By Suzanne Smith - Staff Writer
He knew he was different ever since he was a little fella, knee-high to a grasshopper.
But he ignored it, tried to make it go away, got into trouble over it, then just about three weeks ago, 24-year old Greenville native Robert Warman reconciled with himself to accept just who he is, a homosexual, and live honestly, within his hometown.
His decision to "come out of the closet" was a long time in coming and something Warman says he doesn't take lightly.
Oh, he says, probably a lot of people knew anyway, but not everybody. And not his own family.
"I don't want to hurt my family or any of my friends -- I'm just stating how I am. And want to try and help other people," said Warman.
He's not a celebrity, with all the privilege that comes with that, and allows a gay an easier time in life.
He's a regular guy.
He wears plain shirts and jeans and works at a local mill.
He belongs to the Dusters Antique Auto Club in Harmony and drives a souped- up, bright red 1971 Buick Skylark. His family has long roots in Moosehead and, unlike other gay men and women from a small town, he didn't gravitate to a city. He stayed put.
Warman says he doesn't want to push his homosexuality on anyone, but doesn't want to live a lie either.
"I remember my mom always used to tell me "Honesty is the biggest thing -- If you do anything in your life, just be honest. If you lie, nobody can respect you' -- she installed that in me. Now I'm trying to live honest, and be treated just like anybody else," said Warman.
(Warman's mother died before she was told. His father knows and is supportive of his son.)
"I've know forever," he says about his being homosexual.
"But living in a small town with friends and stuff...you just try to hide it as much as possible and pray to God nobody finds out. That's the worst thing that could happen to you.
"In my view, being gay is not bad [morally wrong], but some people make it out to be a religious issue. But if God didn't want me to be this way, why did he make me this way?" he asks.
For years, accepting who he is was as difficult as trying to hide it from friends and family.
"I prayed for a miracle -- don't work. I went to a hypnotist -- don't work. I slept with a women -- don't work," said Warman, adding that he had some girlfriends, and liked them as people, but not "in that way".
He also wants to dispel the idea that homosexuality is something that can be "caught" like a cold.
"It's not a choice, though some people think it is," he said. "The majority of us are normal, everyday people who have a job and go on with life. Yes, there are bad homosexuals, just like there are bad straight people."
Warman's greatest concern is that teens have someone to talk to as they grow up so they don't go through some of the problems he has had. While living in a small town and growing up in a small school put him in a minority, he said he tried to fit in. In his graduating class there were two gays, he said. Warman stayed in the closest: the other guy didn't talk about it but didn't try to hide it either, he said.
"There's definitely gay and lesbians at the school," he noted.
"I feel for the kids that are in high school that have feelings -- and can't talk to anybody because they might get ridiculed, humiliated, or put down -- and not being able to accept their sexuality could lead to troubles, such as abusing alcohol or drugs, or hurting others," he said.
Warman said being gay and unaccepted, either is their own minds or from others, creates pressures on kids that can lead to suicide. He had know numerous young people who could not handle the strain of not being, or unable to be, "out" and ended up killing themselves.
"When you come out, it's the worst thing in the world," Warman said.
Ironically he went to the Reverend Roxy Moses of the United Methodist Church in the Junction when he got into some trouble and felt he had nowhere else to go and couldn't talk to family or friends.
"It's kind of funny, 'cause here it is, thought of as a religious issue, and where you end up going is to a minister. She was very under- standing and encouraged me to tell my farther, " he said.
Warman has been apolitical his whole life, but when the media- hounded, much-touted "Ellen" show aired, with the first-ever prime time story line with a lesbian outing herself, he said it encouraged him to do the same.
Warman now goes to monthly PFLAG meetings in Dover.
PFLAG stands for Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays and help to put useful, honest information out about being gay.
PFLAG also offers information about sexually transmitted diseases and who to use condoms.
Of sex, Warman said that he would like to see more education within schools.
"Parents don't realize it, but kids quite young are having sex," he said. Warman also decided to head down to Augusta during the Judiciary Committee hearings on L.D. 1116, the bill which makes it illegal to discriminate against people solely because of sexual orientation, often called the "gay right bill"
"I had an idea about what it meant but didn't completely know about it. It's the first time I ever got involved," he said.
Of the hearings, Warman said a lot of property owners and legislators were afraid of more control over rights to evict a bad tenant.
Of the bill, Warman call it "no special right, just equal rights" because of past discrimination against gays either in the workforce or over housing. He recalled a friend who had been asked directly if he was gay (an illegal question). The guy answered him 'yes' and asked if that would be a problem. The apartment owner said 'no, it isn't a problem' but the next day increased the quoted amount for rent which pushed the qay applicant past what he could afford.
"He was denied housing because of his sexuality," said Warman, and added that "the bill won't change job firings and housing issues. If a person want to fire you, they'll find another reason -- but being gay will be the real reason."
His feeling, he said, is if someone isn't doing a good job, they should be fired. But they shouldn't be fired just because of how they are -- it shouldn't be used as an issue.
"But just like anybody else, if they don't measure up to the job performance, fire them -- same as straight person," he said.
Most important to Warman after having a difficult time growing up, and even thinking about being, gay, is for parents to be loving to their children so that they don't have to hide who they are.
He also believes there should be some kind of program in school to help teach tolerance of differences.
"What you do in school very early on determines the outcome of what you do later on in life. If you make a lot of friends, study hard, do you school work -- you turn out to have a lot of self-esteem... But if you're kidding something about yourself, it's always hiding you down. you're gonna feel diminished and being to feel you're less of a person --and settle for less," said Warman.
...Some people make it out to be a religious issue.
But if God didn't want me to be this way, why did he make me this way? --
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