Hoang, in his own words:“People are born in a game of life and gay people are born in harder level of the game.
To me, being gay doesn’t mean anything, being yourself is matter. Because when you are who you are, what you are you will know what to do. During my “boy-time” being gay was all about discovering my own questions and gave myself the defend when hearing that is not ok, is freak and unnatural, especial with a shy boy like me.
My (coming out) story, it happened a bit late, I always wait for the right moment and it happened when I was 25. First I came out to my close friend, I think she is ready for it, and it was relief to me with her caring: “that’s why I took you to see another gay friend of mine”. That made me more confident to talked to another friends. But it didn’t work easy to my mom, she was confuse and hasn’t believed it yet, she still think everything has its cure… she believe it is a choice and can fix it. This gonna be a challenge, still is my challenge…
But now with more confident to be who I am , what I am to care less about people’s opinions to care more about what I wanna be and how I wanna be. As a gay man I believe we should not to sensitive about what people think and say about gay. I believe that love is fair to everyone, has no different and I believe gay is a part of the life, no one can deny. That is a fact and I’m happy to be a one of it.”
Chad, in his own words:“I grew up in LaGrange, a suburb of Louisville, KY. I had a wonderful childhood with a very close and very Christian family. My parents were always supportive and involved in all my extra curricular activities in school such as band, choir and theater. Being raised in an Assembly of God church, Christianity was a big part of my life. I even lived in the Christian dorm at the University of Kentucky which is where I would meet my future wife. Yes…I was married…to a woman. I got married when I was 20 years old because I loved her and that was “what I was supposed to do”. After a year and a half, I decided that the relationship was a farce and I was tired of fighting the internal battle that was my sexuality. I came to the conclusion that God would want me to be happy and not in a state of constant struggle. Looking back, I can realize that I was gay my whole life but denial and the fear of going to Hell is a powerful thing. The thing I remember the most from coming out to my parents is their response. “We still love you but we’re not gonna give up hope on you” At the time, I was just relieved that they didn’t disown me. I didn’t realize it was going to be a journey for them as well…one that, thankfully, ended at acceptance.
I don’t regret anything I’ve done in the past because that journey is the reason I am where I am and what I am today which is truly happy and in love with my partner, Tim. I knew from our first date that this was the man that I was going to spend the rest of my life with. Not only is he gorgeous but he’s smart, outgoing and adventurous. As far as characteristic traits, he’s the perfect “yin” to my “yang”. His spontaneity, at times, challenges me but makes me love him more in the end. I like to plan our adventures…he doesn’t. It’s not uncommon for him to unexpectedly pick me up from work with a change of clothes and we’re off!
Wherever our life takes us, it’s a comfort to know that we will be side by side through it all.’
Tim, in his own words:“I grew up in the suburbs just outside of Louisville. For most of my childhood and early teen years, I was an active member of the rural Southern Baptist church that my family still attends to this day. That church was the center of most of my family and social activities, so needless to say, it seemed like we were there whenever the doors were open. I was happy there. It felt safe being surrounded by my family & friends and though some will probably find this odd, even as I began to understand and deal with the realization that I was gay- I felt more comfortable at that small church than I did in my middle school or high school. Although I was being taught beliefs at my church that I would eventually have to part with, at least I was never called a “fag”, was never questioned about why I never had girlfriends and was never bullied about being more interested in singing than in playing sports as I was during middle school and the first years of high school. Although my religious beliefs have changed- I still look back at those years as some of the safest and happiest of my childhood.
I began to “come out” to close friends in my early twenties. It was such a fun, scary, exciting & awesome time for me! I had spent so many years making sure that I acted a certain way or said the right thing so that no one would suspect anything and more importantly, so that everyone would like me. It was during this time that I began making friends who liked me without any of my normal walls or guards in place… and that feeling was simply amazing. I also started a relationship with a man that I would eventually move to Atlanta, GA with for several years. There, I was able figure out and become comfortable with who I was, develop my own thoughts and rules about my life, and meet some amazing friends! When that relationship came to an end, I decided it was time to leave Atlanta and head back to Louisville. Little did I know what those years in Atlanta were actually preparing me for!
After arriving back in Louisville, I bought a house, fixed it up, started a new job and adopted my wonderful dog “Jadie”. I was settling in to what I thought would be a long span of being “happily single”….and then along came Chad! To say meeting him caught me off guard would be an understatement. I was so attracted to him from the second I saw him. He is the most open, candid, & confident person I have ever met- not to mention the obvious fact that he is so HOT and has eyes that will freeze you in your tracks! Before long, we were loading up the UHaul and he was leaving his apartment downtown for the quiet life in the ‘burbs! We’ve been together almost 5 years now and still my favorite part of the day is when I see his face show up on my phone and when I hear his car door shut in the driveway when he comes home from work.
