Growing up, Ferris sophomore social work major Robert Gaudette had a secret so great it nearly destroyed him.
For years, he lived a double life and allowed only those closest to him to see the parts of him he thought they would accept.
According to Gaudette, he could never have imagined a time when he would share his story with his best friend, let alone with an audience of strangers, but Monday night, he did just that. Gaudette, along with other Ferris students, spoke at the Queer Monologues, which was held in BUS 111 as part of Pride Week. The event was hosted by D-SAGA, the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance.
Gaudette, an Elsie native, came to the realization that he was homosexual when he was 10 years old, but he said he always knew he was different from everyone else.
“I felt broken,” he said. “I tried everything to change and nothing ever did.”
Throughout middle school and high school, Gaudette, living in denial, told himself he was bisexual. It wasn’t until college that Gaudette accepted the fact that he was gay.
“I wanted to try to be a part of the norm, even if it was just a little bit,” he said.
With just 31 students in his graduating high school class, homosexuality was an unfamiliar lifestyle to Gaudette. He had only known a few gay people in his entire life and had not been more than acquaintances with any of them.
“I just knew that if I was going to survive high school, I had to keep that part of me a secret,” Gaudette said.
Midway through his senior year of high school, Gaudette mustered up the courage to come out to his best friend, Ferris freshman business administration major Cheyenne Griffith.
“I needed to tell somebody,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t live my whole life with that secret.”
New Year’s Eve was a new beginning for Gaudette. With the support of his best friend, who told him she didn’t see him any differently, he felt as though “a weight had been lifted off,” and he was finally able to move forward.
“After he came out to me, I looked him in the eyes and told him that I’m glad he told me,” Griffith said. “I would say that Robert did inspire me in a way. He brought something new into my life and inspired me to look deeper into the LGBT community and become more involved.”
Today, Griffith and Gaudette are both active in D-SAGA.
Following his success with Griffith, he continued to come out to other friends one by one. His longtime secret was well-received by his inner circle, and it boosted his once rock bottom self-esteem.
“It was really cool because I had people to support me, and I didn’t even know,” Gaudette said.
However, coming out has not been without its challenges. Earlier this year, Gaudette told his longtime friend that he was gay. Initially, she said she accepted him, but a few weeks ago, she told him that her faith did not allow her to support his lifestyle. Gaudette was devastated.
“We thought we would be in each other’s weddings,” he said. “Now, how could I even go to hers if she doesn’t support mine?”
Gaudette has yet to come out to the majority of his family for fear that they too will reject him. Three months ago, he told his mother, and she is supportive, but he doesn’t think his father or grandparents are ready for the truth at this point.
“I feel like I have to put myself in a box around people who don’t know,” he said. “It [my sexuality] puts a distance between me and people I used to know.”
Regardless of the rifts it has created in some of his relationships, Gaudette is overjoyed with his decision to be openly gay.
“I haven’t been hiding, and I love that,” he said. “I love being open about myself.”
It’s this feeling that Gaudette hoped to share with the audience when he read his monologue Monday. Although he’s “terrified” to speak in public and was apprehensive about sharing his story with strangers, Gaudette, inspired by last year’s Queer Monologues’ participants, knew it was something he had to do. His piece is titled “The Real Me.”
“It’s not for me,” he said. “I [did] it to educate people on what it’s like to be gay. I want the audience to take away that being gay does not define who I am. I define who I am.”