Jose, in his own words: “Being gay means having an opportunity to look at life from a different angle, sideways if you’d like. Being part of a minority always gives you a view with a unique perspective, and makes you examine many things that others take for granted. It also makes it easier to empathize with other minorities and unpowered people.
Being a gay man of my generation also means to me that I am part of the last to care about what has been called the “Gay Canon”: The places in art and culture where our kind has survived and have reflected their joys and longings through the ages, from Sappho to Michelangelo to Oscar Wilde to Tennessee Williams… With acceptance and tolerance LGTB people are quickly being assimilated into mainstream culture and this “secret knowledge” is getting lost..
I grew up in the turmoil of a changing Spain during the transition from dictatorship to democracy. All my adult life has been in Baltimore. Having only lived in big cities, I have not had as many problems as those living in rural areas. The biggest hurdles for me have been legal: growing up in Spain homosexuality was illegal, and when I arrived in this country it also was illegal (you could not even get a student visa if you were an out gay person). So for many years I was in constant jeopardy of being evicted, fired, arrested or deported.
The gay scene in Baltimore is small but very, very friendly and unpretentious. There are a handful of bars and clubs and everyone is always welcome. We also have a very active LGBT community center with lots of events and groups…
I came out to my friends at 16. In a way, we all came out, since we decided that “everyone was bisexual”… I was out since then to everyone but my mother. I came out to her 20 years later, at 37, after wanting to do it for many years. At first she did not take it well, but now she is part of a support group of parents of LGTB people in Madrid, and, after ten years, has become a leader and example for parents that attend the group.”
Jason, in his own words: “Growing up and knowing you’re gay at a young age is tough, especially in a small, close-minded town in Indiana. Early on I knew I wasn’t like the other boys (age 5) and pretty much suppressed those feelings until I escaped to college. For years I thought when I came out I would lose friends and my family would disown me (side note; I was voted most dramatic in 6th grade). To no surprise, my true friends stayed right by my side and my family continues to stand up to ignorant people and will always love me. I guess what i’m getting at is that it really does get better.
Being gay is a very large part of my life. However, I try to not let it take over. I’m like an onion. So many layers.”
Andy, in his own words: “We have been together 18 years, or as I like to joke, 10 happy years.
I was in the audience when I first spotted Mark, playing the role of Mother Abbess in a campy version of the Sound of Music. Wearing a habit, Mark brought down the house with his falsetto rendition of “Climb Every Mountain.” “You’ve got to find the life you were born to live.”
I came out late, tragically and comically looking into all kinds of conversion programs before coming to terms with my sexuality while in graduate school at UNC- Chapel Hill. With two gay sisters, Mark came out earlier to himself but to his parents only after meeting me.
In 2001, Mark and I returned from Vietnam with our five month old son, Ben. Shy with adults but popular with his peers, Ben is bright, athletic and an expert on advanced weapons systems. Mark created the coolest back yard in Baltimore for Ben, complete with trampoline, zip line, tree house and water slide. Our house is always filled with the sounds of young boys laughing, having gun battles or discussing the latest Bond film.
My dad moved in last year, adding a third loving generation to the family.”
Michael, in his own words:“I’m a small town boy from Eastern Oregon. I grew up in a town surrounded by farm land, deer, barns and rivers in a peaceful valley hours away from any city. I never left my small town until I went to college at the University of Oregon. I ended up getting into Theatre and moved to New York City for a few years after college. It’s hard to define myself because I’ve been know to throw myself into new situations and been able to adapt well. In New York I served celebrities and mafia heads in a high end restaurant in mid town Manhattan. I booked modeling and acting jobs on the side while fulfilling my fantasy of making things happen in NYC. Eventually I missed the trees and returned to Oregon. I define myself as someone who is able to maintain a sense of self in any situation and loves to push my own boundaries.
