Kevin, in his own words: “The most important thing I’ve come across so far is to allow. For a long time, I was denial about being gay because it wasn’t in my plans – it totally obstructed the life I thought I wanted. But it was true. Unlike every thing that I thought I needed to make my life (and my self) complete – the girlfriend, the traditional family, the ‘being normal’ – me being who I am is true. If being gay is anything to me, it’s the acceptance of your self in a way that isn’t necessarily easy. Getting rid of my old ideals and getting to see myself on daily, moment by moment basis as I am and will become has been unlike anything. With sexuality becoming as political as it has, there often times seems to be risk in that allowance. But I’m seeing that that risk makes it even more fulfilling. To stand for your life and your self when there still is a normal that sometimes stands against you instead of with you, is such an opportunity to build a type of courage that will bode well for any venture you take. Being gay is really one of the best gifts I could’ve gotten, in that way.”
Johnny, in his own words: “Looking back I find that I had more difficulty coming to terms with my humanity then my sexuality. My sexuality was relatively meaningless in the larger picture. For me, figuring out my place in the world, in the universe and existence as a whole took precedence over my attraction to another person. Naturally there was attraction, but it was not something I understood completely or tried to understand at an early age. my feelings were my feelings and they hadnt been influenced by anything other then my innermost self and though I was perhaps too young to comprehend that, I did on some spiritual level, as I suspect all living things do. It was intuitive and I didnt give it much thought. I knew I was different then my peers though, different than other boys, mainly from what I was perceiving from the world, from others. In fact it was more external pressure to address my orientation then an internal need or desire.
I’ve always been somewhat of a private person by nature, blame it on my Cancerian roots. I never felt the need to broadcast my sexual feelings, after all are my sexual encounters/fantasies anyone elses concern other then my own? I wasnt hiding, but I never heard ‘straight’ folk letting everyone know their sexual preferences or ever having the need to, but it seemed that being gay was something that others had to know about, was something period, like some kind of warning. I never thought I was a danger to anything. I approached my budding sexuality with caution because there was something powerful and even divine about it. It was like some powerful magic that had to be handled with care and so it was only once I was ready to.
There are times when life has seemed scary and too much to bear, but unto myself, I realized that my experience in the world was rarified . And I’ve always been attracted to the rare and exotic things in life. If nothing else, ‘liking guys’ has made for a richer experience of my life, I can appreciate, openly, a greater number of beautiful things for instance, and that’s just one, of an infinite number of attributes that make me unique. But thats the case with every other living thing in the universe. And in that I realized that we, as in all of us, as in everything… are one in the same.”
Jared, in his own words: ” I never knew my biological parents (mother was Dutch & German, father was black) and I was adopted and raised on a rural farm in southern Michigan by an American Indian and Irish family. I had a happy childhood, happier than most. I survived my mother’s two divorces, and being the eldest I was the head of household while mom worked as a single parent. I never begrudged my mother for making me grow up to be a man at the age of 15 as I helped my siblings with homework, learned to cook and took care of the household tasks. I never regretted it either, despite missing out on a social life outside of school. It instilled responsibility and maturity in me, and it taught me that sometimes we have to sacrifice.
Throughout childhood and well into my teenage years Superman was my idol, even after I was too old to be reading comics – I still saved my allowance and bought Action Comics, Justice League and others – they were my escape and fueled my imagination. I wanted to be Superman, and could never understand the fascination with a fictional character until many years later. This was also around the time I started writing; I started my first novella and found a new way to escape the churning feelings and emotions that were starting to come to the surface as I started to notice my male peers.
I had told my mother I might be gay when I was 13. She told me if that was the case, we would unpack my birth certificate, she would burn it, I would pack my clothes and leave, and that she would never want to see me again. The next day at school I asked a girl to go steady with me, but the furthest I went with a girl was a kiss on the cheek of my prom date after dropping her off. Five years later I came out again, and that was the day I became a man. I refused to live a lie, to be someone who I wasn’t, and if my family could not accept me for who I was, then it was their loss. I was living with my grandmother, and though she and my aunt came around, my coming out only caused the relationship between my mother and I to deteriorate. She spoke to me once more, coming back to town for an afternoon when I was 19 to sit me down and have a “talk”. The minute she opened her mouth I knew she was going to tell me I was adopted, and she did, and that was the only thing she told me, leaving me to figure out the rest. She later passed away in 2005, and I wish she had accepted my ignored peace offerings instead of wasting all those years over hate and ignorance.
