Evan, in his own words: “I came out almost two years ago. It was a real journey getting to that point because I’m not someone who always knew I liked men. I grew up in a suburb of Portland with an intensely tight friend group where I was able to blur the lines between friend, best friend, and more than friend which allowed me to avoid confronting my sexual orientation until I got to college.
I dated women until I was 20 because I could make things work and it was far more comfortable to be with a woman under the scrutiny of society than to deal with all the taboos of romantically loving another man. I filled the role so well that I began to convince myself I was happy to do it. I then spent a year abroad and throughout the partying, exploring, and nights spent alone in another country I was able to really figure out who I was and what I wanted from life without the pressures of fitting in to my usual environment. I reccomend living abroad if you’re interested in learning more about yourself. You no longer try to blend in because you’re in a completely new environment and you have no one but yourself to rely on. It’s like being a duck having grown up with a bunch of geese – you’re similar enough to them that you can kind of fit in but while you’re all honking around all you really want to do is let out a little quack. Then you move in with a bunch of beavers and they’re so different than you that you can’t really fit in at all so you just have to take a step back and say “Well, then what the fuck am I?”. Sorry for the convoluted Oregon wildlife analogy, but I feel like it conveys the experience pretty well. I came back from my year with a new perspective on life, happiness and sexuality.
Coming out to my friends was easy. My newer friends were surprised, my older friends weren’t – everyone was great about it – even the girl I was dating at the time took it pretty well. That’s what I love about my generation. Being gay doesn’t mean you’re a freak, or going to die of AIDS, or not going to be able to get married, or not going to have children. It just means you’re a normal person who has to fight a few more societal norms than others do, but your life will still be filled with love, acceptance, and accomplishment. Unfortunately my mom didn’t see it that way right off the bat.
Woes of not having children, challenges in the work place, and worries of casual-unprotected-HIV-sharing-sex were all underlying themes of our first dicussion. I was surprised at the only bit of ignorance I had experienced throughout this whole process. Then I realized where she was coming from along with many others who are from the older generation and how I just had to give her time. Both my parents have since educated themselves more on what being gay means in this day and age and are much better about accepting me (and my boyfriend).
I’ve had the blessing of growing up in a time where an ambitious, healthy, happy gay person isn’t a creature of myth. The challenges I have to go through are nothing compared to what older men have had to experience and it’s so awesome to see how fast things have changed and are continuing to change. People are beginning to listen to their hearts (not their priests) and at least in my urban setting of Portland, Oregon I feel like I have nothing to hide.”
Connor, in his own words: “I never had much of a struggle in figuring out that I was gay, as I believe many gay men do. I knew from a fairly young age that I was not heterosexual, and thankfully I did not feel much pressure from any direction to assume a heterosexual lifestyle. I was raised in a family and with a group of friends that showed me that being true to oneself is the only acceptable and healthy way to live, and I always assumed that included my sexuality. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the first time I uttered the words “I think I might be gay” to someone took effort, but it felt natural, and entirely in line with my conscience’s desire to stay honest and authentic.
I lived in Sweden as an exchange student when I was 17 years old, and the first people I came out to were two fellow exchangers. Coming from a small town in rural Oregon, I viewed my year abroad as an fresh opportunity to present myself exactly as I was, and be as true to myself as I could be, without my past coloring people’s opinions and providing preconceived ideas about me. My friends were incredibly supportive, imbuing me with the courage to tell the rest of the exchange student group, a number of my Swedish friends, and eventually my parents when they came to visit me at the end of my year. I do not feel as if coming out transformed me into a new person, it simply made me into a more open version of myself.
When it comes down to it, I believe that being gay does little more than describe what gender I become emotionally attached to and fall in love with. I don’t think women are gross, nor do I find them unattractive, I simply do not form the same type of emotional and sexual connection with them that I do men. Becoming aware of this, however, has required a degree of open mindedness and introspection that I would assume most gay men possess, and that, in my mind, is the crux of what being gay means. It means being willing to question that status quo in order to truly understand what is true and right. It also means being open to differences and to change.”