Tagged: gay marriage

Dustin and Alan, Owner D & A Gardens and Senior Manager, Vashon Island, Wash.

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
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photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Dustin and Alan, in their own words: “Being Gay has meant many things to us throughout our lives. As young boys growing up in small towns 20 miles apart in the Willamette Valley, we both encountered a realization that we were a little different. What different meant didn’t become obvious until we hit middle school and noticed that according to other boys girls no longer had cooties even though we still thought so. This led us to begin wondering why we didn’t “like” girls in the way that others did and that boys still seemed to be as cute as they always were. This appeared to be wrong in some way, so we kept quiet about our thoughts in fear of being made fun of.

As we approached our early 20’s life started to become more clear about who we were and what society outside of a small town did accept and allow for. In our late 20’s is when Dustin and I finally found each other, while Living in Portland, OR. The mental change that both of us could love a man and be with them for the rest of our life was becoming a reality.

Today we live on Vashon Island where the culture allows us to be true to ourselves Living as Man and Man as we will spend the rest of our lifes. On October 12, 2014 it will be 5 years of us being a couple and what we have, has and will continue to last through any adversity life has provided and will continue to offer.

The key to our success is to prevent those who do not allow us to be who we are from entering our life and for those who cannot support us to remove them from it. There are many of wonderful people in the world and if you allow good in it will find you. “

Victor and Joe, DJ/Landscape Designer and Corporate Concierge, Los Angeles

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Victor, in his own words:

1. What does being gay mean to you?
2. What challenges have you faced?
3. What’s the gay scene/community like in Los Angeles?
4. What’s your coming out story?

1: Male income, no kids And having much more fun.
2: Not many, big hair in humid climates, and unruly cats.
3: Very diverse, in my scene, very supportive and friendly.
4: Not too dramatic, I think when my parents watched me leave the house at age 17 in platform shoes, maternity top and a Afro wig, and my brother wearing our mothers teddy…… the cat may had been out of the bag.

All kidding aside, I’m very blessed to have been surrounded by lots of support and love, as a child and an adult.

My being Gay has never really been a big deal, it was just part of who I am.

Joe, in his own words: “What does being gay mean to you? That question implies that I know any different. Like, I was straight once and now gay, so I know what the two worlds of sexuality feel like. Even before coming out, I felt something different, something denied, and so my experience as a “straight” man was very much based on what I thought being straight looked like from my gay man’s perspective. So, being gay to me isn’t really any different from what any other person feels like about their sexuality internally, it just is, and nothing more.

I have (knock on wood) been very lucky in terms of challenges because of my sexuality. My lovely parents, had a small difficulty when I first came out, mostly relating to not understanding gay life. My mother thought I would get AIDS and die (not just HIV, but full blown AIDS) and my father thought that I just wasn’t giving women a fair chance, and if I just kept trying, I would find the right lady! I think mostly they were also concerned about legacy. To this day, neither of their children have created a grand child, and although they act like it’s alright, I know a part of them mourns that both of their children are not in relationships where grandchildren are possible (okay, before you queens all stomp around telling me how many options are available for me to have kids, note this, when I first came out, my parents didn’t see those options, and now; I don’t WANT children).

Though they had a lack of understanding, there has always been a very important lesson that they taught me; be myself! I stood out in school and social life not only because I was more effeminate than the other boys, but because I didn’t care to be any other way. I wasn’t going to be fake, because I wasn’t taught to conform. I was taught to experience life on my terms, and I’m grateful to my parents for that, because it’s very confusing to people who live in a bubble of repression and denial. Sure, I have my repressions and denials and longed to belong to the “cool kids” in school, but because I refused to be anything but myself, they had NO idea what to do with me, and left me alone for the most part.

Having said that, I suffered greatly at teasing, I have lost job opportunities as a result of my sexuality (thanks San Diego Unified School District), and have confused the hell out of people to a point where they called me names, but that is other people’s problem. I’m not an advocate for change, I’m just trying to live my life. My sexuality is second to my personality, and although sometimes I forget that and cry when someone calls me a name, I never stop expressing myself as a person and start just living within my sexuality. I hope that makes sense.

