Edu, in his own words:“I think being gay is just a part of my personality but it is not the main thing about me. I think either gay or straight I would be looking for the same things. You know, I’m a human being who wants to be loved, to grow, to experiment things and so on.
On one hand there is the prejudice explicit or implicit, depending on the culture/city/country you are in, but on the other hand you are free to build your own path in life. You don’t have to necessarily follow the steps the society pre-programmed for you, like to marry, to have kids and to buy a flat in the suburbs. You can choose being single, having an open marriage, spending your money traveling the world because you don’t have kids, or whatever you want to. I notice that many people are afraid of this freedom; they prefer living in the box. For me I see it as a blank canvas I’m free to paint as I please.
My biggest challenge was to go through the bulling I suffered during school time. Bullying is a topic that is much discussed these days, but back in the 80’s it was really complicated to be a shy/nerdy/gay kid. One interesting thing is that I was bullied for being gay before I understand what sexuality was all about or even actually having a sex drive.
My biggest success was to overcome a very limited scenario in which I was born and raised. I was born in a poor family in the suburbs with all its financial difficulties. My parents and grandparents helped me out as much as possible for me to study and to grow as a decent person. I took all chances and I was the first on my family to go to college and have “a real big job”. I am grateful to all of them.
I could define São Paulo gay community in one word: diversity. You can find here the princesses (in Brazil they call them Barbies), bears, indies, hipsters and so on. I find it refreshing because I come from a city in which the only gay archetype that is acceptable it the buffed-all-waxed-suntan-lined-porn-star-look-a-like guy.
Getting out of the closet was complicated just in my head. Once I figured it out and accepted it was all natural. I didn’t have “the conversation” with my mother; my family knew it all along.
(If I could give myself advice before coming out) I would say to myself: “relax and go ahead. It won’t hurt and once you are out they will respect you more than being in the closet.”
Jeffrey, in his own words:“My version of being gay means nothing more than the sheer fact that, at the end of the day, i’ll probably end up with a dude (sorry ladies!).
Over the years, it’s been a challenge to find solid friendship (in the gay community, at least) and cultivate healthy romance (also in the gay community, obviously), but I’m proud to say that my greatest challenges have ultimately resulted in some of my greatest successes as a grown up.
For the majority of my adulthood, I attributed being gay solely to dating, and avoided navigating the waters of friendships with other people who were gay. In all honesty, I’m not sure that I even realized that I needed gay friends, and struggled to make platonic friendships with other gay men outside the circle of people that I casually dated. All I know is that as I entered my mid-twenties, I looked around at my life and found myself awkwardly surrounded by a small handful of gay friends that I had either dated or had romantic history with at some point. To make matters worse, my dating history lined up as more of a rogues gallery that one of my friends summed up perfectly in stating that I “tended to seriously involve myself with sociopaths”.
It was at this point in my life that I made a concerted effort to seek out friendship before partnership, free of romantic strings and entanglement. Looking back, I still can’t pinpoint whether it was overall insecurity or my inner-middle aged single woman (that feared I would never find someone) that drove me to be so romantically consumed, but it was only when I let go of the search for “the one” that I was able to generate true friendships and (waduya know!) find someone to love.
That (all that!) being said, my greatest success is finding and connecting with people who love me and who I love, both platonically and romantically. Platonically, I’ve been lucky to meet a few “lifers” (friends for life) over the past few years who, from near and far and always with laughter and good times, continually inspire and encourage me through the journey of life that we share. Romantically, all I can really say is that there’s nothing more special than seeing the world and sharing a laugh and a smile with the man that I met under the stars by the crashing waves.
The short story of my coming out involves a tumultuous time period after my dad died (my own version of the roaring 20′s!) that consisted of rampant and uninformed trial and error that either shaped my character or scarred me for life (jury’s out, I still haven’t quite figured that one out yet). Although I currently try to live life unapologetically and without regrets, my early days of exploration included a variety of instances and experiences that I would probably take back if I thought about them long enough (which is probably not unlike the journey that most people lead at some point in their lives).
