Today is a good day. Although there is rain beating loudly against the A/C unit lodged in my bedroom window and my back is slightly sore from a week of lifting heavy packages at my warehouse job, rest assured – today is a good day. It’s a good day because I can finally, after years of struggling, look in the mirror and be proud of who I really am. My name is Chad. I’m a metal head; an avid football fan; music collector and a recently out gay man who happens to run a blog on thrash metal. Normally I wouldn’t share a major aspect of my life with a bunch of strangers on the internet, to be honest I just recently opened up to my family and close friends about this part of my life. So why am I sharing this with you? I’m sharing this because I feel my story of personal struggle and triumphant is one that needs to be shared with others, not only to raise awareness about these struggles but to help someone like me who might be struggling with the very same issues I faced growing up. As you’ll read I spent years of my life running from my true self which lead to nothing but pain and misery. My only escape for years was a genre of music called heavy metal; and even that at times caused me pain. Through the ups and downs as a closeted teen in a conservative town my only constant was heavy metal. Without the crunching riffs and blazing solos I don’t know where I would be today – or even if I would be here today.
Flashback to the summer of 2005. I was a fifteen year old who just finished his freshman year of high school and was looking forward to spending an entire summer doing nothing but hanging out with my two good friends, Randy and Tom. You see I lived (still do in fact) right up the road from Tom. Flashing back even further now I spent just about every weekend as a child hanging out with Tom and his younger sister Kristen with my older brother Roger. The four of us would drink soda, play soccer and trade pokemon cards. Years went by like they do and eventually I stopped hanging out with Tom and his younger sister Kristen. In sixth grade I started to hang out with a different group of kids, that’s the year I met Randy. I always thought of him as the class clown and never paid much attention to him. It wasn’t until ninth grade, three years after meeting him, I started hanging out with Randy on a regular basis. We were introduced through a group of mutual friends. My first words to him were “I don’t like you.”
Eventually I got over whatever problem I had with Randy and we became close friends our freshman year of high school. One day we were talking as friends do and we discovered we had a mutual friend in Tom. Turns out when Tom wasn’t flipping pokemon cards with me he was at his grandmother’s house riding bikes with the kid who lived across the street. This kid just so happened to be Randy. It was the end of the school year and the three of us were hanging out after school just about everyday. I don’t know who, but someone suggested we should all hang out in the summer. Since none of us had a job at the time we agreed and began to countdown the days until school ended. School finally came to a close and the three of us began meeting at Tom’s house everyday. It was the perfect location, I lived right up the street, Randy lived less than a mile away, plus it was the only house that had a central air conditioning system.
For the next several weeks the three of us did nothing but eat junk food, talk about girls (as most teenagers do) and listen to this strange new music I never heard before – heavy metal. Of course now I can say I spent my entire summer listening to the greatest genre of music in the world but at that time this was something foreign to me. In between cramming our faces and playing “who’s hot and who’s not” (again, teenagers) Randy and Tom would flip through CD’s and talk about starting a band. Both played guitar but neither we very good at all. I didn’t want to be the one who told them this because they were my friends, plus I was still trying to figure out this music they were listening to. “Why are they screaming?” I would ask them “because it’s metal and they’re pissed off” is what they would say in response. For two months we listened to nothing but System of a Down, Slipknot, Children of Bodom and whoever else Randy and Tom felt like listening to. On Friday nights we would go to the mall because there was nothing else to do in our town. Every week Randy and Tom would head into FYE and go straight to the metal section. Once there the two of them would flip through the CD’s talking about bands and scanning CD’s to listen to. They would always bang their heads while listening to these bands I never even knew existed. To be honest it was kind of embarrassing at the time. Here I was standing there next to these two idiots bopping their heads up and down listening to what I thought was nothing more than screaming psychopaths. Finally one week I asked “why are you banging your heads? You look stupid” Tom turned to me looked me square in the eyes and said “we’re metal heads. We don’t give a shit what you think we look like.” I quickly changed the subject.
From that night on, I wanted to know all about this “heavy metal” so I did what any curious teenager does – I went on the internet. Randy and Tom were always talking about this song they were gonna cover when they got their band together: Needled 24/7 by Children of Bodom. I can’t remember listening to the song at Tom’s all I remember is those two never shut up about it and thinking to myself “I gotta hear this song.” Finally one day after we all parted ways I went home downloaded the track using Bear Share. My palms were sweating in anticipation watching the download complete until finally it was done. I quickly opened the file using Window’s Media Player and was blown away. It was the greatest thing I ever heard. I don’t know how many times I hit replay but it was quite a few until my mother finally came downstairs and told me to “turn that noise off.” It was only one song but it was all I needed, I was hooked. The next day I remember walking down to Tom’s house as face as I could. Once there I opened the front door and discovered Randy and Tom sitting by Tom’s family computer waiting for me. I closed the door and said “I listened to Needled 24/7, it’s awesome!” The two just looked at me like “well, duh!”