The community in Los Angeles that I see is a split one. I can tell where someone lives geographically in this city by the clothes they wear or the length of their beard. So, it seems like there are two distinct gay cultures, and neither of them really enjoys the company of the other or understand what the other actually does. Within those two cultures, there are a lot of similarities. We still get to choose our families, we still get to go out with the boys to a bar on a Saturday night (much gay culture revolves around bars, not because we are all heavy drinkers, or know how to party, but because it’s a safe space for us to express who we are…even if who we are differs by the street we live on). We are all surprisingly alike, but refuse to conform to the non-conformity of the east or west side depending on where we live. I don’t enjoy myself in West Hollywood. I am looked at as old (I’m 34). I’m looked at as out of shape, my beard is too long, I don’t wear enough tank tops, I have untamed hair on my chest. But, the funny thing is is that we are all sharing in a very similar experience. I guess straight people judge different groups of straight people as well, so we are not special in terms of our separation as a community. We all work together on the things that matter. They can have their Weho bars, just don’t forget that we are fighting for the things that matter together, like equality and acceptance by the broader community!

My coming out story isn’t grand or dramatic. I told you my parent’s reaction about their challenge as parents. But, I came out when I was 15. I was at summer camp for a month and had an epiphany that the feelings about men that I was experiencing were real and okay to feel. I didn’t have my first sexual experience until later that year, and there was no weirdness about it. It all felt right. My greatest challenge actually revolved around religion. I was a catholic (an alter boy even), and I enjoyed religion so much. I struggled with God’s love and if God would still love me. But, knew that what was more important was my love for myself. I met some older gay men at my first job (older meaning in their 30’s when I was in my teens), and they helped me to understand how normal of a life I can live as a gay man. That was important! I didn’t know I could live a normal life, and I do, and I’m grateful for all the other gay men before me who weren’t able to, so that I could live one. Like I said, it wasn’t grand. It was just a (and continues to be) a search for an ability to live a quiet life where I don’t have to worry about unacceptance while still getting to be myself.”

Carlos and Ivan, Registered Dental Assistant and Actor, Los Angeles

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
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photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
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photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Carlos, in his own words: “No one can beat you at being you -Joel Osteen

Being gay means everything to me. Growing up as a kid, I always knew. Was it tough? Of course it was. It is for a lot of us. I was going to Catholic School and hearing what the bible was preaching, it sure didn’t help. But I somehow did not care, I loved myself too much and just knew I was different and special . Besides, I was too young and innocent and had no control over it.

Growing up at home I definitely had to keep it a secret. My dad had 11 brothers and no sisters. Very old fashion Mexican upbringing and not a single known gay relative. So yeah it was tough. I remembering answering the phone at 12 years old and the neighbor who was calling told me I needed to man up my voice because I sounded like my sister. As hard as I tried to be straight, and please everyone else, I just always knew better. Turned out my neighbor is gay also. He hasn’t spoken to his dad in over 3 years. That’s tough. His dad was my role model growing up too. Funny how life works.

Throughout my years in Jr High and High School I too was bullying alongside my friends sometimes, just to “fit in”. You know I grew up in the city of Cerritos which is just 25 min away from LA. The friends I had and the life I was living was just not the environment to come out in. Once I moved to Hollywood with my older brother who was already living there, I was just shocked. Gays everywhere. Even West Hollywood was up the street, but it was almost too much all at once. I mean sure it made me feel at home and made it more easier to explore. But there were still challenges. When I finally did come out to my parents, it really did feel better like they say. No it wasn’t easy and yes it took a while for them to come around. Just like it took me a while to be comfortable with it. I mean I wanted to marry and have a wife and kids of my own also you know, and letting go of that reality was not easy either. Something people don’t talk about.

