April 29, 2015
Pierce Livingston (12) began to realize that he was gay in middle school. For a while, he tried to hide it from himself and attempted to convince himself that he was attracted to girls in order to cover up the feelings he was having for other boys.
He tried to tell himself that he was bisexual. In his head, being bisexual was more “normal” than being gay, since he was “still into girls,” even though he could no longer deny that had feelings for boys. However, in the back of his mind he knew that he was not bisexual. He was gay.
Once accepting that he was gay, he realized there was nothing he could do about it. At first, it felt like it was a fault of his, or a personality flaw. Society pressures boys to like girls and girls to like boys. Pierce would always be asked if he had a girlfriend during family get-togethers, but they would never ask if he had a boyfriend.
Queer people often have a hard time feeling “normal” because from their youth it is imprinted into their brains that relationships should be between men and women. This phenomenon is known as heteronormativity, which is the idea that society normalizes heterosexual behaviors, attitudes, and gender roles. Anything that doesn’t fit into these heterosexual categories is looked down upon or thought of as wrong. This attitude is damaging to queer people because it can make them feel as if their differences are inferiorities.
One of the ways Pierce tried to “normalize” himself, even after he came out to people, was by trying to separate himself from stereotypical gay people.
This is called internalized homophobia. Even though he was gay, it was difficult for him to truly accept himself and accept others because of society’s influence to pressure him, as a male, against homosexuality and femininity. Pierce tried very hard not to be the stereotypical gay man. He would purposefully act less flamboyant, trying to make the fact that he was gay a less noticeable characteristic about himself.
This unhealthy attitude contributed to his harmful mentality that there is something wrong with being more flamboyant or feminine, and he distanced him from the queer community.
Coming out brought different reactions from different groups of people.
Coming out to his parents was different than coming out to his friends. His parents have always been very liberal and supportive of him and his siblings.
Pierce told his family that he was going on a date with a girl, when he was really going out with another boy. He then told them that it would be a double date with another couple, when it would really just be him and the one boy. His parents saw him on the date, and when asked where the girls were, he tried to cover it up and said that they, “didn’t show up”. Later, his parents asked him if he was gay and he said yes.
The main concern that Pierce had with telling his family was he thought they would be disappointed in him for not being able to raise a family the traditional, heterosexual way. Notice the word used was “traditional” and not “normal”. The general attitude that the heterosexual way of raising a family is the “right” or “normal” way is a huge issue that the LGBT+ community is trying to change.
It is a common misconception that coming out consists of just a few conversations with close family and friends. However, according to Pierce, “coming out is constant, and you’re always dealing with it.” He is constantly coming out to new friends, classmates, and fellow actors. He is generally pretty open about his sexuality. “If someone asks me about it, I’m going to be honest with them unless I think it’s going to cause me physical harm,” says Pierce.
For the most part, dealing with someone who has not been welcoming of Pierce’s sexuality has not been a great struggle. “If someone is not okay with me being gay, then I just don’t talk to them,” he says. However, dealing with people who he has to see every day, namely teachers and classmates, has been significantly more difficult.
Pierce is extremely comfortable with who he is now. As an active member of the Queer Alliance club at SJHHS, he would consider himself “out”.
However, he says he is technically still “in the closet” to certain people. He consciously acts less flamboyant in his academic classes, around certain people, and even with his friends. Even though he is proud of who he is, he says that if he had a boyfriend at school, he would not be public about that relationship whatsoever because he always needs to be cautious and fearful of his safety. Pierce would not feel comfortable holding hands with his boyfriend publically because there’s a fear within him that he will get physically or verbally abused if he were to be public about his relationships.
He is exceptionally affected by the word faggot. Walk through any high school campus, and you are bound to overhear the word at least a few times. Whether it be friends teasing each other, students slamming their homosexual classmate behind their back, the word is extremely derogatory.
Throughout history, homophobes would burn queer people while they were tied to bundles of sticks, and that is where the term came from. When Pierce hears the word being loosely thrown around, he doesn’t think it’s a funny way of joking with a friend. He thinks about the years of torture and discrimination that queer people have received for trying to being who they are.
Pierce has overcome many struggles with his sexuality, but “its not all dark and depressing,” he says. Discovering his sexuality has allowed him to discover many things about himself and he has been inspired to make a difference.