Matthew Harris 1 Name of interviewee: Matthew Harris Name of interviewers: Kassie Troy and Jonathan Wheaton Date of interview: File uploaded October 14, 2020 Length of interview: 17:06 Location of interview: Jackson County, NC Matthew Harris was born in Chapel Hill and moved to western North Carolina for college. He discusses his story coming out in high school, which details his family being homophobic before learning more about the subject. Harris also explains how gay YouTubers helped him with understanding his place in the world. He ends with his positive relationship with family and advice on coming out to friends first, then parents. Start of Interview Kassie Troy: All right. So what is your name? Matthew Harris: My name is Matthew Warren Harris. KT: How old are you? MH: I am 22. KT: How do you describe your gender and your sexuality? MH: I am cisgender male and I am gay. KT: Where are you from and how long have you lived in Western? MH: Well, technically I was born in Chapel Hill, and I lived the first five years of my life in Pittsboro, North Carolina. But then we moved to a suburb outside of Greensboro called Summerfield and now I live here. KT: And how many years have you lived in western North Carolina? MH: About four years. Four or five actually. Yeah. For college, that is. I still go back home too. KT: Yeah, of course. MH: Yeah. KT: Can you tell us about your life as an LGBTQ individual? Like your internal reactions, life path, coming out story, anything you want to share. MH: I don't know. Quite a weird experience. You see, I grew up in a homophobic household. Which is very odd because my aunt and uncle ... one of my aunts and one of my uncles are gay and lesbian. We did stuff with them and everything. It was very, very, very strange. So I, unfortunately, grew up knowing really nothing about the gay community. And it wasn't until I was in high school. I honestly had no idea. I swear to God, I had no idea that legitimately you were born gay, because they don't educate us on that stuff, in family life and whatnot. They don't educate about LGBT matters, which is problematic in my opinion. But I had no idea. Matthew Harris 2 I was just like, Oh yeah, I know some dudes just want to know musical theater and stuff, which is obviously not the case. But it wasn't until I was a freshman and someone said, no, you're born gay. I was like, wait, what? Then it started off slowly, the conflict of the what? Wait, why have I not had any interest in women whatsoever, in my head. And so I was in hardcore denial sophomore and especially junior year. And it was difficult, because I was taught my whole life that it was bad, it was wrong. It was against God and all that stuff. And it was difficult to go through that. I didn't for a while until I started talking to this one dude who I met named Isaac and he was gay. And I, in my mind, had somewhat come to terms a little bit towards the second half of junior year. I was like, well, maybe I could like dudes as long as I like girls too. So I was like, okay, I'm bi, which, of course, I'm not. But my mind had to accept one thing for it to accept the other. And I later realized that, but I came out to this dude, Isaac, who I became friends with, as bi. And he was the first person I ever came out to, and that was crazy. But then, I saw wonderful things happen. I was talking to him quite a bit. My parents went through my phone and they saw all the conversations. And so I was outed to them, and I came out to them as bi, which, of course, is not true, like I said. And they grappled around with it. They had a difficult time with it. And so basically though, I wound up stopping talking to Isaac. They made me stop talking to him. And then I just kicked it around, like settle around. I was content. I was like, well, maybe I'm just gay, but I'm not going to tell anybody because you don't really see that many LGBT couples. So, I really hadn't seen. And the ones I had seen in high school, I remember seeing a lesbian couple and they were belittled by someone passed her by ... And I was just like, I don't know if that's right for me. So I just had come to terms with in my own head, but didn't know how the rest of the world would come to terms with it through senior year. So my mind was at peace, but I was in the closet. And then the second half of senior year, someone introduced me to the wide, wonderful world of gay YouTubers, like Connor Franta and Tyler Oakley. And I was like, wait a minute. People can express their sexuality without being afraid of being hated upon in places of the world. I'm like, Whoa. It was about 2016, I started coming out to my friends as gay and everyone seemed to be fine with it. And then, that was towards the end of my senior year, but then it's just becoming adjusted it and now it seems totally normal. And it's interesting. Now I'm, of course, fully open. KT: Well, I'm glad everything's turned out good for you so far. MH: Oh, yes, and I forgot to mention, my parents aren't homophobes anymore. [laugh] KT: And I know you stated this already, but do you remember what age that you discovered you were gay? Because I know you said at one point you thought you were bi. So what's the real age that you thought