I’ve evolved quite a bit in the past ten years. I now work with children and have my masters in elementary education. What’s important to me has changed a lot. What’s important to me now is being a part of a community and feeling like what I do gives back to a community that supports and fulfills me. I no longer worry about feeding my own ego like I did in my early 20′s.
Being a gay man to me is much more than helping people accept the fact that I love other men. I feel that that is something that shouldn’t even be questioned. I like that I can present myself as a person who is happy with who he is, no matter what that is. I am comfortable in my own skin. I treat people right and it makes me happy to connect with people on a personal level. I have a hard time finding someone who doesn’t enjoy being around me. I’m happy being who I am and what I’ve done with my life. I think that’s hard to find a fault in. I own my decisions and actions and don’t regret much. If someone doesn’t like me than it’s only because I represent some fault in themselves that they’re insecure about.
My coming out was not nearly as dramatic as most gay men. I came out to my two siblings on my 21st birthday which resulted in a group hug and cheers. My mother’s reaction was simply, “well now we can FINALLY talk about it!” I didn’t come out to my Dad until I brought home a boyfriend when I was 26. He was happy to meet him and they bonded over talking about photography. I’ve always felt that my sexuality is as big of a deal as I make it out to be. I’m incredibly proud to be gay and I would never want any alternative reality. Being gay has brought so many opportunities that I would have never had as a straight man. I’ve met incredible and colorful people from around the world and been able to do things that the average person from La Grande Oregon will never be able to do. Being gay has pushed me to know myself well and to give myself permission to have faults and embrace what makes me an individual.”
Justin, in his own words: “I’ve recently come to feel empowered about being gay and being myself. Even living in a city where it is pretty much expected that people accept or at least deal with homosexuality, my experience as a gay man has been filled with ups and downs. It was a struggle for me to embrace my sexuality because I don’t associate with society’s stereotypes of “being gay”. A lot of gay men don’t reflect characters seen on television (though having Darren Criss as my boyfriend would be pretty awesome). The best realization I had was when I was able to understand that people in general (gays too) come in many different sizes, shapes and types and I didn’t have to fit into any of them; I can be my awesome self.”
Jake, in his own words: “Growing up in a small country town in South Australia, I never thought I’d be living in New York City some day. The difference in where I’ve come from to where I am today is astronomical. Not just in a physical sense, but my emotional state. I’ve never felt more myself in my entire life.
The gay community in Adelaide, my home city in Australia, is a closed knit scene with three degrees of separation. In ways it can be quite overwhelming, but for the most part it is humble and supportive. Moving to New York City has allowed me to experience an entirely different gay culture. Being fresh to America and New York, I can really appreciate the diversity. I feel as though I am constantly learning and expanding my understanding of the world.
Coming out to me was about showing that nothing changes after you take that step. I was very calculated with my coming out to my friends and family. I stretched it out over the course of three years, from 18 to 21. The last person to complete my progression was my Father.
You see, I knew my parents would never really stop loving or be upset with me, and my friends wouldn’t be my friends if I knew they wouldn’t support me. In fact I was lucky. My Mother’s response went something along the lines of “I have four boys, one of them had to be”, and we continued the night laughing and crying. My Father was much more difficult to tell because I am the apple of his eye. It’s always much harder to tell those you’re the closest to and I didn’t want to disappoint or tarnish his rose colored view of me. He cried. He cried until I spoke up saying that I am sorry. He looked at me and said, “I’m just upset it took you so long to tell me. I just know your life from here onwards is going to be more difficult than it needs to be. People should be able to be who they want to be and not be ashamed of it”. For me, telling my Father was the final tier. I was finally free.
Being gay has never really meant all that much to me. I’ve never wanted it to be my identifier, nor have I wanted “being gay” to consume who I am. Being gay to me means one thing and one thing only – I’m attracted to the same sex. Everything else is just who I am, not because I’m gay. I like to think of myself as a regular guy. I’m just chasing my dreams.”