Aaron’s Story

MEET PENN STATE HOMECOMING’S TALENT RELATIONS DIRECTORS

Aaron McKenzie

Coming Out in College


Dear beautiful person,

I was about 15 or 16 years old when I really came to terms with my sexuality. I knew that I wasn’t attracted to girls in the same way that other boys were, but the thought of ever coming out in high school frightened me. It wasn’t until the summer after my junior year where I got a job as a lifeguard at a waterpark in which I began my coming out journey. I felt comfortable knowing that there was barely anyone from my high school that worked there and the very few that did had no idea who I was. I made an amazing group of friends that summer that I eventually came out to who were extremely supportive.

However, going into my senior year, I slid back into the closet. I quivered in fear at the thought of coming out in high school. What if people started rumors about me? What if people stared at me in the hallways as if I had “I’m Gay” written on my forehead? Senior year came and went, and I was ready to start a new leaf at Penn State. I’ve been told that college was going to be some of the best years of my life as I embarked on my newfound independence. So, I told myself that I am going to learn how to become comfortable with my sexuality.


So… I didn’t quite kick down the closet door waving rainbow flags coming into my freshman year as expected lol. To my surprise, I was on an all guys floor in the ROTC special living option floor in Brumbaugh #penthouse. Some might say that must’ve been heaven being around so many masculine, or “masc” guys but small freshman Aaron on move in day was paralyzed at the thought that these guys wouldn’t accept me. But little did I know, I’d have some of the wildest experiences with those guys and completely overreacted.

One night, a group of us went out to a party at a friend’s place and sober Aaron had no intentions of coming out that night. With a few drinks in my system, I began talking to two random girls who I have never met before and at one point they begin talking about guys and I nonchalantly say, “I like guys too!” One of my friends joined in the group mid-conversation, picked up on what we were talking about, looked at me and put two and two together.

“Aaron, you’re gay?” he asked.
“Yup,” I replied.
“Cool.”

We then proceeded to have a drink together and continued having fun. As simple as that moment was, I realized that the world didn’t come to an end and I felt like I could conquer anything. The rest of the guys eventually found out and were totally cool with it. I realized that my sexuality did not define my character, it was only an attribute of who I was just like my eye color or my height. Since then, I’ve come out to many more friends and members of my family. I feel a lot more comfortable talking about boys and relationships around other people than I did before. Now if someone were to ask me if I were gay, I’d probably respond with something along the lines of “Look at some of the pages that I follow on Instagram and then ask me that question again (lol).”
Coming out definitely is not easy. I’d be a lying if I said that I haven’t been deceived, rejected, and discriminated against since coming out. But, like the Sansa Stark put it, “I would’ve stayed a little bird all my life” if I hadn’t come out. Coming out at Penn State was one of the best things that I’ve done for myself. I am no longer the shy little high school kid who worried about what everyone thought of me. Rather, I strive to be the person that my 15-year-old self would look up to. I’ve become a better friend, a dependable leader and gained a sense of confidence that I can’t describe in words.

Courage is about doing the thing you’re most afraid of and still doing it anyways despite the outcome. If you’re in the closet, just telling one person can go a long way in your journey of self-discovery. You are allowing yourself to be who you truly are and you have a bigger support group than you think. You may not choose to be gay, but you can choose to be happy.


Peace, love and pride,
Aaron