Christian Balden, a 2007 EHS graduate who now lives in Minneapolis, also said it was liberating when he finally came out.
“I always felt different, sort of isolated from the social reality other kids were living in, from a very young age,” Balden said.
Balden said he “had an inkling” he was gay at 12 or 13 years old, and knew for sure by age 15.
“By then, I knew I was gay, and I tried to deny it every possible way I could,” he said.
But he wasn’t the only one who knew he was gay. Balden said his parents knew before he did, and actually called him out of the closet.
“My parents were the first people to acknowledge it, even acknowledging it before I did,” Balden said.
His parents sat him down, and told him they thought he might be gay.
“I’m really glad they did,” he said. “They initiated it out of love, and they wanted me to know they’d love me no matter what.”
“It was terrifying, because someone knew my secret and it was my parents, but it was also incredibly relieving to not feel like I had to hide a huge portion of who I was in my own home.
“I think I am incredibly blessed to have parents who called me out of the closet in the loving way that they did,” Balden said. “They left who I am up to me. They didn’t tell me I was gay, but that they thought I could be and that it was up to me to decide who I was, and that I had my own journey to take and they would be there for me no matter what.
“I think that’s what all parents should do, and they should start that conversation very early, whether they think their child is gay or not, just to tell them that they will accept them to be who they grow up to be.”
But, even with the love and understanding of his family, Balden still did not reveal his sexual orientation to friends until after he had moved from Enid.
“I was very driven in high school. I did very well academically, I had a large network of friends, I ran for class president and I was the officer of every club I could be the officer of,” Balden said. “I didn’t come out because I was so afraid I would be socially or professionally stunted by coming out in Enid.”
He saw friends who did come out suffer the social consequences of being gay in a predominantly socially conservative town.
“The few kids who were out in high school, I heard them teased every day, and I didn’t want to go through that,” he said. “I’m so proud of those kids now, and a lot of them turned out to be my friends after high school, but I didn’t want to subject myself to that harassment and I didn’t want to jeopardize my standing in the community.”