After high school in small town Michigan I had the good fortune to be “adopted” by “the committee” – a small group of gay men in their late 20s to late 30s for dinner parties, game nights – my first time falling in love, first boyfriend, first gay bar. Again in life, I was lucky to have never been bullied for who I was, and was comfortable with my ethnicity and sexual preference in the village (literally) where I was lived as the token black gay man.
I moved to Florida shortly thereafter to Tampa (which to me at the time was a metropolis compared to Quincy MI). It was there that I grew and evolved – fell in love with the beach, discovered leather and BDSM, developed a love of photography, returned to my writing as well as my love of comic books and had a string of relationships that never lasted more than a few years, but still managed to salvage a friendship with each of them, even to this day. It was at this time I created Jared’s World, a Yahoo group (also on Facebook) that over the years has grown to over 5,000 members. It has served as my online family, a group of primarily gay men from all around the world that offered a place to escape after a hard day’s work or a bad day, a place to vent, to share and to be supported through rough times. One person CAN make a difference and this group proves it.
Darker days would follow as I explored the drug, club and sex culture in Tampa – got my ass in trouble a few times but got up, took responsibility, dusted myself off and moved on, head held up. Went to countless hours of therapy to learn who I was and what made me tick, why my relationships failed, and it all helped, it truly did, to gain a better understanding of myself. I was never ashamed for being gay, was never proud to be gay – I just preferred the company of men. Through a quirk of fate I located my biological siblings (my bio parents had passed away in 2001), which was the last piece of the puzzle – my first question was “What am I?” I found out my father was black (hence my skin tone and not the “American Indian” lie my mother had told me growing up), and that my mother was Dutch and German (so THAT was where my fascination with boots and leather came from). At long last, at the age of 34 I had an identity. A somewhat convoluted one, but I was my own melting pot through my families, and that was when I chose the moniker amanofcolours as my online ID, swiping it from an Icehouse record album called Man of Colours – it was the perfect fit.
2008 was the most spectacular year of my entire life. I took a voluntary buyout from my job, bought a one way ticket and boarded an airplane with two suitcases and a dream to New York City. Finally, after all these years of dreaming of living in the Big Apple, my dream had come true. There have been ups and downs, but it was the best decision I have ever made and have never looked back. I have a small close knit group of friends, and I pretty much do my own thing – exploring NYC and its history like a kid in a candy store, snapping thousands of pictures as I hone and improve my work, returning to my writing, growing my eBay boot business beyond my wildest dreams, going to the theater and experiencing so many things I have never done before, and will never be able to do again. My first NYC Pride parade – the energy, the love, the pride – that was a defining experience that made me realize I was indeed proud to be gay. The gay community in NYC is very diverse, yet it has its splinter groups. I still haven’t found my niche, and don’t think that I will, and that is okay. I am just me, and I am just fine with who I am and the man I have become.
A few years back I was sitting in my Jersey City apartment reading a Superman comic book that had recently been released and it hit me. After all these years of looking up to the man who personified “Truth, Justice and the American Way”, I realized why I loved Superman so much. He never knew his real parents, but they sent him away for a chance at a better life, as my biological parents had done for me. Clark Kent and I both grew up in rural areas, had our struggles fitting in, and later we would move to our respective metropolises to work in the newspaper industry. Granted I can’t fly (one day I WILL skydive though), have x ray vision or leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I do have super strength to have made it this far, I have my vulnerabilities, a love and compassion for my fellow man, I have hope for humanity and I can see the good that is in people. It is not my place to judge anyone, because I myself have been judged many a time. If only folks could just accept people for who they are (like I have been accepted throughout my life), the world could be so much better.
Looking back on my life, I have made some mistakes, but I have no regrets, would never want to go back to change anything, because I would not be who I am or where I am today. As Kylie would say, “I wouldn’t change a thing…” Up, up and away……”