Kevin, in his own words:“Being gay does not completely define who I am. Yes it is a part of me but it does not change nor affect the way I see the world or interact with it. The only real challenge that I had with being homosexual was whether or not it was a natural part of life. After I was able to over come the fact that no matter how much treatment or medication I was going to go through it would not change the fact that I liked other men.
The gay community in Vancouver is a very diverse community which is able to address many of the issues that face both young and old LGTBQ within the community. It is a very supportive community and I’ve known about it since high school which made it a bit easier when I did come out. My coming out story was quite bazaar but I believe everything happened for a reason and it made it much easier for me to be able to come out to my family. We had a gathering with my family and some of my closest friends one evening, as one drink lead to another I found one of my girl friends getting rather comfortable with my mother and my mother has whispered into her ear. “Is my son gay?” and she had answered “Yes” immediately the crowd had went from inebriated and intoxicated to complete sober when she had answered yes. The following day seemed quite awkward but as the day drew to an end my mother had opened her mouth and finally said “No matter what your orientation is, as a parent I still love you no matter what, if anything even more so then ever”. After that I was finally able to accept myself.
If I could give myself advice before coming out I would’ve told myself; “you should really believe in yourself before jumping to a conclusion that the family would abandon you, also if you do come out to your family you must always believe that they will still love you”. I think this advice would save me all the troubles of feeling negative towards myself.”
Mitsuhiro, in his own words: “For a long time, being gay meant obstacles, fear, depression and hatred, and even now this is something I sometimes have to face. I also can say being gay means moments of joy, love, affection, excitement and peace, when I am with someone who I love, or I am surrounded with friends who accept me just as who I am.
Having said that, being gay is simply one element of me. I used to think being gay gave me an extra obstacle in my life, so I thought my life was more difficult than others’, but apparently not. Being gay doesn’t define me completely, it is only a part of me, but it is a part that completes me and gives me strength to live my life. All the negativity I heard and felt were obstacles once, but I always figured out how to deal with it. To help me do that, I was lucky enough to have people to help me.
In other words, being gay brought me understanding friends who have gone through similar experiences and accepted me just as a person. Sharing experiences and getting advice helped me to be the person who I wanted to be. All their support helped me lay my foundation, and I am still building myself.
Being gay gives me more freedom to explore the world and encounter people from all around. I have met people in difference circumstances and some people were very inspiring. I believe that there is no coincidence, that all encounters and incidents have meaning. This is probably the greatest upside of being gay.
Now there is so much happening all over the world: People are finally gaining equal rights in the US. “Marriage Equality” and “Equal Rights” are great terms and are the right way to think about these issues. I hope Pride Day one day becomes about celebrating all people just for who they are, where I can be proud of myself as being gay because I’m proud of myself as a human being. That is my goal.
My first relationship lasted about 6 years, including three years of long distance. We were young. One day everything was so delightful, but the next day everything became dramatic. Once he went abroad to work, three years of long distance changed everything. I don’t remember how I managed my emotions for three years, but sad to say I failed to maintain the relationship. I tried to reach out to him, but he didn’t respond, so I gave in. To be honest, I gave up on him.
After a while, I met someone and we were in a relationship for 2 years. That was my second and last relationship so far. I actually liked myself in this relationship because I learned and grew a lot. I was so dramatic, very emotional and more self-centred before, but I somehow figured out what should be like loving someone. I guess I learned how to put myself in someone else’s shoes. He moved away to pursue his career and he tried to keep a long distance relationship, which I never would have expected. I appreciated these efforts, but it didn’t last long and we ultimately broke up. I chose to never see him again, but he brought two very important people into my life, so now I am looking forward to seeing him again one day to say, “Thank you”.
I fell in love with someone after being single for many years. That was the first time I fell in love at first sight. I thought it was just a crush, but it wasn’t. Unfortunately it was only felt in one direction. I don’t want to disclose more details, but I wanted to mention him because he became important to me by helping me realize that I still have the power to love, and teaching me happiness can be found in any circumstances. (It’s actually tough to think that way sometimes, but I’m trying my best. Haha!)