Ironically, I don’t think that I actually ever came out officially to the world (unless a public blog/photo feature on a website that’s very subtly titled “The Gay Men Project” counts). My personal view is that coming out is a personal journey of self-acceptance that led me to gradually get over the notion that I am letting people down by being who I am and loving who I love. It’s been a tough learning curve, but I’ve slowly been able to let go of the guilt and feelings of let-down that go along with leading a life that defies societal norms, traditional convention, and pretty much everything my parents raised me to be. In this sense, I guess I’m still very much in the 7th inning stretch of my coming out process, and in spite of a good number of people knowing that I’m gay, I’m still a work in progress, learning daily what it means to be gay and find satisfaction in life.
(With regards to the gay community in Orange County) There’s a gay community in OC? They don’t call it the Orange Curtain for nuthin!
(Advice I’d give my younger self) On friends, family, and acceptance: realize that acceptance takes time, and sometimes requires one to be generous with grace in the face of those who aren’t quite ready to adjust their understanding of who you are. People won’t always be ready for the truth (and will sometimes, surprisingly, be surprised!), but time heals wounds (sometimes lots of time!), and oftentimes brings about understanding. Don’t give up on lifelong friendships because of a bad knee-jerk reaction.
On love, friendship, and relationships: a younger version of me would probably benefit from being told to worry less about finding “the one” and worry more about building friendships with solid people that will be there through the thick and thin, unconditionally. Love and partnership will come when the time is right, but good friends make the world go ’round.”
Lavunte, in his own words:“Being gay to me means being happy. Happy with who I am in life, and the life I live.
One challenge I have overcome is my fear to be myself. I was always a shy person around people. Most people wouldn’t have even known I was there. Lol. But quickly I went from a caterpillar, to a beautiful butterfly. Letting the wind catch my wings as I soar… Living each day as the last….
Being in Waxahachie for just about a year, I have grown quite acquainted with the town… There are only a few guys I’ve met who are openly gay. But Im sure I’ll get to know more guys.
Coming out was not really what I expected. The first to be told was my best friend of 5 years. In which she already knew. My Dad oddly was accepting. My Mom on the other hand didn’t take it to well.
If anything at all, I would say to my younger years and other lgbt kids and teens, just live your life. Don’t hold anything back. You are what you are, an amazing star in the sky, and that’s the best you can be. Don’t let anyone tell you different cause only you can decide what clothes you are gonna wear.”
Sorel, in his own words:“I’ve gone through so much before I even reached my 25th birthday that once I realized that I was gay I just thought it was just another part of me getting to know myself better. I didn’t go through any internal struggle or mental break down. I never even had to “come out” to anyone, not even my family, I think they just noticed a change in my life, the gender of my partners changed from women to men, and luckily most of them were very nonchalant about it.
I don’t think that my family knew that I was gay before I knew it myself (then again, who knows), it just wasn’t an issue. So being gay to me isn’t any different than being the tallest one in my family or being the only one who moved away from the family cocoon. I just am.
From a very young age, and as far as I can remember, I’ve always been left to my own devices which probably is the reason why I grew up to be pretty much a loner. When I was young living in Cambodia, my parents would always take my sisters with them on trips and left me at home as I was a good student and they didn’t want to interrupt my schooling. During the war there they managed to send all of my siblings and myself to Paris to keep us safe, I was raised by a French family on my own and by the end of the war and after their tragic passing, I was put in a military boarding school by myself.
Once I was old enough to start working, I moved out on my own and eventually came to the U.S, again, on my own. So I guess my biggest challenges has always been to learn to cope with the world around me rather than the struggle with my own sexuality.
My success in life, and I can say this now that I am in my 50s, has been to be able to not only cope with the cards life has dealt me but overcome all of the obstacles and become a well respected member of the retail and fashion industry, an industry that I love and have been a part of for the last 20 some odd years. No matter what happened, I kept on a positive outlook and always try and stay focused on the big picture.
I moved from New York to Phnom Penh, Cambodia almost two years ago and I’m sure that there’s not much I could tell you about the Gay community in NYC that you don’t already know.
The gay community in Phnom Penh on the other hand is very small for a city of 2 million+ people. It is very transient as it is made up of mostly expats who moved to Cambodia for a 6 months contracts (sometimes a bit longer), a few tourists and some young Khmer.
Cambodia being a Buddhist country, most are very accepting and non judgmental. However, most Khmer consider homosexuality to be just a part of you and think/expect their children to eventually get married and have children, mostly boys so that they can carry on the family name. There is no law against homosexuality in Cambodia.
