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Coming Out

Ferris student shares his personal struggle with self-acceptance

by Published: Apr 17, 2013

Growing up, Ferris sopho­more social work major Robert Gaudette had a secret so great it nearly destroyed him.

For years, he lived a dou­ble life and allowed only those clos­est to him to see the parts of him he thought they would accept.

According to Gaudette, he could never have imag­ined a time when he would share his story with his best friend, let alone with an audi­ence of strangers, but Monday night, he did just that. Gaudette, along with other Ferris stu­dents, spoke at the Queer Monologues, which was held in BUS 111 as part of Pride Week. The event was hosted by D-SAGA, the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance.

Gaudette, an Elsie native, came to the real­iza­tion that he was homo­sex­ual when he was 10 years old, but he said he always knew he was dif­fer­ent from every­one else.

“I felt bro­ken,” he said. “I tried every­thing to change and noth­ing ever did.”

Throughout mid­dle school and high school, Gaudette, liv­ing in denial, told him­self he was bisex­ual. It wasn’t until col­lege that Gaudette accepted the fact that he was gay.

“I wanted to try to be a part of the norm, even if it was just a lit­tle bit,” he said.

With just 31 stu­dents in his grad­u­at­ing high school class, homo­sex­u­al­ity was an unfa­mil­iar lifestyle to Gaudette. He had only known a few gay peo­ple in his entire life and had not been more than acquain­tances with any of them.

“I just knew that if I was going to sur­vive high school, I had to keep that part of me a secret,” Gaudette said.

Midway through his senior year of high school, Gaudette mus­tered up the courage to come out to his best friend, Ferris fresh­man busi­ness admin­is­tra­tion major Cheyenne Griffith.

“I needed to tell some­body,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t live my whole life with that secret.”

New Year’s Eve was a new begin­ning for Gaudette. With the sup­port of his best friend, who told him she didn’t see him any dif­fer­ently, he felt as though “a weight had been lifted off,” and he was finally able to move forward.

“After he came out to me, I looked him in the eyes and told him that I’m glad he told me,” Griffith said. “I would say that Robert did inspire me in a way. He brought some­thing new into my life and inspired me to look deeper into the LGBT com­mu­nity and become more involved.”

Today, Griffith and Gaudette are both active in D-SAGA.

Following his suc­cess with Griffith, he con­tin­ued to come out to other friends one by one. His long­time secret was well-received by his inner cir­cle, and it boosted his once rock bot­tom self-esteem.

“It was really cool because I had peo­ple to sup­port me, and I didn’t even know,” Gaudette said.

However, com­ing out has not been with­out its chal­lenges. Earlier this year, Gaudette told his long­time friend that he was gay. Initially, she said she accepted him, but a few weeks ago, she told him that her faith did not allow her to sup­port his lifestyle. Gaudette was devastated.

“We thought we would be in each other’s wed­dings,” he said. “Now, how could I even go to hers if she doesn’t sup­port mine?”

Gaudette has yet to come out to the major­ity of his fam­ily for fear that they too will reject him. Three months ago, he told his mother, and she is sup­port­ive, but he doesn’t think his father or grand­par­ents are ready for the truth at this point.

“I feel like I have to put myself in a box around peo­ple who don’t know,” he said. “It [my sex­u­al­ity] puts a dis­tance between me and peo­ple I used to know.”

Regardless of the rifts it has cre­ated in some of his rela­tion­ships, Gaudette is over­joyed with his deci­sion to be openly gay.

“I haven’t been hid­ing, and I love that,” he said. “I love being open about myself.”

It’s this feel­ing that Gaudette hoped to share with the audi­ence when he read his mono­logue Monday. Although he’s “ter­ri­fied” to speak in pub­lic and was appre­hen­sive about shar­ing his story with strangers, Gaudette, inspired by last year’s Queer Monologues’ par­tic­i­pants, knew it was some­thing he had to do. His piece is titled “The Real Me.”

“It’s not for me,” he said. “I [did] it to edu­cate peo­ple on what it’s like to be gay. I want the audi­ence to take away that being gay does not define who I am. I define who I am.”