Mark Leitao: Friend, Advocate, and #BulliesKeepOut Supporter
In my opinion by far one of the toughest things I’ve gone through in my life was coming out of the closet. Although when I came out, which was quite a few years ago and things are different now, my experiences of choosing to come out when I was younger and older several people can relate too. It took me awhile to come out of the closet. I always knew I was gay but didn’t want to deal with my friends, family, and society, so I stayed in the closet. I dated girls throughout high school and I did have fun, but I knew deep down inside that’s not what I wanted or who I was. I entered college still a naive closeted boy with no experiences with boys or knew anything about the “gay life”.
The next few years was an emotional roller-coaster. There are so many emotions when dealing with your sexual identity. I met a guy in college and we hung out a few times. He helped me learn a lot about myself, but he helped me realize I wasn’t ready to deal with being gay and to come out. Whenever we went out in public I was embarrassed because he was flamboyant, but he was who he was; however, I was not okay with it. I was afraid to run into people who knew me and associate me with him by assuming I was gay. I was afraid of what people thought…even though he was a great friend. He was someone I could talk to about anything and how I was feeling inside. He even helped me when I was depressed and scared. He came out to his parents and they disowned him at a young age. He was on his own since seventeen, and I was afraid to lose my family too. After I left college, I stayed friends with my first gay friend.
At the age of 22 I was still afraid of rejection, and also afraid of being a part of the “gay world”. My first gay friend introduced me to other gay people, and I started feeling a little more comfortable in my own skin. The two of them took me to my first gay club in Boston. This opened up my eyes to a whole new world. I had so much fun dancing, being myself, and not worrying about what people thought of me. But, was this club the only place I could be myself and feel safe? I left the club with a little more confidence and confusion. I started being more of my true self. I started dressing the way I felt comfortable, not the way people wanted me to or saw me. I dyed my hair blonde and started acting more like myself. My friends and family started taking notice. The world started taking notice. I met my next gay friend online. Come to find out later he lied about his age, but spending the few months I did with him and his friends and family, helped me accept who I was. We stayed friends and he would play a big part in my life for ten years until his passing.
Being young he was wise beyond his years, and he was with me as I slowly came out of the closet to my friends and family. It went better than I expected at first. I told my sister and she was supportive as she always was, and she told me she already knew. She said I’m still the same brother she loves and that nothing changed. I then came out to my aunt and my cousins girlfriend over drinks. We were all going through something at the time, so it was a fitting time to come out. I continued my coming out process thinking that all I feared was for nothing. A huge weight was lifted off of me. My depression and anxiety was less. I then decided to come out to my best friend. She didn’t deal with it well at all. It was a huge revelation to her that this is who I truly am, but it doesn’t change who I am; however, this did change our friendship forever. The person I was best friends with for fours years and did everything together with…and our friendship was over. This took it’s toll on me mentally, but I had supportive people around me to help keep me strong.
The next gay person to come into my life was a person I met in Boston. This person changed my life in many ways. This is the first relationship that I had out of the closest, or at least some what out of the closest. I came out to my mother at this time too. She didn’t deal with it well by blaming herself and my father. At the time it made me feel like I was wrong, broken, and not normal. I went through a rough time emotionally at this time. Later on in my life my mother came around and accepted me and the man I love, but that’s for another blog post. So back to the rough time in my life, in comes my new gay friend. He introduced me to many people in the gay community in Boston, and I got my first taste of gay pride and gay acceptance. This is where I truly felt myself and was free. No more rejection and no more depression. I was me. 100% me. I danced and partied in the street and didn’t care who saw. And no one cared. That was the great part. I went to clubs, after hour clubs, raves, and had my first experience with club drugs. In a short nine month period my life changed dramatically.
I fully came out to the world and dealt with the emotional roller-coaster called coming out. I spent six months in Boston almost everyday, learned a lot about gay life (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and came to terms as to who I am as a person. I also learned the differences of being in a gay relationship versus a straight relationship. The most important thing I learned was it wasn’t important who accepted me, it was that I finally accepted me and that’s all that mattered. All the pieces came together after that. Today I’m proud to say I am a gay man and not afraid any more of who I am. I am in an amazing loving relationship with an amazing man for four plus years. I am part of the NOH8 campaign and walked for the fight for aids in New York for the past three years. I am also a member of the human rights campaign. This year me and my partner walked and took part in our first pride parade with an amazing group of people in New York City. Through these events we met and made some amazing supportive lifelong friends.
Moral and point of this blog is to surround yourself with positive people. Coming out is one of the most emotional things a gay person will deal with in their life. Don’t fall victim to depression and get eaten away by your own thoughts and emotions. If you let depression get the best of you, you could make poor life altering decisions such as suicide or drug use. Let people in that will help pick you up when you are down, be there when you come out on top, love you for being you, and you will feel amazing. It’s important to connect with people in your life. These are the people who will help guide you and help you find yourself, and once you accept yourself, you will be on your way to finding your true self.
Note from Founder of Bullies Keep Out Dana Jacoviello: I fully support my dear friend Mark and so many others in my life that are a part of such a beautiful community. I adore them, and they are some of the best people in my life. I will stand by them and speak out for them as long as it takes. I am also a big supporter of NOH8 campaign and member of the Human Rights Campaign as well. I walked with these lovely individuals at Aids Walk New York 2014 along with attending the photo shoot in NYC that weekend, and it was a pleasure to meet these two and create new lifelong bonds. I only hope this reaches so many out there struggling with their identity and to know that you are loved and supported by countless individuals. Have no fear of being YOU…EVER!
So much BIG love to all of you. We are all one and beautiful both inside and out. Once you believe that, there is no stopping you. xo
Written by friend, supporter, and guest writer for Bullies Keep Out Mark Leitao