Rodbernson, in his own words:“Being gay to me means to be proud and to be unapologetically sorry for being who you are. It means you don’t need anyone’s permission to love who you want. It means having the courage to be fierce.
One of my challenges was finding true love. I’m only 21, but finding love isn’t easy. It takes a lot to open up to someone. It takes trust, commitment, and communication to be in a relationship. I’m in the pursuit to happiness. One thing that makes me happy is dance. Movement is what keeps me going to reach my goals. I’m currently choreographing for local performers and hope to be successful as a choreographer. One day I’ll own my own dance studio to passionately teach dance as my job. Wake up. DANCE. Sleep. Repeat. That’s my dream, and no one can take that away from me.
The gay community in Portland is very small. Everyone seems to know someone through a friend or foe. Seems like everyone is partying on the daily basis.
I came out to my mother through a letter. I told her I was raped at the age of 6. She didn’t believe me. She kicked me out of my home at the age of 16. I had to grow up at a young age. Because of this I learned how to be independent and to trust no one.
Advice I would have given to my younger self: “Don’t cry over boys. Do some squats and make them cry wishin they still had that ass.”
Donovan, in his own words:“Being queer to me is freedom. Freedom to be myself. Freedom to live, love or not love in the way that I choose. Being queer is dictating my life in a way that suits me and my ultimate health and happiness. Queer is a strength and rite of passage. I had to come here from some other place. I had to arrive at the place of my truest self.
Self acceptance was and is my biggest failure and also my greatest success. I still fail daily at releasing the ingrained moors of a restrictive and religious upbringing, abusive family construct and learned self-loathing. It’s also where my greatest triumph lies because I am learning daily to adore the creature I am, to nurture self-care and to be a solid pliable strength to those who maybe aren’t quite there yet. I learn a lot from falling down hard.
I don’t know too much about the gay community in Portland. It’s a different scene here than coming from the few other cities I’ve lived like Phoenix or Boston where everyone goes to the same bar week after week. Portland has a thriving queer/trans underground that is doing amazing things. In that “scene” I’ve found a family; a community that supports one another and lives each other’s triumphs and sorrows. I suppose it really depends on what you’re looking for what you’ll find. If one can’t understand that they can’t really know what they’re missing.
I did a bit of a peekaboo I think in coming out. I knew very young that I was attracted to men as I developed crushes on my friends and older male figures very rapidly early on in my childhood. I think to this day I tend to fall in love pretty quickly though much more tentatively.
I wrote a pretty graphic letter to my father when I was 13 in reaction to a rather violent abusive episode in particular; coming out to him out of spite I think. My parents ignored the letter and when I confronted them was told in a very stern Jamaican Patois that I wasn’t gay and to go to my room.
It took until I moved to Boston 6 years later for me to begin living as a then identified actualized gay man. I made a point to never sleep with the same guy twice for years and used to keep a black moleskin documenting each of my sexual escapades in the city with a descriptor of the trick, the act, and the date. I stopped when I filled the book.
I ended up re-closeting myself when I got signed to an indie record label in 2003 fresh out of school. They felt It didn’t fit the image and I wasn’t as strong as I am now to disagree. I became incredibly depressed and suicidal and even manic at times. That shame we carry can eat a soul up. I think those were probably some of my darkest days.
When I was dropped from the label and that door closed I moved to Portland to start afresh. I came here to rekindle a music career and ended up finding a community and family that support me in my growth as a spiritual being and decent human. I’m 10 times beyond where I ever imagined I could be as an actualized and accepted queer person of color. Things aren’t perfect but I am constantly growing and evolving. That will forever be my story.
I’d tell my (younger)self that I didn’t have to change a thing. That I was perfect from the get go…that I still am. To relax. It’s seriously all gonna turn out fine. To trust my gut. It’s the strongest asset I have. Most of all, that my strength is in my softness. Cultivate that.”
Aiden, in his own words:“Identifying as queer means being open minded and connecting with people from all over the world without ruling anyone out because of gender or gender identity.
This will out me to a *huge* amount of people but I feel like it’s time to let that fear go: Being trans is definitely the biggest challenge I’ve ever had at this point in my life. It’s excluded me from some people’s lives, opened me up to others and people who love me for who I am, of course. I’ve faced a lot of rejection when I’ve told people I am trans, especially in the dating scene since I’ve been told they had no idea I was trans. My rule has been if there is a possibility that pants are coming off at some point then I disclose, otherwise I don’t think it’s anyone’s business, haha.
Portland seems like such a small place and people are very tight knit. It’s been a great boost to my confidence to meet such great people and have such amazing friends in my life. I try my best to not become insular in any one community and love to boast about my good friends from all walks of life.
