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I’ve just arrived home from dressing my last client for one of Charleston’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration at the U.S.S. Yorktown. There is a glass of Pinot Grigio (the bottle not too far away for immediate refill), my laptop, and my cellphone on my desk. Meanwhile, the outfit for this evening is laid out in the next room, ready for the evening’s celebrations. Everything that I could do to procrastinate on writing this post has been done. Fair warning, this post is going to be long, but I hope it answers a lot of questions and clears up any rumors or suspicions. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty nervous and anxious as I write this, it’s my most personal post since I started my blog last year. It will put me in the most vulnerable spot I have ever been in, but I know it will be worth it. I know it will be helpful and inspiring. So, let’s take a trip down memory lane. . .

Back before I was wearing button up shirts and bow ties, I was running around in diapers and feeding my German Shepard pup from the same bottle that I drank out of. It’s one of those memories that your mother or grandmother captured and when the pictures come out in front of friends, its sure to make an appearance. ANYWAYS, for 3 or 4 years I was the only grandchild in my entire family. To say I was spoiled, would be an understatement. I grew up with the best grandparents, aunts, uncles that anyone could think of. I was (and am) truly very much so a “momma’s boy.” My father was around, but his passion and career as a professional soccer player always came first. He traveled a lot and therefore left me spending a lot of time with all the women in my family. Of course, this influenced my life in a big way. Instead of having a strong relationship with my father and throwing a football in the yard with him, I was out with my mother and grandmother shopping and really connecting with my feminine side.

In elementary school, there wasn’t really any difference between my classmates and I. Sure, I wasn’t the most macho kid in the class, my voice was a little more high pitch, and yes, I was a little (a lot;)) better dressed than my classmates (100% my mother’s doing). At that age, none of us saw color, none of saw sexuality, we were all innocent. Our biggest worry was nap time and what kind of snack we would be getting. I didn’t really think of myself as any different.

It really wasn’t until late in junior high and into high school that I began to question myself. The questioning didn’t begin from within, but a direct effect of everyone else’s opinion of me. Apparently, dressing well and having manners immediately meant that I had to be different. I heard it over and over when I started junior high and tried to not let it affect me, but it was hard. It was almost like just because I didn’t drink or didn’t hook up with girls in 7th grade that there had to be something wrong with me. At the time, I was so well mannered, super into being the good boy that my parents had raised me to be, and was going to church and living life as close to how God wanted me to as possible. It really was like the tv portrays it, the bullies and the rumors were all there.

Once the year ended, my family decided to move to another town, a town even smaller than the one we were currently in. For me, I saw it as a fresh start. There would be no bullies, no rumors, no one I knew. When school rolled around, I even signed up to join the soccer team. I figured playing some sports would help the transition and it would give me the chance to connect with my dad and make him proud. Sure, being a professional soccer player in years past made him super critical of everything I did. I wasn’t allowed to miss practice, I was forced to practice AFTER practice, etc, but at least it gave me time with my dad and he was finally investing in me. Little did I know that there would be connections to classmates from my hometown and rumors would make their way around. Sure, it made life a little harder, but there were still people who just saw those things as rumors and got to know me for me. Things were definitely not as bad as in my hometown, but because this town was smaller, the rumors got around to my parents. That made it really tough. They started asking me questions that I did not even know the answers to. They started using terms I wasn’t sure of. They even went as far as saying that there were doctors that could help, they could send me off to a camp for help, and that I was not made to be that person that everyone was saying I was. You can imagine that as a 9th grader unsure of oneself and then having your parents come down on you with society’s expectations, was very hurtful. It also created an even bigger wedge between my dad and I. This was truly hard on me as all I had been working for was his acceptance. I wanted him to be proud of me, but I felt that I was doing the opposite and causing disappointment… At this point in time, I still did not see myself as what people were calling me. I was just learning about myself and getting ready to explore more things with girls. There was even a girl that I had a huge crush on.  

