EDUCATION

Column: While the South is evolving, it’s still difficult for LGBT people to share their stories

Pictured above is Me, Breyton Moran.

Breyton Moran
Oxford Stories
bbmoran@go.olemiss.edu

Before I tell you my story, know that while it’s unique to me, it probably isn’t unique at all, and this is a fact people tend to forget.

We like to think growing up in the LGBT community today is “heaven” compared to the past, and while I agree in some aspects, over the years, society has ignored the pain our LGBT brothers and sisters endure.

Everyone should realize and come to terms with the fact that we are all just people trying to find our way in this world and be loved in the process.


Since I’m telling you my life story, let me start from the beginning.

I was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, and I lived there until I was 5 years old.

Pictured above is my twin sister, Lillie, and I.

Growing up, there was no Mr. Moran around. There were no father-son trips, no playing catch in the backyard, no real bond with my father that I wanted. A bond that I needed. Instead of building a tree house or fishing, I spent my free time playing Barbies and dress-up with my twin sister, Lillie.

I wasn’t raised in the traditional nuclear family. I was raised instead by my mom alongside grandparents. They were my rocks, my superheroes, my dad and anyone else I needed them to be. They showed me what it meant to be strong, loved, and cared for, in all variations of the words.

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf Coast, demolishing our house in the process. We moved a couple of times before settling in Pass Christian, and it wasn’t easy, to say the least.

I was scared and nervous because of the move. I didn’t have any friends, finding it difficult to even talk to people. (I mean who wants to be friends with the new kid.)

I was alone and lost, in a sense, and it destroyed all hopes of ever feeling welcomed.

I wasn’t making memories with my peers, and it didn’t exactly help that I wanted to do arts and crafts instead of playing flag-football. I wasn’t like the other boys, and they picked up on this.

The lot where my childhood home used to be in Gulfport, Mississippi.

While the beginning of elementary school was pretty easy going, the latter portion of my time at DeLisle Elementary was spent defending myself from bullies.

“Gay Boy”

“Fruit”

“Faggot”

Words my peers spat at me daily. Words that stretched out my shirt collars with gallons of tears. Words that broke my heart.

Growing up and being targeted because you are a little overweight or a little high-pitched (both of which I was) was terrible for developing self-esteem.

Although I dreamed of days filled with laughs, they were often filled with solo lunches and time in isolation.

I remember getting home from school and thinking to myself: “Am I doing something wrong?” “Did I say something to make them mad?” “Am I even worth it?”

Those words carried so much disdain and disrespect daily and eventually began to cause physical pain. I thought about hurting myself.

Imagine getting the news that your son committed suicide in the fourth grade. Imagine. That could’ve been the end to my story: Local fourth- grader commits suicide because of bullying.

I never thought I was gay. I never thought it was a possibility. I just thought the boys growing up alongside me were mean. I never imagined they knew something about me I didn’t know about myself.

But I held the idea of being gay with me, in the back of my mind.

Over the next few years (Middle School), the bullying died down, but the questions didn’t.

Pictured above is me after my first day of first grade

“You’re gay, right?”

“Come on, Breyton. We know you’re gay.”

I swore to everyone I wasn’t because, for all I knew, I wasn’t. I convinced myself I wasn’t. Something I regret doing.

People relentlessly wanted a way to define me, and I didn’t appreciate it. Society always manages to find ways to categorize you and slap a label on your forehead (something I hate). I just wanted to be Breyton, but that wasn’t enough for middle-schoolers.

I found myself talking about girls, even though I had no interest in doing so, and looking for girlfriends, dating one or two to keep people from bugging me.

People like asking the age-old question, “When did you know?” and my answer is always “Magic Mike” (probably THE cinematic masterpiece of 2012). I know, gay, right? I had to watch it on my iPod alone because my mom said it was too vulgar for me, but I watched it in my closet on my beanbag chair.

Now, I didn’t know instantly I was gay. It was kind of a puzzle that I pieced together. Instead of girls, I found myself focused on boys in my grade. I dumped my girlfriend, and would like to say it was because she made me mad or something, but it was really because I needed to. For, it wasn’t until I came to the realization that I watched “Magic Mike” for the guys instead of the dance moves that I was gay.

But being gay is taboo, especially in the South.

