Pat, in his own words: “(Being gay) means I won a lottery I didn’t realize I was playing. Being gay, I’ve come to know, is a great gift—- growing up you realized you were “different;” that something was peculiar or out-of-synch or “wrong” with you. Coming out you realize what that peculiarity is, what it is for you to feel in synch with your life and your world. Being gay you realize the “right” of it all—the gift it is to be you, unabashedly, freely, without self-contempt—the just rewards of your years as a trained actor. It’s like winning the lottery, to find the gift it is to be gay when all the odds seemed to be against you— to win by finally betting on yourself.
I heard my friend beep the horn. She was picking me up to go clubbing during my 18-year old summer. I came down the stairs in new, tight white pants and neon shoes. My mother was there ironing clothes and said “Oh Patrick, only a gay man would wear pants like that.” I smiled and said, “well maybe I am!”
Her eyes lit up, as if I had finally opened the door and let her into the secret she’d known since the beginning. I rushed out the door and she trailed behind me yelling, “it’s a hard life you know!”
She wasn’t excited to know that her baby boy was gay, not because she didn’t enjoy me in every community theater musical, but because she was afraid of the world at war with gay people. She knew of us as men beaten in back alleys, thrown down stairs in schools, accosted by strangers, whispered about by neighbors, tied to fences by straight boys and riddled with AIDS in hospital nightgowns. She never had the real pleasure of meeting us, but she’d had decades of meeting what others said we were.
I don’t like to concentrate on the challenges of being gay— everyone in life meets challenges and being gay shouldn’t be defined by the challenges innate to its form. Rather, being gay should be defined by the richness of its denotative root—to be happy, lighthearted and carefree. I’ve never met a group of people to live up to this definitive duality more than the gays.
I earned a degree in Political Communications, Leadership and Social Advocacy from Emerson College in Boston, MA—recently named the #1 LGBTQ Friendly school in the nation by the Princeton Review. The place couldn’t be more of a gay Garden of Eden. My junior year Moises Kaufman selected Emerson’s Cutler Majestic Theater to premiere his work “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later.” Soon after the announcement of the show, we caught word that the infamous Westboro Baptist Church planned to picket the production on our campus. (Sidebar: we can’t thank those nuts enough for galvanizing so many people to rise to the occasion to defend and embrace their gay brothers and sisters.) We began to organize a counter-protest. We met to design the campaign, apply for street permits and appeal for the college’s backing.
This was around the time that a string of gay teen suicides populated the news and the early incandescent light of grassroots movements began to shine, from the It Gets Better Project to the Love is Louder campaign. Westboro’s worse never showed up that day, but over 1,000 Emerson students took to the city streets dressed in all white, joined by troupes of students from neighboring colleges and high schools from Massachusetts to Virginia. No one had really heard of “It Gets Better” or “Love is Louder” yet, but we chanted for each. We cheered and sang and held signs for Tyler Clementi, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown, Justin Aaberg and others. We filled the theater with students and packed each performance of The Laramie Project. I could have marched forever. We all could have. I’ll never forget what it felt like to sing to the city and to believe so much in triumph of the human spirit. Every day is a battle and we are winning. I’m still marching.
(With regards to the gay community in Los Angeles) There’s an app for that.
I never officially came out to my dad. On the day I moved into college he said “look inside your Maya Angelou book that’s on your desk, I left you something.” This always meant he slipped me money my mom wasn’t supposed to know about. I picked up the book and a slip of paper fell out.
My dad is a commercial fisherman. I grew up in the smallest town in the smallest state (Little Compton, Rhode Island). It’s a pristine pilgrim settlement and fishing village along the East Coast. My dad is one of our most well-known fisher folk. Each morning he grabs a cup of coffee at 3am at the one restaurant we have in the center of town that opens especially early to serve the fisherman their coffee.
It was a small, lined piece of note pad paper he ripped out of the notebook he uses to count fish. The right hand corner was stained with coffee, so I know he wrote it early the morning before. It was written sideways and a few of the words were scribbled out because they were spelt wrong or he didn’t know what he wanted to write next. It read “Pat— Mom told me about the gay thing. I just want you to know how proud I am of you and that I am always there for you, no matter what. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you forever. (he was so close to the quote he intended from the children’s book classic “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch). Love, Dad.”
There are things I regret and distancing myself from my dad was one of them. It was never a fault of his own, it was my decision as a little boy to fear my father, for no other reason than that I knew I was gay and I knew he would be ashamed. I was a Momma’s boy and always kept some sort of distance from my dad, emotionally. I would never let him all the way in because, in my mind, he’d be upset by what he’d find. Or disgusted. I was wrong.
I came out for a boy named we’ll call Sam, out of respect for his privacy. There was something about him I just… hated. He was gay. He was beautiful. Ugh, I couldn’t handle it! He sat next to me in chorus and for a year I wouldn’t go near him because he was gay. Closeted, but still gay. Standing next to him meant there would be two of us… two closeted, clearly gay people and that would attract stares and whispers. Not to mention, if I stood next to him all I wanted to do was hold his hand.
The next year we were both in school’s production of The Laramie Project. I was Senior Class President and crowned Homecoming King a couple weeks before the show. I was well-known, well-liked and well established. I was political, rebellious and constantly drumming up a crowd for one cause or another. We did a preview of the “gay play” as everyone called it and I heard students taunting Sam as we walked out of the auditorium. I was Pat Fucking Lambert and couldn’t stand for it. I put them in their place and suddenly saw Sam differently- as someone fighting a battle all by himself. That week someone threw Sam up against the lockers— because they thought he was influencing their younger brother to be gay (which was sort of true and that younger brother would go on to be the Homecoming King for his class and gay high school superstar).
I was crying on stage every night in this play about gay acceptance. People listened to me, looked up to me and followed me. I was lying to them and someone else was paying the price with bruises. I came out to my all of my friends and asked them to send it through the hallways. Suddenly, finally, I was no holds bar and no one stood in the way of my senior year being a pride parade. I went on to lose 40 pounds to trim into a slim, hot young body in time for my graduation speech (full of flamboyant phrases), all in an effort to land the “love of my life.” We never did get to hold hands at prom like I’d dreamed (it’s so cheesy but God I was infatuated), but I’ve held hands with boys ever since.”