Breaking the mold / by Rish Basu

June 26th, 2015.

David Muñoz ’12 stares at the rainbow-colored Empire State Building thinking that this day would never come.

Celebrating the Supreme Court ruling of nationwide recognition of same-sex marriage, he couldn’t believe that his day had come so fast.

Just three years years before, Muñoz was listening to his parents telling him to not take a boy to Homecoming.

He couldn’t sleep. His grades were dropping. He was devastated.

Until his junior year, Muñoz lived in solitude. As he continued to live his life in the closet, Muñoz felt like he was living a lie. 

Every day, Muñoz felt the vibe that being gay was the ultimate loss, the worst possible situation.

“Back then, I thought my parents were going to hate me if I came out,” Muñoz said. “I didn’t want to be social. I didn’t want to have people over to my house because I was afraid that if I came out, they would think I would start hitting on them, and they would get weirded out by that. In my head, there were all these things. So it was really kind of holding me back from so much.”

Muñoz quickly figured out that his current environment was not helping his cause. 

“It’s funny,” Muñoz said. “When you get older in high school, especially at an all boys school, there’s kind of a structure, like a game that we play where you have to be cool and act like a bro and all those things. It’s like everyone kind of deviates from that in their own way as you get older.”

But after his junior year when he decided to officially come out of the closet and take a boy to Homecoming his senior year, Muñoz finally began to display his identity.

“I kind of figured everything out, really independently by kind of setting my own terms with things and learning who I am and what I can be,” Muñoz said. “I went behind my parents’ back and kind of did my own thing, but it was the only way for me to grow as a person just because of the circumstances. It was really devastating every day right until the day I came out.”

Muñoz initially suspected that being the only openly gay student here would provide a countless number of problems, but his expectations were met with surprise. 

“Every high-schooler is so impressionable, but I never had a single confrontation about it,” Muñoz said. “Maybe people made fun of me but I never knew because I never heard any of it. I was kind of waiting for someone to make fun of me, but it didn’t happen because no one had any reason to. I got along with everyone.”

Throughout Middle School and the beginning of high school, Muñoz never felt like there was a tense environment regarding his sexuality. He suspected that his own classmates would talk about his sexuality, so he guesses that at some point, everybody just figured it out.

“I had a lot in the back of my mind going into thinking about coming out, and I just had no idea what to expect,” Muñoz said. “But a lot of things were changing at St. Mark’s at the time, and no one from the administration and none of my peers confronted me about anything. It was just like a total non-issue.”

With a new chaplain, head of Upper School and the brand new construction of the Centennial Hall, Muñoz felt like everything was breathing differently on campus he knew as home.

People were ready for some change. 

After his announcement, Muñoz started to become more optimistic about his future. He thought about his career after college. The possibility of a marriage in Texas. A world where people would stop telling gay people that they can’t do everything what straight people can do.

Ultimately, Muñoz realized that being gay did not hold him back from pursuing goals that were important to him.

“You know what it’s like being at an all boy school,” Muñoz said. “It’s like when you get older, you can hold onto the things you like and change the other ways you act. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation. I could still do sports, be a class clown and I could still do everything I wanted to do.”

Muñoz was aware of the impact his announcement had on the entire school community. Involved in many extracurricular activities, Muñoz realized his open status could inspire other high school students to follow his path.

“I was the only one out, but of course there were a lot of other gay students at St Mark’s,” Muñoz said. “I was really active in sports and art and I was good at school. And some gay person could be any kind of student.”

Muñoz believes being gay at a community like St. Mark’s might be difficult for many students to cope with. After years of concealing his entire identity, Muñoz can only hope that gay students do not go through the same experience he did.

“It would be harder for someone who’s more reserved as a person or gets picked on for other reasons, and to also be gay on top of that,” Muñoz said. “That’s another thing I was thinking about: wow I really should come out so that it’s easier for everyone else in the future.”

After Muñoz’s journey ended as high schooler, the college application process marked a meaningful landmark in his life. Writing his college application to the New York University, Muñoz felt hesitant writing his college essay about painting. Although painting and the arts were a passion that has stuck with Muñoz throughout his entire life, he realized that not many people would appreciate the intricacies of the activity.

As a result, Muñoz made a last minute decision.

Two hours before the midnight deadline on New Years Day for his application, Muñoz rewrote his entire college essay about taking a boy to Homecoming.

“After I changed my essay, I ended up getting a huge scholarship so it pays to be yourself,” Muñoz said. “It seems like you can just live for yourself. I don’t know if being gay is what got me my scholarship; I had a pretty good application other than that, but I remember I was like ‘I’ve already made it this far, why not throw everything up to the wind.’”

After receiving his scholarship, Muñoz’s life took a turn for the good. By beginning a new part of his life without concealing his sexuality, Muñoz made sure he had a different experience than his first years as a high school student here. A new environment has given Muñoz the opportunity to seek new relationships and ambitions.

“People here don’t even think about the difference of being gay,” Muñoz said. “The Supreme Court ruling still hasn’t hit me because I remember growing up in high school and thinking that I could never get married. This really made me feel bad.  I was always kind of really political. I always figured that eventually we could, but I didn’t think it would come this fast.”

The Supreme Court ruling not only gave Muñoz and other gay people a whole new world of opportunities, but it also changed the perception of many important people in Muñoz’s life.

“My parents came to visit me in New York the weekend of Gay Pride in NYC so it was really funny,” Muñoz said. “I brought my parents here to show them what my life was like up here. I took them to a cool celebration. To think that a couple years ago I was depressed and they were telling me to not to take a boy to Homecoming. And now we’re up on a penthouse balcony looking at the Empire State Building.”’