Andy, in his own words:“We have been together 18 years, or as I like to joke, 10 happy years.
I was in the audience when I first spotted Mark, playing the role of Mother Abbess in a campy version of the Sound of Music. Wearing a habit, Mark brought down the house with his falsetto rendition of “Climb Every Mountain.” “You’ve got to find the life you were born to live.”
I came out late, tragically and comically looking into all kinds of conversion programs before coming to terms with my sexuality while in graduate school at UNC- Chapel Hill. With two gay sisters, Mark came out earlier to himself but to his parents only after meeting me.
In 2001, Mark and I returned from Vietnam with our five month old son, Ben. Shy with adults but popular with his peers, Ben is bright, athletic and an expert on advanced weapons systems. Mark created the coolest back yard in Baltimore for Ben, complete with trampoline, zip line, tree house and water slide. Our house is always filled with the sounds of young boys laughing, having gun battles or discussing the latest Bond film.
My dad moved in last year, adding a third loving generation to the family.”
Alex, in his own words:“Gay is a Word I occasionally use to describe myself. Sometimes the word gay connects too much to a gender/culture dynamic that seems outdated, or just not enough. I find around radical queer folks I like to say I am a gay male, where around gay men I need to assert my queerness as something reaching into gender and my every self-constructed person. I identify more as a queer person. To me gender and sexuality are units of the creature I call me, but not the only ones. Being queer, means I connect to a culture, a world, a history that is constantly trying to reinvent itself. I suppose that’s why art and dancing help. It’s always a colorful game of movement and surprise. I like the history of magic and shamanism that friends of dorothy link up to, so somtimes its more fun to tell people that I’d rather be called a Witch than a gay male.
I would say the biggest challenge is just knowing when to speak out, and when to be chill with the circumstances of the gay/queer rung on the social ladder. Self-tokenizing is often a vice of protection and safety. Both empowering and problematic, the conflict and grey fuzzy areas of being queer tend to be super tricky. Stonewall and then some happened so we can continue to push forward to new terms and ideas of how people live their lives and celebrate their sexuality. I think there is a global need to make queerness acceptable throughout the whole world. Unganda is about to unload/has been unloading a bunch of Witch hunts on gay people. The challenge here is embracing the growing freedom and privilege of being openly gay in this culture and trying to share that with the rest of the world.
Gay Baltimore is all over the place. It’s a diverse situation, small and cozy. I’ve been more drawn to the group of artists, dancers, and thinkers who indentify beyond the basic needs or race/class/gender specificity. We’re all sentient beings working through the struggles of life. Baltimore’s gay scene can be as vanilla as queer as folk gay bar, or as granola crusty as a group of gender queer kids making art in the abandoned buildings and rustic environments of charm city.
I came out to my parents when I was 14. My twin brother had come out to me the year before, and I was intimidated to come out to him immediately. I guess that evil twin high school brat vibe kicked in, and I decided to be the first one to come out. I waited till my brother went to a weekend work-camp for this Christian cult called Young Life to take advantage of their sweet foresty resources and challenge evangelist nut-jobs. A year later when he came out to them, my parents said they wished we had both come out at the same time. I never really need to come out anymore, most people either assume or don’t care either way. At the same time, we don’t live in a 100% queer-friendly world, so coming out will always be a routine of “getting to know you” rituals. I think until the world sees queerness everywhere, no one will ever be done fully coming out. I kind of cherish the quiet retreat of the closet at times. Its like my own faggy Narnia.”
Jose, in his own words: “Being gay means having an opportunity to look at life from a different angle, sideways if you’d like. Being part of a minority always gives you a view with a unique perspective, and makes you examine many things that others take for granted. It also makes it easier to empathize with other minorities and unpowered people.
Being a gay man of my generation also means to me that I am part of the last to care about what has been called the “Gay Canon”: The places in art and culture where our kind has survived and have reflected their joys and longings through the ages, from Sappho to Michelangelo to Oscar Wilde to Tennessee Williams… With acceptance and tolerance LGTB people are quickly being assimilated into mainstream culture and this “secret knowledge” is getting lost..
I grew up in the turmoil of a changing Spain during the transition from dictatorship to democracy. All my adult life has been in Baltimore. Having only lived in big cities, I have not had as many problems as those living in rural areas. The biggest hurdles for me have been legal: growing up in Spain homosexuality was illegal, and when I arrived in this country it also was illegal (you could not even get a student visa if you were an out gay person). So for many years I was in constant jeopardy of being evicted, fired, arrested or deported.
The gay scene in Baltimore is small but very, very friendly and unpretentious. There are a handful of bars and clubs and everyone is always welcome. We also have a very active LGBT community center with lots of events and groups…
I came out to my friends at 16. In a way, we all came out, since we decided that “everyone was bisexual”… I was out since then to everyone but my mother. I came out to her 20 years later, at 37, after wanting to do it for many years. At first she did not take it well, but now she is part of a support group of parents of LGTB people in Madrid, and, after ten years, has become a leader and example for parents that attend the group.”
Joseph, in his own words:“”For me being gay, especially in these times, needs to be political. We are in the midst of a civil rights movement based on our sexuality. My politics is art, and my art is theatre. As a gay artist I have a responsibility to give voice to my community and tell our stories. Co-founding one of the countries few queer-centered theatre companies, Iron Crow Theatre, was very important to me and a significant step both politically and in my longing for storytelling through theatre. Through working in the theatre I can explore the human experience, and it has become my passion and a responsibility. And that human experience very much includes mine as a gay man.
I also have the honor to also be an arts educator. I teach at one of the two high schools for performing arts in the Baltimore area (One could consider it the FAME of Baltimore, I feel like I am part “Mr. Farrell, part “Ms. Lydia”…watch out Debbie Allen). I am amazed and very moved by the number of out LGBT kids in my school. And I am often overwhelmed with their sense of identity, courage and joy in/for who they are. There lives today is very far from the scared teenager at an all boys Catholic high school that was my expereince in the late 80’s.
I am very lucky to have a wonderfully supportive and open family who have always accepted me for who I am, including my sexuality. I came out at 20 years old and felt like I never looked back. I spent a number of years as a professional drag artist while I lived in NYC. How many people can say that their parents came to see them perform in drag, often with their friends in tow! Now those are really great parents! Early on in my coming out process, my parents seemed to be able to leave the questions of “why” and “how” about my sexuality behind in order to celebrate my individuality. I am very grateful for that and for them.”