I am still looking for my soulmate. Knock knock! Are you out there? lol
I don’t really know what the gay community is like (in Vancouver) now. The older I get, the less I go out. I gradually stopped being in the “scene” so much.
I bet it has been changed since I was in my 20’s. It is more diverse since the internet become more popular and social networking system revolutionized the gay community, including Vancouver. I can’t deny that it changes my social circle as well.
This isn’t really a comment on the gay community here, it’s more that I never really laid roots here. I’m still trying to figure out how to fit in, not just in the gay community, but in society in general. I realize not that fitting in is not about the place, but is about figuring out who you are and having confidence in yourself. With these things, you will be fine no matter where you are (although there are still places where it is not safe to be out).
(Coming out) This was the toughest thing in my life.
To come out to myself.
I knew I was different but I didn’t know I was gay. It was hidden in a dark room for a long time until I moved to Canada at the age of 25. I met a Canadian guy who wanted to learn Japanese and I wanted to learn English. We started as language exchange partners at the beginning and became friends.
One day I was invited over to his place and to watch some movies. In the middle of the movie, he kissed me and we ended up making out. I didn’t mind; it was rather nice indeed. And that was how I came out to myself. It did, however, take a long time to accept myself because society, my community, and my circle of friends didn’t allow me to do so. Most likely, I was scared of not knowing where coming out was going to lead. My idea of being gay was something unacceptable, discriminated and hated.
It took me a half a year to start going out to gay clubs and bars. I had no gay friends except the Canadian guy, so it was a big relief to meet other gay guys, especially Japanese gay guys. It made me feel better to know that I was not alone.
To come out to my best friends.
My best friend came from Japan to visit me in Vancouver in 1996. He actually came here to ask my opinion about his relationships with two girls (very bad lol). He was with one girl for a long time but it was a long-distance relationship, while he met another girl at his work and was considering marrying her. I kind of knew that he didn’t come here to ask my opinion, he basically needed me to affirm his decision.
The last day before he left for Japan, I felt I needed to tell him about myself. He came all the way here to share a big life decision. Yes, I need to tell him! Oh my god, words didn’t come out of my mouth for 5 to 6 hours and all I told him was unimportant bullshit. He must have been so suspicious. Finally I confessed to him, and there was a silence for a while, maybe only a few seconds, but it felt like forever. Then he broke the silence and said “It’s okay. You are the same person I’ve known for a long time and it won’t change a bit.” He also mentioned that things I said before make sense to him. What did I say? I didn’t remember at all.
I told him not tell anyone, but he couldn’t keep it in himself and told another friend of ours, and I was glad he did. Knowing the fact that they accepted me as a person, and nothing changed a bit, gave me so much relief. We are still best friends although we rarely see each other.
To come out to my family.
After while, I came out to my sister. She is only a year younger than I am, so we basically grew up just like twins. She wanted everything I had and wanted to play with me and my friends, but I hated it so much. So we fought a lot when we were kids. I think I was a very mean brother to her. The older we became, the relationship got better, especially after I moved to Canada, and we started talking more.
Anyway, she was surprisingly cool about it. I guess I was more shocked than she was.
I was picked on sometimes when I was a kid. Bullying is not something new; kids can be very cruel. Some called me “jellyfish,” “queer” or “sissy boy.” It is funny that they already sensed that I was “queer” long before I found out about myself.
My sister and I grew up with a stern father, and he often lost his temper when my sister and I started fights. He wanted me to be strong. He put me in a baseball team and a martial arts club. Feeling afraid of my father, I was a boy trying to get my parents’ approval and make them proud. My parents ran a bar at night, so my grandma raised my sister and me. At 12 we moved to a new house a little farther from the bar, so we sometimes didn’t see each other for a week even though we lived under the same roof. The lack of communication with my parents affected my relationship with my family.
