Terry, in his own words: Terry Lim is a classical musician, an avid portrait photographer, and a dog lover. Terry is the executive and artistic director of a newly formed chamber music series, “Project ∞” where he presents innovative and unusual programs showcasing many emerging young composers and musicians.
“I am all about being open minded and appreciating everyone’s differences. Being gay means accepting others for who they are and being genuine with one another to build up meaningful connections.
I grew up in Vancouver where most people are very open minded and have chill personalities (typical West Coast style). Coming out to my friends was not so eventful. No one seemed to care or think it was a big deal to begin with, but I knew that all of them were my friends because of who I am, not my sexual orientation. I personally thank all of my friends for always being supportive and appreciating who I am. That’s why I can be me all the time and I feel comfortable being me.
Moving to NYC from Vancouver was definitely a huge change in my life. I had a very comfortable and amazing life in Vancouver but I wanted a change and I wanted to go for something quite drastically different from Vancouver. That’s how I ended up in NYC. Typical city life style, fast pace, constantly moving and stressed out people all over. The gay community in NYC is filled with endless events every single day and so many gay men from all over the world, no doubt about that. While I appreciate meeting and being surrounded by many different types of gay men, I also face challenges within this community. This is something I hadn’t really felt until I moved to NYC (or the States for that matter)- racism within the gay community. It almost came down to the point where I felt like many people think of gay Asians as the bottom of food chain. I know there are probably a variety of reasons why they have come to that conclusion whether it’s cultural, environmental, or social. It’s something I hadn’t experienced until I moved to NYC. As much as I am comfortable in my own skin and am secure with who I am, I want my community to be more open minded and learn to appreciate and love each other for the difference.”
Patrick, in his own words: “I’m glad I’m a gay man. And I’m proud to have been out for 7+ years now! Being gay is a natural and beautiful part of who I am. Embracing this part of myself has allowed me to live a full and authentic life and has brought me so much freedom and joy. I am a more whole person and have more to give the world and those around me because I’m out and proud.
It was not an easy process for me to come out. For 10 years, I was misled to believe my sexual orientation was wrong and sinful and that I could be straight through prayer, “therapy” and dedication. I started seeing an “ex-gay” “therapist” when I was 11. I shared some of that story in a YouTube video a couple years back, in hopes of preventing others from having to go through similar things.
I’m lucky to live in a time where I am free to daydream about one day having a legally-recognized wedding and husband and all the things I thought I had lost when I realized I was gay. I feel a deep gratitude and connection to the many brave LGBT folks and allies who have come before me and who have risked much for the many causes related to LGBT equality.
I wish the 11 year old version of myself could see me now – he wouldn’t believe life could be this good!”
Jason, in his own words: “When I was 15, I started suspecting I was gay, and I was terrified of people finding out about it. Growing up in the suburbs of Maryland, I never had any exposure to any gay people or culture. The only knowledge I had about gay people was that there was AIDS, being called “gay” was a derogatory term, and that gay people would never have a good ending in life. For years I felt like I carried this deep dark secret that I could never tell anyone that I was close to, and this fear delayed my coming out for many years. I felt hopeless about my future, and thought I was going to be lonely for the rest of my life.
However, my worldview took a wide turn after I came out and met several gay couples in long-term, loving relationships. Seeing gay people build a happy life together was discordant to my idea of what it meant to be gay, and it enabled me to have a more hopeful vision of my future.
When I first came out, the beginning experience was a bit strange because it felt like I just discovered the 9¾ platform to the gay world (Harry Potter reference there, for those who don’t know). At the time, I was pretty excited, but also felt disconnected because none of my straight friends knew where I was on weekends, as they have never heard of places like Rage or the Abbey. It was a secret world that I shared with other gay people in my circle of friends that my straight friends knew very little about. Through this experience, I have understood that being gay is not one’s whole being, but just a dimension of a person’s livelihood like being a younger brother or a volunteer raft guide on the weekends.”
Sheening, in his own words: “Being gay is just a piece of who I am, albeit an important part….just how important has become clearer as the years have passed, through the gathering of life experience and much self-reflection. I believe this process started with finally coming out to myself, at 24, and then coming out to my family six months later. I came out to my family before I had any real connection with the gay community – I did not have gay friends (or at least none that I knew were gay), had never stepped foot in a gay bar, and hadn’t even ventured online to gay sites. At the time, I believed I had made a pragmatic decision to get the hardest part of the process out of the way – coming out to my immediate family – so that the rest of it would be easy, in comparison. I have a slightly different understanding now, more than a decade later. I believe I came out to my family first because I wanted a true idea of what family means to me – what I have a right to expect of family and what they have a right to expect from me. In order to form that sense of family, I knew I had to start from a place of honesty and intimacy.
