Kevin, in his own words:“For all of the challenges I had growing up gay, I can see now the path being laid out for me. Had I not felt so different from others, I may not have felt the need to leave my conservative hometown for college. If things weren’t tough for me as a closeted gay kid, I may not have studied psychology to figure out myself and learn how to deal with others too.
Had I not felt weird and alone I may not have painted as much, started writing, become absorbed with music and design, or any of the other creative pursuits that I love… If not for all these things combined, I may not have been comfortable eventually coming out to my friends and family, something I was terrified about at the time but was the single best decision I’ve ever made for sure.
Being gay has made all the difference in my life. Though it’s funny to write, I realize now how fortunate I was to grow up feeling weird and awkward… It gave me a unique point of view and forced me to explore the world. In the process of doing so, I developed my confidence, creativity, and capacity for understanding others. Above all else, I formed a really great circle of friends and met the love of my life too. So as tough as it may have been for me to be gay at certain points in my life, I wouldn’t take back any of the challenges I’ve had. They made me who I am and I’m happier for them, definitely.”
Brad, in his own words:“I love being gay. I almost feel bad saying that, because I know there are still many people who face serious prejudice, hatred, and danger because of it. But, part of the reason I love being gay is because I feel like I can help pave the way for others, just like others have done for me. While I’m a lot of different things—including a marketer, crossfitter, cyclist, runner, actor, volunteer, husband, son, brother-in-law, and uncle—being gay is at my core and I think it’s important to be out in every aspect of my life for my own happiness and truth, and to support others in theirs.
When I think about the nearly 20 years since I came out, a lot has changed. To me, the most poignant demonstration of that change is actually through my parents’ journey. When I came out to them in 1994, they were scared for me. They were afraid I’d be ostracized from my friends as we got older and they went off and had “normal” families. They didn’t want their friends to know because they didn’t think they could ever understand or look at them or me in the same way. They thought I’d be limited in my choices of where I could live, where I could work, and what I could do with my life.
Fast-forward to our wedding in 2006 and the joy my parents had as Allen and I got married in front of them and about 150 of our friends and family members. All the people who they were worried would desert me were there. Their close friends, who they never thought they could tell, were there. The evening was filled with laugher, some tears, lots of hugs, and lots and lots of dancing.
We now happily live in Boston, in the state that was first in the nation to legalize same sex marriage over nine years ago. While I’ve heard some lament that the gay “scene” here is pretty limited, I think that’s largely due to broader acceptance and more people being open/out in every facet of their life. It results in less of a need for gay people to have as many places that we can call only “ours”. I have gay and straight friends at work, at crossfit, who I cycle with, who I know from theater, in our neighborhood, etc., so I don’t usually feel a need to go somewhere to be with gay people, as I’m with them all the time. “
Allen, in his own words: I knew I was gay at a really young age, but I was convinced that I could live a ‘normal’ life, that the feelings would subside. But they didn’t no matter how hard I tried – and I’m a pretty determined person.
It wasn’t until I completed grad school that I decided to deal with my sexuality. I was 31, had my dream job, a great group of friends and a loving family, but I wasn’t that happy something was missing. So I decided it was time to come out. I was initially concerned with telling people…probably less so because I was gay, but because I felt like I’d been living a lie and had been dishonest to my friends and family. So, to make sure I didn’t back out – I did what all good consultants do – I read every book on coming out, identified ‘best practices’ and made a timeline – a project plan of sorts, with milestone dates to tell my friends and family.
My friends and family were incredibly supportive and happy for me. And, I have to say, if I could choose between being straight and gay, I’d choose gay. I’ve met the love of my life and married my best friend and I’d not have it any other way.”
Noam and Daniel, in their own words:“Tel Aviv is quite a liberal place within a not-always-liberal country. It is a bubble, in many ways parallel to how NYC is viewed within the US.
Gays are an influential part of the society in Tel Aviv: in politics, in media and in culture. Before moving to Cambridge, we both worked full time as journalists in Ha’aretz Newspaper’s culture section, covering arts and architecture on a daily basis. We were one of the only couples there, and perhaps the only gay couple. Personally we can’t say being gay had any negative influence on how we were viewed, it never created any special challenges. We never hid our sexual orientation, quite the contrary.
Though we are pretty new in Boston / Cambridge, we can already say that it is very very different in terms of gay community when compared to Tel Aviv. First of all, Tel Aviv is smaller and everyone knows everyone. Then, of course, Israel is a Mediterranean country: it’s hot, temperamental, edgy, alive all year round and it’s extremely sexual. These things are different in Boston, which is way more introverted and quiet, more educated and calm, more homogeneous in its gay population. It seems sometimes that maybe because gay marriage and being gay has been OK here for a pretty long time, the character of the gay community here has become very institutional.
As for a coming out story. Both of us went to arts high schools and studied classical music (Daniel-piano, Noam- tuba). For our parents, our coming out was not such a big surprise in hindsight. There were phases of therapy in both cases, but today our parents are super accepting. And both parent-pairs are friends with each other too, which is great. They are our family and we think that they see we love each other, they see how we develop and flourish together, and they trust us that we’re OK and that they don’t need to be worried for us.”
Denny, in his own words:“Part of where I’m going, is knowing where I’m coming from” –Gavin DeGraw.
I’ve spent a significant chunk of my life wrestling with the second part of that song lyric and with various aspects of my identity. For me, understanding who I am has always been a complex, fluid process. Born in South Korea and adopted by white parents when I was three months old, I had many questions about race at an early age. I constantly felt torn between whether I was white or whether I was Asian. Upon starting college, another wrench was thrown in my quest to understand myself as I started to reflect more deeply on my sexual orientation.
