A Note from Kelly, in Ho Chi Minh City…

“Being gay has taught me a lot, and so have the experiences I’ve had because of it. The greatest lesson of all is that being gay taught me how to love and accept people from all walks of life, my parents had a huge influence in this as well. This is my story, the details of my life that have molded and shaped me into the person I am today.

Ive sat down to write my story several times but, I can never see to get it just the way I want it. I go back and read my words and they seem sad and depressing, and that’s not what I want people to take away from my story. I want people to see thing things I have gown through, lived through and dealt with in hopes that it provides strength to someone out there that may be having a difficult time in their life.

Its about 1:00 am here in Ho Chi Minh City, Im sitting in McDonald’s of all places, trying to tell a story about one part of my life, trying to reflect back on my experiences as a gay man because, I feel the need to tell my story, if not for any other reason than to have this heavy weight lifted off my shoulders.

I don’t think my story is much different than any of the other people who have shared, but I have this growing need and desire to tell it, and almost feel guilty for not doing so.

I grew up in a small town in the foothills of Western North Carolina, not too far from a place called Asheville. As a kid I knew I was different, I knew I liked boys more than girls, I enjoyed all the normal things a young boy enjoyed in addition to baking and vacuuming (feel free to laugh), surely my parents and family had to know early on that I was gay. Not that baking and cleaning house means you are gay, but the behavior was there.

I went through many of the same issues that others have faced. I grew up in a religious family, being told gay is wrong by the church, “it’s not a sin to be gay” they said, “but a sin to act upon it.” Even at an early age that didn’t make much sense to me, my little logical mind couldn’t comprehend or make sense of that. Even then I knew that, along with many other things, was very hypocritical even if I didn’t know the actual word at the time. Over time I learned on my own that, like many things, religion is subjective and open for interpretation. Most interesting of all, church was where I had my first sexual experience

Let’s flash forward to my junior high and high school years. These years were pretty much hell. Between slowly accepting who was, being introduced to gay scene and shown that it was all about clubbing and sex, to my parents separating starting my 9th grade year, it was rough. This doesn’t include my last two years of high school, where I was picked on, teased, laughed at, excluded, simply because of a rumor I was gay. My adolescent life and even most of my younger life was one of solitude. I never really had friends, I can only recall one sleep over in my life.

As I moved forward from 18 years old and on, I have faced various speed bumps and hurdles in life. At 18 I attempted to take my life. I was living alone in Wilmington NC, my roommate bailed on me, left me owing money. I was choosing to pay bills over eating. Pinto beans and sandwich bread were all I had. Sometimes a friend would buy me a meal. Often I ate at the Fire Department, where I was a member and volunteer firefighter. I was constantly battling with the person I knew I was inside, and the person everyone wanted me to be. Finally one evening, feeling their was no hope in sight, I sat in the floor of the mobile home I lived in, a shotgun beside me, the gun loaded, safety off and the phone on my other side. As I was coming to the decision to put the gun to my mouth and end my life, the phone rang, it was a person I use to chat with on AOL and he talked me down. It wasn’t long after that I left Wilmington for Richmond VA.

At 19, while still in Wilmington, I was taken Advantage of and in a way raped by a set photographer on a popular TV series in America. He of course, promised to get me in from of agents, asked me to remove my clothes for “body shots” so agents could see my frame, That went into him attempting to blow me while I was frozen solid with fright. Keep in mind I’m just a 19yo boy from a small town, still very naïve and gullible.

My life in Richmond was not much better, I met good and bad people and my first two roommates kicked me out because I wouldn’t sleep with them. I’m only 20 years old by this point. After all of this found myself in SW Texas for a few months where people attempted to lure me out and take my life once they found out I was gay. I won’t bore you with details, but thankfully I’m still here. I drove from Uvalde TX to NC in a truck that was ready to break at any moment, and to quote the mechanic “were are not quiet sure how you made it back”

During the time in Richmond VA I came out to my mom, we cried we talked. She said she would always love me and that she could never stop loving me “I may not agree with it, but you are my son and I love you, I will always love you and you’re my best friend” were her words to me. We still talk very little about my being gay, I try to exercise a bit of respect, but over time it gets better.

Now I live in Saigon. Life has changed a lot. I’m still working in film and photography. When I get bored with that, I’ll go back to the corporate world again. I’m still the boy from the mountains of North Carolina, just a bit more grown up now, still trying to make my mark in this world, and trying to set a good example wherever I go. Often I fail, often I succeed, and that’s the nature and reality of being human, of being me. This isn’t the whole story, just a brief summary of some of the things I have experienced from being gay, and as stated above, I hope people who may be suffering can find strength from my words.

My experiences as a gay man have shown me the harsh reality of life and how cruel people can truly be, as well as seeing how loving, supportive, and accepting people can be. Humanity has long way to go before we all become equals, but we are slowly getting there. I long to see the day when there is no more black vs white, man vs women, or straight vs gay, that we all coexist in peaceful harmony. Until that day comes, all of us must recognize each others differences and short comings alongside our positive attributes, and accept that is what makes us unique and makes us individuals. “

photo by Fred Wissink
photo by Fred Wissink


  1. Bob Feslet

    I am honored to know you Kelly. By now you know that your next tomorrow really WILL come no matter what and you must help others to accept themselves by living for tomorrow..! I think I have just lost my job for the second time in my life because I am also a gay man, but there will be a tomorrow, a better tomorrow.
    Hugs my friend, and IF you need a bed in NC come see Chuck and I.!

  2. awaywind

    Thanks Kelly.
    I can find strength from your story. It was a good time to sit down following your story, thing back to my story.
    That s life, all good and bad things around. Sometimes I see that you are depressed. Remember you are a kind guy (the purpose that you write this note is nice tho.) and you are the only version of you-yourself.
    There s a sentence ‘When we re looking at someone is when we re looking at a miracle’.
    And you are.

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