When I reached 15, I stopped being a good son. My grades dropped and I barely graduated from high school so I couldn’t attend the university I wanted. I could have gone to some other universities. After 2 years studying for the university entrance exams, I didn’t feel right with what I was doing, so I quit. I was lost for 2 years; I lost all my confidence and my motivation in Japan. I was looking for a way out. Then I found the way, it was “coming to Canada.” Some people said I was refusal to face reality, but for me it was facing reality.
I suppose a part of me always knew my sexual orientation. When I look back, I believe that I needed to leave everything behind so I could free myself. After I left Japan, I was so relieved and I didn’t miss home much. I felt more delightful being away from my family rather than missing them.
In a few weeks, it will be 20 years anniversary since I moved to Canada.
I came here to find who I am and now, ironically, I feel like going back to my origin. I was debating whether it was better for my parents know about me or not. If they would suffer from knowing that I am gay, maybe I should just shut my mouth and spare them. But I am starting to think they have a right to know about me. When I think about it, I feel it would be a pity that they would leave this world without knowing anything about me. I will probably never understand what being a parent is like, but as I get older, I understand a bit what they think about children.
I recently learned that my mom has colorectal cancer and it spread to her liver. My dad also had a surgery for his cancer in 2012.
It is time… my real coming out story is “coming out” soon, I hope.
(Advice I’d give to my younger self)
“Remember you had heard ‘Welcome’ when you were born.”
**from a song called “誕生”(Tan-jo which means ‘Birth’) by 中島みゆき (Miyuki Nakajima, a Japanese Singer)
Chris, in his own words:“Being gay is kind of a paradox between things that are a big deal and things that aren’t.
Being gay means that people who have never met you will pass judgment on you as though they understand what it is to be you.
Consequently, being gay eventually means that you’ll learn how to stop taking it personally, maybe.
Being gay means that you happen to like other wonderful people with the same junk as you.
It also means means that religious fanatics will write offensive things on protest boards and get really, really angry that you are even alive, even though sexual sin ranks among the least offensive in God’s eyes.
Being gay means that at some point you will probably download an app or sign up for a website that will cause you to look at a gallery of men in a manner similar to that of toaster shopping.
(Just remember that toasters have feelings too.)
Being gay means that you will think a lot about how others perceive you, but then again, so does being straight, too.
Being gay means that you’ll get to make fun of yourself with all sorts of delightful stereotypes, but then again, straight people do that too.
Being gay means that your religious parents will write you awkward and slightly offensive letters explaining why they think you’re gay, maybe.
Being gay might mean that said religious parents will also maybe sit you down and have a talk with you after they find out that you’ve been sashaying through your Catholic elementary school playground. You can find your “own unique walk”, after all. Just as long as it doesn’t make you look like a sissy.
Being gay means that you might have to watch so that you don’t get bitter. That would be bad.
Being gay means that you can get married in quite a few places.
Being gay means that women everywhere will assume you have excellent taste in shoes.
Being gay means that ghosts visiting you from the 17th century will mistakenly assume you identify as “happy”.
Being gay means that settling the bill might be slightly more complicated, but not much more than usual.
Being gay means that finding humour in life will be more important than ever. Maybe even the most important.”
Jacob, in his own words:“It’s tough to say exactly what being gay means to me, but it has certainly changed over the years.
When I first realized I was gay, it felt like a clumsy label, a prescriptive definition that squeezed me in with a group I couldn’t relate to. Admittedly, I still don’t relate to much of the gay community, being recognized as the worst gay ever by friends. However as I grew older, my internalized homophobia died off and I was able to meet a multitude of amazing gay men. This has taught me that what being gay is follows from who gay men are; it’s a descriptive thing. I am part of the definition of what being gay means, and all men who identify as gay make up the whole. Seeing the big definition of being gay as a melange of smaller parts is working well for me.
Coming out was an interesting ride. I was raised in a very religious Evangelical Christian household. I was sent to a private school with prayer and chapel, and was the son of a minister. I was scared beyond belief at the prospect of being found out. Gay men only existed in my mind as phantoms of hollow and depraved lifestyles, with an agenda to destroy all that was good and wholesome. Feeling that those in my Christian community would view me as deeply dysfunctional if they knew I was gay, yet not being able to relate at all to the image of gay men I was presented with, the isolation felt extreme. Thankfully, I grew up as the internet boomed.