18 years later I am in a much better place. It’s true, “It does get better”. Sure I made some mistakes along the way but I’ve never been happier. I have an amazing partner of 6 years. Five of those years we spent taking care of his 87 year old grandmother who had Alzheimer’s up until her last breath in our arms at almost 92 years old. Once people saw what a difference we made in her life and how she changed our lives, it just didn’t matter anymore to me what people were thinking. Early on in my relationship my lil brother got married and I was able to bring my partner and introduce him to all of my family. Without really realizing it, I used my brothers wedding as my way of coming out to the rest of my family. They welcomed him and it just made it all easier. We then attended a church (Unity Fellowship Church, Los Angeles) that was founded by a gay Bishop by the name of Archbishop Carl Bean. He and his church played a huge part in keeping me in track with not only my life, but with the Love of Life itself. I then have the opportunity to meet an amazing gay couple in NY. J. Frederic “Fritz” Lohman and Charles W. Leslie, the founders of the Leslie Lohman Museum in NY which recognizes gay artists from all around the world. Here’s a couple who has been together for 47 years! Gay Love is possible and they were proof. Learning the history and amazing stories of Charles and Fritz only made me happier and prouder to be gay. We are a pretty amazing group of people and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Go ahead and come out wherever you are. It does get better and it really is OK.”

Ivan, in his own words: ” Being gay has afforded me the opportunity to alongside my partner Carlos Cisneros be there caring for and living with my grandmother for the last five years of her life (from 87 years old to 91 years young).

” I am glad that God made you guys the way he did , because otherwise you would have a wife and kids and would not have all this time for me” mama Lenor Santoni. That those years with grandma allowed us without trying to show my family , friends and anyone who happened to be watching : a Latino gay couple happily taking care of a senior citizen.

Being Gay has allowed me to to have a best friend and passionate relationship with one person.
Than You……………Jesus…

In 1994 two of my best friends were moving back home to NY, they are still a couple Moe Bertran and David Pumo. I went to their going away party four days before ( brought gift and all). The next day I woke up called Moe and asked if I could move with them to NY?”@#%#@% Wow! Let me call David and ask him !”. About ten minutes later Moe calls me and says ” David said yes but you have to COME OUT to your mom before we go because he won’t live with someone who is in the closet”. I drove to my mom’s house and told her that I was moving to NY and pretty much in the same breath I said and I’m gay ” she was crying but when she spoke she said ” I am not crying because you are gay I am crying because you are moving to NY”

Mark and Andrew, Account Manager and Sous Chef, Montreal

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Mark and Andrew, in their own words: “Being gay means freedom from many social conventions and expectations, especially around sexuality and family life.

We are both very lucky to have faced very few challenges as a result of being gay. We have supportive families, communities and employers. We have both found a great deal of happiness in the life we have built together, which would not exist if we weren’t gay!

(The gay community in Montreal) is very big and very diverse. There is the Village with the ‘scene’: clubs, bars, saunas, etc. But in every part of Montreal there are gay people living every kind of lifestyle. It is wonderful to live in a place where being gay is, in a way, perfectly normal.

Andrew came out very young (13). He came out at school first and then to his family, and generally was very well received. Mark came out gradually. He shared it with a few friends in high school and then came out to all of his friends and family in university. He also had no negative reactions.

(If we could give advice to ourselves before coming out) Andrew would tell himself that, despite being gay, he was going to be a lot more like his parents than he imagined. Mark would tell himself to have fun and not worry about what people think.”

Alex and Candido, Engineer and Tax Lawyer, Rio De Janeiro

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photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
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photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Alex and Candido, in their own Portuguese words: “O que ser gay significa para nós?

Ser gay na verdade é ter coragem de se assumir gay. Boa parte do preconceito está dentro de nós mesmos, nas nossas fantasias sobre o que a família e sociedade pensam de nós. A partir do momento em que você se despe dos seus próprios preconceitos e medos, ser gay se torna nada mais do que uma característica pessoal assim como tanta outras. Ser gay não nos define como alguém que faça parte de um grupo diferente, para nós, simplesmente significa que em termos de relacionamento amoroso nos sentimos completos com alguém do mesmo sexo. Somos apenas duas pessoas comuns que decidiram seguir a vida juntos.

Quais os desafios e sucesso nós tivemos?

O maior desafio em relação a ser gay foi superar os nossos próprios preconceitos e entender que ser gay não nos fazia diferentes ou menos respeitáveis. Assumir-se gay para a família foi um desafio que aos poucos fomos superando. Mas nós pensamos que esse desafio na verdade se tornou o nosso maior sucesso. Ser amado, aceito e acolhido pelos nossos pais, irmãos e demais familiares foi algo sem dúvida muito gratificante. Não há nada mais lindo hoje do que ver a felicidade de uma mãe ajudando nos preparativos do nosso casamento e de uma avó, uma senhora de 83 anos, toda orgulhosa por ter sido convidada por nós para levar nossas alianças ao altar.