I tried my best to hide it for as long as I could, but I never really felt like I did a good job. The questions about my sexuality stopped, but I think it was because people got sick of my excuses.

In the fall of 2014, I started high school, which was another beast I had to tackle. It was a brand new school, and I wanted to be a brand new me. I tried being that stereotypical “boy,” wearing cargo shorts and not talking about my feelings when I wanted to try out for the dance team and talk about boys with my best friends.

High School Friday Night Lights with Friends. Picture by Breyton Moran

High school is a blur. I remember hearing the latest gossip about me, but I didn’t care anymore. It just didn’t seem important.

I focused on my studies and put myself on the back burner. I regret this too.

I drifted from my friends and family, and this was the opposite of what I needed at a time when I was most vulnerable.

I was fine with being in the closet for the longest time, but it wasn’t until I heard my family and friends throwing around the words “Faggot” and “Fruity” or “That’s so gay” that I knew coming out probably wasn’t on the table.

Hearing the people you love most speak with so much ignorance really makes you rethink life, and I began to rethink if I was really gay. I mean, I couldn’t be, right?

I ran with this idea.

I started dating another girl and stopped all thoughts that would paint me in the colors of the rainbow because there was no way I was gay.

A couple of years passed, and I was still living my lie, but who expected anything else? My family and I had just gotten back from a trip to Oklahoma to visit relatives, and when I say this was not a good trip, I mean it.

To hear members of my family there, the people who promised to love me and care for me regardless, speak like bigots was disgusting, but that wasn’t the worst part.

It didn’t feel good to hear family members there spreading their repulsive, pre-Civil War ideas, but I knew their words were only temporary. After returning, we were sitting in the living room of my home watching TV.

One young family member was on the floor watching the changing scenes of today’s episode of “Chrisley Knows Best,” and he saw something that didn’t fit the traditional hetero-normative confines of 21st-century television.

He had to make sure he told you.

“That is so gay. He is so gay. That’s disgusting,” he said.

“What do you mean,” I asked, genuinely concerned because I had never heard him say things like this.

“Gay people. They are so disgusting,” he yelled back at me.

My eyes filled with tears, and my cheeks got hot. I could not believe my young relative, who has never even met a gay person, was saying these things.

At that moment, my body tensed and my thoughts stopped. I replied, “Well, it hurts to hear you say that because I’m gay.”

I did it. I told my family I was gay. Not because I wanted to, but because I felt like I had to.

The living room fell silent, and I ran to my room. A couple of hours later, my mom came in and kissed me on the forehead. “I still love you,” she said. I couldn’t help it. I started balling.

Later that night, I left my room to get water, and my grandparents (the only two people I didn’t want to find out because I knew they wouldn’t understand) met me in the kitchen:

“Well, how do you know?”

“I just do.”

“Are you sure?”

“I think so.”

“Well, we still love you, all of you.”

I start crying, again.

Now my family knew, but not my friends. “Do I tell them?” and “Should I tell them?” are questions that filled my head until I decided – No. I can’t. I’ve been the target of bullying before, and I didn’t want to jeopardize it.

I finished my junior year never talking about it again. No one talked about it again.

Pictured above is a portion of Pass High’s Legendary Class of 2018. Photo by Breyton Moran

August 4, 2017. Senior year. The best time of high school. I mean, that’s what I heard, at least. During my senior year, I really didn’t care about being gay. It was just part of me. I didn’t talk about it, but I wasn’t ashamed of it.

Senior year was such a whirlwind. With college around the corner, spending the last afternoons with my friends and saying goodbye to home were all enough reasons to make me want to stay, but it wasn’t until I met the first guy I was ever interested in (like boyfriend level interest), that I really considered it.

I started talking to a boy (yeah, a real boy) for the first time, and it was all uncharted territory, but I went with it. It was the happiest I had been for a while, and my friends slowly caught on.

This is why I don’t play with Tarot Cards anymore.

“My cards are showing me you have a love interest at the moment,” my friend Amiah said, as she interpreted the trio of bronze-plated cards she pulled for my fortune.

“Well, I mean there is someone,” I replied, careful not to spill a gender. I’m gay, sure, but I don’t want that to be my defining label (because I hate labels, remember.)