Fast forward to high school when we moved back to my hometown. I knew things were going to be difficult. I hoped that the bullies I once knew had grown up and were better people. I hoped me coming back prepared to take on them head on would make things easier. At first, I was to myself a lot and was standoffish, which I think came off as stuck up. I reconnected with some of the old friends I had before I left and to my surprise, some of the bullies I once had also wanted to be friends. I was only friends with them at school and didn’t really hang out with them because I still wasn’t into the whole partying/sleeping around thing. I had never even been to a party or had a sip of alcohol (minus the sneak of a champagne flute here and there haha). Sure, I started changing a little bit and acting more like them and being the person that they wanted me to be. I wanted to fit in. I wanted them to like me and I wanted the rumors not to start back. For a while, the rumors stayed away. There were still those people who for whatever reason just did not like me. They had never talked to me, never gotten to know me, but always had something negative to say. That even started affecting some of the new friends I had made from the same clicks as the bullies. They became very two faced friends and it was hard to deal with.

When 11th grade came around I linked back up with some friends that I had not really clicked with since elementary school. At the same time, I made friends with some new people and people I had never thought we would be friends. Somehow, we all ended up in classes together and became a strong group of friends. I slowly started pulling myself away from my other friends and was only hanging out with the new “crew.” While we were all a part of different clicks, we were definitely the best of friends. They didn’t judge me, they never brought up the rumors, and they even stood up for me. We were 7 of the most diverse group of friends, but somehow we were the closest. This crew, which we began to call ourselves, was the reason I made it through the next two years of high school. There was one girl in the group in particular that I clicked with so well. I became so close to her and her family, that we became inseparable. This group of people taught me what true friendship was about.

I think that because we were all so different and people didn’t understand why we were all friends, it caused for old rumors to intensify and new rumors to start. Luckily, I had this great group of people by my side. They told me things people were saying, they stood up for me, they had my back. As people fed the flame that were the rumors, I was growing up and maturing. I began to wonder more and more what it was about me that gave people this idea. I even started to ask some of my friends. Of course, I knew the answers already: my high pitched voice, the fact that I dressed well, I hung out with girls, I didn’t really click with guys, etc. Answers that were also my insecurities. Well, there were things that I just had to accept. I couldn’t do anything about my voice, changes to that would happen later. I dressed well because my family was big into fashion, my grandparents had a certain standard for our entire family, and my parents were those parents that would check us before leaving the house and not let us leave if they weren’t satisfied with what we were wearing. Just like any other parent, they wanted the best for us. The best in every way possible and that even meant looking our best. I never really understood why the way I dressed was a part of the judgement. I dressed just like every other cool guy in school, wore the same brands, sometimes even better brands. As my passion for fashion continued to grow, I didn’t really let this judgement affect me anymore. Finally, yes, I hung out with a lot of girls. It was easier to click with them, they didn’t judge me, they were just wanting to be friends. Guys were more intimidating to befriend because of the fact that it was usually them being the bullies. Or maybe it all strung from the relationship that I didn’t have with my dad.

Towards the summer of Junior year of high school, I had reached my breaking point. The rumors finally got to me and I wanted to see if what everyone was saying was true. I began to befriend some of the people that followed me on social media and ask them questions and try to figure myself out. They were surprised as they all knew me as just one of the straight guys they followed on Instagram. There were 3 guys that I connected with and felt comfortable enough to share the struggles I had been going through and try to figure out what was going on and if in fact I was what everyone thought I was. Talking to them felt easy and uncomfortable. It felt good to talk to them, but I still wasn’t accepting of who I was.

