As a high school senior living in Virginia, I’ve been around the same people most of my life. If I hadn’t, I’d hardly know they were the same people. Like my friend, Garrett. I’d known him since elementary school. Even back then, he did little things that bothered me. Chew on erasers. Sing random theme songs to a T.V. show. Make interesting conversations awkward. But then, like the rest of us, he was also just an obnoxious kid.

Of course as you grow up the way you view people can change, too. In middle school, I had a class or two with him every year, so we talked as pre-teens instead of the kids we used to be. We’d have obnoxious conversations about Pokémon or how we hated homework. We were competitive, too. Always for some girl or a teacher’s good side, something silly like that. There was always a jealous or argumentative side in contrast to our friendship. But we weren’t exactly like two brothers, either. While we were good friends, we never really hung out together outside of school because we lived in separate neighborhoods.

It wasn’t until eighth grade that we started having a few minor issues that would eventually escalate. We were at lunch with our group of friends one day, sometime in October. We hadn’t talked much the summer prior to eighth grade.

“What’s your cell number?” I asked him at the table. He turned at me with a freaked out look on his face.

“Why do you want my number?” he asked. Shock was on my face now.

“So that I can text you,” I said as a question. Our friends had stopped eating and just stared at us.

“That’s gay; I’m not giving you my number.”

I had been called gay before, but it didn’t bother me like it did when he said it. It had been crammed into my head that liking other guys was wrong; I kept my feelings towards men secret. But I couldn’t help it. And for him to say that to me was devastating.

Why would he suspect I like guys? Worse, he wasn’t the kind of person to say something that his friends weren’t saying either.

His friend starting laughing while everyone else returned to their quiet conversations. But the air around us had changed. I sat in disbelief and anger; I could only bottle it up. I’d never spoken to anybody about harassment, I never trusted anybody like that. Garrett’s comment was no exception.

The days following, we didn’t speak much and I began to see a change in him. He had a new condescending tone around his friends, and swaggered when the “cool” kids were around him. It was like he was no longer the same person. But we finished out middle school as friends still. While an awkward tension did exist between us, it wasn’t worth thinking about the negative.

Then high school came and it seemed like everyone was no longer the same person. People I’d known since elementary school had a new look or a new personality. Garrett put blonde highlights in his hair. Everybody was in total shock and talked about it behind his back; even I was shocked by it. Nothing was really different about me. I still had my dorky glasses and my spiky hairstyle, and I was still a big bookworm.

We got back to being good friends that year. His stories about his experiences with different girls made me jealous. I wanted a relationship with somebody. It seemed like everybody but me had experience in relationships. I believed it was because of my dorky appearance that I only had a girlfriend so many times. While I never really thought of having sex with girls, I did want the kind of relationship I saw between guys and girls in the hallways. I never thought of having that with a girl, I didn’t think about a specific gender. I simply wanted it.

It wasn’t until the summer after freshman year that I realized who I was. How I was really born. I had a dream that involved my high school crush. The next day I knew something was not feeling right. I was lost in thoughts about my life and my feelings towards men. I thought about all of the times I had been called gay, and how I never once thought I’d actually admit to myself that I was gay. That’s when I realized I could no longer be in denial about my sexuality, that I was in fact gay.

With this burst of courage I decided to tell my mother. She and I got along extremely well, so I knew she wouldn’t react dramatically. No matter how many times I tried to calm myself down with deep breaths I was nervous. When she got home from work I went downstairs and asked her to sit on the couch with me. She could tell it was serious from the look on my face. After a minute of awkward silence, I blurted it out. And then the words just kept coming to me.

I told her how I never really did like women, how I’ve repressed these attractions for men for a long time now, and how I’d spent the whole day thinking about this realization. I paused to give her a moment to catch up, let her absorb. But she took it in pretty quickly, responding with a simple, warming hug. As the days passed, we discussed it more and I became more comfortable with this new knowledge. Feeling my mother’s acceptance and love gave me the strength to be proud and tell other friends and family that were close.

When I told Garrett about my “change,” he didn’t react. It seemed like he tuned it out or just blew it off or something. But afterward, on Facebook, I posted on one of his status updates. This turned into him commenting that I was a “disgusting faggot.” That I wasn’t a man since I “took it up the ass.” A few of his friends joined in the conversation too. And that’s when I finally realized he wasn’t a true friend. Throughout sophomore and junior year we did not speak to each other whatsoever. We acted as if we’d forgotten about each other and the friendship we had.

After I came out I began to see others differently, too. I began to be more careful with whom I trusted. I saw how idiotic groups of people could act around each other and how two-faced people could be.

Then senior year came. The very first day Garrett showed up and sat next to me in my third block class. There were no other seats available. We didn’t speak, but later that evening, one of my best friends, who happened to be his girlfriend, decided to call him up and tell him to come over to a restaurant we were at. The barrier was finally broken.

Garrett is a close friend once more. He talks freely about his life, and I talk about mine in return. I once went as far as introducing him to a boyfriend, and to my relief, they got along well. I know now that with an accepting mother and and close friends, I can face any changes.

Oh, and those stories Garrett told me about his experiences with girls? They were lies.