One of our readers, Justin Sullivan, has been kind enough to share with us the story of his life thus far. I won’t call it a coming out story because I think he is still in a long, arduous journey. Best of luck to you, Justin, and thank you for your story. Here is the unedited email below, as well as Justin’s email address for anyone who wishes to contact him.
To Robert, Ben, & Brad:
It’s amazing how life will put things in our way without us expecting it. Coming across your blog has been an incredible blessing and brought a new outlook on my own life. My name is Justin Sullivan. I’m 21 years old, and I attend Mississippi State University as a Junior. I would like to tell you my own story, and how you three have inspired me to do something that I didn’t think I would do for a very long time.
I was born and bred in Mississippi with deep ties to the Baptist denomination. My great-grandfather would say in his first sermon at a new church, “I was Baptist born, Baptist bred, and when I’m gone, I’ll be Baptist dead.” In truth, he certainly was that. That of course led to the majority, if not all, my family members being raised in a Southern Baptist church and home. I was the first born of my mom and dad. My dad was the first born of his parents, and his dad was the firstborn, and then you get the picture. Even as I was being born, I would one day be expected to take upon that mantle of being the head of the Sullivan family. I was expected to marry, be successful, and produce more children. Obviously, we know how babies are born, and when I realized I was gay….well….that was going to be a problem.
Growing up, I knew something was different about myself. At a young age, I had no awareness of liking girls or boys, but even though I couldn’t name it or describe, something different was there. I could certainly feel it. It wasn’t until early puberty that “those feelings” started to set in. I was very scared. I had always heard that gays were disgusting, foul, hell bound, etc. I did my own research into homosexuality with the help of the internet. Secretly, after my family had went to bed, I would log on to the computer and absorb vast amounts of information of being gay. I found myself in chatrooms talking to people who had or were going through the same thing. For the first time ever, I realized I was not alone. Yet, that didn’t solve much for me.
I came to the conclusion it was just a phase, and I pursued, or at least attempted to pursue other things. I read my Bible each day, talked to God every moment I had. I was on such a high with God, it was incredible. However, I still felt attracted toward guys. What was wrong with me? I cried myself to sleep each night praying that God would take it away from me. I thought I had done something so wrong, and He was punishing me for it. I promised to do anything He wanted if He just took it all away from me! Nothing ever happened. I dated girls hoping it would help. Kissing a girl felt like kissing my sister — it felt so unnatural for me. After graduating high school, I was still at a point where I thought I could push the feelings of liking guys away and build a life with a woman. Sure, it would be hard, but my family expected me to have a family. I did not want to let anyone down. I could just cover it all up. This led to the first semester of my college year being terrible. I slipped into a deep depression causing me to ask my mom to sign up for counseling.
I told her that I needed to talk to someone because of anxiety issues. It is true that I have anxiety issues, while some belong to different things, such as school, family, or work, the majority of my stress came from being gay. I walked into the counselor’s office trying to figure out a convinicing story of what I would say to allow her to help me. She began to ask questions about what made me stress out. I told her the deaths of my grandparents, not having any friends at college, etc, etc. She then asked about any relationships I’ve had. Months before, I had been invovled with a guy discreetly. It didn’t last very long, and I ended it because I thought I could turn myself straight. I referred to the guy in this relationship as “they.” The counselor knew something was up. At that point, I knew I had to tell her, tell someone.
“You promise everything stays between you and me,” I asked her. She absolutely agreed it would. I took a very deep breath, looked down at the floor at my tapping foot, and paused for what seemed like eternity. “I’m gay.” Saying that aloud for the first time was a liberating experience. I had never said it aloud. I had barely said it to myself, but for the first time, I accepted my sexuality. Her response caught me off guard. “I know,” she said. She could tell I was a bit surprised, and she said that she knew when I talked about the relationship that I was referring to a guy.