That magical summer finally ended but I was officially on the path of becoming a metal head. In fall of tenth grade I began downloading as much metal as I could. I was a broke teenager who needed his “fix” so I would walk around school and look at the band t-shirts the metal heads were wearing. This was 2005 so most kids around my age were into Slipknot, Disturbed, Trivium and System of a Down. I hardly knew anything, all I knew was I needed as much metal as I could possibly find. As the school year progressed something happened between me, Tom and Randy. Looking back on it I don’t remember what it was exactly but I’m pretty sure it was about a girl. I’m pretty sure Tom was trying to act macho to impress this chick who my other friend had a thing for and I got fed up with his act. Him and Randy were always running their mouths whether it was about starting a band or about how tough they were. Eventually I had enough of their shit and moved on. I don’t regret walking away from the friendship, but I wish things ended better between the three of us. Things were pretty nasty for a while, there were threats and verbal exchanges, petty shit really. I wish none of it ever happened. I quickly forgot about all the good times the three of us shared and moved on with my life. The only thing I didn’t forget about that summer was the music – heavy metal.
Eventually the bullshit between Randy, Tom and I passed and we all moved on with our lives. By this point in my life I was focused on school and listening to as much heavy metal as I could. At some point during my sophomore year in high school my mother made me complete the 120 “service learning” hours required to graduate high school at the local Goodwill Store down the road from my house. Of course I didn’t want to do it, what teenager does. But I did and eventually it landed me my first job, a job I would keep for more than six years.
Throughout this time I began to feel different from everybody else. It wasn’t because I was listening to a different genre of music or because I started wearing band shirts and growing my hair out. It was something else. While most of my friends began dating girls, I noticed myself losing interest in them. We’d all stand around in a circle in between classes and talk. It always seemed that some how, some way the conversation would get changed to the topic of girls. I felt like I couldn’t relate to my friends anymore. “Who’s hot and who’s not” became nothing more than a moment of silence for me, I would just stand there and smile and nod my head in agreement with my friends or I would simply slip away. At this point I wasn’t feel any sort of attraction to anyone at all. I tried not to think about it to be honest. I simply focused on school work, work work and listening to heavy metal. By this time I was into heavier bands like Lamb of God and Pantera and I was officially calling myself a metal head. Everything was going great for me. I was doing well in school and I was making decent money (for a high school kid) at my job. I ignored the whole being less attracted to girls thing. I remember thinking “I’m too busy with work and school to be dating anyway.”
My job at the local Goodwill was the best thing that ever happened to me during my high school years. It provided a much needed distraction from my future struggles and when I was there I discovered some of the best damn music ever created. You see, one of my co-workers was an English man who was 20-some-odd years older than me named Owen. Owen grew up during the 1980’s which many of you know (and I would soon discover) was the golden age of metal. I connected instantly with Owen. We both listened to the same type of music and we both had the same work ethic. We worked the same hours so naturally we started talking about our passion for metal. Owen would tell me stories about growing up in the 80’s and explain to me how the music evolved and I would tell Owen about what was happening with the modern day metal scene since he had lost touch with things due to moving to America and working 2-3 jobs in order to make ends meet. We swapped CD’s and he gave me a list of bands I “needed to check out.” Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and King Diamond were all on the list. From that point on Slipknot, Disturbed and even Lamb of God were all a thing of the past. I was finally listening to the “classics” as Owen would say. I was making money and buying CD’s like a madman, crossing albums off Owen’s list left and right. He would tell me the name of a band or an album and I would buy it and then burn him a copy. Every week I would hand him a batch of 3-5 CD’s and he would go “I haven’t heard this album in years!” then plug in a stereo and we’d listen to some killer fucking tunes while we did our days work. No one cared as long as we were getting we had to do done, although we were asked to lower the volume from time to time!
While things at work were going great for me things at school were deteriorating. I felt myself becoming more and more disconnected each day. It was horrible. While all my friends we starting to date and talk about girls I was there desperately trying to change the subject or walking away. Looking back on it I don’t think anyone noticed these things, if they did they certainly didn’t say anything. At the time I didn’t know what was going on, I just knew no one else I was friends with was going through it.
