The Real Josh

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Youth Transitioning to Adulthood (YTA) client, Josh, is 19 years old and has recently come out to his friends and family as gay. As a wrap-up to Pride Month, I sat down with Josh and his case manager, Keaira Bonner, to talk about what it’s been like for Josh to celebrate pride by coming out.

“I came out to Keaira two weeks ago,” says Josh. “She was the last to know,” he said, jokingly, since he really only started the coming-out process in earnest a couple of weeks ago.

“It felt like he was saying, ‘Hi, I’m the real Josh!’” said Keaira. “We were driving and he pretty casually just said, ‘I want to tell you something.’”

It goes without saying on Kearia’s part, there is no judgement and truthfully, she says, she had already picked up on some subtle hints. But, she waited until Josh was ready to tell his own story.

Real Relationships Really Matter

Relationship is a key element of trauma informed care and Keaira is happy Josh opened up to her. “He’s different now that he’s come out; it seems like we’re making more progress with everything.”

One of the focuses of YTA is employment and Keaira helps Josh navigate all aspects of that, including his anxiety over whether it is necessary to come out at work. Josh also wonders what to do if he doesn’t feel accepted by co-workers – or, on the other end of the spectrum, if he meets someone there he would like to date.

From “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to “To Thine Own Self be True”

Josh grew up in a pretty traditionally minded family, including a lot of military men. He says his mom has suspected for a while that he’s gay and his dad doesn’t really say anything about it.

“My uncles will ask me, ‘Why don’t you find a nice girl?’” Josh said. It feels a bit judgmental, but he knows it’s mostly because people want everyone to fit neatly into a category. “Do you think that’s because it’s more comfortable for them?” I ask. And Josh says, “‘Exactly.’”

“I have dated women, but I’m more attracted to guys than girls,” he said. “I’ve known this since a young age.”

Josh shared with me that he wants to get married someday and have kids. And, here’s where I thought he was wise beyond his years: “I only date guys who are also out and fully available,” he said. “It’s just healthier to be out, plus I don’t have time for games.”

He also doesn’t have time for people who aren’t accepting. I asked him if he thought it was easier for him to come out now than it was for someone of my generation years ago.

Josh basically said yes – and no. Though most friends and acquaintances have been very supportive, reactions from those outside of his close circle have run the gamut.

“I’ve been told it’s a sin and a sickness,” he said. And, there is still a stigma about gay African American men. “We’re supposed to be tough and protective and if we aren’t, we automatically get labeled.”

That’s one reason he is on this coming out journey now. He doesn’t want, or even agree with, labels and instead has adopted the attitude of authenticity.

Whole-Person Care

When Josh reflects on how he became a YTA client, he thinks about how not all of his childhood fairytales ended up being so happy. He also admits to making mistakes and accepts the consequences.

Although his sexuality wasn’t really in the forefront of his childhood, I believe everything is connected. In talking with Josh and hearing from Keaira how his whole demeanor has changed since coming out, I’m even more sure of that whole-person connectedness.

Even though he is very enthusiastic about coming out, not every month is Pride Month and coming out isn’t always celebrated. And that’s exactly why I’m so glad Josh has a case manager who knows him so well and is supportive of his journey not just into adulthood, but into continued authenticity.


If you enjoy reading first-person perspectives like this one, check out some of our other staff blogs, including The Amazing Adaptability of the Brain.

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