 Senior year came around and there were a lot of changes happening. We were all about to graduate and go our separate ways. I was going to have to start over, I was going to have to find new friends and I was going to prepare myself for a way bigger school. I also began to really like a girl who was several years younger than me. Her brother was a year older than me and was sort of part of the crowd that wasn’t as fond of me, but he was different. He was always nice to me. Things sort of changed when he heard I was talking to his sister. I wasn’t prepared for what was to come next because I figured that things just wouldn’t work out. To my surprise, this girl and I started talking every day from the moment I woke up to the moment we both fell asleep texting each other. Her parents obviously expressed concern, but only because of the age gap and because they thought that I was simply “trying to get in her pants.” It made things a little harder as she wanted to make sure she had her parent’s approval, but we stayed in touch through the summer. I went off to college and would occasionally hear from her.

Freshman year of college also brought some more hardship. My parents separated and It was the hardest thing that my family had to deal with. People saw us as the perfect, happy family. No matter what we stuck together, but things happened and it was best for all of us that my parents go their separate ways. I saw it coming, but it was still hard on me because I knew more than ever that I would never have the relationship that I wanted with my father. I was super close to my mother and that was exactly what she needed during this time. My younger sister had always been my dad’s star child and they had a great relationship. The divorce was hard on my mom, but even harder on my little sister. I decided to move home to be with my family and support them, to be the man of the house. During this time, it created an immensely strong bond between the three of us.

Fortunately for me, I had kept in touch with this girl that I had been crushing on during senior year and had her to talk to. In some ways, I think my family’s hardships brought us closer together. After weeks of talking to her older brother and having conversations with her parents, we were finally able to hang out. I felt so comfortable around her and it was an instant connection. We got back to texting and talking 24/7 and hung out a lot. I even met her parents and we were on better terms. Her mom and I clicked really well and I loved her sister, her brother and I even were friends again. It was the perfect situation. After hanging out with her nonstop for three weeks, I finally built up the courage to ask her out. I planned the perfect evening, told her mom, told my mom, and it just happened naturally. I was truly the happiest I had ever been. Nothing else mattered as long as I had her. I looked forward to the days I came home from school to visit her and cherished every moment. By the time her birthday came around, I knew that I had never felt like this towards anyone before. She was the first person I ever felt that I could say those three words to and mean them, I love you. I truly was madly in love with her. Everyone knew it, it was the talk of the town. Sure, it was mostly because of the age gap we had, 3 years, but also because I was shouting it from the rooftop that I was madly in love with her. I spent every free moment that I had with her and spoiled her like no other. I planned the most elaborate dates, gave her a gift every month on our anniversary, and treated her like every guy should treat a girl. She had a rough past with a certain boy before and I hope I taught her that she deserved to be treated like a queen. In return, she taught me so much. She opened me to new things, new adventures, she helped me conquer fears and to step out of my comfort zone. She loved me for me. I could 100% be myself around her and she would make jokes, but in a loving way. After months of dating, we took our relationship to the next level. We were both young and exploring things, but it was natural, even if it was my first time. My family didn’t know, because they would have killed me at the time, but her family knew and just encouraged us to be safe. We dated for several more months before things started to get a little rocky. The boy that was for her what she was for me, reached out and they began to chat. She told me and at first I was okay with it, but I started to see changes and things got hard. They shared a connection that bonded them and ultimately led to our break up. I was blindsided by the break up and it was her decision to end things due to feelings coming back for her ex. I was truly heartbroken. I tried to fight for her and went crazy over finding ways to get her back, but it just didn’t happen. My mother and sister can attest to this: I literally pulled a Carrie Bradshaw and laid in bed for 2 days after she broke up with me. My family was worried, but I just needed to grieve the loss of my first love. Believe me, it took quite some time. 

