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Andrew Conard on National Coming Out Day: “I can say now at age 23 that as cliché as it sounds, it really does get better. Life is too short to live as anyone but yourself.”

National Coming Out Day: ‘It Really Does Get Better.’

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I was never kind to myself.

Where there should have been compassion and self-love, there was shame and resentment for who I really was. My mother’s words on Halloween 2007 still ring through my head to this day:

“Please don’t be gay.”

It was in 2007 during my seventh grade year that I realized I was gay, and I still wonder to this day that maybe things would have turned out differently had those words not been said. It wasn’t until a few months after Halloween when I realized I liked boys more than girls, and by this I mean I liked boys a lot more than girls. I would have dreams about them and find myself looking whenever an opportunity presented itself. It was then that I fell into something I had never experienced before – a deep, deep depression.

I resented myself. I resented the fact that I wasn’t like “everybody else.” I felt like I was an embarrassment to my family, who cared a lot about keeping up appearances. While most of my classmates were going about their business and enjoying clubs and after school activities, I was silently suffering from within. No one knew that I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror, and no one knew that I had fantasies of hanging myself and ending the shame I was feeling.

I held onto this for years. I never dated in middle or high school. Instead, I hid behind musical instruments in band class. It wasn’t until my second year of college at age 19 that I reached a breaking point. I was so tired of feeling shame, and I was so tired of feeling alone and isolated. I wanted to feel like myself, whoever that was. I wanted to date. I wanted to have sex. I wanted to actually live. What inspired me to come out was the Youtube community. There are so many inspiring coming out videos and stories on Youtube. I didn’t even make it halfway through the first one before I called my best friend and told her those three words:

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“I am gay.”

I can say now at age 23 that as cliché as it sounds, it really does get better. Life is too short to live as anyone but yourself and whether you are entirely out, still in the closet, or anywhere in between, you are a part of a loving and accepting community made up of all shapes, sizes, and types of people who understand how it feels to be different but proud.

Andrew Connard, 23, attends Kennesaw State University.

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