I spent about a decade of my life hiding the fact I was gay from everyone I knew. Everyone.
I used to cruise gay chatrooms on America Online (when that was still a thing) hiding behind an anonymous screen name talking to guys in Alabama, or Michigan, or Rhode Island. I use to buy gay porn at the porn store hiding behind a baseball cap and sunglasses. The first time I attempted to go to a gay bar I drove the 30 minutes to get there, circled the block five times, parked, and then drove off. I was too scared to go in.
But that was a long time ago.
It took a long time to get to the place where I’m at today. It took me coming out to everyone I knew, it took me coming out to my family, it took a lot of trips to a lot of gay bars, and it took me quitting the Peace Corps because I chose to not live in country where it was illegal to be gay. It even took me starting a little blog called the Gay Men Project.
The point is, I don’t hide the fact that I’m gay anymore. It’s kind of all out there.
So when one of my alma maters asked to use me in their newest ad campaign, showcasing my work with the Gay Men Project, I of course said yes. They were going to put me on a bus, and how often do people get to see their face on a bus? Outside the world of Carrie Bradshaw, not often.
I was stoked.
I was excited.
And when I heard my buses were up and running, I scoured the entire city of Portland looking for it.
I spent an entire day sitting downtown, waiting at the bus mall, hoping to see my face drive by. It didn’t. But one of the buses with the same ad campaign, but showcasing a different person, drove by and I got a taste of what my ad was going to look like.
And a funny thing happened. I had a moment of panic. The ad was huge. It was the entire side of the bus. My face was going to be on the entire side of a bus, and the word gay was going to plastered in big white block letters right next to that face. And that gay face was going to be parading on buses all over my hometown.
It’s funny, some things in life stick with you, or find ways to creep back in. And that kid who spent so many years hiding in the closet, well he was starting to panic again.
Obviously, everyone in my life knows I’m gay. And I’m sure a good amount of people I’ve never even met know I’m gay. I take a lot of pride in being the creator of the Gay Men Project. But there’s just something a bit harrowing about having a very public outing to quite possibly the entirety of your hometown.
I didn’t know how I was going to react when I actually saw my bus.
But I was still going to find it.
So the next day, I was on the search again. I was able to narrow down a few of the bus lines my ad campaign was running on, and I set up camp. I sat at the intersection of NE Killingsworth and Albina, and I waited. I sat. I was going to find my bus.
And after an hour and half of waiting I finally did. My bus drove by.
And you know what? The moment I did see my face, and the word gay next to that face, I wasn’t embarrassed. I wasn’t ashamed or regretful. All I could think about was how fucking proud I was. My gay face was on a fucking bus and that’s pretty fucking awesome.
It had taken a lot to get me there, and I was going to bask in the moment. And so I did.
Eat your heart out, Carrie Bradshaw.