Let’s fast forward through sophomore year and junior year of college. Those years were normal and I was dealing with some of the same struggles as always, but they seemed to be less and less. I had dated or had a fling with a couple more girls, but it was never like my first. I had built an incredible group of friends around me. We all connected as transfers to a new school and I had a strong group of friends. We were even closer than my group of friends in high school. Again, I found comfort in finding them and in trusting that we would all be friends no matter what. For the first time ever, I also had a solid group of guy friends. Some that I had met in classes, but the core came from my fraternity brothers. Yes, I always knew that I would join a fraternity. I knew the reasons I wanted to be in a fraternity and what to expect. These guys truly lived up to my expectations and were the best of friends through my years at college. My fraternity even opened the doors for my very best guy friend. It was the first time I honestly had a close relationship with another straight guy. It was hard when I noticed that some things were changing between he and I. We started hanging out less, I felt like there were pieces of things that he told me that didn’t make sense, he was distancing himself from me. It just so happened that a friend saw him somewhere and I was told some information that I had never expected. I kept the information to myself for a couple of weeks and just let things run their course. It probably would have been easier for me to confront him about it because this information caused for a lot of tension and fights between us. Finally, I approached him about it and we chatted and after a long argument, he came out to me. We talked for hours and I was there for him in every way possible. It truly brought us even closer together than any other moment. While he had the courage to come out to me, I didn’t have the guts to tell him that I was going through changes myself and moments of exploring. It was his time and like I told him, I didn’t want to confuse anything. I wanted to just show my support and accept him and let him know that he was still the same person to me that he had always been. Sure, me knowing this information caused even more of a separation with us at times, but when he didn’t have a guard up and overthink things, we were the best of friends.

It wasn’t until the summer of my junior year of college that I began to really feel like maybe these rumors and things that people always said to me were true. I reconnected with some of the guys that I had once talked to about things and chatted with them again, but this time more openly and open to the idea that I could possibly also like guys. I developed an emotional connection with one of the guys that I had been talking to and that led to us just being incredibly great friends. Still, there was something holding me back from truly accepting it, I could never put my finger on it. Plus, at the same time, I was still developing feelings for girls and having flings with them.

 Things changed my first semester of senior year. Over the past 3 years leading up to this point, I had no luck connecting with a girl the way I had with my first love. She left some big shoes to fill. I started getting more and more attention from guys and I guess that’s what made me open to the idea of exploring the possibility of something with one. When I decided to allow this to happen, I experienced something very natural. There was a guy who lived nearby that had followed me on social media for a while. We had never really talked, but we always liked each other’s pictures. For all I knew, he was in a long term relationship with a girl. When we started to chat, I just assumed it was because of my blog or just because he was being nice. We eventually started to hang out and it was like finding another best friend. He and I were even closer than the guy from my fraternity. Idk why it happened, but we got super close very quickly. We shared things with each other that I had never shared with anyone. It was a weird situation for both of us, but it was natural. We never said anything to each other or talked about the possibility of feelings or something with each other, but it was definitely there and we could feel it. After a couple weeks we decided to take a camping trip, an innocent trip that I never knew would lead to my first kiss with a guy and the first moment of realizing that I could have something with a guy. Things just happened and we were okay with them. There were people that were involved that made things difficult and of course neither of us were sure about ourselves. It was just something that we went along with and didn’t even talk about for weeks. We just let things happen and kept it from anyone else. Fast forward through a lot of things for sake of keeping his privacy. I fell deeply and madly in love with this kid. I even distanced myself from friends, let some of my classes suffer, and snuck around a lot to see him. Nothing in the world mattered. Everything could be going wrong, but the moment I got to see him or talk to him, everything was perfect. We went through our own ups and downs, but in the end we were perfect for each other. No matter what either one of us had going on we knew we would be there for each other. I dated him for all of senior year, no one knew (until this very moment). Everything else around me suffered, but I did not care. He meant the world to me. We made plans for the future and followed through with them. We moved in together for several months and that had its ups and downs. In the end we each played a part, but it was all a downfall due to us trying to figure it all out. We knew at the end of the summer we would both go our separate ways, which obviously didn’t help. I was immature, I was angry (for pieces of the story that I’m leaving out), and I could have handled it a lot better. We had a rough break up because I did not want to let go, I wasn’t ready to let go. I loved him very much and was extremely hurt and angry in the weeks that I knew the end was near. I allowed that anger, sadness, and resentment to shut him out, even when he tried to nothing but sweet and help me through the transition. Months have passed and he still won’t talk to me, unsure of the reason, but I am sure it has a lot to do with how I handled things. I still care for him deeply and hope to one day be able to have him in my life and be a part of his in some way. I just want to be his friend again.

