Brian Stieglitz could never quite understand his obsession with the number three. He would avoid gathering in groups of three, could never say the number out loud and denounced trios of any kind.
It wasn’t until the Seaford native finally admitted to his friends and family that he was gay that he realized why the digit always haunted him. “I hated the number three,” he said, cringing. “It all funneled back to when I would watch World Wrestling Entertainment on TV and experience homosexual urges, especially when they were pinning opponents and the referees would count to three.”
Stieglitz, 23, said he grew up with the intention of living a straight life. But even when he was young, he knew something was different.
“I had my first crush on a guy when I was 11, and I really just thought that I wanted to be his friend, so I didn’t do anything about it,” he said. “Six years went by, and I started to develop different anxiety disorders. When I was a senior in high school, I knew I had more than just crushes on men, and I started to become very depressed about it.”
As a student at Seaford High School, Stieglitz recounted, he tried his best to keep his gay identity a secret and to just fit in. At age 17, he had stopped taking antidepressants for anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, making it harder for him to cope with his sexual identity.
“I believe a lot of my anxiety came as a result of my repressed homosexuality, which exacerbated it to the 10th degree,” he added.
In 2012, he decided to come out, but only to his mother. “It was one of the best feelings in the world,” he said. “She wasn’t ecstatic about the situation, but we made it work.”
Stieglitz was happy he had finally told someone, he said, but he still felt restless. “My anxiety became 10 times worse now that someone knew,” he said, “and I instantly regretted it, because I was confirming it — and I never wanted to confirm it.”
After graduating from Seaford High, he moved on to Hofstra University. The campus is only a 20-minute drive from his hometown, and he said it felt like the right place to study journalism. At a sophomore dorm party, he met a girl who lived a few rooms down the hall. “She was so enthusiastic and bubbly, and everyone seemed to love her,” he said.
At the party, the girl decided to tell the group she was gay, giving Stieglitz the motivation he needed. “Seeing her become so comfortable and trusting around us made me want to tell other people I was gay, too,” he said. “From then on, I made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to feel the same way I felt in high school — that if I said it, I was going to confirm it.”
Stieglitz ultimately decided to embrace his sexual identity, and joined Pride For Youth — a community center in Bellmore for LGBT people ages 17 to 30. He has been a member of the organization for the last year and a half. He said he has formed many friendships through the group, and attends meetings and programs often.
As a reporter at the Merrick and Bellmore Herald Life, he has occasionally faced some harsh comments and prejudice from people in the area — including some negative comments from readers, mostly on Facebook, calling him a “traitor” and “not a serious journalist.”
“I know not all people out here are purposely malicious or out to hurt me, but they just come off so ignorant and don’t think about others and how they could possibly feel,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot in the process of coming out.”
“I’m not a slave to my mind anymore,” he added. “And I’m not a slave to society.”
Third in a four-part series.