It was sometime during tenth grade that I found myself attracted to a member of the wrestling team. “He’s kind of cute” I would think to myself followed quickly by “no, no, that’s not right at all.” It was during this time all my friends were crushing on this one girl named Rachel. “She’s cute I thought” and truth be told – she was. I just didn’t see her the same way my friends saw her. I however felt an immense amount of internal pressure to see what my friends saw. “Those feelings I had about the boy on the wrestling team, I need to feel that way about her. I shouldn’t find another man attractive, that doesn’t make any sense.” I remember thinking. God damn it if I didn’t try like hell to have these feelings about sweet Rachel. I convinced everyone close to me that I found this girl to be sexually attractive, people thought I was head over heels for this chick. That’s exactly what I wanted them to think too. By this point in my life paranoia was starting to set in. I was afraid someone was going to notice me slipping away or changing the subject and that rumors about me being gay would spread. That was the last thing I wanted. Honestly at the time I had no idea what it meant to be gay, I just knew that if somebody didn’t like something that something was “gay” or if you disagreed with someone you were a “faggot.” I thought why would I want to be something that people hated? Nobody wants that. So instead of embracing who I was I buried it. I tried my best to flirt with Rachel and keep up the illusion of a straight male. I even asked her out but she rejected me. It’s probably because I was so awkward around her and honestly who would want to date a creep? Looking back on it I’m not sure what I would have done if she said yes. In hindsight I’m glad she said no but at the time I was completely devastated. The illusion I tried so hard to pull off failed miserably and my feelings about men weren’t going away. School was winding down and I went into isolation that entire summer. I didn’t talk to any of my friends from school. All I did was work and listen to metal.
As you might imagine the summer of 2006 nothing short of miserable for me. No one knew I was hiding or what I was hiding from. I always put on a really good front, rock solid in fact. That summer Owen and I would go to FYE on our days off and spend hours flipping through the metal section and the “used” section buying whatever metal albums we could get our hands on. One day we while at work he calls me over and says “I’ve got something for you but I don’t know if your parents would like you listening to this stuff. It’s kind of evil.” He had no idea about my isolation or how desperate I was to feel better. “I don’t care what they think. What do you got?” I was like a drug addict. I needed a fix and I didn’t care what it was that gave it to me. The heavier and more evil it is the better I thought. He went into his backpack and pulled out Deicide’s Scars of the Crucifix. “Go home and listen to this!” I did exactly that and I was blown away. This was the first death metal album I heard and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – I loved every minute of that album, still do in fact. It’s exactly what I needed to hear at that time. Somehow Glen Benton’s demonic howling and the bands intense music made me feel better. It didn’t change how I was feeling but this dark “evil” music helped put a smile on my face. I began to explore the world of death metal and spent countless hours that summer listening to bands like Morbid Angel, Grave, Obituary, Death and Deicide just to name a few. The longer my isolation went on the heavier the music seemed to get. I can only imagine what my parents were probably thinking at the time, they were probably scared to death. Here’s their son sitting in his room all day listening to death metal, only coming out to eat, shit and work. But again I put up a rock solid front, they probably thought it was just a phase. I knew the music was more than just a phase but I was hoping the very feelings that led me to my summer of isolation were exactly that – a phase.
School started again in the fall I did my best to reconnect with everyone I isolated myself from for the past two months. When people asked where I was I would simply say I was working and change the subject. Everyone knew I had a job so no one questioned it, they all just accepted it and moved on. As the school year progressed the feelings I spent an entire summer trying to escape from came back once agin. I couldn’t accept this because I didn’t want to accept this. I hated these feelings. I once again found myself trying to convince not only the people around me but myself that I was straight. I did a pretty good job of it too. I convinced a close friend I was attracted to this girl named Ashton. “Why don’t you talk to her?” he asked “what if she doesn’t like me? You remember what happened with Rachel, I don’t want that to happen again.” I said. This went on for a few months until eventually I stopped bringing it up. He never brought it up again either and we both just moved on with our lives. The fact is I struggled to talk to women. It sounds stupid but I wasn’t capable of having a normal conversation with a girl at that time. I saw how my friends talked to girls and how they carried themselves around women. Most were trying to get laid and “presented” themselves in a very confident manner that appeared to come very natural to them. I tried to be like that. I tried to be the smooth talker – the ladies man if you will. The problem was it wasn’t natural to me. In trying to convince everyone I was straight I had developed a sexist way of looking at women without even realizing it. I look back on it now and I’m completely disgusted with myself but at the time I didn’t think anything of it. I was desperate to be like everyone else.
