Nathan Fort was just beginning to open up about who he really is when, without warning, his path towards self-acceptance was split open by a cruel chasm.
But his strength and determination proved to be stronger forces than he could have imagined.
Growing up gay in rural Arkansas is never ideal, but those were the cards Nathan was dealt.
“Growing up I was inculcated with the belief that ‘gay’ automatically meant ‘going to hell,’ he writes in a first-person post on OutSports.
It’s easy to fill in the next parts — confusion, denial, loneliness and self-hatred set in through adolescence and high school.
In a religious town of only 1,300 people, finding yourself against the grain is an uphill battle.
When Nathan began to excel at basketball, he suddenly went from “that weird kid” to being noticed and accepted, but even that couldn’t solve the underlying issue.
Often, LGBTQ kids aren’t able to blossom until they leave their parents’ home for college, and Nathan was certainly on that track.
Even though he left for a Bible school only an hour away from home, the distance helped him grow courage to explore what was going on inside.
Things were looking up.
“After my sophomore year at Bethel, I worked up the courage to try a gay club, just to see what the gay scene was like,” he writes. “There I met a very nice guy who lived near me who wanted to take me out. We left the club together, my heart beating fast, excited and nervous about what the night might hold.”
But what sounds like the start of a tear-jerking coming of age story turned into a nightmare.