Cory Hutchinson

I Came Out During Freshman Year Of High School — Here's What I Want Other Teens To Know

The key to acceptance is letting every feeling in, letting it all hurt, and then letting it all go

My name is Cory Hutchinson and, by most standards, I’m just a normal senior in high school. Here’s the reality: I came out during my freshman year. Now, for the harsh reality: Coming out changed everything (for better and for worse).

You’re probably thinking, “Oh, great, another self-assured coming out story." But everyone is different and different stories hit home for different people. So, for those of you who aren’t about to close the page and continue scrolling through tweets, here’s how my world turned upside down and how I aim to help others.

I was raised in a town where the social standards are pretty reserved, but this town is in California, so you can only imagine how juxtaposed it is. Here, people go to church, charity galas, country-club brunches, and book clubs. I never found myself in any of those situations because it wasn’t who I am. I did, however, attend a religious school for a while. Don’t get me wrong: I totally believe in religious freedom. I’m just the kind of person who never had much faith in anything. School life was strict and town life was intrusive when it came to everyone’s personal lives. Still, my immediate family was tight-knit and I always made sure to have a full circle of friends I could spill secrets and worries to.

I always knew I had a special attraction to men, but I didn’t realize what those romantic feelings meant until my freshman year when I went to Los Angeles for the first time. In L.A., I saw people being free to express themselves without worrying what the other locals were going to say. In L.A., love meant enjoying the company of someone who understood you. I grew up hearing that love within the context of marriage is between a man and a woman. In L.A., love was love, marriage was marriage, and happiness was happiness. There were no social standards, lurking eyes, whispering voices, or backhanded remarks when it came to the love people felt for each other. That’s when I realized there really is a great, big world beyond the boundaries that I was trapped in. I allowed myself to tap into feelings I had ignored for so long — and that’s when things started to change.

Back at school, I was in love with a guy in my French class. His smile was enough to brighten my day and if he complimented me, then I was over the moon. To make a long story short, it didn’t work out in the end, but I told him how I felt and that was monumental. I told all of my friends who hadn’t guessed already — and, for the most part, they were fine with it. However, I had many daggers thrown at me. People called me “revolting,” “an abomination,” “a freak,” “a flamer,” and some other select words that I’ll spare you from reading. Bridges were burned, my circle shrank, people tried to make me feel inferior or miserable, and everyone’s concept of who I am changed completely. Coming to school was a nightmare for a while because I was ashamed of lifting my head up and facing the reality of the situation. Plus, I rather enjoyed trying to be invisible. Obviously, that didn’t work too well.

My family reacted in a similar way to my friends, meaning my parents were absolutely fine (after some brief questioning). I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had their support as I continued my journey of loving myself. But my brother and some extended family members did not like what I had “become.” There was a time when nobody talked to one another. Things are a lot better now, but that was the worst point of my high school experience. Truthfully, that silence and torment ends quicker than you think it will.

What changed is that I finally learned to love and accept myself. I allowed myself to be pissed off that people could be so hurtful, sad that some friends left me standing alone, happy that I belong to a group of people, and hopeful that I will find love with someone who has gone through the same thing that I did. The truth is that your world will feel like it’s crashing down, but the other truth is that you are not alone.

There are so many people, like me, out there who know what you’re experiencing and will help you with no strings attached. I wouldn’t be who I am now without the people that came through for me and still support me to this day. People will insult you if they don’t accept you, but you have to realize that you are better than their words (easier said than done, but do-able), and you can throw a little sass or shade if you really can’t hold back. It’s important to remember that violence and social takedowns don’t really solve anything and that you — whoever you are — are one of a- kind, just as I am. The world would not be the same without you, and you can make a difference. Take these words and make your own victory; stand out and explore the world so you can love yourself and, someday, someone else. The key to acceptance is letting every feeling in, letting it all hurt, and then letting it all go.

Cory Hutchinson

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