Ed, in his own words: “I came to the realization that I was gay in 1957, when I was sixteen, and immediately went into a suicidal depression that lasted fifteen years. The word “gay” didn’t even exist back then; there was no public acknowledgment of homosexuality, there were no support groups, magazines, books, organizations – nothing. I thought I was the only guy on earth who was attracted to other guys and my attraction was unspeakably perverse and evil.
Half a century and a thousand heartaches later so much has changed. I’m happy to have witnessed the revolution and in some small way, to have been a part of it. I know we still have a long way to go, and for many young people, being gay and coming out are still a nightmare – sometimes even a deadly one. But the progress we have made, just in my lifetime, is unmistakable – and inspiring. Being gay used to be the thing I hated most about myself. Now it’s something I value – the sensitivity, consciousness and the passion that are part and parcel of being gay are some of the most essential aspects of my life. And I’ve come to realize that coming out – the thing I dreaded most – is actually a process that validates and enhances my identity and sense of self worth. My worst fear has turned out to be one of my greatest blessings.I feel honored to have been given the gift of homosexuality.”
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.”
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!”
“For me, being gay means living in tension. My deep core beliefs about the Christian tradition are daily in conflict with my deep core identify as a gay man. That’s inside me. Meanwhile outside my head, I have the gay community telling me I’ll be happy if I live one way and the church community saying I’ll be happy if I live another way.
How this plays out is that I’m the non-hetero element in a mixed-orientation marriage. Why this came about is a lot of reasons. I was raised in a sheltered Christian home-schooled family and raised to be a “good boy.” Being shy and eager to please and not having many friends, I thought I’d be happy if I was a good boy and tried to do everything my family and church told me to do. Later I ended up at Bible college where I met my wife. She was kind and thoughtful and created around her one of the safest spaces for me to be myself that I’d ever known. She got to be head over heels for me. I was so immersed in the culture that I didn’t ever stop and seriously think about my lifestyle options. Never realized that living a gay lifestyle was a legitimate option for myself. So I took the road I knew and understood, Christian heterosexual marriage.
Five years later, we’re still together. Marriage is hard because I figured out who I am and it’s not a Christian hetero male. I’m comfortable with my sexuality but don’t have a socially acceptable expression for it. Marriage is also good because she’s good and loves me so much and wants me to be happy. The way I live is hard because I try to get support from my straight Christian friends and they just don’t have a concept for being oriented to your own gender. The way I live is good because most of my friends are eager to learn about me and willing to listen to my same pains over and over and over.
Coming out for me started when I was fourteen and first noticed I thought guys were beautiful. I tried to deny my attractions for most of high school. In college, I started sharing my story with close friends. First I’d say things like, “I’m really struggling with this and don’t know what to do.” I’d talk about my sexuality like a problem. As I got more comfortable sharing my story, I got more comfortable with who I was. Started talking about being gay the same way I talk about being a writer. Just another part of me.
In some ways, I didn’t fully come out until this year when I chose to start openly blogging about my sexuality and how it intersects with my spirituality. For the most part, people have been supportive and eager to continue being friends with me. Lots of people have really appreciated me being open. Often the response to my openness about my struggles is for them to be open about their struggles. I’d say the only real resistance came from my church. What happened was I was going to start an addictions support group, but after the pastors read my blog, they decided I was too “un-cemented in the Gospel.” They put the group on hold, made no plans to bring it up again, and it hasn’t come up again. That’s generally the response I get from the church…they just don’t bring it up.
I don’t feel like I could be complete without connection to both the church and gay communities, but I don’t know that I can ever fully meet the expectations of either. I want validation from both, for the church to say I’m a good Christian and for the gay community to say I’m a good gay man. But because I don’t get to fully practice the values of either, I fear that I’ll be denied validation from both. Living in a mixed orientation marriage makes me feel like I don’t get to live with integrity and that I’m always lying to someone. On the other hand, I get to transcend my identity and sexuality and create a family with a person completely outside my orientation. My whole life is a bridge between the Christian and Gay communities. This is the most beautiful and most painful thing I’ve ever done. Beautiful because I can see into two worlds. Painful because I’ll never fully be comfortable or welcome in either.
I’ve learned that being gay really truly isn’t about sex. It’s about friendship and affection and how you make relationships with people. Just so happens my most enriching relationships are with men. I’m okay with that. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine life any other way.”
To read more of Rhys’s story, visit his personal blog:
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.”