Jason, in his own words:“Growing up and knowing you’re gay at a young age is tough, especially in a small, close-minded town in Indiana. Early on I knew I wasn’t like the other boys (age 5) and pretty much suppressed those feelings until I escaped to college. For years I thought when I came out I would lose friends and my family would disown me (side note; I was voted most dramatic in 6th grade). To no surprise, my true friends stayed right by my side and my family continues to stand up to ignorant people and will always love me. I guess what i’m getting at is that it really does get better.
Being gay is a very large part of my life. However, I try to not let it take over. I’m like an onion. So many layers.”
Thomas, in his own words“I was out before I wasn’t. As a precocious child, I let it all hang out. Adolescence brought awareness and reticence. My 21st birthday was a catharsis.
Being gay in San Francisco is less about place for me than it is about time. I’m five years out from my first kiss, four years out from my first love, and three years out of grad school. I finally feel “domestic,” but I chafe at the high costs of living here.
My greatest challenge is my greatest source of pride. I’m a square peg that just doesn’t quite fit in any ordinary box.
Michael, in his own words“The week before I started college I took a trip to LA by myself. I didn’t have much money so I walked everywhere around Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset. Did the touristy stuff but preferred the thrifting and people watching on Melrose Ave. It was early in the morning my second day there I ran into a boy. Up to this point of my life I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t flirted with another man but this was the first time the affections and intrigue was reciprocated without all the secrecy or shame. We had an uncommon amount of things in common at first glance. We hung out all day together. He snuck me into a bar to meet his best friend, this monster of a man standing 6 foot 5 and a father of 2. The most amazing thing about that day was watching these two friends, one gay and one straight, joking and giving each other shit about past times, sometimes about each other’s sexuality but in the most loving way possible. I had never seen such an exchange between two people that, in my mind, were completely separate and defined as unequal. All these preconceived notions, these social barriers I had placed upon myself without even realizing it, gone in one open and warm conversation with complete strangers.
That first kiss though… electric. Like all the anticipation and rejection lead up to that one soft kiss that eventually led to others. I’ll never forget it. We spent the next 4 days attached at the hip. I cried the day I had to fly back. So did he. The goodbye was brief, poignant for a first timer but that day was long from over.
I arrived back home to begin my drive from Yakima, Washington to Seattle to start my first semester. My father knew something was wrong as I packed silently, lethargically, eyes unnaturally swollen and distant. He asked what was wrong and I remember this little ember of defiance lit the stack. It took a couple of befuddled attempts but I admitted that I was gay as I tried carrying out a box to the car. I had to put the box down to cry again. Through the tears I saw my dad shaking his head, “I don’t care.” He said in the most sympathetic way he could muster before he hugged me. We packed the rest of my things as I told him an edited version of what happened in LA. Now my father was the silent one. The trip to Seattle is a bit over 2 hours and my father sobbed most of the way without explanation. Dishonor kept coming to mind but not enough to counter the relief of it all.
After getting my little room set up downtown, I goodbye’d a second time. There was obviously a lot that needed to be said but we saved it for the future. Over dinner about a year later I asked why he had cried on the trip to school, figuring he was a bit ashamed or confused about it all. He said matter of factly, “There are people in this world that don’t care much for people like you. I was leaving you in a big city, two hours away where I can’t protect you from them. It was a bit too much for me to think about. You’re lucky I wasn’t driving because I would have taken you straight home.” My father and I didn’t have the best relationship growing up. We were too similar and butted heads too often but after I came out we have developed an amazing friendship. I wouldn’t trade that man for the world. The boy and I still chat from time to time.”