Before I met him, I had labeled many pivotal moments in my life such as moving away from home, leaving jobs, and making it through the end of friendships and relationships as failures or low points. My partnership with Chad quickly made me realize that all these events, no matter how difficult and painful they were to go through, were preparing not only to meet him, but to truly be settled enough, smart enough and mature enough for the possibility of a life-long partnership with this amazing man. Over the years, we’ve been lucky enough to watch our separate families come together and form wonderful friendships and to bring our family of close but previously separate friends together and witness even more close friendships develop from that..”
Things are great and getting better- not only for me on personal level, but also for the gay community as a whole. The dramatic changes that have taken place over recent years only adds to the excitement I have about my future with Chad!”
Ken, in his own words: “Right off the bat I would like to apologize. I am a terrible human being, but I’ve made my peace with that and I’m learning to love myself as-is. If you suppress needs long enough they sublimate and break free, and once that dam has cracked it doesn’t hold for very long. I was homeschooled for 19 years and I was the son of a part-time fundamentalist preacher. Both of my parents are frighteningly bright and I always thought of myself as some kind of wunderkind (not that uncommon in the homeschooled community). Thanks to this set of initial circumstances, I have always had ludicrously high standards for my own behavior, expecting perfection in more or less everything that I do. This need for perfection has interacted with my spectacular laziness and paradoxically been the cause of some of my most deviant behavior. I fall short of perfection, so I give up. I have often hated myself — and I would like to point out to certain naysayers that it is entirely possible to hate yourself. My former pastor claimed that self-hatred was impossible. People don’t hate themselves, they’re just disappointed. If they really hated themselves they would be glad to see themselves being miserable. Well, I have been glad at times to see myself miserable, and to be the cause of that misery. This is not a cry for attention, it’s just me being realistic about portions of my character that I don’t care to hide anymore. I am learning, slowly but surely, how to love myself right down to my scars. In order to start that transformation though, I had to accept the fact that I really, truly did hate myself, and wasn’t just an all-in-one dom/sub.
Over the years my answer to the question “what does being gay mean” has changed a lot. At first I would have said “not much more than being gay would mean to a gay giraffe,” but lately I’ve realized that it does make my life somewhat different from the lives of others. I find that I sometimes feel like an outsider looking in at the rest of society. It’s a little bit alarming to know that no matter what I write I will always be the gay writer, not the white one or the tall one or the blonde one. It’s one of the first things people mention about me. I’m the gay best friend, the gay coworker, the gay gateway into the gay world. There is a real subculture, although it’s not as separated from the rest of the world as it once was, and I have sometimes acted as a doorway between the two cultures.
It comes with its own bag of problems, too. I’ve met a fair number of other people in the community and the shockingly common trends of depression, suicidal ideations, cutting, rocky romances, and daddy issues (poor parental relationships) have made me ask the chicken and egg question a few times. Does being gay come from being fucked up, or does it contribute to it? In my own life the answer has more often been the second than the first, but there have been moments when I’ve wondered. I think a part of the problem for me has been the lack of dreams. A little straight boy can look ahead and dream (unhealthily, perhaps) of his princess and his 2.5 children and steady job. It’s not much of a dream, but it’s more than a gay person has. It’s only in the last two decades that we have had even the chance of gay marriage, and our community is still figuring out what that kind of marriage can mean and look like.
What little of the gay community I have actually seen in Portland seems to be much like the gay community everywhere else that I’ve lived. It’s small, politically active, and more than a little bit dramatic. It’s also much more intersectional and culturally/racially/ethnically diverse than any other gay community I’ve been a part of. To be fair, thanks to my sexual appetites I don’t usually spend a lot of time dealing with the whiter side of the gay community here, so I can’t speak to it.
I have also noticed that the idea of an in-the-closet gay doesn’t seem to exist as much here. Most of the gay men I have encountered have been openly gay even in their work environment. In the past there were coworkers of mine that I never came out to for fear of the potential reactions. Here in Portland that hasn’t been an issue for me.
I don’t know if this is something that other gay men will relate to or not, but there are, to my mind, two prototypical members of the gay community. The first has or contributes to what Republicans would call the “gay agenda” — they are political, proactive, and intentionally pushing for legal or social change. These are the ones that attend meetings and do the non-sexy things like voting and being on committees. The second type, (and I swing between the two without any real consistency, I’ll be the first to admit that) is the type that joins committees to get laid. They often have a lone wolf aspect, some sexy emotional scars or sexy self-destructive tendencies/habits, and they often seem to have more beauty than they know what to do with. They will fixate on a particular physical type that they want to have sex with, whether that’s a race or a body ideal, and pursue people based primarily on this physical attraction. They hold marriage as some kind of potential down the line but they don’t really see themselves staying with anyone long enough to make that work. It is the latter prototype, incidentally, which I find has the highest rate of emotional damage and self-loathing. Perhaps I’m projecting something of myself and my perceptions aren’t something that others will share, but I’m just trying to describe what I see. I think that a little piece of this might come from the fact that at the end of the day we are still “men” (I’m speaking strictly of the gay male cisgender community here, I can’t speak to the experience of anything else). Men don’t have emotions, right? Men don’t have feelings. Men don’t get fucked up. Men can’t open up or have real connections. That would be too… gay.