I’ve always known I was trans so I kind of feel I skipped the whole coming out process but, truth be known, I haven’t “come out” to my mom yet, which bothers me every day but if she were to reject me it would be absolutely devastating! Every time she visits I tell myself to just say the words, it’s totally obvious I’ve transitioned but she’s too polite(or scared)to bring it up. Yikes. Everyone else in my family pretty much knows by now. Maybe I’ll type up a letter and let her process it in her own way then we can talk about it. It’s been over 3 years now, just the elephant in the room, don’t mind him.
I transitioned very late out of fear of rejection by family, friends and lovers, which wasn’t an unfounded fear, by the way.
I would tell (my younger self) not to wait just to make others happy, sometimes yourself is all you really have and living in fear is not any way to live. I still need to take my own advice on this, obviously. I don’t have any regrets about transitioning and hopefully one day I will find someone to share my life with. Until then, stay romantic.
Johnathan, in his own words:“Being gay means everything and nothing to me. My sexuality is important to me but doesn’t define me. I am a man who just so happens to like other men and it’s not that big of a deal.
My biggest challenge and success has been moving across the country by myself. Leaving my parents was hard, mostly for my father, but I had to for my own well being and growth. The City and State I was raised in became a hole of depression but the last three years spent in Oregon have been the best thing that’s happened. Every day I am creating a beautiful life.
(The gay community in Portland) has it’s pros and cons, and I appreciate it all the more because I was raised in a much smaller gay community. I’m happy to have the opportunity to freely connect with other gay men but it can be lonely.
It took me until college to come to labeling myself as homosexual. On the day before Father’s Day, at the age of eighteen, I came out to my parents. My father cried and my mother laughed. They both grew to understand and support my homosexuality like they had in all other aspects of my life.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without everything happening the way that it did. Any advice I could give (to my younger self) probably wouldn’t have been appreciated. I wish I would have started therapy sooner though.”
Randy, in his own words:“Being gay means Im really no different than any other human other than what i may or may not do in the bedroom. I make my bed, wash my clothes, take out the trash, pay my bills, go to the movies… just like any one else would.
My challenges in life have usually revolved around being patient; being patient w people, events, and circumstances. Ive had numerous successes throughout my life, my career and in my personal and professional relationships.
There is no gay community per say here in Portland. The GLBTQ citizens is interspersed throughout the many communities, the burbs and farmlands here. We are woven as threads into the colorful fabric of each and every community.
(With regards to coming out ) When I was 11 y/o I had made fast friends with a student from Japan. He taught me how to masturbate, and one day I had written a letter to my j/o buddy. I had intended to mail it to him, but my father found it first. He was not having any part of my being involved with a man. I was told it was just a phase I was going through and to forget about it, and never to see him again. For the next 3 years I would do just that. In my 20s, I didn’t feel a need to “come out”, I just assumed everyone knew that I was gay because I never had girlfriends; never brought a girl to family gatherings. When I did tell certain straight male friends I was gay, they dropped my like a lead anvil. Its sad to think that I was “ok” with them, when hanging out and getting stoned, but my sexuality would make them extremely uncomfortable, even without discussing sex, or trying to “convert them”. LOL
I would tell my younger self to remember… God made you in His image and likeness, and that he does not make junk! You are your father’s son, and a gift unto this world, your family, friends and the community in which you will live. But most importantly, you DO make a difference in people’s lives. Be kind to yourself when you feel less than, and embrace the Allness of your whole self. Not everyone will like you, but thats not important, what is important is that YOU like you, and to love yourself wholly and unconditionally.”
Terry, in his own words:“I like to think that to me, being gay means simply that I am attracted to the same gender. Where I grew up if you didn’t play sports, you were gay or got called gay, so I though that liking art and music and anything that wasn’t football was closely associated with being gay. To some degree, maybe it is, but having seen a good portion of the world and meeting more gay people who have varied interests and desires helps me see that what makes us similar is merely who we are attracted to.
The challenges I’ve had I think have been personal, meaning, I had to learn to accept myself so I could find the strength to tell those who didn’t accept me that their opinion of who I am doesn’t matter. It’s not easy to focus and be productive in any kind of work if you are constantly worried what others think of who you are. The successes I’ve had? I suppose finishing art school, running a web comic I’m proud of and joining a terrific studio full of great artists here in Portland, Periscope Studio.
