Kenji Tsukamoto "I was afraid to tell..."

Permission to post was given by Kenji Tsukamoto and article also appears in the NY Times — Coming Out Audio, Photos, Stories of Gay Teens — Interactive Feature — NYTimes.com.

I am a gay teenager living in a traditionally conservative state, Alabama.

As if it weren't bad enough that I have had to struggle with bullying and teasing from my peers on a regular basis, I have also had to struggle with coming out to my father.

Coming out to my father was made particularly difficult because he comes from a very traditional Japanese upbringing. I had often worried about how I would tell him, or even if there was something wrong with me. When I finally gathered the courage to tell my father that I was gay he reacted like I had feared. He kicked me out of his house. To this day he chooses not to have me in his life, something that has hurt me, but I have learned to live with this fact. After my expulsion from my father's domicile I moved in with my mother, whom I had not yet told the true reason for my father kicking me out. I was afraid to tell her for fear that she might do like my father had done and more or less disown me. Several months passed and one day while my mother and I were sitting on the sofa, she asked me if I was gay. Hesitant, and filled with fear that she too might kick me out, I told her I was "bi." I knew full well I wasn't bi, but I hoped that my mother would leave it at that. Something inside her must have told her that I wasn't telling the truth. She told me, "It's fine if you are. I'll love you no matter what," but I chose not to carry on the conversation any further.

Freshman year of high school I began coming out to friends, that's when the bullying started. To this day, in my junior year of high school, I am still being harassed by my peers, some of whom I have never even met. I have told the counselors at the school about it and nothing has been done. I can be in a seemingly neutral location like a mall and I can hear taunts from people I have never even met in my life. Let me take a moment to put something on the records though. While I live in Alabama, I am fortunate to live in Huntsville, a town that seems to be set off from the rest of the state. It seems like there are more accepting people here, even if I do have to run into the occasional Neanderthal.

After a while I finally came out to my mother. Her reply was simply, "Finally took you long enough!" You have no idea what a relief that was. My mother continues to be my biggest supporter.

I think perhaps the hardest part for me was coming out to my brothers. My older brother accepted me right away, but my younger brother had a little trouble doing the same. I am not sure why, but I think that my father may have had some deep influence on his perception of what homosexuality really is. In time, though, he has come to accept me.

I know one thing that that really helped me was my GLBT youth support group [GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc.]. It sounds odd that there would be any support group for a GLBT person anywhere in Alabama, but I was shocked to find out there are actually a lot more than people think. The volunteers at GLBT Advocacy and Youth Services have provided so much care and support to me. Many who are GLBT themselves helped me to relate my issues with theirs. It is really comforting to know that someone else out there has had to go through what I am going though. I wholeheartedly wish that every GLBT youth in the nation had access to a group like them. Despite my struggle to be who I am, I know that I am a stronger, better person because of it.

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