As far as what advice I would give my young self, I’m not quite sure I would tell him to do anything differently. Just live your life doing what feels right, don’t let others tell you how to live your life and well, maybe don’t shop so much…”
I did a month long solo road trip across the southern corridor of the United States, as a test run for the world trip I’m beginning this October (just bought my first plane ticket, Peru!). It was a special trip for me, exhausting, but I learned a lot and was able to reconnect with a lot of old friends. I visited fifteen cities, and in every city somebody hosted me. Old friends from high school I hadn’t seen in fourteen years, my history teacher from the eleventh grade, many friends I made while volunteering for AmeriCorps, friends I made in college, a handful of my Kickstarter backers–from New York City to Mississippi to California, people gave me a bed to sleep, they fed me, and even took care of me when I got sick (thanks Thuy!). It was an amazing experience, and heartwarming to know I have a broad range of support not only for the Gay Men Project, but for my life in general.
Michael, in his own words:“Being gay is an attribute like many other attributes, it’s part of who we are, but it isn’t the whole of who we are. Although we, and many others, have faced and overcome challenges as a result of being gay, being attracted to men doesn’t define us unless we allow it. That said, being “gay” is so much more than being attracted to men. Because of the struggle that often comes with it, being gay is to be a master of the heart because you’ve spent so much time repairing your own, being gay means perseverance when everyone is telling you to give up, it means honesty in being true to yourself, it means empathy to those who may have shared your struggle, and it means pride in the value you bring, just as you are, to the community, to your profession, and to your family.
Understanding that I was gay (Michael) took much longer than most and as a result it caused a lot of turmoil in my life and the lives of those around me. Finding a loving, honest relationship, one that feeds my soul and makes me a better person is the single greatest success I’ve realized. I am a very lucky man.
By the time I came out (18 years ago) I had been a leader in the church, I was pre-med, I had been married and divorced, and had experienced such emotional struggles with who I was and who I was expected to be that I simply didn’t want to fight anymore; several times I reached the point that I simply thought that life shouldn’t have to be so hard to live. I had the sense to go get professional counseling, I surrounded myself with people who really did care about me and I got through it. I appreciate my life now so much more because of those hard times and my heart breaks for so many kids that don’t make it through. Coming out is different for everyone and it’s very personal. The key is to remember that life is worth living and you can make it because there are people that want to see you happy, even if they can’t express it the way you need to hear it.
Gays in Canyon Country? I thought we were the token gays here . I really have no idea. We have so many loving straight neighbors that we don’t want for much in Canyon Country. We have our close gay friends that live around the country that we see regularly but in Canyon Country it’s just us and the alpacas; we like it that way I think.
(Advice I’d give my younger self)
a. Calm down, don’t be in such a hurry; spend more time finding yourself and your passions.
b. Don’t be afraid to love – getting it right takes practice,
c. Don’t be afraid to trust-you will be taken advantage of so just get it out of the way now, there are lessons to be learned there,
d. Save more money- growing old with good taste is expensive.”
Kyle, in his own words:“Being gay to me means very little. The way my family raised me,just never made me feel different or like I was wrong for liking men instead of women. I was raised to never let the word “gay” define me and I hope out next generation is raised that way. Juts unconditional love for those with every ethnicity/ sexual orientation/ wealth. You have to look at someone based on the character of their heart. That’s what my grandmother always said to me.
Moving to Nashville from Tampa and starting a brand new life, with friends that have turned into family member over the past few years has been probably one of the biggest challenges and successes in life. Starting my chocolate company ( Facebook.com/oursundaedates ) in honor of my grandmother and the chocolate she made every Sunday dinner date we shared in Clearwater Fl who passed away last summer and all the success we had from it is what I’m most proud of in my life. The last thing she ever said to me before she passed was “My Kyle you will be FINE, out of all my grandchildren (22) and great grandchildren (17) we have a bond like no other, I’m going to be watching you handsome” and she has been I can feel her ever day. I also lost 200 pounds from the time I was 15-24 just by hard work and determination. And about (5,000 hours in the gym) lol. I definetly would not be the man I am today or have the life I do now if I never lost the weight.