I was slowly falling apart. I was miserable and depressed all the time. I would get home from school and go straight to bed. Then I would wake up and go to work, come home and do my homework and listen to metal until I fell asleep sometime after midnight. I was late for school almost every day because I was up all night listening to music. My grades were fine and I appeared to be okay (remember, rock solid front) so my parents never really got on my case about any of it. I knew something had to change but instead of talking about my issues I just buried them deeper and deeper. Everyone thought I was straight and that’s all I really cared about. That and metal.
School finally ended and by this point a few of my friends already had their driver licenses which was great. When I wasn’t working I was in a friends car driving around aimlessly listening to Megadeth and King Diamond. My close friends weren’t metal heads but they’ve always known how much I love metal so they never really seemed to care, if they did they never said anything to me about it. We’d drive around for hours just bullshitting about nothing. We’d go to diners and fast food joints, eat shitty food and then drive around some more, all this while listening to the music I loved. I loved that summer. Sometimes someone would bring up girls and I would just sit their quietly until the conversation shifted to another topic, again no one seemed to notice my lack of participation during these conversations. Like all good things, that summer came to an end. It was finally time to start my senior year of high school. Finally I would be out of that hell hole I thought. Most of the kids in my class were talking about what they would be doing after they graduated and I never even thought about it. How was I supposed to know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life when I didn’t even want to be me? My attraction towards the same sex was stronger than ever and I hated myself for it. The only thing I had going for me was my music. I was more in love with heavy metal than I had ever been before. At this point I was wearing nothing but band shirts and my hair was almost down to my shoulders. Of course this made me feel like even more of an outcast in some ways but I didn’t give a shit, I was a metal head and damn proud of it.
September my senior year of high was when I went to my first metal show. Machine Head and Arch Enemy at the then Nokia Theater in Times Square New York City. It was a Saturday and me and Owen both took off from work to hop a train down to the big Apple. It was Owen’s first metal show in the United States and we were both on cloud 9. Here we are, two eager metal heads standing on line in Times Square waiting to see what would be an unforgettable show when I heard it: “that band’s gay.” I don’t know what band they were talking about but it didn’t matter, hearing that destroyed me. On the outside I couldn’t have appeared any happier but on the inside, I was devastated. The only other person I knew who shared my passion for heavy metal was Owen and the two of us would never talk about bands like that. If we didn’t like something we would simply turn it off and move onto the next thing. I couldn’t believe it. I ran from my feelings rather than facing them because I felt like everyone around me thought “gay” was a bad thing. I got lost in the world of heavy metal and now I discovered the people who share the same interest – the same passion – as me also felt this way about gay people. I felt horrible. The doors opened and we all filed in. The show was great, I loved every minute of it. But I’ll never forget those words. Unfortunately I would soon discover this wasn’t an isolated incident. This is common talk in the world of metal and society in general. At that point I realized people didn’t care what the word gay really meant, it was just another verb to them. I would tell you that it didn’t effect me but then I would be lying to you all. That word and a few others caused me more pain than anything. Every time I heard that word used in a derogatory sense, especially at a metal show – it killed me. Still does in fact.
I eventually got my license and pretty soon I was driving around aimlessly listen to music in my own car. Instead of stopping at fast food joints though, I would drive between my local FYE and the one located in Danbury, Connecticut, which was just a thirty minute drive east from where I lived. I got lost in the music. I was buying whatever I could get my hands on. It didn’t matter if it was thrash, death, black or doom. If it was heavy, I bought it. I don’t know how many CD’s I bought that year but I know it was a lot. I loved it. All the employees knew who I was and everyone left me alone. Sometimes the people working at the store would hold albums behind the counter for me and when I walked up to pay for the two or three albums I picked out on my own they would ask if I was interested in the albums they held back. The answer was always yes.