I’m not sure how I would identify the gay community in Portland. I tend to gravitate towards making friends and fostering great relationships more through game nights and movie nights and books clubs than going out to bars. I haven’t ever wanted to categorize or assume what the gay community would be like through my experiences at a bar or a club. I don’t feel that’s accurate. Peacock in the Park was fantastic as I felt a sense of community from Portland gays that day.
I came out to most of my friends once I came home from my two year stint as a Mormon missionary, but that was a bit easier considering I moved far away from my family. Several years ago I came out to my sister who was great but a year after that I came out to my parents through a letter. I felt it was the best way I knew for me to get out everything I wanted to say without being interrupted and leave the ball in their court. It didn’t go too well at first, but things are getting better.
I would tell my younger self to save more money and finish college quicker.”
Drexler, in his own words: “Being gay is just a minor facet of who I am. It means I’m attracted to the same sex and adds another notch of diversity even though I feel no greater difference than others.
Challenges I’ve had would be people assuming, especially my straight guy friends, that because I’m gay I’m automatically attracted to them or that I only like sports to check the guys out. Things of that nature. Being pinpointed in certain conversations based upon my sexuality. Also not being able to be completely open with family members of strict religious backgrounds in fear of judgement. Successes I’ve had would be my happiness which was a long struggle to fight for and to finally be happy is one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.
The gay community in Portland is small, catty, but underneath it all is very protective of one another. I have a crew that consists of gay straight lesbian bi and trans and we keep to ourselves and yet maintain our aquaintence and respect for the community.
(With regards to a coming out story) I don’t really have one. Once I fully came out to myself I accepted it, told a friend who already had a hunch and it kind of slowly spread which initially pissed me off but I’m now grateful. There were people who literally stopped talking to me but that’s their loss.
I would tell my younger self to eat less. Workout more. Don’t cut your hair. Don’t blow your money. And yes. It’s perfectly normal and natural to be gay!”
James, in his own words:“Hmmm, well I don’t like the word gay anymore because this question is derogatory. You wouldn’t ask someone what it means to be black or poor, or whatever. But since you asked, I’ll do my best to answer this question. I don’t think it means anything in particular. I mean, being gay does present challenges and obstacles just like every other minority or in some cases the majority experiences. It’s definitely not easy at all, and it still challenging, but for guys of my age group or older it was a lot harder for us when we were teenagers trying to figure ourselves out then it is for someone who’s a teenager now just coming and trying to figure themselves out. With 19 states now allowing gay marriage, it’s meaning more then it used to. Being gay means that I am just like everyone else. I’m no different then anyone else who isn’t gay, but I feel that it makes me appreciate life more and strive more to achieve my goals than others who aren’t. The way I see it we are just another group of people, that’s it.
Well, I’ve definitely had a lot of challenges in my life and because I’m gay I’ve had more then most straight people from my experience. I had it hard growing up in school and had a particular hard time making friends because I didn’t conform to the gender and valued norms of my time. As I got older I felt isolated which made it hard for me to feel confident to achieve the best I could. I felt limited and held back because I didn’t feel like I was accepted for who I was(before I came out).
After I did I was tied up with discrimination and hate because of who I was. It was hard for me to keep a job or housing because no one(not even my own mother at the time) would accept me, or want to give me a chance because I was gay and stigimized in to being a failure just because I wasn’t living up the expectations that were being shoved in my face. It got better as the years went on and as the laws around the country are changing it’s easier for gay people to be themselves and live their lives. But even with all this new found acceptance, there will always be some degree of challenges and limitations that gay people will face because this world is still full of hate and discrimination. Our fight for equality will be over.
(My coming out) was rough to say the least. I came out 4 months after I graduated high school because I was too afraid to come out during high school. I came home after a long day at work and my mom was in my room on my computer playing games, but had also gone through my search history. She asked me about it and I just said we should talk about it later because I was tired and wanted to rest. The next day we had “the talk” for about an hour and after I couldn’t stall it anymore, I fessed up. After I told her we didn’t speak for about 2 months and I had to deal with my family calling me to confirm, but most of them were very supportive, well my sisters anyway, and my dad only said that he wanted grandchildren. Side note: he passed away in 2009 so he wouldn’t have lived to see them anyway because I don’t want kids anyway.
But my two older half sisters were the most supportive and understanding of me while my mom and younger sister were more closed off. My mom used to write me letters harassing me and telling me how much of a failure I was and that she wasn’t going to allow me to influence my younger sister. I wrote her letters back a few times and then just stopped, and after I stopped, she also stopped. It took about 6 years for her to come around, and we get along now, but I still hold those memories in the back of my mind every time I think about this question.