Como é a comunidade gay no Rio de Janeiro?

Acho que é igual a todos os demais lugares do mundo. hehehe Atualmente estamos mais focados na nossa vida em família e nas nossas profissões. Não pensamos muito em nós como parte de uma comunidade gay segregada. Nos vemos como gays que fazem parte de uma sociedade composta por gays, héteros, crianças, idosos, casados, solteiros, etc.

Como foi sair do armário?

Bem, foi diferente para cada um de nós. Candido se assumiu muito mais cedo e teve mais problemas com a aceitação pela família. Para o Alex foi um processo mais demorado e que ocorreu em paralelo com sua independência pessoal e profissional. Acho que para ambos não foi um processo fácil. Atualmente somos muito tranqüilos com relação a isso, nossos familiares nos amam, nossos colegas de trabalham nos respeitam. Acho que um grande aprendizado para mim foi perceber que ao me assumir gay me tornei mais forte.

Se você pudesse dar um conselho para você mesmo antes de sair do armário, o que você diria?

Diríamos: vá em frente, não tenha medo, seja feliz e nada mais.”

A Note From Chris and Chris, in VA…

“Chris and Chris were married on Saturday, April 21, 2012 at Las Caletas, a private island cove in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Accessible only by sea, and once the private home of film director, John Huston, Las Caletas’ secluded beach and majestic Sierra Madre Mountains served as the tropical backdrop for their destination wedding. Family and friends boarded a luxury catamaran for cocktails and h’ordeuvres and sailed to Las Caletas for a private sunset ceremony, followed by dinner, entertainment, and an open bar reception on the beach. The newlyweds are still in honeymoon mode and plan to frequent Mexico on future vacations.”

photo by Gino Samaniego
photo by Gino Samaniego

Jacob and Hayden, Musician and Musician/Director, Los Angeles

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Jacob, in his own words: “Being gay is AMAZING.

It means I can wear cut off shorts and a lady wig to a club and nobody will think anything of it. I haven’t tried it yet, but I appreciate the option.

I actually feel very lucky to be gay, and to be with my husband, Hayden. We have a great physical and spiritual connection that I feel like can only be achieved in a same sex relationship. It’s easier to truly understand each other (I think sometimes different hormones and mixed signals can make it a little more difficult).

It’s great having someone to watch horror movies, Jam out with music, play video games, and be totally crude together and then later cuddle up or bone down.

(With regards to challenges) Coming out in high school, I lost a few friends…but whatever, I’ve made better ones since then. My Mom Also had a hard time grasping the concept that gays were not just a walking virus. She said some hard things to hear and we don’t talk much these days.

Trying not to be “gay fat” is also a challenge.

I have met many excellent gays here in LA. I don’t know if I can tell you much about the scene here though. I spend more time at home than going out in gay town. The gays I do spend my time with are rad ass though. Artsy fartsy crafty gays. I’m lucky to have found a group of friends where we’re always trying to keep each other busy with our different art projects… which was always a dream of mine in high school.

In middle school I wasn’t out to my family… or really any of my friends. However, I never said no to a gay hook up when it presented itself..

I eventually became more comfortable with my sexuality and a little more open about it in high school…I was even sort of dating someone. I guess I was never too careful about covering my tracks either. The internet browser would totally remember all the porn I had looked at, so that was probably cool for my mom when she went to check her email and the browser suggested she check out gaybeef.com instead.

Then one night when I was 15, I came home from work and saw that my mom searched my room and found all my porn and placed it in a fanned out arrangement on my bed. Great. I went straight to bed that night, unable to face the embarrassment. The Next morning we had a fight and I left for school…which I decided to ditch. I moved out that night and was emancipated a few months later.

My mom and I don’t Speak that often. but we both love each other.. it just is what it is.
I’m happy with where I am and what I’ve been able to accomplish on my own. Being gay has given me great strength. and I am very proud of who I am.”

Hayden, in his own words: “Being gay…what does it mean to me? I’ve never really given it much thought. But, I would have to say that it means having the freedom to express myself. That sounds pretty cheesy, and sometimes its easier said than done. But, I’ll try and break it down.