When I was 16, I found an online forum that was run for, and by, gay teenagers. This changed my life. I met people in the exact same boat as myself, and realized others were struggling with the same issues, the same doubts, and the same fears. It broke my sense of isolation. A group of friends formed and we supported each other as we came out to our families. I am still close with many of them nearly 10 years later, even though we all live far apart.
Despite the feeling that I was going to vomit before telling people, I am lucky that coming out was mostly positive, though something of a mixed bag. A couple friends’ religious convictions created gulfs that made meaningful relationships impossible. My family members had some initial sadness over what they thought would be a hard life for me, but have ultimately been very supportive. Their love for me and who I am has never been called into question.
If I could give myself a little pep talk before coming out, I would stress how much love there was around me, and how that love would extend to every part of who I was and am. I’d also try to convince myself to loosen up a bit.”
Ian, in his own words:“If I could go back in time and give myself one piece of advice before I came out, I would tell myself “It’s going to be alright.” I’ve been so fortunate in my life: to be born and to live in a country where discrimination against homosexuals is prohibited by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; to have a family that has been nothing but loving and supportive; and to have made friends that accept me exactly as I am. Many people in the world are not as lucky as I have been, and I am grateful everyday for the life I’m privileged to have.”
Jeremiah, in his own words: “I came out quite late to my family. I was 24 and at that point, my family had already been living in Canada for 2 years. Before that, we lived in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country where homosexuality, while tolerated to a certain extent, was frowned upon. It was all about timing since at 24, I was already more sure about myself and I was ready for the worst. I wrote a letter to my parents and left home that day before they woke up. I thought that writing down everything was the way to go as it will allow me to put more thought on what I was about to say without the possibility of being interrupted. As well, I thought that it would be good for my parents, as they will give my parents the time to read and process everything. I turned off my phone that day and made accommodation arrangements elsewhere. After a few hours of being out of my house, I got this email from them:
‘We’ve read your letter. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for trusting us.
Papa and I have been praying for you and John every night. You are God’s gift to us and we will love you for what you are. Continue striving and be the best you want to be.
Go home tonight. We will welcome you with our loving and tight embrace.
We love you very much and the whole family will be with you through thick or thin.
Papa and Mama’
After reading that, I was just a puddle and a mess. I could not think of another event in my life that gave me that much relief and joy. What made it even better was finally going home and getting a hug from my parents. While it was not exactly smooth sailing after that, I have to give my parents a lot of credit for keeping their minds and hearts open as they eventually came to terms with my sexual orientation.
Coming out definitely boosted my confidence in that it made me true to myself – not only in terms of my sexuality but also with my passion and dreams. It made me reassess my life goals and change my mindset from just conforming to other people’s expectations to finding the inner strength to pursue what I really wanted all along. From working in corporate, I decided to go back to school to give my dreams of having a career in music and theatre a chance. I am currently finishing a degree in opera performance at the University of British Columbia and I couldn’t be happier.”
Patrick, in his own words:“What does being a gay man mean to me? Well, I feel that I’m no different than a straight man except for that I am attracted to men and ultimately would like to share my life with the right guy and build a life together. The gay community is changing fast. Not too long ago, it wasn’t the norm to be “out” and I’m very fortunate to be living in a different time. That being said, I think we are still going through a period of change and we are the ones that will set examples for future generations and for others that are born gay.
I’ve been very lucky with being gay and luckily did not have to deal with bullying. That being said, I didn’t come out until I was 20. When I did, everyone was surprisingly supportive. It made me realize how much I was holding myself back with such a heavy weighted secret. Once it was out in the open and I was truly being myself, I felt free and that’s when I feel I really started to embrace life more and reach for my dreams.
The gay community is pretty diverse yet supportive in Vancouver. I’ll be honest, it took me a while to find a solid group of friends instead of a bunch of acquaintances, but once I did, I felt comfortable in the community and more confident in speaking to people I didn’t know.