What advice would I give my younger self? Hmmmm well I would definitely cover my tracks better and then when the time was right and I wasn’t still living with her I would have told her that I was asexual and not interested in men or woman, nor was I interested in having children. Then I would have told here that I was gay, and if she didn’t like it then she didn’t have to, but I wouldn’t be in her life anymore. I would have said that if you can’t accept me for who I was then she never did really accept me and that she’s not a true Christian. I would have said that she failed in being a loving accepting parent and I’m better off alone and to have a nice life. I wouldn’t have yelled or screamed. I would have said my piece and left it at that.
I would also give younger guys just coming out to not go through life always gaining the acceptance if it’s not there to begin with. Always do you and worry about yourself because at the end of the day the only person who has your back is you and even family can stab you in the back. Don’t rely on others to support you if they can’t accept you for who you are. Only surround yourself with people who love and support you.
“”To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already 3-parts dead.”
Jim, in his own words:“I always knew that my brother and I were very different people. Even though there was an expectation that we’d grow up to be similar, we always expressed different tastes in music, pursued different interests and reached milestones at different stages in life. However, despite our differences—and petty sibling arguments—we’ve always been very good friends and have relied on each other for support and rarely followed advice.”
Michael, in his own words:“It’s easy to forget where you came from. What I mean is, it’s entirely possible to forget formative events, or the face of your favorite teacher, or the name of your child (I’m looking at YOU, mom). But one thing you never, ever forget, is your “coming out” story, if you have one. This usually reflects the time and circumstances you grew up in, and my story is no exception.
It’s the fall of 1991, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Yes, jerk, there is electricity and running water, and yes, New Mexico is a state. Despite Nirvana’s Nevermind just having been released, Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 is still in heavy rotation on my Walkman. I own all the cassingles from it. I’m still mourning for the last Star Trek movie to feature the original cast, The Undiscovered Country, and my future boyfriend is probably being born (long story).
My boyfriend at this ancient time in 1991, however, is sweet, kind Max, who also happens to be my first boyfriend. He’s pretty great: awesome musical taste, handsome, really funny. We meet in freshman acting class and instantly connect through our mutual interests of Drakkar Noir and making out. He tolerates my Star Trek obsession the best he can. I mean, like, you know how some nerds are sexy? Yeah, I wasn’t one of those. Max was also with me when I get drunk for the first time from half of a Bartles & James wine cooler. Good times.
So the Big Event happened at the dinner table one night. I had moved out to go to school at UNM, which stands for the University of New Mexico (but is secretly the University Near Mom), but it was a couple miles from our house. Both my parents were enthusiastic smokers, something I didn’t think about until I moved out and then came back to visit. What. The. Hell. is that smell, guys? Why is there a chest-level cloud in the house? And why is grandma wheezing so much?
I don’t remember what we were eating, but I do remember it probably wasn’t Mexican. Despite my latin roots (on my mom’s side), I never developed a love of Mexican food. I had been hanging out with Max more and more, and had brought him over to meet my parents a couple weeks before. I also don’t remember what my parents and I were discussing, but I do remember as the meal ended my mom finally broached the subject: “Michael, is Max bi?”
The needle could not have skipped harder on the record as I set down my fork and looked at them. I imagine that I was cool and collected, but in reality I probably looked like a deer in headlights as I stammered “Uh, no. Of course not.” There was a long, long pause as they just stared back at me. I decided it was now or never.
“Yes. Yes he is. And so am I.” I didn’t bother correcting them at the time that he and I were gay, not bi. Maybe asking the question this way was their way to soften the blow for themselves, that maybe for them me being bi was like being “only half gay”. In any case, they both went down the “We still love you, you’re still our son, nothing has changed” road. And honestly, on some level they must have already known. I learned their real reactions later: my mom, being a director of an HIV-advocacy organization at the time, and friends with several gay artists, took the news all in stride. My dad, being the son of a Lutheran minister, privately struggled with it, but put on a supportive face. Why? Because he loved me, and he realized that love was evolving.
I’m lucky. Now, 20-some years later, I’ve turned 40. Both of my folks are amazing and supportive. My dad asks me how my boyfriends are whenever I’m dating someone, reads my posts about the shitshow that is my dating life (pro-tip: if a guy is ignoring you, it secretly means he is ignoring you). My mom tries to fix me up with literally every gay man she meets. But in the end, I’m fortunate. There are a lot of queer women and men out there whose tale is a lot different, whose coming out story is more fraught with pain and outright rejection than mine. There are people who don’t even have a coming out story yet, because of circumstances in their lives.
I look forward to the day that we don’t even need coming out stories, that it’s just universally accepted that we love who we love. But for now, we have these stories, and slowly but surely, the stories will get better and better. Let’s share them.”