It’s with these things in mind that I’ve gradually built another family in San Francisco – my family in the gay community. I truly love the celebration of cultural diversity in this city – whether it be through street fairs, Pride celebrations, or political debate. Open debate and open communication are both hallmarks of life in San Francisco and, as a gay Asian American man, this has provided the perfect space to find both the intersections of my various cultural identities and where more self-exploration might be needed. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet people who are like-minded enough to enjoy shared pursuits and activities, but also willing to challenge and express different opinions. I am grateful to have a family here that supports me, my partner, and our work to build a life together.”
Eric, in his own words: “In my study of music, I struggle to rid myself of a lifetime of fear and constructions in order to build a real connection with others. In the same way, I feel like all people, no matter what identity, struggle to break down these same walls in an effort to be themselves.
I struggle with societies definitions of masculinity and of homosexuality. After I came out, I didn’t want to identify with any definition. Participating in this project is special to me because for the first time, I feel like I am contributing to the larger gay experience and connecting to a community by simply being myself.
My career has given me the opportunity to travel and make music in many parts of the world. I feel thankful to be able to live here, freely, as myself. Expressing myself the way that I need to, striving to live the way I want to and being able to love who I want to.
I grew up a Mennonite in central Pennsylvania. My 86 year old grandmother is a conservative Mennonite and grew up immersed in dogmatic Christian theology. When she found out I was gay, it was difficult, but our relationship has come a long way since. She voted for the first time in her life, for Obama, in part for her change of heart on gay rights issues. The love of my family astounds me. Even when they don’t agree or understand where I am coming from, everyone is open to conversation in an effort to reach common ground. This is a beautiful thing.
A favorite quote of mine:
“In a word, we must create our own essence; it is in throwing ourselves into the world, in suffering with it, that – little by little – we define ourselves.”
Stephen, in his own words: ” Being Gay to me has always felt like I have the best qualities of understanding men and women and being empathetic toward everyone.
Coming out was exceedingly easy though the phrase “coming out” did not exist when I did it…I was a kid actor doing summer stock, and realized that I was more like a lot of the men I was meeting rather than like my Pop and his pals…I had an easy time of assimilating it as all the older actors were exceedingly supportive; I never felt compelled to hide who I was, but just existed in my comfy world.
My challenges have been to make a living, to continue in happiness, when so many friends in my generation died when AIDS arrived, and to try to be a positive presence on the planet…. I miss so many people no longer on Earth, yet do honor them daily in how I choose to exist here. I adore kids and have helped raise 9 god children over the years, and have always shared life with animals who are constant blessings.”
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.”
Michael, in his own words: Michael Martin is bi-coastal, soon to be global. He has performed in film, television, and stage. He’s a published writer, and his twin Michael Bright is also a published writer in Hong Kong as well as the USA. The Michaels write for Reductress, I.T Post, television, and film. Michael Martin is an accomplished songwriter as well. He’s been paid to do comedy for 20 years.
“I don’t identify as Gay, Straight, or Bi, but I’m LGBTQ for sure. Even straight people have days when they feel queer.
I’m a performer, so sometimes I get to put on dresses .People always laugh. I don’t like wearing them because my goodies get cold from the wind.
I think the season for challenging who I am is almost over, or, more to the point – the season for me paying attention to naysayers is coming to a close. The gay scene in New York is supportive, judgmental, warm hearted, bitchy, uplifting and mean.
Mean is a math term that means average. I’ve always tested above average. Just slightly, I’d say.
I went through a phase in high school. People threw rocks at me, so I made them laugh a lot. Then I practiced. I sang, played instruments, spoke languages, invented languages with my brothers, and lovers.
I don’t want to paint myself a victim. I won acting and writing awards. I was class president. Swim team captain. By the end of school I had lovely, wonderful friends.
My teachers were supportive or cruel, depending on my classes. Sometimes they were both supportive and cruel.
My favorite teacher ever was a man named Jose Quintero. He directed the first runs of many Tennessee Williams plays.
I kept a diary in high school. I still do.
I like Vonnegut and French existentialists. I want to ruminate on the Tao.
Together As One.
I’m learning to meditate so I can forgive myself for the voice in my head that says I’m not good enough.
That’s all I have to say about that.”
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.”
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.”