My senior year of high school passed by in the blink of an eye. I made no real decision about life after school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. How could I? I spent all those years hiding from myself. While my friends were filling out college applications and writing college essays I was sitting on my computer looking for new and exciting music to listen to. The whole “new wave of thrash metal” was really exploding at this time I was all jazzed up about it. Over the years I had become a huge thrash metal fan, it was my favorite of all the subgenres of metal, I simply couldn’t get enough of it. Owen would always share stories with me about the first wave of thrash metal after work and I would sit there in awe. “I wish I coulda been there man” I would say “you would of loved it” he would reply. Since there was no way of going back in time I settled for the next best thing and that was the new wave of thrash metal. Merciless Death, Fueled by Fire, Hatchet, Avenger of Blood, Warbringer, Lich King and Bonded by Blood were just some of the bands I loved. I have memories of sitting in my school’s computer lab reading a review of Avenger of Blood’s Thrash Brigade album. My friend looked at my computer screen and asked “aren’t you going to do research of that paper we have to write?” I simply replied “what’s the point?” and continued my reading. In hindsight doing things like this was probably the dumbest possible thing I could have been doing. I should have buckled down and at least tried to get my shit together but I was so fucked up I couldn’t be bothered. Instead I just dove further into the world of thrash metal. I was excited about the music but that was about it. School ended and I finally had my diploma but that was about it. I had no sense of accomplishment, no sense of pride. All my friends would be heading off to college in the fall and I was gearing up to start a warehouse job. I was jealous of them. I almost hated them for being so damn happy. Looking back on it of course it’s stupid I felt this way, they were my friends. Some of them still are. Instead of being happy for them I became envious and spiteful. They knew what they wanted out of life and were about to start the next chapter of their lives and here I was a complete mess unwilling to accept the truth. I hated me. I would have given anything to be someone other than me. It was that mentality that would lead me down even darker roads than the one I was already on. I thought after I graduated I was at rock bottom. If only that were true.
I graduated in 2008 and the next three years were pretty empty. I started working at a warehouse right after I graduated high school. It’s a good job with great benefits that I still have to this day. It was hard at first, and not just the physical aspect of it. I work with mostly men and in the beginning this was hard to deal with, I had a real fear that I would find one of my coworkers attractive. I didn’t want these feelings to beginning with, I spent my life running from them. I knew if I had an attraction towards someone I would be miserable just like I was in high school. Fortunately these feelings never emerged and my new co-workers and I were able to quickly form a friendship that remains in place with to this day.
From 2008 until 2011 my days were pretty much uneventful. I would wake up; go to my warehouse job; get home; hop in the shower; go to my second job at the Goodwill; come home and listen to metal. I refer to these three years as my “treading water” years. That’s basically what I was doing. I was busting my ass and I wasn’t getting any where. I didn’t have a social life because all my friends were away at college. All I did was work. The music got me through these years. I went to a ton of concerts and began buying music on iTunes. That doesn’t sound like a lot but honestly it was all I had. Finally I began to snap. The two job grind was getting old and something needed to change. In 2011 I began to resent Goodwill. The job I had since I was fifteen years old wasn’t getting me any where. They were paying me eight dollars an hour to basically run the store and I couldn’t take it anymore. To be honest it was never a good job. The only reason I kept it was because I liked the people I worked with. However by this point in 2011 I had grown to loathe just about everyone in that place. Owen had left the previous year to move back home to England and sadly I haven’t heard from him since. I didn’t have time to worry about broken friendships though – I needed too worry about my life. In spring 2011 I was at wits end. I gave my manager at Goodwill my two week notice and got the hell out of that place. As a result a ton of time opened up and it needed to be filled. I told myself I was going to work out, learn to play and instrument and maybe even do a little traveling. Hell, going back to school was even an option at that point. None of these things happened though. I was too tired and depressed and didn’t feel like doing anything. My old habits of sleeping to avoid the misery took over and I eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, I needed a way out.
I thought about joining the military soon after quitting Goodwill. You see there was a Marines recruitment center two towns over from where I lived and I drove by it just about every day. I never had any desire to join the armed forces growing up but I saw this as a way out – an escape from the life I was currently living. I figured even Iraq or Afghanistan had to be better than this shit. One day I woke up and said to myself “fuck it. I’m joining.” I got into my car and started driving towards the recruitment center. I decided to listen to some Warbringer on my way there. The band had become one of my favorites out of the whole new wave of thrash and their 2009 album is probably one of my favorite albums of all time. I began driving to the recruitment center ready to essentially sign my life away when I got stuck in traffic at a red light just a few miles from my destination. With nothing else to do I began to listen more closely to the music. The track “Forgotten Dead” was playing and as I sat there in traffic listening to John Kevill describe the horrors of war I had a moment of clarity: “Iraq and Afghanistan are way worse. Once the light turned green I made a left into a shopping center rather than head straight towards the recruitment center. I ate a chicken sandwich from Wendy’s and never thought about joining the military again. In hindsight even thinking about joining the military was stupid. Here I was, a deeply closeted gay guy thinking about joining the United States Armed Forces. That’s the equivalent of Porky the pig getting the job at a slaughter house – it doesn’t make any sense at all. Looking back on the whole situation I can honestly say if it wasn’t for Warbringer I would have signed on the dotted line and God only knows where I would be today.