Coming from a staunchly Evangelical Christian family I wrestled with religious issues, began thinking about what it meant to be gay in a world that often perpetuates hegemonic masculinity, and was surprised about how closely my sexual orientation was tied to both my anxieties and hopes for my future. Often I live by the cliché that being an adopted Asian and being gay are only small parts of who I am—that they don’t define me—and that I’d rather dwell on other things like my passion for social justice, education, and running. When I settle into bed at night, however, I can’t help but reflect and be faced with the fact that my race and sexual orientation play a huge role in how I look at the world, react to others, think, and act.
Within the past three years, I’ve spent a ton of time dwelling on an end point—that moment where I will fully understand who I am. Sitting here, writing this now, and gathering my thoughts, I’ve realized that I’ve lost sight of process. I might be chasing some point of equilibrium that doesn’t even exist. What I can say now, is that the questions I’ve had about being adopted and being gay, the conversations I’ve had with my friends, and the time as well as experiences I’ve been able to soak in, have done something to me. At one point in my life, I lived with a sense of fear about who I was, perhaps the plain fear of not knowing. Now it’s time to continue moving, twisting and shifting. Ultimately that is the “where I’m going” part of my life.”
James, in his own words:“It’s weird. I feel like my life can be split up pretty cleanly between two columns. On one side you have who I was and everything about my life before I moved to Boston. And on the other side, there’s who I am and everything that’s happened to me since.
Having been born and raised in a small town in rural Georgia, the only representation of “out” gay people I was given was from tv or movies. Gay men, the media told me, existed solely to accessorize the stories of straight characters – a silly distraction, a tragic allegory or, when whatever I was watching was being particularly direct in its thoughts on the matter, simply the nefarious “other.” So, when you couple that with the general unease most Southern folks have about gay men in particular, it was a pretty easy choice to stay in the closet. Though my parents weren’t particularly religious, my brother and I ended up joining the youth group at a local Southern Baptist church just before I started high school. Around that time, I started thinking about being gay pretty much every second of every day. What did that person mean by that joke? When I made eye contact with that guy in the hallway, did he think I was staring at him? Did something about the way I talk or the way I move seem gay? (Because, again, as the media taught me, there is a “gay way” to be and act and talk and, I don’t know… breathe. Stop breathing so gay, James!) It was pretty much a nonstop anxiety barrage from age 12 until I graduated college. Well, that’s not true. Then, instead of being anxious about my classmates finding out, it was coworkers and roommates. It bears noting that I never had a smidgen of sexual contact with a guy until I was 24. (Oh my god… I can’t believe I just wrote that.) So, it wasn’t like I was ever in any situation where someone could catch me actually doing anything. It was this very particular form of thought terrorism I was complicit in visiting upon myself. And it continued until I got on a plane, moved to Boston and started the second of those two columns I mentioned earlier.
Though it’s trite, the best way to put it is… since I moved to Boston, I’ve become who I really am. I made a very conscious decision to be out and open about who I am from day one. At work. Socially. And, after a few months in the city, I finished the process by coming out to my parents. The thing about my parents is that they are both extraordinarily loving and intelligent people, but in different ways. Neither my father (a jocular, pragmatic Vietnam veteran) nor my mother (a reserved, creative writer) had ever given me reason to believe they would react poorly to me being gay. Yet I never found the courage or the timing to tell them in person. I never did, actually. I came out to my parents by writing an email addressed to both of them one night. I wrote it in one sitting, read it back to myself, took a shot of whiskey and hit send. The next morning, there were two emails waiting for me. One from my father reading, “Son, though this isn’t the life I imagined for you when you were a little boy, to thine own self be true. I love you and will always be proud of you.” The second email was from my mother, addressed to my father and cc’d to me. It read, “Jim. I have never loved you more than I do right now.”
In the time since, both of my parents have slowly grown more comfortable with idea of me being gay. And that’s fine and understandable. It took me 25 years to accept it, I couldn’t expect them to do it in a day. It’s been a process for them and for me. But, once that piece was done, there was all this free space in my head and my life to fill with things other than fear and pain and doubt. Strangely, by coming out, I didn’t have to think about being gay all the time. I had time and mental space to explore and nourish other facets of who I am. And, in a lot of ways, I have Boston to thank for that. Sure, you can knock Boston for being insular and a bit standoffish. (And, real talk? The gay scene could use some work. I mean, there are more gay bars in Providence…) But, it’s my home now. And, I’m not sure where or who I would be without it.”
Zion, in his own words:“Being gay is a part of me but its not what defines me. There is so much more to me then my sexual orientation.
Sadly, being a gay minority is pretty much a “double minority.” While growing up with a mother in the military I have lived all around the country. All the different places my mom was stationed in I have experienced racism in different forms , which made me more of a stronger person. When I came out the closet I thought that I would be accepted in the gay community but I have also noticed it there as well. It would be nice if we lived in a nonracial Utopian society but unfortunately we don’t.
The gay community in Boston is nice filled with a variety of gay people. Never a dull moment.
(With regards to coming out) I would say I thought I was little bit different from the rest of boys back in middle school. I came out to my mom while she was serving in the military at the age of 16. Talk about being scared out my mind because my mom was a military police officer. When I told her she responded to me ” honey child I already knew you was gay, I was just waiting for you to tell me”. Talk about a Hallmark moment.