When he left, I was in a very dark place in my life. Depression and loneliness set in and for months I distanced myself from everyone. I went to work and focused on my blog, but apart from that, there was nothing really going on. I tried again and again to reach out and fix things, but every effort was shot down. About 9 months after my break up, there came a point in my time where I decided that I was just going to try to pick myself back up. I even started to explore guys more, but only in the way of trying to go on dates or trying to allow someone new in, but it made me feel even more uncomfortable. I was not one to hook up with random people or do all these things that were common in the gay community here. So I decided to stop searching and just let things naturally happen. I was more confused than ever, but I had no idea what else to do. I told myself that when things needed to make sense, then they would.  

 A very crazy and unexpected thing happened during Charleston Fashion Week this past year. I met a guy that probably at any other time we would not have ended up together, but for one reason or another, we clicked. Things moved very quickly very fast and before we both knew it, we were dating. People said whatever they said, due to the fact that he was very much out and no one knew what I was about or who I was. People made their assumptions and had things to say, but he was still willing to give me a chance. Things became really good, but slowly I began to have my doubts. Things were too good and the things people were saying had a big effect on me. He had a very no care attitude about it all, but I could see that he still cared, even if his words said differently. Of course, my own insecurities with people finding out or trust issues from my last relationship played a big part. The fact that I wasn’t out and into a lot of the gay scene also played a big role in the relationship. When things were good, they were really good, but when they got ugly, we know how to push each other’s buttons. Still, he taught me so much about myself and about life. He taught me not take myself so seriously, to venture out, to try new things, to care less about what others thought, to take time and enjoy the moment, and to just be me. When our relationship started, I was very much so hush hush about it, but the more I learned from him, the more it was easier to just be me. I made sure that my family wouldn’t find out by hiding social media and not posting anything too direct, but I started to just be the person that I wanted to be. I started not to care about everyone else and just live my life with him. I got to experience so much thanks to him. He opened me up to a whole new world. He truly helped me find myself. Once I became a little more comfortable with the idea of us and with the idea of who I was, I wanted to just let everyone know. It was very subtle hints, but because my life is such an open book and out there for everyone to see, I wanted to post it. That didn’t fly so well with him because we are from different generations and our age difference put us at different places. It started causing problems because it seemed that everything had to be on his own terms. He could post something, but the moment I wanted to, it turned into a big ordeal. We tried to look past it, but it was a constant problem. I was starting to become very strong again and confident with myself, so I was more willing to just be me and allow everyone else to see that. Yet, for some reason I still had something holding me back. A lot because of the past, but really in truly just because I was worried about what everyone else would say, what my family would think, etc. Our relationship started to fall apart and we both tried to fix it. We pushed blame on each other and the whole breaking up, getting back together thing became a constant cycle. We went through a serious of huge blow ups from both of our ends and then we realized that it was time to end things. We were not going to be able to let go of some things or forgive each other for things, so it was better this way. Still, we cared very much for each other. I can’t say that I ever allowed myself to love him. It was a mix of the my past and then the creation of fresh wounds. (Luckily, today we are able to be friends and be there for each other).

After our break up, I was truly able to focus on myself and reflecting on everything and everyone around me. I realized that before I could love again, I had to love myself. I had to be comfortable with who I was and with everyone else knowing. I slowly just started to be more and more of myself and I think people caught on to it all. Let’s be honest, I’m not the most macho guy out there, and I was in a very public relationship with a “higher profile” person in town (we were kind of a power couple;)). I had already been living life like I wanted, but was doing it more to the fullest. My worry set in that my family back home would find out. I struggled for weeks with the right way to say it, with the thought of their reactions, with the worry of what everyone else would say.

