Coming out is never an easy thing to do – and for some, it’s even more difficult depending on how accepting one’s family and friends are.
Your age can also make a big difference. For instance, coming out when you’re only twelve years old can feel like social suicide.
Teenagers are cruel and will find anything they can latch on to and tease you for – and bisexuality can make you a target at many schools around the world.
Just ask Rafi D’Angelo, who came out at 12 and found the world suddenly pitted against him. With no one by his side, the kid tried to commit suicide. Luckily, he wasn’t successful in his attempts.
He made another lucky break by finding an unlikely ally who offered him validation and support when no one else would.
Now, so many years later, Rafi has come out on Twitter to thank the man who quite literally saved his life. After reading his emotional thread, it should come as no surprise that it went mega-viral.
The tweet began with – “I wanna tell y’all about a (non-sexual) experience I had with two boys growing up in the church because I still think about them semi-regularly and I wonder what they’re up to.”
Rafi goes on to explain the two different churches that he went to as a kid growing up. A predominantly white and “culty” church with his mother, and a Black church on Sundays with his Grandma.
The one perk to that “culty” church? It offered plenty of welcomed vacations! “Every old testament feast of celebration was a religious holiday and I got to be out of school,” Rafi writes.
Oddly enough, it was Rafi’s English teacher who told his mother that he was gay at 12 years old. “My mom didn’t tell my dad, but she told church leadership, so the Feast that year was my first church trip being ‘out’ and I was in the middle of conversion therapy.”
One of the activities at Feast was to go canoeing – something Rafi didn’t want to do because he couldn’t swim. Regardless, “they put me in a life jacket and paired me with an 18 year old who was also a lifeguard and his 14 year old brother, another strong swimmer.”
At this time in history, church membership in the US was largely white. Although, the two boys he was partnered with were Black.
“I was very much Carlton Banks wearing bowties and listening to Barry Manilow. These were 106 & Park guys with cornrows and baggy everything,” he shared.
At first, Rafi was scared of the boys – he’d been bullied at school since the year before when word got around that he was gay. Not to mention, these were big guys who played football.
“I can’t swim. I’m in a boat. These boys are BIG. The church had been telling me for a couple months now that I was going to Hell. And I was pretty much ready to die anyway. I was fresh off my first suicide attempt and I made peace with an approaching death by drowning.”
Rafi kept quiet, letting the brothers keep up most of the conversation as they moved across the water. Before long, they ended up far away from the other boats. That’s when the older brother, Quincy, suggested they eat some snacks.
That’s when the conversation turned to Rafi and he could no longer remain mute. The openness of the dialogue surprised Rafi – especially when Quincy asked him if he liked guys.
Rafi was at a complete loss for words, he didn’t even know what to say. It was as if the brothers were mind readers and there was no escaping them out there in the middle of the water.
In this moment, Rafi literally thought he was about to be thrown from the canoe, left to drown.
To his surprise, the older brother wasn’t looking to pick on him. Instead, he wanted to offer his help and support.
These words of support were like nothing Rafi had ever heard before, in complete contrast to how everyone else had treated him when he came out.
“I didn’t have a frame of reference for being gay and having boys be nice to me and I just started crying in the canoe.”
The take away message? Don’t ever underestimate your power to make someone feel better and more confident in their skin. Your words and support could change their entire life for the better.
No matter what, and no matter how alone you may feel, you are never alone in your struggles.
According to Ditch The Label, there’s no right or wrong time to come out and tell those you are close with that you are gay, lesbian, or bisexual. It’s an incredibly personal choice that is 100% up to you.
Bogged down by labels? Don’t fret it! Many people feel like they don’t fit under any one label, so don’t ever feel like you need to. You are who you are and that’s a beautiful thing.
You can read more stories about people coming out at RUComingOut.