‘I don’t let it define me’
For LGBT kids growing up in the community today, there still is prejudice and opposition, but there also is a sense of progress and hope for the future.
James, 17, came out last year during his sophomore year at Enid High School. James used an assumed name for this article due to his age.
James said he began the process of coming out by building a network of friends who knew he was gay.
“I started telling one person a day until I felt like I had enough people built up. Some days I would tell three people. It got to where I had enough people that knew, I didn’t care any more.”
During that whole process, James said he “never really had one person I really cared about tell me they didn’t love me any more because I was gay.”
Even with all that support, he said it was terrifying when it came time to tell his parents.
He said he had seen it “not go well” when some other gay friends told their parents, but he expected better from his family.
“My parents are the most accepting people in the world, and they would love me no matter what,” James said.
When he finally told his parents, with two friends present for support, he said his parents “thought it was odd, but they loved me regardless.”
He said being out has altered his relationship with other boys, but has not ended any friendships.
James is looking forward to the future, a future in which being gay doesn’t restrict or define his role in the world.
“Being gay can define you in a way, but I don’t let it define me. It’s just me, and being gay is just another part of me,” James said.
He plans to move away from Enid after graduation, not because he’s gay, or because of the community’s perception of LGBT people — he just wants to see the world.
“People need to see the world, they need to travel. I love seeing new places, and I can’t imagine living without that.”
For LGBT youth still growing up in Enid, Balden offered some advice, and some grounds for optimism.
“Reach out to those who have shared experiences,” Balden said. “Know that you are loved, and know that progress is on your side.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first installment of a series on issues, challenges and the future of Enid’s LGBT community.)