When I became the editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook three years ago, I never thought I’d meet my best friend and eventually be the reason he came out of the closet.
During the first day of yearbook class, I introduced myself to the new staff, talked about my goals and ideas for the book and how I wanted to make sure that every staff member knew that they could come to me at any time for help. I shared my phone number with each of them before the bell rang. Later that day, I was at home working on different layouts for the yearbook when an unknown number was calling my phone. I hesitated for a moment before I picked it up.
It was Luke.
Who was he again? Immediately my brain turned into a game of “Guess Who?’” as I tried to match his name with his face.
He started to explain how his mom’s sister married my dad’s brother and had two children together some 20 years ago; however, they were divorced when mutual cousins were young. He had recognized my last name and was sure there was a connection. Sure enough, I confirmed with my mom; Luke and I were sort of distant cousins in a way. How crazy, I said. “God must have had a hand in me joining yearbook,” he said.
That was just the beginning.
As the year went on, Luke and I became friends quickly — we soon discovered our sense of humor was eerily similar. But, our friendship loosened when the new staff members slowly started to learn that I was into girls. Luke slowly started to distance himself from me.
As soon as I felt him drifting and felt the tension between us, I called him out. He admitted to me that he didn’t like gay people; it was against his religion. Seriously? We were both raised in the Catholic church, just because the religion condemns it, that does not mean that we need to look down on ourselves. I explained to him how for the past three months we had become friends, and now that he knew a little bit more about me I became some sort of monster. How did that make any sense?
I could have shrugged off his rude remarks and ignored him, but I saw too much of myself in him. Luke didn’t know then, but I could see it. Eventually, he realized that I was right — I wasn’t any different. And, for the remainder of the year, I continued to show Luke that I was comfortable with myself, my friends and family accepted me, and that I still attended a Catholic mass once a week.
Over the course of the school year, Luke and I went through a few bumps as he struggled with creating yearbook pages, but our friendship strengthened because of it. When the finished books were finally shipped to us and before we were to distribute them to the school, I was the only staff member allowed to take a copy home with me. I cherished each page, admired the work my staff and I had done. Immediately, I knew I had to share this moment with Luke. After all, he had earned it, too.
He walked up to my table outside of Starbucks, and I surprised him with the book. Immediately, Luke was overwhelmed with emotion — he too carefully paged through the book as I told him how proud I was of him, at how far he had come.
As I pulled into my neighborhood after leaving Starbucks, my phone started ringing.
It was Luke.
“Thank you. For everything. For everything you’ve taught me this year. Not just in yearbook. For helping me realize that I’m gay. And that it’s OK. I can be OK with myself. This is who I am.”