The rest of 2011 passed by uneventful. I worked my warehouse job; I went to a few shows; and I constantly listened to metal. One day towards the end of that year I was texting back and forth with my friend Tom D. (not the guy who got me into metal, a different Tom) We were catching up since he was on break from school, he asked what I’ve been up to. “Nothing” I said “mainly sleeping, working and music. That’s it.” I think he was kind of shocked to hear this. He knew I was struggling with things but I never told him those “things” I was struggling with was coming to terms with my sexuality and fearing that everyone around me would reject the real me. I don’t think he knew just how bad I was, no one did. He suggested that I find something to do with all my free time, that the reason I was feeling like shit was because I was just laying around all the time. I thought he might be on to something and figured I had nothing to lose. “I think I’m gonna start a blog on thrash metal” I wrote in a text, “go for it” he shot back. In January of 2012 I started Global Thrash Assault. I figured I would only write one or two things over the course of a week or two and then get swallowed by my emotions again and forget the whole thing. As it turns out I was wrong. I immediately got a response and things only got bigger from that point on. I never considered myself a writer, I still don’t. Those early blog posts were riddled with grammatical errors and typos like you wouldn’t believe but people didn’t give a shit. Bands were sending me demos from around the world and my audience was getting bigger and bigger every day. I loved it. While I was pushing the entire LGBT community away I was being embraced by the thrash metal community. I was that guy who ran Global Thrash Assault, people knew me from around the world, bands from Australia wanted to be featured on my site. No one gave a shit what I looked like or that I was secretly gay, all they cared about was the music, the very same music that I loved. Starting Global Thrash Assault was the best decision I made in years. If it wasn’t for this blog I don’t know where I would be today.
I rode the Global Thrash Assault wave for six months, I was updating the site at least once, maybe even two or three times a day. Things were going great until I started drinking in June of 2012. I had been drinking since I turned 21 the previous year but up until this point in my life it was never an issue. I was constantly working on Global Thrash Assault and I was truly enjoying myself, however I began to think I was a failure in life. It was four years after I graduated high school and all my friends I had gone to school with had just graduated from college. As they all began talking about starting the next chapter in their life I was in the same place I was four years ago. All my friends had college degrees and just about everyone was in a steady relationship. I started feeling isolated from everyone. It seemed like no one wanted to hang out with me, they were all to busy spending time with their girl friends or going off on trips with their old college roommates. I felt like the only time anyone wanted to hang out or even talk to me was when there was nothing else to do. I stopped updating Global Thrash Assault, the excitement was gone, replaced by the misery that plagued me for years, only this time it was much, much worse. It was either drink or cry so I drank. What used to be the occasional beer or gin and tonic during the summer became a 12 pack a day. I stopped doing everything I loved. The blog became an internet dead zone and I pretty much stopped following the music scene that I loved. I was essentially a zombie. The second the clocked struck noon my first beer would be opened and that went on all day everyday for nearly three months. I knew I had a problem, I just didn’t know how to stop. Eventually I reached out. I texted my buddy Tom D. who has been by my side through thick and thin for as long as I can remember. “I think I’m an alcoholic. In fact I know I am.” I wrote. “You need to quit, you’re going to ruin your life and end up dead. Your parents are going to lay in bed at night and wonder where they went wrong. Is that what you want? You’re better than that, Chad.” he immediately replied back. His words shook me. Even though I was reading them on a screen I knew he was dead serious. I went cold turkey on the booze and began picking myself up. I got back into the music and started to update Global Thrash Assault again. I still drink but not like that, I’ll never drink like that again. I lost three months of my life and if I hadn’t reached out to a caring friend I would have probably lost a lot more.
I started hanging out with my friends more after that. I don’t know if word about my problem got around or if their schedules just cleared up, but I didn’t care. I was with friends and life was slowly getting better. In 2013 I thought I was finally on the rebound after years of depression. The blog was doing great and I was seriously considering going back to school, but for some reason I never did go back to school that year. Every time I began looking at classes and filling out applications I became overwhelmed and ended up not following through with any of it. My family and friends began to wonder what I was going to do for the rest of my life. My mother and even a few friends from work would say things like “you’re a smart guy, Chad. Why don’t you go back to school. You can get a degree and meet new people, maybe even a nice girl and settle down.” I couldn’t take it anymore. I had been living a lie for far too long and I wanted out. Thoughts of suicide were creeping into my head. That’s how fucked up I was. Jumping off a bridge was a better option in my head than opening up to my parents and close friends about the struggles I was going through for years. I thought any thing was better than admitting I was gay. I began developing a plan, I had it all figured out: I would drive my car into a flooded out dam, the car would sink with me inside and no one would ever find me. It was perfect I thought. I drove by the flooded out dam constantly contemplating whether or not this would be the day that I drown away my sorrows. This went on for a few weeks until one day I finally woke the fuck up. I thought about the people in my life who meant everything to me and realized I was the most selfish prick on the face of the earth. I pushed whatever thoughts of suicide I had out of my head and finally began opening up to the only person I thought I could trust, Tom D. I told him in mid 2013 about my suicidal thoughts. He was shocked, concerned and angered. “Why would you do that? What’s going on with you, Chad?” He said to me. The following conversation took place:
Me: I feel like a failure. I want what you have. I want a bright future and a steady girlfriend.
