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The summer before my junior year of college, I spent the day with my uncle because I was going to come out to him. I wanted him, my only gay relative, to tell me how I should tell my parents I was gay. His advice: wait. Wait until I graduate college, move across the country, have my own life – maybe even marry a man first who also needed to remain closeted – but don’t tell them now or any time soon. 

His advice to me was based on love, protection, and experience. His father didn’t speak to him for years – and my father would not allow my brother and me to spend time with him when we were younger. 

When I got home, after my parents were asleep, I signed online to chat privately with a friend and tell her what happened: no, I was not going to tell my parents, even though I felt like they must already know. I would wait. 

I shut the chat box and took our dog outside. When I came back upstairs, my mom was on the computer, reading my messages. 

The floor came out from underneath me. I asked her what she was doing, and she said, “I’m reading all about you.” I won’t belabor this with details of what that night was like; I will just say she forced me to tell my dad the next day. 

As I told him I was gay, he thanked me for telling him because now I would “be able to get help.” He said they could send me to Exodus International, which, at the time, was one of the largest conversion therapy organizations. I declined the offer, clarifying I was not asking for help – I just wanted him to know. The mood shifted significantly and permanently. Effective immediately, they would no longer help support me going to college, unless I moved home, lived a heterosexual life, and attended intensive, ongoing sessions with the men of our religious congregation. 

I lost the cornerstone of my community, as my religious upbringing was the largest part of my life. Two months later, I received an influx of birthday cards from members of the congregation, who wrote messages inside such as, “I cannot believe I let you watch my children,” and “You have broken your mother’s heart and you are ruining your family,” and “You know where you belong.” 

I was 19 years old. At 19, I could decline, I could drive, I could escape back into college, which is what I did. If my parents had asked my high school teachers if there were signs I might be gay or gender non-conforming – and if my teachers were required by law to answer “honestly and completely,” as New Hampshire’s Senate Bill 272, the so-called “parental bill of rights” would require – I don’t know where I would be now. I don’t know if I would be writing this now. 

I don’t know if I would be alive now. 

I grew up in a deeply religious household; the congregation we attended required women to wear head coverings during service, and women were also not allowed to speak. I knew our faith, and I knew my parents would not accept me for who I was. In high school, I prayed every single night to not be gay. I prayed faithfully and I went to sleep crying, hoping that God would change me. 

School was, in many ways, my safe place – a place I could be myself as I carried my best friend’s books to class for her and followed her around all day. Not long after graduating, I talked to teachers who, unsurprisingly, knew I was gay. And they suspected how my parents would react. 

Anti-LGBTQ legislation like SB 272 masquerades as a bill supporting parents’ right to know information from schools. However, these so-called “parental bill of rights” would strip away privacy for closeted teenagers, forcing them under intense scrutiny and living in terror of being outed – more than they already live with. When a closeted student loses the safety of school, where can they turn? 

According to The Trevor Project, in 2022, fewer than 1 in 3 transgender and nonbinary youth find their home to be gender-affirming. Importantly, LGBTQ youth who found their school to be LGBTQ-affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide. 

I spoke with a lawmaker who was unsure how he would vote. I shared with him how my parents wanted to send me to conversion therapy, and he said, “But what if you have a loving parent who would want to help?” I responded, “That IS how my parents felt about themselves – they loved me, so they wanted to send me away to be ‘fixed.’” 

My parents and I have come a very long way in these twenty plus years; when they sat at my kitchen table two years ago and told my now-wife and me they would not attend our wedding, I felt 19 all over again. Yet I’m still thankful to have a relationship with them. And I hope they are thankful I am still with them.  

Lawmakers need to listen to those who are impacted by this type of legislation, and it’s on us to tell them. We must stop Senate Bill 272 to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep our LGBTQ teens with us. 

You can find out who your state representative(s) are here and then contact them via phone or email to respectfully request that they keep New Hampshire’s LGBTQ youth safe by opposing SB 272.  

UPDATE: On Thursday, May 18, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 195-190 to "Indefinitely Postpone" SB 272, which means it cannot come back this biennium. 



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