Stephen Hooper, social media personality and former model from Newfoundland and Labrador, shares his story on coming out and becoming an influential member of the LGBTQ2S+ community.
Who did you come out to?
“I always knew I was different, but I didn’t know what it was that made me different from everyone else. I started to question my sexuality when I was around the age of 11. I remember being 13 and telling my high school best friend on the phone that I was gay. It was the first time I ever said those words to anyone. If you’re coming out, it’s really important to make sure that you’re safe, and at that time, I felt so safe and confident to confide in my friend. I was so thankful to have said those words, and still have her be there by my side.”
What were you most worried about?
“In high school, your friends always talk about their crushes and who they find is cute, but I was always so afraid to mention mine, at fear of who I would lose, and what everyone would think/say about me. I felt like I was sitting on this secret, for a very long time, and I knew if I didn’t soon say it to someone, it would become damaging to me.”
“What helped me come to terms with being gay was definitely coming from such a loving family, and knowing at the end of the day, I have two loving parents who would never abandon me, and always love me. I was seeking guidance from the school counsellor and also from the team at Kids Help Phone. I didn’t know how my teenage years were going to play out, but thankfully I had an amazing support system, and knew I had to believe in myself. At the time, Ellen DeGeneres was also such a huge role model for me. I admire Ellen for having the strength to tell the world who she is as a person, and paving the way for others to do the same.”
What were some of the challenges?
“Some of my challenges were definitely related to coming from a very small community. I remember hearing negative criticism like being gay is a disease, or gay people burn in hell for making that choice. It was heartbreaking hearing this as a child because you want to be able to express yourself, but I was too scared to because I didn’t know what the kids at school or the neighbours or the congregation at church would say.
I grew up being a fashion model, and being from a small rural community that was hard enough, but to be surrounded by LGBTQ2S+ and LGBTQ2S+-friendly people all day, then to travel back to your hometown where you had to keep a secret, was very difficult for me and I knew I had to come to terms with my sexuality, and combine both of my worlds into one.”
What’s different now?
“I’m so happy that now I am out to everyone, and I’m so comfortable in my own skin. It’s so freeing to be able to be yourself and not hide a secret from the ones you love. I am much happier, and more goal-oriented now than I have ever been.”
What surprised you?
“I think what surprised me the most about coming out was seeing the love and support that so many people in my life had for me. I never felt that accepted before, so when they all found out and showered me with love, I was so thankful and happy.”
What are you hoping for in the future?
“I hope that our future continues to be accepting. We’ve come such a long way, but still have a long road ahead of us. I want the children and youth of our future to be loving, accepting and non-judgmental to all. To the LGBTQ2S+ children, I want you to know that you are perfect, beautiful and smart just the way you are, and to never let anyone make you feel or think otherwise. We need more love and less hate in this world. If any child out there is reading this and feels alone, I have been where you are and I know how you feel.”
Published June 2017