They say your childhood is supposed to be the most joyful time of your life. My childhood was dark, full of pain, and traumatizing. Growing up, my mother suffered from a mental illness. My stepfather was physically and emotionally abusive. I used to watch him hit my mother and after he was done with her, he would turn to me. He would come and go whenever he wanted. Each time he left, we would have to find a new place to live. My mom could not afford a stable place so we stayed in motels, shelters, and if we got lucky on the floor of someone’s garage.
During this time of harsh treatment, I was exploring my sexuality. I knew that I was different and knew that others saw me different. I remember a time when I was accepted into the Gate Program, an educational program designed to address the learning styles of the students who have been identified as gifted and talented. My stepfather would laugh and make fun of me for being in this program. I can still hear him say, “Ha, he’s in a GAY program.” As a child, I took this to heart. I couldn’t even be proud of being academically involved and successful.
At the age of 13, I ran away to escape the abuse and the trouble that was going on at home. I stayed in an abandoned house. After missing a week of school, the teachers became concerned. I was placed into foster care with my seven siblings. Before entering the foster care system, I had already attended eight schools.
Junior high and high school were other battlefields I had to fight for being different. Guys used to make fun of me and tease me. I even remember someone spitting on me when he found out about my sexuality. Even though people would make fun of me, I never let it affect who I really was. In high school, I was the first openly gay guy to run for Prom King and won even amongst Prom Queen jokes. I never let my peers bring me down. I embraced who I was and didn’t take anything to heart. I was strong and stood up for myself in high school. However, I didn’t have the strength to fend for myself in my foster home.
After a temporary group home, I was placed in a foster home with my older sister. It was supposed to be a temporary placement. It was also supposed to be a safe place that provided care and love for me. My foster parents did not know how to be supportive, caring, and understanding. When they found out I was gay, they were angry. My foster dad said that I couldn’t be gay in his house. They did not speak to me. They grounded me for weeks, leaving me alone in my room on New Year’s Eve because of their ignorance and pride. One of the family members would throw the restroom trash all over my bed and constantly call me “Faggot.” No one was there to defend me. My foster dad would constantly remind me that I would die for being gay saying, “You will eventually catch AIDS and die.” He said I would not go far in life and no one would want to hire me because I was different. Unlike school, I couldn’t stand up for myself in my foster home or to my caseworker.
They would constantly intimidate me about going back to the group home or being separated from my sister. “Do you want that?” As my foster parents scared me into staying passive, my caseworker reminded them of the money they were getting to foster me.
The day after I walked the stage for my high school graduation, I moved out of my foster home and into Transitional Housing Program Plus (THP+) - once again to escape the abuse at home. This time, I was finally going to prove everyone wrong.
I am currently a senior at Cal State Fullerton. I am majoring in Psychology with a minor in Art. I am also a guardian scholar and a student assistant. I spend most of my time giving back to my community, this gives me the opportunity to become a leader and advocate for other foster youth.
After graduation, I plan on obtaining a master’s degree in Global Social Work with emphasis in child welfare at University of Michigan or Boston College. My goal is to one day have a nonprofit that serves populations that are not given equal opportunities.
I have worked hard to be where I am today. I never let the ones who hurt me get the best of me. I hope one day that others will open their eyes and realize what negative effects they have on people who are different from the societal norm. I know some people don’t change, but in my case my foster parents did. My foster parents apologized for everything they did. I was able to prove to them that you’re born with your sexuality and there is nothing you or they can do to change it. By succeeding and moving on with my life, I was able to have an impact on my former foster parents and prove that we are all equal. It took a while for them to learn, but now they are accepting and loving, and admitted to their faults in the past. I was their first exposure to LGBTQ people.
My advice to anyone would be, be who you are and don’t let anyone force you to change. You have the power to inform others. Work hard and live your own life and do your best. You can’t change the love you have for others. A quote I like to live by and hope others do as well is, “You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”