| JOHN HENRY
AS I BEGIN THE LAST year that I can legitimately claim to be in my early 20s, I often think back on all that has happened in the last 10 years. I am awed by all that has changed, the people who have come and gone in my life, and the person I turned out to be. Almost a decade ago, I was an insecure 14-year-old freshman in high school struggling to come to terms with my identity. I often claim that I never really “came out.” That’s true in the sense that everyone knew I was gay before I really came to terms with it myself. Realistically, I always knew too. What was most difficult for me was the shame and guilt I felt being the youngest of three gay children. At 14, my sexuality seemed to be the last remaining hope for my parents to have a “normal” child. To grow up, get married, and have children was something I knew my parents wanted for me. I now know that, while that was what they wanted and still want for me, it doesn’t matter if the person I choose to spend the rest of my life with has a penis or a vagina. They want me to be happy and be with someone who loves me for me.
I suppose that has been something I’ve struggled with throughout my young adult life. After I became comfortable with my sexual identity, it was still difficult to understand exactly what I wanted when it came to a partner. I’ve always struggled with self-confidence. I feel that is something that many of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters share. We have strived for acceptance for so long that when someone shows the slightest interest, it is very easy to allow that person into your life and idealize or even idolize him/her. I know that I am not alone when I say that people are not always what they present themselves to be. Most of us, myself included, had to learn this lesson the hard way. The key is to learn and grow from these experiences.
When it comes to sex and relationships, the majority of us have made questionable choices. Love and lust have a tendency to cloud our judgment. Whether it is a one-night stand or a five-year relationship, we all have things that we regret or wish would have turned out differently. What we often lose sight of is the positive things that came from those mistakes. With every relationship or encounter we learn things about ourselves and others that make us stronger people. We learn how to recognize warning signs and what things are non-negotiable in the future. Life is a journey and our sex lives are part of that journey.
As we focus on all that we are thankful for, remember to be thankful for the shitty experiences. Each bad breakup or awkward casual encounter helps us grow. They allow us to become better, stronger and more conscious of what we truly want and need. While those experiences provide the opportunity, it’s up to each of us to break the pattern and not repeat our mistakes. We are responsible for realizing what didn’t work in each relationship and avoiding it in the future. Someday, your prince (or princess) will come, but you have to know what he or she will look like. In the meantime, you’ll have to kiss a few frogs. Be thankful for the frogs in your life and the lessons you’ve learned from them.