DALTON DARES TO BE DIFFERENT
By: Manny Velasquez-Paredes
Originally published in Connextions Magazine Issue 19: Travel Lite
Dalton Maldonado was forced to come out during a basketball game of all places. While playing for his high school basketball team in Kentucky, Dalton was confronted by a player from the opposite team about his sexuality, and like many of us confronted with the fear of being outed, he took the comedic route and sarcastically asked the bully for his phone number in response to his offensive attack. This defense mechanism, which has been tested countless of times by many LGBTQ teens and members of our community who are in the closet, proved to be a quick and easy way to get out of a sticky situation.
However, as we read from his “coming out” article, which went viral, on OutSports.com, what followed was anything but quick and easy. Soon after the game ended, reality kicked in, and Dalton was left experiencing every emotion known only to those who have been “outed” or “discovered.”
As he entered the locker room, he simply lost it and his Coach and teammates unaware of his situation, rallied around him. He had no choice, and the only way to explain his desperate tears was by shouting “I’m gay, I’m gay.” And there you have it; the words he had thought about saying so many times, were suddenly out of his mind and had been spoken. There was no waking up from this dream, but the nightmare was just beginning.
Rewind to a few years before the locker room scene and the night that changed his life. Early in his teenage years, Dalton realized he was gay and after a few personal confrontations, he decided he would come out to his friends and family. He made a conscious decision to come out, and he was ok with his decision, until the age of 15 when he went away to a church camp.
While at camp, Dalton was raped and molested by the priest in charge of the camp. At the tender age of 15 and away from home, a trusted and responsible adult – someone parishioners are meant to look up to and trust – took advantage of him and forced him back into the closet.
Ashamed of what had happened and fearful of the meaning behind it, he decided there was no way he could be gay “if being gay meant molesting teens.” This was his introduction to what being “gay” was supposed to be, so he knew there was no way he could ever do that. Dalton says, “I didn’t want to be like that guy.” This shameful experience forced him back in the closet and to self-harming to avoid reality.
Becoming the Man Who Is Not Afraid To Fight
Present day New York, Connextions Magazine meets with Dalton to discuss his life story. His story plays like a Hollywood movie, and his movie star looks can easily make him the lead character. However, once we sit down to talk to him, we can see the pain in his eyes. As we dig deeper into what happened that night, we find a boy who was forced to become a man with two choices: accept the attacks and be a victim or take control of his life and fight back.
To read the entire article, please visit Connextions Magazine Issue 19: Travel Lite
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