We leave my reading there and head to fourth block, and I see my best friends, Anne and Emily, in the hallway and tell them about my freaky-encounter with a box of $9.99 cards.

“Breyton, we all know you’re talking to *insert boy’s name here*,” they said. All I could do was look at them, mouth opened and eyes widened. I was shocked.

Sure, I thought they knew, but I was just shocked because they still treated me the same. I never felt “different” around them. I wasn’t Breyton, their Gay Best Friend. I was just Breyton.

I felt so loved, and finished out senior year happy, not with a boy on my arm (That’s a story for another day), but with friends and family by my side.

In August, I packed the car and made the five-hour drive to Ole Miss, choosing the university because of the size, diversity, and because it was free.

The University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media home, Farley Hall. Picture by Breyton Moran

I saw Ole Miss as a place where I could be myself without fear of judgment. I mean there is an undergraduate enrollment of 25,000 students, so there was bound to be other gay people, and I was so excited.

I took this as a free chance to be myself, and finally own being gay.

Since I’ve been at Ole Miss, I’ve found friends who accept and love me, even though they get sick of listening to me talk about boys (Well, they don’t say it, but I know it’s true). I found a guy who showed me how to be unapologetically myself, something I will forever be grateful for.

Most importantly, I found myself.

Weird, I know.

Finding yourself is such a loose term. What I mean when I say I “found myself” is simply that I am being my most authentic self (well sometimes), and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Being in the closet, then coming out to yourself, then suppressing it, only to come out again (but not really) definitely takes a toll on your mental health. Some days are better than others, but there are also weeks when I don’t want to talk to anyone, let alone come out of my room.

But my life is exactly that, my life. Why should I let my forever-changing moods control my life?

I didn’t let these feelings stop me. I couldn’t let them. I take it a day at a time, because that’s all we can do.

Like I said in my “mini-disclaimer,” while my story is unique to me, it isn’t unique at all. Studies show one in 20 people will belong to the LGBT community, even though some refuse to come out.

Why you ask? Well, it’s kind of a loaded question.

There are many people in my position – those who choose not to come out because they feel they don’t need to. I mean, why should I have to tell you I’m gay and suffer potential discrimination, while you are safe under the net of heterosexuality. No really, why?

There are also people who choose not to come out because they see life’s big picture. Some don’t accept themselves entirely because of job security, something we all look for. Did you know that in 22 states, you can be fired for openly being gay? Mississippi is one of them.

Others refuse to come out because they fear not being accepted by the ones they cherish most – family. The “Bible Belt” is famous for being unsupportive and narrow-minded. Some just don’t want to face the possibility of their mom, the woman who tied their shoes and kissed them goodnight, telling them they aren’t welcome in their childhood home anymore.

LGBT youth statistics regarding safety in their communities. Graphic by Human Rights Campaign

Most choose not to openly spout “I’m gay” because it immediately puts a target on their backs. America, while we preach it’s a melting pot for everyone to be equally accepted, is not a nice place for LGBT members. In 2016, there were 1,255 reported anti-LGBT hate crimes, according to the Pew Research Center.

Imagine the number of unreported incidents. Disgusting.

I tell you these things not to annoy you with information you think you know, but to open your eyes with information you need to know.

Imagine waking up to broken windows and homophobic slurs spray-painted on your house, not because you upset anyone, but because you were holding hands with your husband/wife.

Imagine reading messages telling you to kill yourself because you don’t want to do all the gender-typical things.

Imagine not wanting to live anymore because no one accepts you for who you really are.

These might be fiction for some of you, but it’s a fact for others. They are daily occurrences some will never understand, but others will never escape.

America is evolving, and the social climate is changing, but some will always find something wrong with the world and the people in it.

I write this hoping you won’t be one of them.

My name is Breyton Moran. I am gay, and that is totally OK.

2 replies »

  1. I love your story Breyton; made me cry. We went to middle and high school together ,but I never knew what you were going through and I still cannnot completely understand the pain you felt because of that type of bullying. You are so strong. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story with the word. Hopefully, this will help other people become more openminded. I love you, and being gay is absolutely totally okay.

    Like

  2. Breyton, I enjoyed reading this! Your story is amazing and It made me proud to call my daughter, Katelyn your friend. -Michelle McCarty

    Like

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