Minute in My Shoes: An LGBTQ student’s life

Burke Clements, freshman in mathematics, says these are his "best shoes." (Grace Wyatt | Collegian Media Group) Photo credit: Grace Wyatt

“No rush,” a waiter says, sliding their check on the table.

The boy sighs and glances up, answering, “Actually, can we get this split?”

The boy is Burke Clements, freshman in mathematics, and he’s no stranger to situations like these. It happens often, he said: “Anytime I’d go out to eat with my best friend, they’d ask if her and I were dating, and when we’d say ‘No’, they’d ask if we were siblings.”

“I’m gay,” he said. “I’ve known for a while, but I thought I was bisexual up until this year.”

Him coming out, Clements said, was a domino effect. He didn’t feel the need to keep his sexuality hidden, but he was reluctant to explain himself to everyone he knew.

“I told my best friend, then a couple other people, and they told more people,” Clements said. “We went to a really small high school, so everyone found out, basically.”

Every person at school knew except one: his mother, a teacher at his former high school, is still unaware.

“It didn’t bother me that my classmates knew, because it’s not something that casually comes up in a conversation with a teacher,” he said.

“I haven’t told my parents because I don’t think they’ll have a very positive reaction, and I don’t want to ruin the relationship I have with them,” he continued. “I plan to tell them, it’s not like it’s something you can avoid forever if you want to be in a serious relationship. I just haven’t decided how or when to tell them yet. I was planning to tell my parents earlier this year, and I decided to tell my sister first because I’m closer with her than my parents. I didn’t end up going through with telling them, but she was decently chill with it.”

It’s nice that people know now, he said, because many people thought he and his best friend were dating. Those rumors have ceased.

“Sometimes people can guess I’m gay, but, mostly, it’s not an issue,” Clements said. “I’m not like, super out there about it. I don’t talk about it all the time, and I try not to bring it up if I don’t have to. I think that’s why it’s something I haven’t had many problems with.”

For Clements, it doesn’t feel like a burden. There are stereotypes and homophobia, of course, but he said he doesn’t have a lot of first-hand experience. If someone didn’t know his name or his story, they’d never be able to tell. To most of the world, he’s just an average guy.