"It's not a small world. It's a huge world. But when you're committed to eating, drinking, working, talking, buying, selling, writing, and singing close to where you live, you're constantly surprised at how connected we all are."
Wise words from my boss, Graham. It's especially true if where you live is rural Indiana - small public high schools, an hour away from the closest city, nothing but cornfields for miles. Even if your "neighbors" are thirty minutes away, the connection is still very real.
Jacob and I both grew up in small Indiana towns, about thirty minutes away from one another. When we first met as Butler University freshman, we were fast friends - of course, Jacob is fast friends with everyone he meets. But during our carpools home on weekends and while visiting each other over break, our conversations would turn to our shared experiences of rural life, of going from cornfields to cities. That connection is so special between us.
Besides that, we're both crazy passionate about our home state of Indiana. When I had the opportunity to work with Graham last fall, I brought Jacob with me. Since then, he's proudly worn the United State of Indiana logo on his clothing, laptop, and social media.
When gearing up for this year's Indy Pride, I couldn't think of a better Hoosier than Jacob to tell us why true pride is so important. Plus, he looks so great in our USI Pride tees!
It wasn’t the idea of coming out that scared me, but the idea of never having the courage to do it. Coming out as gay in Indiana wasn’t an easy accomplishment. To some it may be easy, and I envy those people. But for me, it was a long and winding road.
I remember coming out to my parents like it happened this morning.
I told my mother first. It was on one of those back Indiana country roads where cornfields engulf the horizon for miles. I pulled the car over, and mustered up the courage to tell her that I was gay. She stared at me in pure disbelief. I repeated myself, and she started to cry. Tears streamed down her red puffy face, and I cried silently along with her. She looked at me like a mother holding her child for the first time and told me, “Jacob, I love you no matter what. I just know how cruel the world is, and I don’t want that for my son.” My mother was worried and scared for me, like any mother would be.
I came out to my immediate family sophomore year of high school and to the rest of the world when I started my freshman year at Butler University. While at Butler, openly gay, I was surrounded with support and indifference. Students and faculty didn’t care my sexual preference and only wanted to know when the next basketball game was, or how I did on my last English paper.
Coming out opened the world to me and made me realize the opportunities at my fingertips. I am free, and becoming more free each and every day. I am no longer living behind the lies that were full of my own fear. I look back on my young life and wonder how I ever dealt with the tensions that I now realize weighed heavily over my chest – when I never knew what free felt like. Coming out gave me self-confidence, my belief in myself, but most importantly allowed me to love myself.
Today if you asked my mother if she’s worried, she would say she isn’t at all. She has seen the world change and progress with LGBT rights and, even though it isn’t where some of us hope it would be, she can now breathe a little lighter.
Indiana is filled with loving, hard-working and caring people who think differently than their parents and grandparents. We're creating a new reputation for our home and the great state we call Indiana.
I am Jacob Barnes. Not “Gay Jacob Barnes.”
Just Jacob Barnes, a proud Hoosier.