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. “
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, 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.
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”