CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- I still remember when I came out to one of my aunts around the age of 12. Her reaction to the news was that it was not news at all, partly because she had suspected it for a number of years, and partly because she just didn't really care.
Unfortunately, a year later when I came out to my late father and the rest of my family, they weren't so accepting. I'll spare you the details, but it involved everything you would expect -- name-calling, hitting, the whole nine yards.
That was a moment when I realized that if there were ever a way for me to stop being gay, I would have done it. If the pure rage my father unleashed upon me didn't suddenly make me like girls, nothing would.
My struggle with my sexuality, particularly after coming out to my dad, is again what you would expect. I kept to myself a lot, my already-diagnosed clinical depression got worse, and I had two suicide attempts. I was ashamed of myself, and I wanted to die.
Through a random string of events, including being disowned by family members, falling in love and being dumped by said love 10 months later (and a week after my father's suicide), I somehow began to embrace who I was.
Notice I avoided the clichéd term "embrace my sexuality." Your sexuality does not define you. It is one part of what makes you the person that you are. It was a part of me that I denied for so long, and even when I acknowledged it, chose to ignore or hate it.
But when I embraced it, things began to click.
The world seemed like a happier place -- which is odd considering there were more negative reactions than positive to me coming out. I was finally happy with myself, though, and that's all that mattered.
I don't know your story, reader. I don't know if you're bisexual, homosexual, lesbian, trapped in the wrong body, whatever. But I do know that you probably don't know many 17 year olds who will proudly declare their sexuality in such a homophobic state.
I can't give you much advice because every situation is different, but if you are struggling with who you are, there are some pointers I can give you:
1. Accept that nothing will change you.
People can tell you that you can pray away the gay, that you will find the right boy/girl, that society has done it to you, blah blah blah. No. These people are wrong. They are stupid, and they are literally as harmful as poison to you.
2. If anyone doesn't accept who you are, screw 'em.