myself with people my age with the same mentality on love.
That brings me back to my friend's message. I called him back and finally connected with him on the phone. After a little small talk he finally blurted out the words that I never thought I'd be fortunate enough to hear—'I'm engaged!' After confusion, excitement, and—frankly—jealousy, he told me all about his talk with his boyfriend about becoming engaged. The most surprising thing might be that my friend is only 20 years old and is already thinking about making a long-term commitment. It allowed me to realize that yes—this is possible. You may think I sound foolish, immature, and naïve, but I strongly know that I want what he has. All this time what I have been searching for was love and someone real. For now, I am living my life and I think I am learning to fall in love. Yes, I am young, but I strongly believe in love. I would like to see more young gay men believe in real love. We are often times swirled into the chaos of going from boy to boy because we are searching for the love our parents might not have given us, or the love not present by friends because of who we are, or whatever the case may be.
We need to learn to create a community were love is something we give each other in an honest and nurturing way. Love is not receiving balloons or flowers by as many men as you can. Love is believing in yourself and loving yourself. I say this with the hopes of creating a better world not only for us, but for our future queer brothers and sisters, so that they too can learn that love is not a hurtful experience, but a wonderful experience full of growth and acceptance.
To contact Tony, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org