I grew up in Cincinnati, OH, which combines Ohio’s love of xenophobia, racism and rivers catching on fire with the vernacular and dental work of Indiana and Kentucky. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got mad love for my hometown and get a little misty-eyed when anyone mentions Skyline or 98 Degrees, but it was also a shitty place to grow up sometimes, especially for a awkward-looking queer kid who was really into Agatha Christie and Drew Barrymore. I didn’t really have the luxury of hiding my sexuality, because my giant lisp kind of spread the word for me, and I learned a lot from being the only Super Out guy around. Thus, if you plan on packing your Britney or Tegan and Sara CDs with you to school, this is how to deal.
1. Immerse Yourself in Your Interests and Study Your Ass Off
When I was 12, I couldn’t really talk to other people at school without it ending in being mocked or having my backpack thrown in the garbage. I had one real friend—who did the morning announcements—and beanie babies to stand in for the rest of a friend group. Sometimes, I found fleeting friendships with people, and I made up for a lack of community by finding that in books and movies, learning to inhabit other worlds where I could experience what love was like. And when I got to high school, I read almost every book our teacher recommended; I was that kid who asked for more homework.
I wasn’t so into math at the time, but I got obsessed with what I was interested in, and it paid off come college application time. It also helped that I enrolled in almost every school organization I could, which meant that I didn’thaveto have that many friends and could cherish the few real friends I did have. Who even had the time to be popular?
2. Work on Your Coping Mechanisms