Out + Proud: Joseph Geballa

By Joseph Geballa

Growing up gay can be different for many types of people, but at the end of the day, we share the same struggle and we must share the same mindset and message of, “It does get better, even when it does not look like it.”

I am Joseph Geballa, known as Joey, also known as “your typical Gay Joey.”

Along with my brothers and sisters, we are first generation Americans born of two Egyptian parents.

We grew up in a semi-strict, Egyptian household in Crofton, Maryland, only 30 minutes away from Washington D.C. My parents held on to half of their traditions and cultures from Egypt, and the other fifty percent they immersed into a new type of lifestyle for them here in America. My father spent most of his time running his dental practice, while my mother stayed home and took care of their four children.

Right in the middle, we have me, Joey.

Almost since birth, I was fascinated by nothing other than TV, music, singing, acting, fashion and anything else besides sports and getting dirty. Throughout my childhood, I just knew I didn’t blend well with the other boys at school. Most of my best friends from the very beginning included: my mom, my grandmothers, my sister and the girls at school.

With my girlfriends, friendship felt effortless, like I could conserve energy not having to pretend I knew the difference between a quarterback and a linebacker.

I vividly remember having the biggest crush on my older brother’s best friend, Chris. Being raised by classic “Lifetime” romantic comedies, I would doodle his name, hearts and deeply romantic things, normal things any first grader would write in his Britney Spears notebook.

Like many people, the older you get, the foggier things become in regards to your identity: finding out who you truly are and your sexuality. Being a high school student in a predominately white and heterosexual school, I appeared to have gay characteristics to others.  

Those characteristics encompassed “acting girly,” “having only girlfriends” and “talking like a girl,” according to my classmates and also to rumors that circled around the school. This eventually lead to the use of the beloved word, “f-ggot.” These words didn’t hurt me. They would just confuse me even more as to who I am. Luckily, my closest friends, gay icons themselves, and my unrelenting strength helped me block out the extra noise.

As high school came to a close, I began to refer and introduce myself as gay. It was not a huge challenge for me. I remained in the closet to my family for two more years, but ‘out’ to friends and to the rest of the world. I had to give it some time for my family.

My family is can be very open-minded to most things, but when it comes to lifestyle, specifically sexuality, it was tough. Egyptians are very religious, so in this case, it would be taboo to my family and their religious views.

Since coming to terms with my sexuality to myself in high school, I convinced myself that when I came out, my family would have taken it as it is. Being who I am was never something I would sacrifice for the sanity or happiness of others.

On a bitter January afternoon last year, I came back from the gym after one particularly great workout. I felt motivated and confident. Entering the house around noon to my mother catching up on her Arabic soap operas, I was listening to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album, very faintly.

My mom gave me a hug, paused and asked, “Why are you always playing girl music?”

Being in the closet for most of my life, I’m used to these types of questions. I can lie right through my teeth and dodge my mother’s words like Angelina Jolie dodges bullets in the movie “Salt.

My mother had interrogated me about my sexuality before, but she never quite hit the target.  In the same fashion, she was straightforward that cold January afternoon.

She asked me point-blank, “So are you? Are you gay?”

At that moment, my thoughts and life flashed before my eyes. I did not feel scared, but I knew I couldn’t spend more time hiding my true identity from my own family.

Knowing time was up, I confidently vomited out the word, “Yep.”

In the few seconds after this confirmation, her realization came with an instant, constant and week-long downpour of tears. Still, my heart unapologetically smiled with a breath of relief.

That week was full of “talks” between my mother and me. Sooner or later, though, she realized the closet door was locked shut and there was no way I would go back in. She soon let the family know and all their reactions were what I hoped they would be. They didn’t care because it is 2017 and this shouldn’t be a crisis.

Now almost a year after coming out, my family, my friends and I have never been more tight-knit and happy. Coming out to a world that views homosexuality as a disease is not easy; it takes time.

Just remember that it takes whatever makes you not just happy, but also proud to be out.

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