Tom D: How are you going to get those things if you don’t go back to school? It’s not too late to do so. Stop worrying about getting a girlfriend. You’ll meet the right person when the time is right.
Me: I can’t talk to girls, man. The whole Rachel thing really messed me up.
Tom D: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! That was years ago, Chad.
Tom D: There’s something you’re not telling me. I don’t know what it is but it’s messing you up big time. When your ready to talk about it let me know and we’ll talk.
After that conversation I knew I had to start piecing my life back together. In order to do this though I had to start accepting myself . This was something easier said than done. Deep down I knew I was gay, the feelings I had were undeniable. Even though I knew I was gay I didn’t think I could be gay. I was a metal head – I was the complete opposite of gay in my mind. I remember thinking what gay person loves Slayer? I thought back to my first concert and remembered hearing the words “that band is gay” I remembered hearing these words uttered at just about every concert I’ve ever been to. I read through some of the comments on the Global Thrash Assault page: “this band sucks dick” “that vocalist is a fag.” I remember thinking about how much I loved metal and how if I came out of the closet I would have to stop listening to the music that I loved because I would no longer fit in with that crowd. I didn’t want that. I was afraid what would happen if I did finally step out of the closet, but I knew something had to give.
In late 2013 I was as lost as I had ever been. Not knowing where else to turn I took to the internet. I found a bunch of online support groups that had stories of people just like me. I soon discovered being gay wasn’t a lifestyle or a choice. Lots of people, in every aspect of life – business, construction, music, teaching, sports or whatever else – were gay. I read story after story and it was then that I finally realized I wasn’t the only person struggling to accept myself. It was then that I realized that I can be gay and love heavy metal, that the two had absolutely nothing to do with one another. All the stereotypes were bullshit. I finally started to accept the real authentic me. I hadn’t felt this good in years.
In early 2014 I decided I was going to come out to my family and close friends. For those of you who don’t think a gay person coming out of the closet is a big deal: you’re dead wrong. It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. For weeks I struggled to find the right words. I spent so long and went to such great lengths hiding this aspect of my life that I was afraid people wouldn’t believe the truth or would be angered by the fact I lied to them for all these years. I decided to come out to my most trustworthy friend first: Tom D. After I opened up to him about my thoughts of suicide he really took time out of his schedule to listen to my struggles and lend whatever advice he could. One day the two of us were driving to met our friend Tim for dinner and drinks and I began to open up about my sexuality. We got held up in traffic trying to cross the Tappen Zee Bridge during rush hour and we really go to talking. I explained to him the struggle and and fear and started talking about my feelings when suddenly I got choked up. I wanted to come out then but my emotions got the best of me and like a good friend Tom changed the subject. We finally made it through the traffic and met up with Tim. The three of us hadn’t hung out together in months and it was really nice to catch up. We hung out for hours ordering drinks and talking about whatever. I wanted to just come out with it right then and there but I was afraid Tim wouldn’t be as accepting and understanding as Tom so I kept my mouth shut. It was getting late and we all decided to part ways. I got in Tom’s car and he started driving towards the highway to head home. It was then that I finally came up with the courage to tell my dear friend the truth I’d been hiding for years.
“Tom, I’m gay”
His reaction couldn’t have been better. He very understanding and listened to everything I had to say. He had a few questions which I knew he would but he wasn’t disrespectful or invasive at all. His only real concern was listening to what I had to say.
Over the next several weeks Tom helped me come out to my family. He assured me that they would still love me regardless of my sexual orientation and listened to every word I had to say. He understood this wasn’t easy for me but pushed me to do it. “It’ll never get better if you don’t” he told me constantly. I decided I was going to come out to my parents on Easter Sunday, when the family would be together. The Friday before I texted my brother and asked if he wouldn’t mind sticking around after Easter dinner because I have something to say.
