Richard, in his own words: “Being gay to me means being in touch with my own identity. I am not really into labels, but my gayness courses through every part of my body and every cell in my body so I feel it is a part of my true self, i.e. a child of God who happens to be gay.
The biggest challenge I have ever faced for being gay was when the superintendent of schools where I worked tried to fire me on trumped up charges. It was very devastating to see the kind of bigotry expressed to me all hidden behind obvious lies. Fortunately I prevailed because no one was going to destroy my reputation as a top notch educator. My biggest success I think is an on-going story for it is the spiritual journey of coming to know my true self and trying to live life from that center and not from the false self of ego.
The gay community in Cleveland is like that, I think, in my mid-west cities. It is very diverse from those being very out to those being very closeted. I have felt a tremendous support for a great variety of gay organizations over the past 25 years since I came out including, but not limited to: The LGBT Community Services Center, the North Coast Men’s Chorus, the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland, GLSEN Cleveland, inclusive churches of several denominations.
My coming out story is that it took a long time to acknowledge the person I am even though I knew I was different from the time I was 5. After two marriages to women and three children, I could no longer live pretending to be someone I was not. I was having difficulty with my children, with my work, with my wife at the time, and had to do something. After several months of very good therapy, I came out and have been grateful for the support I have had all along the way. Both of my wives and my children (all now adults) have been incredibly supportive.
(Advice I’d give my younger self) Seek out support and be yourself, not what someone else wants you to be and know that no matter what you are loved!”
Carl, in his own words: “Other than being special as my own person, being gay makes me more special. I believe it gives me a more open-minded view of the world and people. More tolerant, less judgmental, more accepting, more gentle,
One challenge I have had, is to fully and completely accept my gayness, Another was to deal with the guilt I felt about leaving my wife of 25 years, she is a wonderful person. I sometimes put myself down for being gay (sounds strange doesn’t it?) Successes are making many new friends, being less concerned about being myself, I was able to leave a toxic marriage.
Through my partner Rich, I have met many friends that are my age, and some younger ones. All of the men I have met are accepting, kind and generous.
I came out when I was 65. I had been living in the closet all my life. It caused me to hold myself back. Coming out finally removed a heavy burden from my back. I no longer had to pretend and hide. There is more to tell. I found love and acceptance that I never thought I could get.
(Advice I’d give my younger self) Be yourself, take the risk. Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t. Love yourself. Accept yourself. There is only one you. Enjoy yourself.”