I never really “came out.”
My parents always knew I was more “flamboyant” than most of the other boys. I used to be more comfortable with it when I was a young child, because I really didn't think about it. I was just being myself!
My freshman year of high school was tough. I was battling an eating disorder and being bullied by this guy from school. He'd call me “gay” in the worst ways possible.
But the thing is that I was so deep into an eating disorder, I didn't have time to think about being “gay.” I eventually got treatment for my eating disorder and had time to look at my life and what I wanted to do with it. It was the middle of sophomore year and I thought, “I want to do something more with high school.”
I decided to try out for cheerleading. It was only January and tryouts wouldn't be until May, so I started stretching. I was so nervous, I didn't know what would happen, or how people would react to the possibility of there being a male cheerleader at my high school.
I go to Cerritos High School, closer to Orange County than Los Angeles, and they're held high for winning national competitions for cheerleading. Thoughts were running through my head, “Was I good enough? I don't even have my splits!”
It wasn't until I met the most influential person in my “cheer career” that I really started believing that I could actually do it. A pretty blonde girl named McKenzie Fox. The typical blue-eyed, peppy-smiled girl everyone thinks about when they hear the word “cheerleader.”
She got wind that I was trying out and took to Twitter to bombard me with thrilling excitement at the thought of me trying out for pepsquad.
Just like that, May rolled in and it was time for tryouts. I got there the first day with a thin bathroom towel to stretch on and a water bottle I'd saved from lunch. Cerritos does cheer tryouts in the school quad, right after school, so the entire student body got a look at “the guy trying out for cheer.”
I felt the most exposed I've ever felt in my life during that first day.
First thing on the agenda was for everyone trying out, returning members included, to take four laps running around the school. It wasn't the running that drained me, it was all the comments.
All the straight guys looking at me running with all the girls, as well as stretching and running through choreography. I felt like I wasn't supposed to be there, like I was doing something wrong.
Not only that, but CHEER IS HARD! I was trying to do all these motions and jumps that I couldn't do. By the end of the first day I was thinking up excuses on why I couldn't try out, I was so discouraged. I was set on this story I made up that my mom wouldn't let me try out, even though she was my biggest supporter.
Then I got a text. It was McKenzie.
“I know it's hard, and that there are a lot of jerks who like to make fun, but keep up the hard work, I know you can do it!”
That message was one of the most important things anyone has said to me in my life. It made me want it so bad. My want and desire to do cheerleading was blinded by what people would think of me, or how they'd look at me. I stuck it out and finished that week at tryouts.
On the day of actual auditions, I was a wreck. I just wanted to do the best I could, I'd worked so hard and been set on this for months, and it all lead up to this moment. I went in with two other girls and did the routine.
The next Monday, a list of who made the team was posted.
I was on that list.
I made varsity. It was such a gratifying feeling that all my hard work really paid off, that good things could really happen to me.
I got better with the months of practice to come, my star jump turned into a toe touch, and my cartwheel turned into a front walkover. I've had so many great opportunities being a cheerleader, and I've grown so much as a person.
Cheerleading has made me so much more confident and at peace as a person and with my body. I used to dread every calorie I put past my lips, and now my focus is if my toes are pointed in my jumps or how sharp my motions are.
I remember my first rally. I was so nervous! This would be the first time the entire school would see me in my uniform performing. It was amazing. My routine involving doing a toe touch dropping into the splits, and the entire school went wild.
I've had guys message me on Instagram saying how they've thought about joining cheer because they saw me do it. That seemed impossible to me before I did any of this.
Now, competition season is over and I'm in tumbling classes trying to advance my skills for next year. If you would have told my freshman self where I am right now, he wouldn't believe you.
But here I am. I'm the happiest I've ever been.
Nicholas Ramirez is a junior at Cerritos High School and is a member of Varsity Yell in Cerritos Pepsquad. You can find him on Instagram @Nicholas_Ramirez_.