The gay scene in Nashville is very talented. From musicians to artists to entrepreneurs it’s a city full of love and light. I love how limitless life can be for the average gay man in Nashville. It’s something I only found in this amazing city.
My coming out story is really simple in a way. I first came out to my grandmother and her response was “OH OK….my handsome boy where are we going for dinner?!?” She always called me her “handsome boy”. Then my brother and mother and it was like nothing. I NEVER felt different. They just wanted me to be happy and they have never hidden my life. My two nephews who are 7 and 4 call my boyfriend “uncle brad” and they are being taught just like my brother and I that being gay/straight is nothing, it’s the LOVE that counts. I come from the most supportive and beautiful family.
The advice I would give to myself is to be ready to have everything you ever wanted in life by 25. That my love life would not be a 70 year version of Adele’s “someone like you”. That a man will want to love just me and that I am good enough to feel love from another man forever. I wish I could take a Polaroid of my life right now and give it to my 15 year old self to keep I’m my pocket to remind myself that one day life will be this beautiful.”
Kergan, in his own words:“After almost 12 years together and with two children, my partner Russ and I were finally married on June 7, 2014, surrounded by family and friends. Stepping out into our garden ceremony, I was overwhelmed by the waves of love generated towards us, fully cognizant of the long road traveled — individually, collectively, and communally — to reach that sacred moment. Many of us who are LGBT have been negatively impacted by derogatory, mean-spirited, and misinformed statements made by others, particularly in the name of religion, and the toll such negativity takes can be devastating to the psyche. Being able to stand together, publicly, with our pastor officiating, and have our relationship embraced and celebrated helped fortify us emotionally, as individuals, as a couple, and as a family.
To reach that milestone, Russ and I took very different life paths, which eventually intersected. I grew up in Orange County, CA, in a conservative household, but came out at age 17, driven by my passion for the arts and activism. I volunteered and worked at AIDS Project Los Angeles during the height of the epidemic, and held the hand of my then-partner Shane as he died of the disease. I later met another partner and adopted our eldest boy, Mason, at birth. Once that partner’s betrayals were discovered, I unexpectedly found myself a single dad with a two year-old son.
Russ, having grown up in Tennessee in a religious household, long struggled with his attraction to men. Pushing his feelings deep inside, he instead focused extensively on his career until he eventually came out at 38. The idea of having children had never seemed much like a possibility for Russ, given his career and his limited experience with the LGBT community, but after meeting me, Russ began to seriously consider fatherhood, allowing us to move forward as a couple. We went on to adopt Marcus at age 2 1/2, through foster care, and finally our family was complete.
Today, we work to ensure that our children grow up to be honest, respectful, and accepting of others. We focus on building communities and bettering the lives of others through volunteer work, activism, and our progressive church. And, as it is with any family with school age children, our lives very much revolve about them and their activities.
In our attempt to shape their lives for the better, Russ and I talk with our boys regularly about any number of topics — life, spirituality, ethics, politics, culture — and how to best grow and flourish as human beings. And the advice we give to them is the same advice I’d give anyone else, as it has long served me well: Live authentically. Tell your story. Change the world.”
Derek, in his own words:“Being gay is only a part of yourself, you are made up of many beautiful things and are endlessly worth more than you think.
One major challenge I’ve had is reconciling my beliefs with my sexuality. I think everyone has contradicting aspects that make up who they are, it doesn’t mean that you’re messed up it just means that you’re an individual. You can find success in identifying with not just one part of yourself but by taking each piece and making it your own.
I’d like to feel like I was apart of (the gay community in Los Angeles) but I’ve heard it can become very cliquey and incestuous.
You can’t be friendly to someone at a bar without them thinking you want to get in their pants. Actually, you probably shouldn’t try to make friends at bars, everyone’s horny (unless…). You really just have to be confident, find your place and the people you want to surround yourself with, that’s when it becomes easy.
I knew I was gay ever since I was a little navy cardigan wearing Catholic schoolboy. I didn’t come out until my Junior year of high school, even though my parents had found a gay porn zine I had hidden when I was a Sophomore. My parents and family have become very accepting but at times their different views get the best of them, but that’s family.
(Advice I’d give my younger self). Age 13: Don’t hide your porn in your jacket pockets, you have siblings who like to borrow your clothes. Oops.