I’d like to say that from this point on, it got incredibly easy, but only harder. My counselor did not recommend I tell anyone else about me just yet, until I was fully ready. In reality, I wanted to tell my mom. I was so close to her. She had always been my biggest supporter, and she is the greatest mother in the world who will go to the ends of the universe to make sure my sister and me are taken care of. All day long and to the night, I contemplated telling my mom. How would I do it? Write a letter and run away? Call her? I decided to tell her that night in our computer room. My sister and dad had went to bed, and it was the most opportune time to tell her. I had been quiet most of the evening, and she finally asked what was wrong. I asked her if she would ever be disappointed in me. She of course said no. From that point on, I knew I had to tell her. What followed was the most emotional time and talk I’ve ever had with my mom. She accepted me, and told me she would always love me.
After that, I knew I had to open my life up slowly. As the months passed, I told some of my cousins, my grandmother, my sister, and close friends. Some of my close friends took it very hard and shut me away for a long time. I was thankful when they finally came around. I’m sure you noticed that I did not tell my dad up until that point. I knew my dad would be the hardest person to tell of all people. He doesn’t understand things like what I went through. I knew I wanted to be independent of him before I told him anything, but it’s funny how things don’t always happen in our time.
I was having a conversation one night at home about being gay. Unbeknown to me, my dad was at the door listening. Was it wrong for him to eavesdrop? Of course, but it happened. When he barged in, he went crazy. I mean crazy. He started yelling, cursing, throwing things around. My sister and mom were in tears. He told me that I would never get my truck back, and he kicked me out. Fortunately, I lived near my grandmother, so I got some of my stuff and went to be with her. As the months passed, my dad called me many hurtful things. I’m ashamed to put some of them on here, because no child should hear those hurtful things from a parent.
It broke my heart to see my dad like that. For Father’s Day of last year, I wrote a letter explaining my situation to him hoping it would give him a different outlook on the situation. I think it did some good. Time does heal wounds, and I believe it did for him. Things aren’t the same still, but we have a good relationship again. We talk, not about my personal life, but we do talk. I did get my truck back. I still go back home. I still love my dad. He wrote me a letter not too long ago telling me he was proud of me, and that he loved me. I couldn’t help but bawl my eyes out as I traveled back to school. As bad as the things were that he was saying, I still had unconditional love for my dad.
This past semester in college, I was inducted into Beta Upsilon Chi Fraternity at MSU. It is a Christian fraternity on campus. No one knows about me, and it is hard. In some ways by becoming part of this fraternity, I feel I have reverted myself back to who I was before I came out to people. I have told one guy int the fraternity, and he seems fine with it; however, I know the majority of the fraternity will not feel the same way. I’ve been praying and seeking God’s help in this for a long time, and I believe he finally has given me the answer. He has led me to your website to show me that I don’t have to be ashamed of myself.
In many ways, I’m not, but there are still areas that I need to patch up. I plan to address my fraternity concerning my sexuality. It may lead to my expulsion from the fraternity and losing many brothers, but I would rather be hated for who I am than loved for what I am not. Robert, I especially know the difficulty you face here in the South. It is tough, very tough. The environment is not always good for gay guys. Many Southerners see the typical gay guy as one who runs around in high heels dressed in makeup. However, I can see from you and also myself, we are further from that image than one can be. All three of you play sports, and so far, I have not seen you wear dresses. I myself was an athlete in school and enjoyed it very much. I still enjoy going to the gym and being apart of that environment. It’s healthy for your body and mind.
So, thank you. All three of you are doing a great thing. I know there will be downs, but don’t give up. You reach an audience out there that you may never personally meet, but they are there rooting you on. I want to be there for all three of you. You all seem like great people. I hope we can live in a world where one day being gay doesn’t define us, but instead a trait we have, just like I have brown hair.
I apologize for the very long letter, and that’s not the entirety of what has all happened, but I hope it has given some glimpse into the life of a gay country college boy.
May God Bless You All,
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7