If you could give myself advice before coming out, I would say that people have always loved me for me and that won’t change after I come out. In fact, once I come out, I’ll be even more myself and more free to be there for others rather than focussing on my own fears.”
Cory, in his own words:“At 15, being called Fagboy on the football field happened. Ironically enough, it was a straight kid with immaculate gaydar who gave me that name in high school. I was thankful that the moniker never lasted more than that year, but those words ‘Fagboy’ have stuck with me ever since.
It would take a few handfuls of girlfriends, over two decades of denial and seven full years of hiding on the other side of the planet — in China — before I learned to let go of my fear, my shame and the idea that being gay was wrong.
In China, from the outside looking in, I had it all. Career-wise I had worked my way into the Chinese media scene. I had a national radio show that broadcast to millions across the country and I became the first foreign VJ to host a program on MTV China. Yes, the perception and prestige was there — it looked amazing, but on the inside I was afraid and felt so alone.
China, in many ways, was my test drive. I was a miserable closet case and realized in order to feel a way I had never felt I had to do something I’d never done. So, I broke up with my girlfriend, I started hooking up with guys and quickly realized that other men were the missing piece of the puzzle that had been so void in my life. I came out to my friends and quickly realized my success was meaningless, so I quit my jobs, got rid of my car, packed up my apartment and bought a one-way ticket back to Vancouver. I was ready to come home and to come out to my family.
As a gay kid, you live a life hungry for a sign that you’re normal. You might look up the word “gay” or “homosexual” in the dictionary in hopes of finding a definition that describes who you might be. An explanation of why you’re the way you are and a reassurance that you’re not alone.
I grew up never finding that definition and although I lived in the most loving, understanding and supportive household, I feared that if I came out, my entire family would hate and reject me. No Google search or god could have told me otherwise — I was terrified but knew regardless of their reaction I had to be true to myself.
Coming out changed my life. I told myself from that very day on I would never tell another lie. I lived a lifetime of being untrue and the liberation and ease that came with that truth and authenticity of coming out set me free. After four years of being home in Vancouver, I got back on the radio and knew I eventually wanted to be out and open about my sexuality in public.
Right in the heart of a string of gay teen suicides, I interviewed political activist Dan Savage about the anti-bullying campaign he launched called the It Gets Better Project. What I didn’t expect was getting this Facebook message after that interview aired:
“Hey Cory, for what its worth, I want to apologize for how I treated you back in high school. What I did was wrong and I make no excuses for my actions. I have a young family now and I’ve come to realize how destructive my behaviour was back then. I hope things with you are well and wish you continued success in life.”
I told him: “ … those past moments have made us who we are today. I feel lucky to have lived the life I’ve lived and wouldn’t change a minute of my past. For me, this is yet another one of life’s many lessons and for that I am grateful. I completely accept your apology, I’ve gained respect for you and hope for a loving future for you, your family and your two daughters.”
My dream today, is that every single human on the planet, regardless of all pejoratives, has the courage to come out to say this is who I am, I am proud of me, I want to spend my life celebrating who I am. Let go of shame, regret and any external pressure to be anything less than yourself. The freedom of declaring this is me — will set you free.”
Haitham, in his own words:“Something I said to myself this year really put things in perspective and gave me peace: I really enjoy it when people excel at being who they are and not who they “need” to be.”
Ron, in his own words:“Being able to be who I am with complete honesty is freedom. Being able to love someone because I simply love that person is the greatest joy I have ever experienced. The journey mostly has been a good one. Since I have been quite attracted to both men and women, I’ve lived an interesting life and been in love with both men and women.
However, nothing ever quite was like meeting Ben. Before Ben I had fallen deeply in love with a woman, and I was married to her for almost 17 years, most of those years were happy. The greatest joy was having two beautiful, talented and creative sons, Nick and Nate who both have good and satisfying lives living and working in New York City. Thus I also have two beautiful grandchildren! Sadly, the marriage ended when my wife’s mental illness could not be accepted by her.
