© Guardian photo by Heather Taweel
Cory Buote's mom, Rebecca Perry, suspected her son was gay from age three. Buote says most of his friends suspected he was gay before he came out last year at age 14.
Gay Charlottetown teen feels weight lifted off his shoulders coming out, even though he's only 15 years old
This is the final article in The Guardian's series looking at LGBTQ issues in Prince Edward Island, Pride in P.E.I.
Cory Buote suspected early on that he was gay.
By Grade 6, he was certain and he made a deal with himself. He would not tell anyone until he was 18.
He broke the deal by four years.
The Charlottetown teen tried to hide his true sexuality for a time. He dated a lot of girls. He even had a "pretty serious'' relationship last year at age 14.
"I just wanted to be like every one else,'' he says of putting on a straight act. "I wanted people to like me. I just didn't want to be different.''
In reality, though, his secret was out even before he came out.
Buote realizes that he presented as being gay for years, even though he did his best to play the straight guy.
So when Buote decided to come out in 2013, friends and family members were not exactly clutching their hearts in shock and disbelief.
For Rebecca Perry, her boy's announcement came as a relief. The acknowledgement confirmed what the mother had suspected as far back as when her son was merely three: her boy is gay.
The thought only grew stronger with each passing year.
Now, no longer hiding from the fact is serving Cory well, says mom.
"I think he is more open,'' she says. "He is starting to be more self-confident. He is more comfortable in his own skin.''
And that seems to be the crux of the matter: facing the truth.
Buote came out so he could finally be himself. He no longer has to pretend to be someone he is not. In a word, he is liberated.
"It was great,'' he says of going public about being gay. "It was so good. It was like a weight off my chest.''
Buote isn't mumbling his message. He has been shouting loud and clear that he is gay, not straight.
He even posted a video on YouTube detailing his personal story.
People like him have taken note of what he has gone through, and what he has to say.
He is aware of at least 20 P.E.I. youth, both male and female, that credit him with coming out themselves.
"I love giving people advice,'' he says.
He recommends coming out only when a person is "totally ready.'' It needs, he explains, to feel like the right time.
The best person to tell first, he adds, is the one "you are closest with and trust the most.''
In Buote's case, that was a female friend. She welcomed the news with glee.
"She was really excited,'' he says.
"I guess she just wanted me to be myself.''
Pride P.E.I. youth co-ordinator Janet Bradshaw says more Islanders are coming out at an earlier age these days. The big announcement is often made by high school students.
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Bradshaw estimates at least 15 students are openly gay at Three Oaks Senior High School in Summerside, where she works as an educational assistant.
She believes the climate in schools in P.E.I. is growing increasingly more welcoming for gay students.
At least five schools have established a Gay Straight Alliance with the first struck a handful of years ago at Charlottetown Rural High School.
The goal is a Gay Straight Alliance in every high school across Prince Edward Island.
"It's a fairly new concept,'' says Bradshaw.
"Its purpose is to make schools safe for all students.''
Bradshaw feels fear of ridicule is the largest concern that delays youth from coming out.
Some students do get bullied after announcing they are gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered or other, commonly through hateful language rather than physical abuse, she adds.
When Buote sat down in the bleachers at his school after coming out, one person told him not to sit by him and blurted out a derogatory word.
Overall, though, he has not encountered much negative feedback. Support has been strong from friends and family.
"My mother always raised us not to judge,'' he adds.
"She was really supportive (of Buote coming out). She wanted me to be myself.''
The relationship scene, however, is not off to a roaring start. He has had one boyfriend, but is not dating at the moment.
Getting girlfriends, ironically, was a walk in the park compared to finding a male partner.
"It's sad,'' he says.
Buote is, however, quite thrilled with all the attention he has received since coming out. He soaks it up.
The thought of having his story splashed across the front page of The Guardian was not intimidating. Rather, it was exhilarating for the teen. Remember, he is just 15, so all the fuss is quite an exciting adventure.
So Buote welcomes all the attention he can garner. He also hopes his story will help other young Islanders struggling with — or simply choosing to conceal — their true sexual identity to figure out their situation and how best to deal with it.
Bradshaw also encourages youth to come to terms with their gender identity and sexual preference.
"Kids just need to be who they feel inside,'' she says. "They need to present themselves as they feel inside. They can't live a lie any longer.''