Being a gay guy is awesome. I have a partner that understands when I need to find a save point before I shut-off the Xbox. He gets that some nights its better to stay at home with a 6-pack and watch horror movies all night.

My family, I couldn’t ask for a better group of people. Not only do they appreciate my weirdness…they encourage it.

My friends, they’re all so unique and incredible. We’re like a group of renegade artists. If someone isn’t working on an art project we get itchy.

Being gay to me means being fortunate to be myself and have the support it takes to do so.

I haven’t really faced many challenges for being gay. I came out in High School, which probably would have been tough. But, I think the black make-up and spiked collars took some of the focus off of the fact that I was gay.

Its difficult to describe the gay scene in Los Angeles. There are a ton of queers with a ton of different interests; a person has some options. I stay home a lot…ha ha.

My coming out story is totally boring. It was during 11th grade English class. The girl behind me used to read Metal Edge Magazine everyday. Our teacher was often intoxicated so I would turn around in my desk to read the magazines with her. She would talk about which rock stars she thought were hot. Never being one to shy away controversy, I tested the waters here and professed my love for Daniel Johns of Silverchair. She didn’t bat an eyelash but rather said, “Me too. I had a sex dream about him last night.”

Check out Jacob and Hayden’s music with Professor Possessor

Brad and Allen, Digital and Social Media Strategist and Brand Strategy Firm Partner, Boston

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photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Brad, in his own words: “I love being gay. I almost feel bad saying that, because I know there are still many people who face serious prejudice, hatred, and danger because of it. But, part of the reason I love being gay is because I feel like I can help pave the way for others, just like others have done for me. While I’m a lot of different things—including a marketer, crossfitter, cyclist, runner, actor, volunteer, husband, son, brother-in-law, and uncle—being gay is at my core and I think it’s important to be out in every aspect of my life for my own happiness and truth, and to support others in theirs.

When I think about the nearly 20 years since I came out, a lot has changed. To me, the most poignant demonstration of that change is actually through my parents’ journey. When I came out to them in 1994, they were scared for me. They were afraid I’d be ostracized from my friends as we got older and they went off and had “normal” families. They didn’t want their friends to know because they didn’t think they could ever understand or look at them or me in the same way. They thought I’d be limited in my choices of where I could live, where I could work, and what I could do with my life.

Fast-forward to our wedding in 2006 and the joy my parents had as Allen and I got married in front of them and about 150 of our friends and family members. All the people who they were worried would desert me were there. Their close friends, who they never thought they could tell, were there. The evening was filled with laugher, some tears, lots of hugs, and lots and lots of dancing.

We now happily live in Boston, in the state that was first in the nation to legalize same sex marriage over nine years ago. While I’ve heard some lament that the gay “scene” here is pretty limited, I think that’s largely due to broader acceptance and more people being open/out in every facet of their life. It results in less of a need for gay people to have as many places that we can call only “ours”. I have gay and straight friends at work, at crossfit, who I cycle with, who I know from theater, in our neighborhood, etc., so I don’t usually feel a need to go somewhere to be with gay people, as I’m with them all the time. “

Allen, in his own words: I knew I was gay at a really young age, but I was convinced that I could live a ‘normal’ life, that the feelings would subside. But they didn’t no matter how hard I tried – and I’m a pretty determined person.

It wasn’t until I completed grad school that I decided to deal with my sexuality. I was 31, had my dream job, a great group of friends and a loving family, but I wasn’t that happy something was missing. So I decided it was time to come out. I was initially concerned with telling people…probably less so because I was gay, but because I felt like I’d been living a lie and had been dishonest to my friends and family. So, to make sure I didn’t back out – I did what all good consultants do – I read every book on coming out, identified ‘best practices’ and made a timeline – a project plan of sorts, with milestone dates to tell my friends and family.

My friends and family were incredibly supportive and happy for me. And, I have to say, if I could choose between being straight and gay, I’d choose gay. I’ve met the love of my life and married my best friend and I’d not have it any other way.”

Jason and Sheening, Future Stay-at-Home Dad and Clinical Psychologist, San Francisco

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

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.”

Denny and James, Educator and Producer, Boston

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

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.”