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Paul Sepuya

July 1998

Over the last few weeks, I've got to thinking about why I do the things I do. Why we all do the things we do. Why?

It's been a year since I first came out to my friends. They learned something new, something deeper about me. What they had always taken for granted had to be re-evaluated, about me and about everyone else. I had, by the time I came out, gotten over the frustration of trying to be everyone else and sink into the background and never be noticed. I couldn't be "everyone", I had to be myself. However different my own self would find out it would be.

Ever since the first years of school -- kindergarten, first, second grades, always -- I loved to show people and my classmates and friends that there were other ways to do things. I upset my first grade teachers when I learned cursive before anyone else and wouldn't write in print. They said I'd be a trailblazer. Ironically, back then, I wanted to be all out there by myself. And I stood out.

As far back as I can remember, from family and strangers alike, I have been constantly bombarded by comments on my so-called "gift" in art. I never got the thing about these "gifts". I never have believed that we are chosen by anything to be this or that. I just found art as the easiest way to express myself and impress people. Yes, children learn easiest the things that get them rewards. In return, they called me "the Genius," and unfortunately, that's what stuck as some peoples' first impressions of me. Unfortunately.

My reaction to finally discovering that I was, at my very being, inexplicably different was odd. Well, that's what it seems to me now. You see, I had been a stand-outish person because I wanted to be different from everyone else. Be an individual and have everyone know who I was. For my art. My excellent grades. My trophies in Tae Kwon Do. Anything I could do to be known.

But I found that inexplicable thing around the age of 11 or so. I recall my first realization that I liked looking at males: just staring at the lifeguards at the LA beaches, looking mysteriously at the models in the fitness magazine of a family friend. I knew something of guys supposed to be liking girls, but I had no idea that attraction or whatever was involved in it. All my life I had just been fed the image that for some reason, men and women lived together and had children. Boy, was I surprised when I first found out that what I was feeling for males is what I was supposed to be feeling for females. And on top of that, first hearing gay jokes and finding out that it was looked on as bad by so many people. I never knew that it could possible be positive or accepted, as in sixth grade no one stood up to gay jokes.

What I did at that point was to make sure no one ever, ever knew that I was what I was. It was me against them. I didn't know there were other people like me. An alter personality to show to the world was born. This Paul was as antisocial as could be to keep anyone from wanting to know him. Silent and bitter. That way, I figured, no one would find out my secret.

They encouraged me to be an artist -- I said I would be a computer programmer. What if I were to unawaringly draw some shirtless, gorgeous guy, and they found out? I had already noticed that that was one of my favorite artistic subjects. They wanted me to join the Church youth group -- I became an anti-theist. My religiousness had been fading way before this, but I thought, "what if they Church found out?" I didn't know that the Church of England and American Episcopal Churches are gay friendly. My family immediately noticed the changes in me. They didn't know what to do. Mom talked to other parents, and they told her not to worry... that it was just a pre-teenage "phase." By the start of high school it would be over.

I don't consciously remember saying all those things to myself, but that's what happened. Considering that I had been an stand-outish to be noticed, it would seem that I should have just tried to blend in with everyone else if keeping secrets is what I wanted to do. But I find that if I had, I would have had too many expectations placed on me that would eventually end it all. Being everyone means you have to join the teams, the clubs, hang out, all the other middle school stuff. But by being no one, all left to myself, I had time to really think about and discover just who I was, and come to terms with what I discovered.

WHAT I DISCOVERED:

That there are gay people besides me, and that one's sex life doesn't make them gay or straight. It's who you find yourself in love with.

Your parents have nothing to do with what your sexual orientation is. We are all more likely at birth to be either one way or the other, or right in the middle. All your environment does is either allow the expression or suppression of natural tendencies. That means it's not ANYONE's fault for who you are.

A site called OASIS on the Internet, where I found out about people from all over the world who are of all sexes and orientations and genders, and real life experiences told within- both good and bad.

No matter your situation, there is probably an escape or someone somewhere willing and able to help you. Know your resources. And for those unfortunate without resources, the fortunate absolutely MUST do something to help.

People and society in general take so many things for granted. Especially parents when it comes to their children. They always expect some picture perfect model of what you will do and be. Who could blame them? Parents never think rationally.

Education is the only way to stop all forms of ignorance.

WHERE I AM TODAY:

I freely act myself. My passion has always been in creation- art, photography, music, writing, and even classic cars. Anything that allows me to be as unique and customizable as myself. Everything around me reflects a part of who I am.

I can never return to the Christian religion that I was spoon-fed as a young child. After years with friends as Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Christians, I cannot close my mind to one scope of faith. Faith teaches us about ourselves, and to deny another's faith is to deny a part of what it is to be human.

Never underestimate your friends. We all may disappoint each other one day or another, but give everyone a chance. The ones you expect to be the least understanding and harshest on you may be the ones you end up trusting and relying on the most. Seek out the good ones and make sure to hang on.

Those two years of inner hiding, to gain my sanity, cost me a bit in relations with my family. They were very silent times between us, and I still find it hard to sometimes really talk with them about personal things. I had to deal with things myself, but any support you can get should be used to its full extent.

Never stay bitter at the world, even if you've had to put up with the crap. You are the world, don't forget.

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And I end it on this. I'm taking a photography course at The University of California at Riverside this summer.

I got a haircut, had about two inches cut off. Mom walked in and said I looked half human.

I dyed the front dark red.

That's me back at it, the Paul she's always known as her son. An individual.

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This column is dedicated to my neighbor Michael, who was sadly killed by a party crasher just weeks before his graduation. We'll miss him around here.


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