you were just gay, or when you realized your feelings, I guess, in general? MH: Yeah. I think I might have been 17, 18. It would have been towards the fall or the winter of 2015, so somewhere in there. Actually, it was probably 17. KT: So it's been a good amount of time since you've discovered your feelings. MH: Yeah. Yeah. KT: And then, how has being gay impacted your life at all? Matthew Harris 3 MH: I mean, in terms of coming to terms with it that has impacted my life all for the better. I mean, I just felt like I had to hide who I was away, and it was difficult. But now that I'm free to be who, I am free to express myself, it's wonderful. I've not really had many negative experiences. I have the occasional heckler, as you do, usually from a moving car and you're just like, what are you saying? I know you're heckling something homophobic, but I don't know what you're saying. For the most part, it's been pretty good, my experience in general. Now, my experience with other gay men, if we're talking about dating or relationships, that's a different story, but I don't know if you want to elaborate on that or what. KT: No. We don't have to get into all of the dating nitty-gritty. MH: Yeah. KT: And then, do you believe that a decent number or a good amount of people are transsexual ... or sorry, messed up my question. Do you believe that a decent or a good amount of transsexual people are gay? MH: Quite frankly, it's interesting to ask that question because it's something I've wondered myself. First off, there's no education on homosexuality, bisexuality and that in public schools here, however, there is in California. But we live in the South where there really isn't that kind of push. But it's interesting because I don't really know much about the trans community. I wish I knew more. I've always wondered that myself. It's something that's really interesting to me. I would say it's like anybody else. I mean, it really depends. I really don't know if there's a higher percentage or not compared to cis-gender people. I'm not sure, honestly, to be honest. I'm not sure, but I wouldn't think it would be any different than amongst cis-gender people. So I think that might be a preconceived notion that people have outside of the trans community, but… I guess. KT: Okay. And do you think there's a difference between a transsexual and changed gender identities? MH: I wasn't really sure. I mean, that's interesting because I always viewed it as transsexual. I thought it sounds like an outdated term, but I not sure. I really wish I knew more about the trans community, I don't. I'm so unknowledgeable, unfortunately, but I don't know. I really don't. I'm not sure if there is much of a difference in terms of ... One sounds more relevant from the other one. KT: And last question, is there anything that you want to add that you haven't talked about already? It just doesn't have to be about the interview, what I've been talking about. Just about your coming out story, or something you want to say to other people who listen or read the archive or whatever, anything you just want to say. MH: Well, I will have to say that being a person of the LGBT community, you learn on your own, as of right now, as of this date and time down here. Because there's no education for that kind of stuff. And because I didn't come out towards the end of high school, I had no experience with dating really. I had gone on dates with one chick, but that was literally all. All we did was hold hands three times. That was the extent of our dates. I don't even think we even hugged. You have to teach yourself, which is unfortunate. You learn through experience, I found at least. And usually you don't really learn until after you've come out, in terms of dating goes, in terms of how that goes. Matthew Harris 4 But I will say though, there is also something liberating about coming out of the closet. I mean, I felt like I was in a cage, when I was in the closet. I couldn't be who I really was and it's difficult. I remember it was monumental. It was terrifying to come out, but my life has been all the better for it, I think. And I feel a richer human being because of it. And I think the important thing is to, if you're worried about coming out that maybe your friends won't support you or some of your friends, if they were really your friends, they would support you through anything. Honestly, one of the best decisions of my life was coming out. But don't come out if you don't think it's safe with your home life. But in terms of talking to friends, I usually say, if you were to come out, come out to your friends first. And then if it goes well and you feel comfortable, come out to your parents. But it'll be easier to come out to your parents if you come out to your friends first, because you'll have that support and it won't be as difficult or as frightening, if that makes sense. KT: Yeah. MH: You already have their support. KT: Okay. Well, I think this is going to conclude our interview today. Thank you so much for doing this with me again, Matthew. MH: You're welcome, Kassie. KT: And I'll talk to you in a little bit to get you to sign the other part of the form, so I can get that turned in. MH: Okay. Sounds good.