I refuse to be scared back ‘into the closet’ after what happened in Orlando

To those who would do us harm, bring it

I fear many things – I’m big enough to admit that. Snakes, rollercoasters…but most of all – I fear death. The end of the road. The great reward. Most people worry about their death in terms of car accident or a bed surrounded by loved ones – my fear is suddenly more real.

The tragedy in Orlando has reaffirmed the fear we get from remembering Matthew Shepard and Harvey Milk. I fear death by hail fire, because of who I am.

What occurred in the night club in Orlando lead to fear being shot dead for love. Life and love are such precious things, things to be honored and cared for at all costs. No matter who or what you are, you and who you love matter. Period.IMG_3192

At a young age I realized my love was different and that was who I was. I took the southern gentleman way about it and said nothing. No need to shout it from the rooftops, no need to brand myself. I already am who I am, so why bother making a part of myself that already is, more special than the rest.

But my silence came from a deeper place of fear as well. I feared my Southern Christian parents would no longer love me, I feared my brother would not hang out with me, I feared my family would reject me, I feared the macho, gun loving, azalea fest – having society would shun me. So I hid. I ran deep in to that proverbial closet everyone is so fond of referencing and hid in the dark. DSC_0405

I hid for so long because I ultimately feared that if I were to be known as “gay” I would be hunted down and murdered like the people in that night club.

In the gay community, my story is not uncommon- in fact, it’s the norm. If there’s anything that needs to change, it’s the idea that being gay is a reason to hide. Being gay is the truest expression that a person is finally happy and comfortable. Being gay is cause to be happy, that’s why we celebrate June as Pride month, because we are proud.

The tragedy in Orlando is something that will go down in history as being one of the worst mass shootings in the world and the worst mass shooting in the US to date. But this tragedy will be something different for me. June 11th is the day I decided to stop being afraid of what could happen. The fear of what could be.

Being openly out now for almost three years, I have lived in fear, but I’m tired of that fear. It is relentless and of my own creation. Danger is always present but your ability to adapt and cope is what makes life, life. The worst possible thing that could have possibly occurred just did, that’s no reason to slink back into my closet. Now is the time to be prouder than ever and stand tall against tyranny and bigotry.

I am a gay southern jock. I am a gay college student. I am a gay Tab writer. I am a gay athlete. I am Max.

13403342_10201797658979458_1587939741589697946_oWe are strong. We will not hide. We are strong. We will not be afraid. We are strong. We will live to see a new day. We are strong. We will persevere.

We are strong. We are Orlando. #notafraid #loveislove