Cody grew up in a small, conservative town on the western side of Wisconsin, where his family practiced the Baptist faith and attended church every Sunday. He also went to youth group each Wednesday.
At one point during his childhood, he even got the “gay people are evil” talk from the church community, which at that point gave him “a lot of complex emotions I didn’t know how to reconcile.”
The city’s environment from an early age was not accepting of LGBTQ people, and, unfortunately, Cody encountered his sexuality very early on and “in one of the worst ways possible.”
When he was just 8 years old, an unwanted sexual encounter happened between him and a friend of his from youth group.
“I’d lost enough fights with him to know not to get on his bad side, so I didn’t have control over the situation and had to let it happen,” Cody explained. Their families also knew each other.
During this, the friend’s older brother had walked in, laughed, then left, which led to hazing, name-calling and bullying by Cody’s peers at youth group when the teacher wasn’t in the room.
“I’d get called gay, the f-slur at times, being told I wasn’t wanted there,” he said. “And I had no friends in youth group and wanted to leave, but couldn’t. My parents said I had to be involved in some sort of youth group, so I was stuck getting called gay every Wednesday.”
To Cody’s knowledge, his school only had a handful of openly bisexual students, including two males.
And in middle school one day, an aggressive student told some of his friends he was going to beat up one of the “bi guys” for not liking him. His justification, according to Cody, was, “Doesn’t he have a punchable face?” The kid came in on crutches the next day.
“All of this reinforced my feelings that coming out, even to myself, was a bad idea. Even in the closet, everyone assumed I was gay because I was active in the music department, and I just didn’t want the bullying to get worse.”
By high school, it became increasingly more difficult to deny his attraction to the same sex. Around this same time, “Glee” was running on live TV and Cody would find himself crushing on Kurt but would tell himself he was watching as a fellow musician.
“I managed to bury my same-sex attractions because it was too painful to deal with,” he explained.
Shortly after he finished high school, the Supreme Court of the U.S. legalized same-sex marriage. Though Cody thought it was great, he was also surprised by the amount of religious outcry that followed. At this point he decided he was not going to continue practicing religion.
“People were so angry and hateful online, even though two queer people getting married has absolutely nothing to do with straight people,” Cody said. “Some of my family members were upset too.”
One of the family members disturbed by the Supreme Court ruling was his aunt, who said same-sex marriage had never been done before. His cousin — the aunt’s son — started listing every country that’s legalized same-sex marriage before the U.S. did and detailed her reaction in a groupchat with Cody and his best friend.
“I (then) looked into the Westboro Baptist Church and saw my family’s and the wider Christian community’s response to gay marriage and was left dumbstruck on how the religion supposedly built on love and compassion could hate a group of people this much,” Cody said. “I thought if this is what it takes to get to heaven, I’d rather just go to hell and be true to my morals.”
At this point, Cody began researching the LGBTQ community after this indirect encounter with homophobia, and met several queer people online and at college.
“[I found out] there’s so many wonderful types of people who did nothing to deserve all the abuse and pain they’ve faced in a homophobic society,” he said. “Still, I didn’t come out during college, though with all that new exposure, it became harder and harder to ignore how attracted I was to other men, especially as I learned that my preference, when it comes to men at least, leaned toward twinks and the more feminine types like femboys or [cisgender] crossdressers.”
Because of this, he denied his sexuality further because of his attraction to femininity. However, he called himself out around 2019 and put a label to it.
“Bisexual. Really omnisexual, but I’m using the bi label to help spread awareness that bisexual isn’t necessarily binary and to reclaim the term from transphobes exploiting the pan and omni labels,” Cody explained. “And also so straight people know what I’m talking about.”
Once he came to terms with his identity, being true to himself felt relieving.
“It finally felt like I was being honest with myself while also respecting the gender identities of partners,” he said. “There was always something missing in how I presented myself, and I felt complete and less worried about the discrimination that comes from being [bi] in a same-sex couple.
“So when I realized I was bi, it didn’t feel right not to come out and contribute to a harder life for others who have had my experiences,” he continued. “Being myself is more important than being with a partner who doesn’t value who I am.”
The first person Cody ever came out to was a classmate he met in the English department, Heidi.
“[She] is a total bi icon who inspired me to come out,” he said.
Shortly after he finished his bachelor’s degree in early 2020, he heard Heidi become more comfortable coming out to more people and talking about her girlfriend. It was the first time he had heard her mention her bisexuality.
“I thought it was really awesome how brave she was for just bringing up her relationship like that. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I wish I was that brave.’”
A couple months later, he came out to her, the only out bisexual person in his circle of friends.
“I wanted to exchange notes as a fellow bi who really wanted to be publicly out,” Cody explained. “I figured she would be really supportive, and she absolutely was, but for some reason, I was terrified anyway. Heidi was so helpful as I sorted my feelings out and gradually came to terms with myself.”
The last barrier to Cody being his true self was coming out to his parents, noting them as, jokingly, “the final boss.” He would build himself up several times throughout the year thinking, “This is it,” only to chicken out at the last second.
However, on Christmas Eve he bit the bullet and impulsively called them and it turned out OK, he said.
His father took it well after pulling a political 180-degree turn in 2016. Cody said it turned out to be nice to have someone to mediate as his mother wasn’t as accepting.
“I realize it must be a difficult situation when you feel torn in your relationships between God and your child, but she’s doing her best, and I appreciate that. I think she’s holding out for me to end up with a woman, but in these situations sometimes that’s the best you can hope for,” he said.
Now, after quite a bit of work, Cody is out to nearly everybody. Now, except for those who aren’t safe to or can’t yet, he said to not be afraid to open up.
“Well, now that I’m fully out, I’m living my best life. It hasn’t been easy, and I’ve had to make sacrifices along the way, but I’m glad I finally get to be myself,” he said.
“It’s difficult when you’re in a repressed environment and have trouble articulating what it is you’re feeling in the first place, but if I had confided in the people close to me earlier, I may have figured myself out much earlier. This is an obstacle for all queer people, but I think queer men deal struggle most with it because we have so much trouble sharing our emotions. But if you’re in a situation where you have friends and loved ones you know would be accepting, don’t be afraid to open up.”