“What’s this announcement?” he asked
“I’m gay. I’ve known since tenth grade and I want to get it of my chest and move on with my life.” I replied back
“Sorry to force it out of you like that. Whatever you need. Just let me know.”
After our Easter guests had left my immediate family all sat down and began to talk. We hardly see my brother since he lives down in the city and is constantly working. Naturally the conversation shifted towards him. I sat their quietly, my palms sweating, waiting for an opportunity to finally get the immense weight that I’ve been carrying around for years off my shoulders. Finally there was a break in the conversation.
“I have an announcement.” I blurted out.
“What is it?” My father asked.
“I don’t know how to say this so I’m just gonna say it. I’m gay.”
The room went quiet for a moment and then my father replied “okay” A series of questioning then took place and I explained to my parents that this aspect of my life didn’t define who I am. They understood and assured me that I’m still their son and they’ll love me no matter what. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved. After all those years I was finally out.
A few weeks later I was with my good friend Tim having a few drinks at our favorite brew pub, the Peekskill Brewery. Tim was the last good friend I had that I hadn’t come out to and it was weighing on me pretty hard. I needed to get this off my chest. For weeks Tom assured me that Tim wouldn’t care about the fact I was gay, but I was still afraid none the less. I initially didn’t want to come out in a public place like the Peekskill Brewery. I figured this was something very personal and that Tim was bound to have a few questions regarding the subject just like everyone else. It was the last night of the NFL Draft and the two of us were watching the television screen like hawks while catching up and discussing work and various other things. The New York Jets (my favorite football team) had just drafted quarterback Taijh Boyd from Clemson University. I was initially stoked about this because I watched Boyd play in college and loved what he could do with the football. Then I realized the Jets already have three quarterbacks on their roster and I sat on my bar stool wondering what the hell my favorite team was thinking and started to mentally prepare myself for another disappointing season. A few minutes passed by and I was still trying to comprehend what the Jets had just done, when suddenly I heard Tim say “good for him!” I snapped back to reality and asked Tim what he was talking about. It turns out Michael Sam had just become the first openly gay football player to be drafted. I was elated. Not only for Sam but about my friends reaction. I saw an opportunity to come out and I jumped on it.
Tim: Good for him. There’s no reason a gay person shouldn’t be able to play football. Someone’s sexual orientation doesn’t change how they play the game.
Me: Can I tell you something?
Me: I’m gay.
He was surprised like I knew he would be and he had a series of questions like I knew he would. In the end though he was just as understanding as everyone else. The monkey was finally off my back.
Originally I was only planning on telling the people near and dear to me that I was gay. However over the last several weeks certain events have taken place in America that led me to coming out on a more public platform. Several shootings over the last several weeks left many people in this country in a state of shock and disbelief. It also left many people fiercely defending their right to own a gun. In my experience these same people advocating for gun rights are also the ones advocating for “traditional marriage” while saying some pretty very hurtful and untrue things about gay people in general. I struggled with these issues for years and I’ve finally reached a point where I’ve accepted myself and have had enough with all the bullshit. Frustrated I went to my personal Facebook page and wrote a status that said:
“I can purchase a gun in more states than I can obtain a marriage license in. THERE’S A FUCKING PROBLEM HERE!”
With two sentences I was officially out of the closet to all my Facebook friends. Now, the only reason I’m on Facebook to begin with is to promote Global Thrash Assault and to keep up with the music I love listening to. Just about all my friends on Facebook are people I’ve never met from various bands throughout the world. After I posted this status I expected to see the number of people on my “friends list” dwindle but instead the opposite happened. I received nothing but support. The metal community that I had become such an active part of didn’t give a shit that I was gay. I was relieved, overjoyed in fact. People who I hardly know or have never met took time out of their life to read that status and write me messages of support. For nearly a decade I thought I wanted to be like everyone else but the entire time all I ever really wanted was to be accepted by everyone else, I just didn’t know it.
Hopefully you’ve all made it to the end of this post. I know it was a long and sometimes painful read. Trust me, it was a million times harder for me to write than it was for you to read. There’s about a thousand different things you could have taken away from this, but whatever it was, I hope it was positive. I hope you’re all inspired to create a world where no teenager has to live in a closet for years because of fear of rejection. I hope you all go on to stamp out the homophobia that exists not just in the metal community, but in our society as a whole. Perhaps the thing I’m hoping for most is that my story helps someone who is struggling with the very same issues I once struggled with. It’s okay to be gay. Being gay doesn’t make you a horrible person or someone that should be any less respected. If anyone tells you different, they’re wrong. Your sexual orientation doesn’t define who you are, your actions do.
Thank you for reading,