Tagged: philadelphia

Howard, Teacher, Philadelphia

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

Howard, in his own words: “Being gay is about being different. It leads to a gradual process of accepting who you are, accepting that you are different, accepting that some people will hate you and even abandon you, and finally, for me, realizing that the process of self-acceptance gives me strength, opens my creativity and helps form the strength of my character. My coming-out story took 67 years.

Years of self-loathing and feeling less significant than others have only recently given way to feelings of pride and self-accomplishment. I do not want younger people to have to undergo this journey — today many younger people do not have to struggle as much — but there are still many who have to bear the weight of the burden culture and religion place on us.

Being gay has made me self-aware, and self-reliant, able to tap into my creative juices and only recently to feel okay about whom I am. Even 40 years ago, Philadelphia had wonderful resources for gay men and women. When I was first dealing with my sexual awareness I found a gay synagogue, gay support groups, the Advocate experience (a form of Zen popular in the 60’s,) gay counseling center, and simply being around other gay men to be of help, but the inner burden was always there, always heavy, despite several forms of self-help and therapy.

I didn’t want to be gay, didn’t want to be different and tried to hide it from myself and from others. I got married for the wrong reasons, had children whom I love but feel I let-down as a symbol of strength. I tried to follow the “normal” path until at 30 years of age decided to seek out who I really was. I found friends and dated many men while trying to find people who would make me feel whole, realizing on some level that the emptiness was inside me, but not knowing how to fill it. The life experiences that should have made me feel positive seemed to in vain — always wanting to “fit in” and yet feeling very much estranged by at people at work, neighbors and acquaintances who I coveted as friends.

My creativity felt like a burden, my interests seemed frivolous and uninteresting by my standards of what “real men” should be. Even as I met other gay men who shared some of these interests my self-esteem lacked true conviction. I looked, always, for self-acceptance through others. I searched for “love” that would make me complete, but I have never truly loved — myself, or someone else. Now, the need to find intimacy is no longer seen as a magic cure-all; I can find that strength inside.

Part of my recent level of comfort is the result of seeing the development my gay son’s now ten-year relationship and the adaptations they have made to accommodate each other. I am proud of his accomplishment. Yes, you can learn from your children. Those without children can learn from a younger generation that is more accepting.

I have semi-retired, live in the city, have developed a circle of supportive friends, and can say for the first time that I feel complete. I love my varied interests, love my time alone, and seek more friends, more experiences, and an even wider variety of interests. This is truly the first time in my life that I feel proud of myself, the first time in my life that I feel my differences are my strengths, the first time in my life I can say I truly feel inner-joy.

If I had it to do over again, and as advice for younger people – do not do as I did, find your inner voice. Live and work among other gay people, or in a community that is accepting. Fill your life with experiences, visit places you want to visit, do things you enjoy, indulge yourself without guilt, and do whatever it takes to love yourself first. Caution: this is easier said than done.”

 

Peter and Michael, School Counselor and Retired Payroll Director, Philadelphia

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

Peter, in his own words: “As a youth I knew I was different from the other boys my age. I wasn’t exactly sure what the disparity was, but it seemed significant.

It wasn’t merely my lack of interest in sports or my quiet, calm personality compared to the aggressive drive I sensed in other boys. They knew I was different, too. Being taller than all my peers, I escaped the physical bullying many others endured.

In high school I thought that I must be homosexual. The friendships I enjoyed were mostly with girls and with some boys like me. At that time I became aware of my sexual attraction to other boys, and men in the media.

Surprisingly, I didn’t feel a sense of shame about who I must be. I accepted myself, yet I didn’t risk the disclosure of my difference. I wasn’t going to give that piece of me to just anyone. There were almost no gays or lesbians in the movies or on TV – no Ellen, or Elton or an Oprah to make it all seem ok. It seems keeping my true self hidden was how I interacted with the world. I gave little of myself and became the friend that always listened and supported others. It was not until the end of college that I was open with others about my sexuality.

Now at 55, I can look back at almost 30 years with Michael. He is a man with huge heart and a big, warm loving personality. His example taught me that to be truly intimate with others requires honesty. Through our relationship I have continued to evolve and grow as a person. I’ve come to have experiences I never expected to have – together we have traveled the world and enjoyed many warm, rich friendships. We enjoy a nephew and many godchildren. I have learned that even though being gay has afforded me a great perspective and wonderful experiences, it doesn’t shield us from life’s difficult times. We have buried our mothers and too many friends.

I realize that I have had the life that I was meant to lead, that being gay has not prevented me from having a rich, rewarding life. It is my hope that the increased normalizing of gay life in the public sphere will allow young people to be themselves at an earlier age than I was.”

Michael, in his own words: “I have conflicting ideas about what being gay means to me. When I look at it intellectually I understand the position of many people that being gay is just one aspect of our selves, and that we shouldn’t be judged solely on being gay. However, my immediate response is that being gay has and does influence most of what I think and feel in all aspects of life.

I came out over 40 years ago, at a time when there were no, or very few, openly gay people. I had never met any one who was gay. Every message I received about homosexuals and homosexuality was negative. I was bullied and taunted all through my school years, and was always fearful. This greatly influenced my behavior. I was very quiet and would not even answer questions in a class. And this was long before I even understood sexual attraction. I had few friends and was guarded about what I would say to people. These behaviors continued into college. By then I realized my sexual attraction to other males, yet still had crushes on girls.

Of course, I wasn’t ready to tell anyone my “secret” nor had I acted on my attraction to men. Yet, my life did change greatly. In my junior year of college, I lived away from home. I met in my dormitory/dining hall a group of students who seemed to accept me and want to befriend me just the way I was. It was a brand new feeling and gradually allowed me to gain some self-confidence. Those people are close friends to this day. The experience with these friends allowed me to become more comfortable in social situations and feel free to be who I am.

It wasn’t until graduate school that I had my first sexual experience and met other gay students with whom I became friendly. Making friends with other gay men and being accepted allowed me to come into my own. While it was always a little scary to come out to someone, my experiences were overwhelmingly positive. Meeting my partner (of 30 years) has allowed me to blossom even further and face challenges I would never have earlier in life when I feared anyone knowing I was gay.

To my younger self I would say that it’s important to trust in other people, to not assume that they will judge you negatively for being gay. And, to understand and accept that coming out and growing is a life-long process. Be open and be yourself. You will find other people who will accept and love you exactly the way you are!”

Will, Photographer, Philadelphia

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
Will, in his own words: “When you finally embrace the gift of your sexual orientation it IS the end; the end of shame, fear and oppression. You leave the darkness of the closet and begin a life of honesty, authenticity and freedom.”

– ANTHONY VENN-BROWN