Friday, December 11, 2015

My Coming Out Story - The Complete Series

Welcome and thank you for supporting my efforts to increase visibility of Black SGL-BT/LGBT people of all ages! Here the complete version of my coming out story, so if you missed one of the chapters, here it is in chronological order. Enjoy...


I remember it like yesterday, I was in the seventh grade when I privately started to acknowledge, in my mind that I was gay. I was going to a little magnet school called "The New Orleans Free School" and it was a school where a kid could be a kid, learn and grow. It was here that I had my first pubescent crushes, and battled with whether or not I believed in God. On one hand I was being raised by my grandmother who is a Jehovah's Witness and one thing about the Witnesses is that my sexual orientation is not in line with their teachings or ideals. On the other hand I struggled with what people told me what my belief system should be vs my own independent thoughts that I do not believe in any God. It was a dual battle to believe and be straight, two things that have never been good at and never will be LOL! Anyway, I was having a conversation at recess with my favorite teacher Mary Garton, was not only a great teacher, but a strong woman in her own right. The few things that I remember about this conversation is that it was a warm and sunny day in New Orleans and Mary, a classmate and I were talking about random societal issues (yes we were pretty advanced). During that conversation I blurted out, "I think that I might be gay..." and then the conversation continued with a thoughtful acknowledgement of my statement. That day turned out to be a precursor to when I would actually come out as gay and the way my life would change. CONTINUE READING

CHAPTER 2: LGBT & Homeless

On November fifth I will be thirty one years old and to celebrate my approaching birthday, I will give a snapshot of the whos, whys, and whats that developed me into the Ashton that you know today. In a previous post I gave insight into how I came out and hints as to how the event affected my life. In this post I will go into details that I have never shared and some that most already know about.

After coming out a few months went by and in that few months I went from a stable home to living on the streets of New Orleans (at this point it was the year 2000 and 16 years old). My very first night out, I was solicited for sex by this guy and when I refused he tried to rape me on a dark corner in the French Quarters where the tourists normally don't go. It was on this night I was saved by a Transwoman not many years older than me and made my first friend in this new life that I had been thrust into. Many of the friends that I had made and the life that I knew before this point were still around, they just didn't see me a whole lot and did not really ever know the situation.

During this time I would go to school less and less as I searched for a job during the day and would spend the night by a childhood friend when his mother wasn't at home. I had made several attempts to stay at the local Covenant House to find that I needed parental or guardian permission to stay. To make a long story short for most of my 16th year of life, I went from pillar to post with older men attempting to take advantage of my body and my young mind...CONTINUE READING

CHAPTER 3: Tragedy & Triumph

It was a very interesting summer in 2002, I had just finished my Junior year of high school, continued to work, and have fun. By this point I was seventeen still partnered up(but on the decline) and unsuspecting of the changes that would come over the next three years. Starting with my Senior year back at the high school where I first started, my re-introduction to the campus came as a surprise to many. It was Ironic that I needed an elective and the elective that I just so happen to have picked, I forget the name, but it was the class that managed the morning TV announcements. You know, the morning announcements where I participated in the launch of the Student Alliance For Equality? Well, this time I sat in as anchor of the very first broadcast on the first day of school. Now if that isn't Ironic, then I don't know what to tell you. 

Over the years I maintained many of the friendships from each point and transition and began to nurture old connections as well. I have to say that one of those connections that will never die is a friend named Jessika, we had our days, but she will always be my chosen sister..CONTINUE READING

CHAPTER 4: The Foreshadowing

Previously: "In a nutshell, I did great in the Army and decided to fore go a career before it even started. I left basic and returned home to New Orleans and immediately enrolled in school and they wanted me to take all of these different classes that I did not need, so I found a distance learning program at LSU..."