Age 16: Don’t worry about what other people think.
Age 18: Don’t be afraid to date and make mistakes, you’ll be fine.”
Ray, in his own words:” Live the wonderful life that is in you. Be afraid of nothing.” Richard Halliburton ( 1900 – 1939 ).
I wish I had read this quote when I was growing up as it would have been so inspirational. Richard Halliburton was the first man to swim the length of the Panama Canal. He traveled the world and wrote wonderful travel books. He was only 39 when he died. His boat was lost in a Pacific Ocean storm. Halliburton was a gay man who lived life to the fullest. He is a great role model for everyone.
I really never had any horrible experiences growing up. I did feel very lonely at times and felt that I didn’t fit at some events, but for the most part high school and college were great times for me. I knew I was gay from a very early age. I had gay relationships all through high school and college. My biggest challenge was becoming a teacher and worrying about someone outing me. I loved teaching. As a gay teacher, I tried to connect with all my students as I knew what it was like to be an outsider. Students can always tell if a teacher likes their job or is just putting in the time. So I had a great career of 39 years. I was lucky enough to receive many accolades. My favorite three were being named Teacher of the Year at David Douglas High School in 2001, the Portland Trailblazers Educator of the Year in 1987, and having the Palm Valley School ( Rancho Mirage, CA )Yearbook dedicated to me in 2009.
So my advice to all gay people coming out is to find a career that you are passionate about and that will make your life much more rewarding. I would encourage a college degree for everyone although I know it is not needed for every career. Also, I would recommend that you take care of your health. Most gay people are very social and that usually involves eating and drinking so practice moderation.
Being gay is a gift in many ways. You meet so many wonderful people through parties, clubs, dinners, events, and other social situations. Some of the most talented and creative people in the world are gay. Be happy that you were born gay and accept it as part of the plan for the universe. One last bit of wisdom about relationships. Steve and I have been together for 41 years. We are not perfect. Three phrases should be repeated in any relationship often: “ I am sorry, Thank you, and I love you.” If you say the first two phrases often, you will hear a lot more of the third one! It may sound dorky, but I like having a partner, a house, and two dogs to come home to every day. It just feels good to have a home. Last, but not least, communicate with your lover, partner, or husband. Do not assume anything about your relationship…….talk, talk, and talk some more. Most relationships fail because guys don’t sit down and express themselves. We have had many, many great highs in our 41 years, but also some tragic lows, but by having good communication with each other, we have happily survived life’s challenges. So adopt Richard Halliburton’s quote and “ Live the wonderful life that is in you. Be afraid of nothing.”
Steven, in his own words:“When I was young, being gay meant that I was different and did not fit in with my peers or the world around me. It is very different now. I feel very lucky that I was born gay. I have had a wonderful life, been able to travel widely, and excelled at my career. If I had been straight, I don’t think I would have had the money, nor the drive to do the things I have done.
Being gay as a teenager was pretty difficult in the 70’s, but as an adult I have not had any significant challenges that could be attributed to my sexual orientation. In fact I would say that I am blessed to be gay. I think it has made me a more compassionate and loving person. I am very accepting of other people. I see things like bigotry hypocrisy, and elitism in other people that I really don’t like. I don’t think those are a part of my own character and I am thankful for that.
I am a Chiropractor. I spent most of my career as a teacher. I was hired by the College to be the Director of the Outpatient Clinic right after I graduated. At the age of 34, I became the Dean of the College. Those were amazing accomplishments that I will always be proud of.
I don’t really have a “coming out” story. I just assumed that everyone knew I was gay and it was not talked about much. I met my partner at the age of 23 and we have been together for the past 41 years. I think that fact basically let everyone know I was gay and there was no reason to announce it to anyone. I never spent a lot of time feeling ashamed of the fact. Actually, most of my life I have felt very grateful for it.
We live in Cathedral City, California which is next to Palm Springs. It is a very gay friendly community and there is a large gay population here. I love living here because I no longer feel like a minority. I can be myself and don’t really care what anyone else thinks of me or my lifestyle.
I think one of the keys to happiness whether you are gay or straight is to cultivate a group of really good friends. They become your family and it is a family of choice. We have been blessed to have a lot of friends who are quality people and who truly care about our well-being.”