Growing up in the suburbs of Sacramento, I was the fabulous little poster boy for the gay stereotype. My childhood obsession with “The Sound of Music” and Barbie dolls eventually evolved into a teenage love for “Glee” and Lady Gaga, the basic staples for a 2010 gay teen. My style was eventually as flaming as my interests: you could catch me any day with painted nails, a brightly colored pair of jeans and 20 matching accessories. I looked like I collapsed in a neon Claire’s sale rack, but I was living for it.
It was clear that many of my peers and neighbors didn’t feel the same joy from my style as I did. All throughout high school, my classmates called me names like faggot, queen or homo. The name calling eventually evolved into hallway shoving, being banned from the men’s bathroom and an occasional apple or pancake to the face. I eventually enrolled in home-school to escape the bullying and non–stop harassment, though it didn’t stop me from running into former bullies around town.
The homophobic experiences I encountered are the reason I don’t feel safe back in Sacramento. I never felt like my hometown was a place where I belonged because of the harassment I received from strangers at school and around town.
I moved to San Francisco and left Sacramento behind as quickly as possible. In the City, I can walk down the streets without second guessing my outfit or mannerisms. I can wear fishnets and run around screaming “yasssss” and no one will bat an eye. While I currently dress much less flamboyantly than my high school self, it’s still nice to have the option of wearing what I want.
Even when I go back Sacramento as an adult, I am harassed. No matter how much I tone down my style, I still feel unsafe. I am faced with constant memories of past bullying and new forms of harassment from strangers. The last time I visited my parents, a group of older men on the sidewalk called me a fag. I thought I would fit in without the earrings and the nail polish I proudly wore in high school, but apparently I’m still too gay for Sacramento.
While I’m not permanently attached to the idea of living in San Francisco for the rest of my life, I know I’ll stay away from my hometown. I have lived in major cities, boring suburbs and even on farms, but the only time I really felt like I belonged was in a big city. Yes, there are some homophobes in San Francisco. But at least I am still surrounded by a community that supports all lifestyles and doesn’t discriminate based off of sexuality or looks.
Though Sacramento is by far not the worst place for a queer person to live, it’s still not right for me. I grew up in a town where I couldn’t walk down the street without being harassed and went to a school where a teacher once told me he would run over and kill his son if he was gay. San Francisco isn’t the perfect place, but it’s the only place I feel comfortable enough to call my home.