2004 was one of the best and most bittersweet years of my life, I had no shortage of friends and things to do. That year I really got closer to my family and made new friends who are still around to this day. By day I would work on multiple jobs, not that I was financially hurting, my main two jobs were doing security and the other two were on call audio/visual jobs. It was nothing to take a nap and then go and help build a set for a concert or convention, meet my friends on St Ann and Bourbon for drinks, then wake up on one of their sofas. So let me be clear, it was a group of us, and it was normal for my friend Zargus to have his van and an ice chest with booze. We would all stay out until, hell the sun would beat us to our homes. I grown close to one who I would call my chosen brother, stacey (I hope he doesn't get pissed) and he would eventually move to houston toward the middle of the year.

His relocation to Houston was a foreshadowing of things to come, because by July I was hit with another loss. Remember in the last post I said that "...I sustained a major loss to my support system, the hit and run death of David. Remember that David, Willie, and Galen were my support system and somehow it slowly began to disintegrate." Well, for the month of July I had not heard from Willie and it was just not like him to not call...CONTINUE READING

CHAPTER 5:  I am Atheist

In my previous instalments of the "My Coming Out Story" series I talked about my initial coming out as gay, then I talked about being homeless,  some of my experiences with tragedy & triumph and finally about how I was led to my current home Houston, TX. This post will center a more recent period, the last two or so years where I finally came out of the Atheist Closet.

I remember the day it happened (coming out Atheist) and it was much like when I was questioning about my sexuality. I alluded to the fact that I am an Atheist without fully revealing it. Seems to be a theme, if you remember my first post: "The few things that I remember about this conversation is that it was a warm and sunny day in New Orleans and Mary, a classmate and I were talking about random societal issues (yes we were pretty advanced). During that conversation I blurted out, "I think that I might be gay..." and then the conversation continued with a thoughtful acknowledgement of my statement. That day turned out to be a precursor to when I would actually come out as gay and the way my life would change."

Christian privilege - is the system of advantages bestowed upon Christians in some societies. This system arises out of the presumption that the belief in Christianity is a social norm, leading to the exclusion of the nonreligious and members of other religions through institutional religious discrimination. Christian privilege can also lead to the neglect of outsiders' cultural heritage and religious practices.

Religious discrimination - is valuing or treating a person or group differently because of what they do or do not believe. Specifically, it is when adherents of different religions (or denominations) are treated unequally, either before the law or in institutional settings such as employment or housing.

Atheism - is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which, in its most general form, is the belief that at least one deity exists.

What I said in this post (above) is very similar to what I did on that sunny day in New Orleans, and I know it wasn't as clear. I was really saying here that I never truly believed in a higher power and total dislike for the need of religion, ALL religion. I maintain that I respect the beliefs of all and the right to believe in a higher power. I actually touched on this in a previous post and stated...CONTINUE READING

CHAPTER 6: I Am HIV Positive

Six months ago I went public about my HIV status for various reasons much bigger than myself. We have reached a point in history where it is time for those of us who are HIV positive to step up and fight HIV criminalization, stigma and take our lives into our own hands. Let me take a step back and start from the beginning, as you know, I came out at age 15 and my knowledge of HIV was intermediate at best. At least I was smart enough to know that HIV and AIDS are two separate things, smart enough to have my first HIV and STD tests at 16 years old.

I will never forget the day when I took my first test, I had just left the now closed Gay & Lesbian Community center and wandered to the NO AIDS Task Force. It was at the Task Force that I took an OraQuick mouth swab (keep in mind that this was fairly new technology at the time) and it was my first time being nervous for 20 minutes. After this initial test, I would continue with a routine of testing every 3 or 6 months depending on how sexually active I was. Over 8 years of testing, then in April of 2008 I took a test at a drop in center in the Montrose area of Houston. Something felt different this time because the results took longer than normal to come back via the person who conducted my test. He came and he looked petrified, maybe because we knew each other, it was probably the hardest thing he had to do that day.

It took him about 3 minutes to even say what he needed to say to me, and when he finally revealed my results to me, it was like a horrible dream...CONTINUE READING