Justin, American Studies Student, New York City

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Justin, in his own words: “In the most literal sense, being gay is just an attraction to someone of the same sex. And, in one regard, for me at least, being gay is just that. But when you consider how much our sexuality dictates how we act and dress and speak and live, I think that being gay (or sexuality, in general) becomes something more. So on one hand, I think that being gay is just a fraction of who I am as a person. That is, I’m not just gay; I’m also a brother, a son, a friend, a student, etc. and I have goals and aspirations and wants and needs that have little to do with my sexuality. But on the other hand, that small part of me has had a significant impact on my person, and I’m always mindful of that.

The challenges that I’ve faced being gay have been largely internal. I’ve only come out in the last two years and, in that time, I struggled with what being gay meant for my identity. I think that there is a pretty generalized notion of what gay men look like or act like, and because I didn’t conform to those standards when I first came out, I felt like I wasn’t “gay enough.” And I think that this notion is even more pronounced in the black community; straight black men seem held to a standard of hyper-masculinity while gay black men (the inverse of straight black men) seem held to an opposite standard of hyper-femininity. Because I don’t see myself as either incredibly masculine or feminine, I’ve found it difficult to strike a balance between these two and present myself in a way that reflects this balance, so that I’m not trying to be super flamboyant and “twinky” in order to fit in with the gay community or so that I’m not trying to “butch up” to fit in with everyone else.

I guess that, in a way, this is my coming out story, since I still haven’t come out to some friends and family members, and I left some to infer that I was gay without making an official declaration.

But I first came out in my freshman year of college, after a friend of mine confided in me and told me that he was gay. It seemed cheap to keep my secret from him after he had been so open with me. So I told him, and I remember feeling free and relieved and secure. And I wanted to replicate that feeling, so I told everyone: my ex-girlfriend, my best friend from home, all of my friends at school, my brother, and finally my parents (all of whom claimed that they already knew). Nothing made me surer of my relationships than the outpouring of love and support from my friends and family after my coming out, and my only regret is that I had not told them sooner.”

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