I have always been musically inclined. Even as a small child I had a passion for singing and a knack for writing. When I write songs, I pull from raw emotions, some of which are brought up by childhood trauma. I acquired PTSD at the age of eight after experiencing a tragic event that caused me and my family to uproot our whole lives and move to Wisconsin. I was too scared to tell people how I was really feeling. On top of that, I was dealing with new feelings; I was developing crushes on boys. I was beginning to realize that I was gay, and I was in denial.
Facing the Truth
I had read enough books, and seen enough movies, to know the kinds of prejudice and bias held against the LGBTQ+ community (and I held some of my own). I stayed in denial until 6th grade when I was forced to face my first undeniable crush. This was the moment when I realized there was no way I could keep denying it. I was gay, and it scared me. The next year, I finally got the courage to come out to my friends.
After this, I slowly began to come out to a few more, then to the whole population of my middle school. By the time I started high school, I had already been openly gay for a year and a half. When I got here though, I was, and still am, one of a few openly gay, male-presenting kids at my school. I am constantly worried people are staring at me, worried about being harassed and bullied, and worried that people are constantly talking about me behind my back. I had to navigate coming out with no one to look up to, no one to answer my questions, and no one who is like me. I was on my own, and in a way, I still am.
Activism Through School
When I was asked by Sherie Hohs from GSAFE about presenting at a rally to get greater queer-inclusivity and representation into our school district, I was all but jumping at the opportunity to make my voice heard. When I gave my speech, it was pouring rain, but that didn’t matter to me, because it meant the world for me to get the opportunity to share my story and perspective. That day, I had my first experience in public speaking. In the crowd were school board members, most notable being Ali Muldrow, one of my teachers and role models. Later, I was invited to join Foundations of Leadership, an advocacy class she runs after school on Mondays, that focuses on the stories of queer youth, youth of color, and other marginalized groups.
Shortly after I gave my speech, I was invited to apply for the PATCH Program (Providers And Teens Communicating for Health), a non-profit organization whose goal is to empower adolescent youth to take control over their health care. I am a youth advocate working virtually with others across the state. We have presenters who share about the work they do in the healthcare field, and we also work through a rigorous seven-part curriculum where we discover what advocacy topics we are passionate about.
Last year, I chose to focus on changing the sexual education curriculum in MMSD to be more queer-inclusive, because the sex ed I received was not helpful for me. This is an endeavor that I have decided to continue to pursue over the next nine months. I don’t yet know what a comprehensive, queer-inclusive sex ed curriculum looks like but I know that I want to make it a reality, so that people have the information that is actually useful for them. PATCH has introduced me to a whole new family, full of mentors, friends, and loved ones.