I’ll keep (my coming out story) as short and clear as I can.
On the night that I chose to come out to my parents, I had a female friend over (Monica Hay, if you’re reading this, thank you for that night. I’m glad I didn’t end up needing you but the emotional support was much appreciated.) and I had a bag packed. I had already anticipated everything that my parents might say, (so I thought) and what possessions of mine they had a right to take in an attempt to keep me from leaving. I assumed off the bat that they would take the car keys and my cell phone. My plan was to walk to the nearest public institution with a phone — a hotel over a mile and a half away, I lived in a rural area — and call my grandparents. I had a slip of paper in my wallet with all the phone numbers I was most likely to need: my grandparents, my younger brother, my current lover, a few close friends. It’s been almost four years and I still have that slip of paper in my wallet. My parents didn’t kick me out (which was a hell of a shock, frankly).
Saying the words “I’m gay” to my mother remains one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The willpower required to just open my mouth and move my lips and vibrate my vocal cords and make the noises was almost more than I knew how to muster. But I did it, and she immediately said the most unhelpful thing she could have at the time: “No you’re not.” So I had to prove that I was, which wasn’t difficult. I had denied even to myself the way that I was for years at that point. It wasn’t until I fell in love for the first time and it blew all the petty infatuations of my youth completely out of the water that I realized yes, I really was gay. I could not fall in love with a woman, but I could with a man.
Incidentally that falling in love was what first made me question my religious convictions. It wasn’t the sex, because there’s a lot to sex that can sometimes feel wrong, but falling in love never feels wrong.
After I had her sufficiently convinced, my father came out onto the balcony to join us, and I had to repeat the words. My relationship with my father has always been almost stereotypically not-great, but his respect was always something I craved. He didn’t even respond, he just sat there. I explained to the both of them that I had fallen in love, and that it was the love and not the sex that had made me realize that I really was wired that way. Then, like a coward, I told them that I had not yet decided what I was going to do with this personal revelation. My mother suggested permanent celibacy as an option. We talked about other things. I said, “I haven’t made a choice yet.” My dad said “It’s not a choice.”
At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant. It wasn’t until much later that I realized my father has actually worked closely with a gay man for years at this point, and that this man is one of his closest work friends. My father and I didn’t have a real conversation for almost a year after that, but I’m still not sure whose fault that was. I learned to disappear and be as absent from family life as possible, and as a consequence I wasn’t there as my siblings were developing into interesting people. When I finally came out to my grandparents, just last year, they told me they had known since I was a child, and that they loved me all the same. Both my sisters guessed, the one by being perceptive and the other by reading my diary and finding an entry about someone I was madly in love with at the time. When I told my brother, he came out of his own closet to me and revealed that he was an agnostic. When I came out to my other two brothers… well, let’s just say I wasn’t as tactful about it as I had meant to be. That’s a more personal story than I would like to get into, but it was pretty funny at the time.
(What advice would you give your younger self?)
Oh boy. The big one. Jesus, I don’t know. Maybe something along the lines of “don’t take life so goddamn seriously. It’s ok to fuck up. It’s ok to not be perfect, and it’s hurtful and wrong to try. Try to think of other human beings as actual human beings just like you. Nobody wakes up in the morning intending to be irrational, and everyone’s actions make sense to them. Sometimes the largest part of empathy is being able to understand why someone’s actions or beliefs seem rational to them. You’re never going to be able to change another person with words or fists or music or love or anything else, a person has to change themselves. Don’t waste time loving people who can’t or won’t love themselves — they can’t love you back. Cheating and being cheated on are among the most emotionally damaging experiences, but everything that we are is a phoenix birth out of ashes. We are made of exploded stars. Look it up, it’s true. Even the deepest emotional and physical traumas can be recovered from, learned from, healed from. No, you can’t be the same person again, that person is dead and so is the future they dreamed for themselves. But now you’re alive, because that person died. Religion is a crock of shit. Dig for evidence and logic and you’ll see. That’s not to say that the universe isn’t full of wonder or mystery or awe, because it is. It is full of all of those things. But the truth should always trump a pretty lie, no matter how much we might want to believe that lie, no matter how much sense that lie might make or how many questions it might answer. Don’t settle for less, either in love or in truth.