Young, blond, white man with facial hair smiles at camera, wears a tuxedo and bowtie

Their Story Taken Away

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By Sarah Gudenau

Ethan Demarest (he/they) is a self-proclaimed “open book.” They’re an active university student with an incredible path ahead of them. Ethan opens up about a significant chapter in particular — their experience coming out in eighth grade.

Physics major and vice president of the Ballroom and Latin Dance Club, Ethan is an asset to Oakland University (OU). They’ve got big plans on the horizon; for starters, a summer internship at NASA, graduation from OU in the fall of 2022 and getting into Michigan State University’s program for astronomy and astrophysics, all the while hopefully having opportunities to continue pursuing their passion for ballroom dancing alongside their studies.

Another significant part of Ethan’s life is their identity — they’re gay, and that has been a pretty impactful aspect of their journey growing up.

Growing up as a kid in Livonia, Michigan, in the back of their head, Ethan always knew they were a bit different from the people around them. In middle school, their guy friends started talking about their feelings for girls together. “I don’t have those,” thought Ethan.

They realized they had feelings for boys, not girls. There was no real definitive moment where they knew. They just knew that they had always found boys attractive and one day it just dawned on them that it made sense.

In the fall of eighth grade, they decided to tell someone — someone who they considered their best friend at the time. They confided in her and told her they weren’t ready to talk about it with anyone else at that time and asked her to please keep it a secret.

As it turns out, it wasn’t their choice. She told everyone at school. She even shared that Ethan liked a certain boy, a straight boy in their class. Ethan’s brother attended the same middle school and the buzz certainly didn’t escape him. “Obviously, he has ears,” said Ethan.

Ethan knew that at some point, eventually it’s going to slip out now that their brother and whole middle school knew they were gay. They decided it was time to sit down with their parents. They were nervous to tell them, but in the back of their mind, they always knew that their parents would be supportive, and thankfully, they were and are.

The kids at school, however, were a different story. In the area where they grew up, there were many unaccepting conservative people, an ideology that was passed to many students at the middle school. “It was very much 50/50,” Ethan said. The girls were completely fine with it, and Ethan’s guy friends didn’t care, but some of the other boys started to make fun of them.

The bullying didn’t come to physical violence, mostly because Ethan was bigger and stronger than their classmates, but there was a lot of psychological bullying going on.

I’m not going to lie, some of the boys there made my life a living hell.

After eighth grade, Ethan went on to high school, attending the local performing arts school while the majority of his middle school class went to the high school with an international baccalaureate program.

Ethan’s experience coming out, something that was supposed to be entirely their own, had been ripped away from them. Despite that, they remain optimistic.

It sucked during the time when I wasn’t able to come out on my own, but I think it made me a stronger person and I was thinking about coming out later that year anyway so the timing wasn’t too off.

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