Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you took 30 seconds to do something that took insane courage?
My name is Javier Ruisanchez and I'm 18. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, but I currently live in Northern Virginia. I just graduated from West Springfield High School. I have two sisters and I live with my mom. I've always been involved in sports. Baseball, volleyball, dancing, basketball – I've always been an athlete, but I didn’t discover my passion for swimming until I was 9. I made my first Junior National Team for Puerto Rice at age 11, so I fit into the world of swimming. But I always felt the need to fit in with everyone else. I knew at an early age I was gay, but I was too scared to come out because I was afraid of bullying or how those around me would treat me.
When junior year of high school arrived, I knew it was time. On Oct. 17, 2013, I took my 30 seconds of courage to come out as gay the best way I knew: By posting it on twitter.
"Yes... I AM GAY... Who cares?"
The response was overwhelmingly positive. My phone started blowing up with text messages of support from friends, family and teammates – to the point where my phone battery died. The tweet got more than 200 favorites and after seeing the overwhelmingly support I started wondered why it had taken me so long -- I was 16 -- to come out as gay.
I vividly remember the next day at school. It was a Friday and I guess everyone in school had seen the tweet. I remember walking into my first-period class and people I wasn't close with came up to me to congratulate me. The overwhelmingly positive support lifted a huge weight off my shoulders.
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However, though the support was positive at school, I was still scared to see how my teammates would react. I got to practice and was instantly bombarded with questions. They wanted to know every single detail of all the text messages, tweets and reactions at school. They were so proud of me. My favorite reaction was: "Finally, I can say you're my gay best friend."
The support from my teammates means more than anything to me. I was afraid they would feel uncomfortable and would start treating me differently, but nothing changed. It actually brought us closer because there were no more secrets. I felt free, and for the first time in a while, I was able to practice without any concerns.
But not everything was peaches and cream. My family didn't take it very well. My older sister, Kristina, was extremely shocked and didn't know how to handle the situation. She didn't talk to me for a few days. My other sister, Sofia, was very supportive from the very beginning. Ironically, with my older sister being a high fashion model I thought she would accept it right away, but that wasn't the case.
I will never forget the conversation I had with Sofia the day I came out to her. I vividly remember her words: "Just because you are gay it doesn't mean you can go around and do whatever you want. You are still my little brother and even if you're taller than me I can still put you in place whenever I want. Don't ever forget that! But always remember that I love you no matter what."
Although it was hard telling my sisters, the person that I knew would take it the hardest would be my mom. I'm her only boy, and I like to think, her favorite child. Telling my mom was a process, like baby steps. I knew I couldn't just throw the news at her in one day so I slowly told her because I knew it would be very hard for her. At first she thought it was all her fault. She immediately blamed herself and thought that she didn't raise me the right way. I could see that it was extremely hurtful for her to accept her only boy as gay. It was a hard couple of months for both of us after I came out to her. She went through a depression and I think seeing her so sad made me think about many things. Was I wrong on telling her? Do I even belong here? Why do I feel like I'm such a disappointment?
(Photo by Allison Davis)
After coming out to my family and not seeing them as excited as I thought they would be, I went through a major depression myself. Despite how hopeless I felt, I always kept a smile on my face when I was in public. Things got so bad that I finally asked my mom if she could take me to a professional therapist and she did. There I was able to open up and let the therapist know what I was feeling. She helped me handle the situation and always made me feel safe and normal. She helped me understand that it was normal for close family members to react the way Kristina and my mom did. She said "it took you 16 years to come out, so you can't expect them to understand and accept you in one week." Those words of wisdom stuck with me for a very long time. I kept going to therapy and I kept venting to her about the relationship with my older sister and my mom. After a while my relationship with my sister and my mom got a lot better.
I started feeling happy, excited and more optimistic about the future. After a few months, Kristina came around and accepted me 100 percent. She decided to make me the godfather of her first newborn. This is a huge responsibility because I knew I would become the person her child would look up to and it was an honored that she asked me.
My mom came around as well and after a few months we started getting a lot closer. Now we are closer than we have ever been before. I'm able to talk to her about my boy problems and about life. My mom has become my best friend. I just hope one day I am become half the person she is today, because that will already be an accomplishment.
Before I came out to the world as gay, I was scared I was going to lose a ton of people, but I was wrong. Instead, I gained many new friends. That said, coming out is not easy to do. It took me 16 years to finally accept myself so I understand that it might take more than a week for everyone else, so I had to be patient. It was a process. It was not something that happened in one day. It took time, but I can finally say that I'm in a much better place today than I was before I came out. My life improved dramatically since the tweet. Not only did releasing my truth take a huge weight off my shoulders, but it also changed my life. My training in the pool changed in a positive way. I was no longer thinking about other things outside the pool so I could really focus on the workout. I’m blessed with friends and family that support and love me unconditionally for who I am. I'm truly grateful for everyone who has helped me along the way.
I'm now happy and proud to say that I'm a gay swimmer who is a part of Puerto Rico's Junior National Swim Team since age 11 as well as an incoming freshman swimmer for Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. I think taking the 30 seconds to do something of insane courage was pretty worth it. I'm positive about the future and look forward to what it has to hold. But right now all I can do is be myself, be grateful and enjoy every step of the journey. #betrue.
Javier Ruisanchez, 18, just graduated from West Springfield High School in Springfield, Virginia. He will be attending Gannon University in Erie, Pa., this fall majoring in criminal justice and psychology with a minor in Spanish. He will also be on the men's swim team and represents Puerto Rico on its junior national team. He can be reached via Twitter (@Javi_Ruisanchez); Instagram (Javi_Ruisanchez) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Story edited by Jim Buzinski