I dated some other wonderful and beautiful women for a few years. Then while working in Washington, DC I happened upon this younger man who wanted to go to dinner. His kindness, caring got to me and we dated for six months. Sadly it ended but we both ended up happy later. He said when he departed, “Ron, you will meet someone soon, he will be good to you and you to him.” Not long after, I was at Northeastern University in Boston in the dining room. There I noticed a beautiful and quite stunning Asian man glancing toward me. After we both glanced, we had lunch together, then he asked for a date. I returned to Boston where he and many members of his family were there. We went together! They all liked me. That was in July of 1997.
Sixteen years later, from Portland, Maine to Orlando FL, to our beautiful heaven in Vancouver, British Columbia , Ben and I have loved each other and respected one another every day. Every time I look at his face, the joy inside my heart almost makes me weep. Never to fade!
Too, My sons, grandchildren, friends all embrace Ben. They love him. Likewise I am so lucky that his family loves me very much and we are so close. They are my family, too. Our home is one of peace and love. We are a team!
Initially because I held many public and high profile jobs (Police Chief, School Administrator and now therapist/counsellor) many folks had much to say to me and sadly some behind my back when I fell in love with another man 16 years earlier. The state of gays in the world has changed a great deal from those days; now gay folks are accepted and few make a big deal about gay people in 2013. I was glad to be in the early days. I tell people, I would have fallen in love with Ben whether he had been a man or a woman. His qualities of giving of himself, his humility, core values, kindness and respect for all that lives are huge points of attraction. Being good looking is nice, but that fades for everyone. We all grow old. I am happy that Ben’s enduring qualities will never fade.
Moving to Vancouver was the best decision we could have made, suggested by his sister, Sungya, who had visited here. Every day has been a joy! Our gay friends we met when we first moved here are still are close friends. Vancouver’s gay population is well accepted. There are still those who hate, but overall, being gay here has not
been a big deal for many years. Gay men and women have straight friends, they live in houses and condos throughout the Metro area. There is a gay village, called Davie. It’s funky.
Where we live, New Westminster, has been turning into a sought after community (known as highly supportive to gays) for gay singles and couples. The community reminds me of communities I lived in as a kid in Maine. To sum, Ben said it best when we arrived here in July, 2005. “I finally feel so secure and happy.” Since then Ben and I both became dual citizens of our own birth country and Canada.
I am happy with who I am. During the Winter of my life, it really feels like Spring. It feels right.
This project and the stories that are told are good , supportive tools to help any gay man who is thinking about coming out. We live very short lives. The hope for all of us is to start living that life in a creative, meaningful way that is filled with comfortable love. Being honest, loving yourself and coming to terms with who you are signals the right time to sing to the world about who you are. Sing in quiet melody, shout a song to the mountains – your choice. But sing. When your soul says you are ready.”
Ben, in his own words:“I think I have always liked men from when I was little. I thought that I was the only one in this world having these kind of feelings. It’s liked having a big secret and I didn’t dare to share it to anyone. First feelings came when I was young and at summer camp in Singapore. I did not know
though what those feelings were.
I later had a boyfriend in Bangkok when I attended the university there. We did everything there, even opening a clothing store at an upscale mall. Sadly, we grew apart. I was sad and decided to move to the United States.
Soon I was off to graduate school in Boston. There I met many interesting men but none like Ron. I adored him from when I met him. So did my family.When I graduated with a Masters degree, I moved to Portland, Maine to be with Ron and his family. We lived in an ocean-side townhouse near a college. It was beautiful. I was so happy. Ron always had a committed plan and he was always kind to me. I worked as a math teacher at the high school where Ron was an administrator.
Soon we moved to Orlando with dreams of moving to beautiful Vancouver. Vancouver never disappointed. It is the most beautiful place with many friendly people. The moment we arrived, we had so many friends! Many of those friends are our friends today.
Ron and I were never much for clubbing or going out. We always enjoy each other company. He is my everything…my partner…my best friend and my soul. I think we complete each other!
Advice? Be true to who you are – only you can decide the road to your own happiness and joy. You control your destiny. You have that gift, that freedom.”