 As I spent the holidays alone and had plenty of time to think, I reflected a lot on 2016 and all the decisions I had made, all the ups and downs, and myself. I reached out to friends and strangers, read stories, watched YouTube videos, and looked for answers. I asked myself, “Who am I?” I was allowing everyone else to fill me with confusion. I was trying to fit into a box of society and conform to who I was expected to be. I spent a lot of time alone thinking, many tears were shed, and there was a lot of fear. I longed for acceptance more than anything. In the end, I realize that it was just me who needed to accept, so that is what I did. I wanted 2017 to start on the right path. I felt that it was important to be comfortable, confident, and true to myself.  

On January 4th, 2017 after writing and re writing messages over and over, I built up the courage to reach out to my mother, my stepfather, and my younger sister. I knew that I couldn’t do it in person or say it, but I needed to get it off my chest. I let them know that I was bisexual, possibly even gay. I like girls, but I also like guys. I explained that I was still trying to figure it all out and didn’t have every answer, but that I needed to be transparent and honest with them. I wanted to have the freedom to be able to call them and tell them about a date, whether it be with a guy or a girl. I didn’t want it to be weird. I wanted to let them know that my vision of a wedding was still seeing myself marry a girl and having kids, but at the same time, I would be okay with marrying a guy and adopting kids to start a family. I wanted to be able to count on them and have their support. I wanted to let them know that I was still their same son, their same big brother, the same person. I hoped that my honesty and transparency would bring us closer together. I told them about my process and how I had denied it for years, but that it was time to accept it and live my life to the fullest. It was about me being comfortable with myself, about me having better self-esteem, about me being confidence and honest, about me gaining FREEDOM. I wanted them to join on me on this journey of freedom and acceptance to be the best version of me.

Their immediate reactions were of love, kindness, support, and acceptance. It felt so good to have that sort of reaction. My mother, who means everything to me accepted it, she showed her love and I cried tears of joy. Her response was what mattered the most. I didn’t want to disappoint her or have her treat me any different. My step father being the incredible man that he is had the best reaction, something that I am so thankful and blessed with. A man who is not my own blood, but has stepped in to show me what a father truly looks like, told me he loved me for who I was. He said something that I think will stick with me for the rest of my life: “Louis, I think the only thing that has changed in my eyes about you is that I see boy turning in to the man he wants to be!” Even my younger sister was okay with it. She had an idea, but still took it a little harder than expected. Their one common reaction was that I should wait on making it public. Yes, I let them know that I would be making this post and telling all of you this. They were all reluctant and their thoughts started to cloud my mind again, all with one similar concern, “what would everyone else think? how would this affect them and me?”  

Regardless, here we are: January 5th, 2017. I decided to post my journey to coming out. It may not come as huge shock to everyone and it may have already been known by many, but this was really all about me. I needed to accept it all and scream it at the top of my lungs. I needed to finally just say it and have everyone hear it from my own words. I developed this brand and blog to be a place where I could interact, inspire, and most importantly, influence. Therefore, I thought that sharing my journey would be helpful to connect with people, to let them know about me, and to allow any of you to reach out to me if you ever need help or are going through anything similar.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading! It was a long post, but allowed me to just get a lot off my chest and to be 100% transparent with all of you. This is just the beginning and there will be more to come as it continues to unfold, but I hope to have the support of you all as well. I hope that you all will stick along and join me on this new journey. The next chapter of my life begins tomorrow:

January 6th, 2017: Day 6 of 365 – Day 1 of Freedom, Acceptance, and Truth.

About author / The Bow Tie Gent

The gent behind the bow tie goes by Louis, a 27-year old recent Charleston transplant to Birmingham, AL. In a town with only a handful of male bloggers, Louis brings his refined style with a hint of big city living.  The Bow Tie Gentleman is a digital spot to interact, inspire, and influence.... Welcome to the Bow Tie Gentleman!