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.”
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.”
“I moved to Boston on January 4, 1994. I didn’t know anyone, didn’t have a job, and didn’t have much money (maybe enough to float me for a month). But, I did have a plan, more or less. I was going to study acupuncture and get a job at AIDS Care Project (ACP) – a public health clinic doing incredible work with Boston’s AIDS community. After losing my partner Stephan to the epidemic the year before, I wanted to help in the fight somehow. When I heard about ACP, it was a done deal – this is where I wanted to work.
I know my decision to leave Philadelphia was a bit impulsive, and bordered on the ridiculous. Aside from being poor, unemployed and alone, I knew nothing about acupuncture, never had a treatment, didn’t know anyone who had. I didn’t do any research on other schools, or explore other options for work. On top of all this, I’m a bad student and a chronic procrastinator who struggled through every science class I took.
None of that mattered. At the time, my focus was on getting out of Philly. I had to. The longer I stayed, the deeper I could feel myself sinking into a black hole of anger and depression. First, there were the continuous aftershocks of living in a town where every place I looked held another memory of my life with Stephan, and every friend’s face smothered me in sympathy. A ten minute walk through town was like crossing an emotional minefield.
To make matters worse, I had my family to deal with. Ten siblings, two parents, who never offered to help out when Stephan was sick. There were no cooked meals in Tupperware dropped off, no phone calls to see how we were, no one visited, nothing. They hid in the suburbs behind faith and fear while I watched, helpless and heartbroken as this once powerful dancer faded into a demented skeleton.
I knew that the only chance I had to heal the fractured love I felt for my family was to get away from them. Boston was the perfect distance.
So there I was, an AIDS widower in a new city, completely alone, jobless, and not 100% sure I could pull off this weird plan I basically hatched overnight. But for all of the fear and uncertainty I felt, I kept coming back to one thought. I had a community. And like every other GLBT transplant who moved to the city looking for acceptance, and support; I trusted Boston’s gay community to welcome of me, guide me, believe in me – and they did.
I graduated acupuncture school in 1998 and immediately started working at AIDS Care Project. Over the next eight years, I provided over ten thousand acupuncture treatments to Boston’s HIV/AIDS community. I was working on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic, with some of the most talented, dedicated clinicians in the field. Together, we developed treatment protocols that were changing people’s lives. It was an incredible experience that remains one of the best decisions I ever made.
And it was made possible because I had a community.
I can remember, six months after I moved to Boston, standing on the roof of an apartment on Tremont Street during Gay Pride with my new friends, in my new city, watching thousands of men and women celebrating; and I got it.…we create the unity in our community.
To find more of Terry Connell’s writing, check out his blog and first book “Slaves to the Rhythm” at www.terryconnell.net.”