Sam, in his own words:“When I was fifteen I moved far from the place where I spent most of my childhood, and naturally I became depressed. I spent a lot of time on the computer, writing, talking to the friends I left behind, pirating music, trying to make new friends in town, and watching porn. My family thought my depression was directly caused by an obsession with technology, and with some snooping they found links to porn sites.
I wasn’t bothered much by being forced out of the closet to my family so suddenly (seeing how I was out to everyone else), but I was traumatized with the thought of my family having seen gay porn that I had seen, fantasized over, jerked off to.
My family at first was in disbelief of my homosexuality; they thought that it was just an angst-ridden teenage phase. It hurt that they all had their baseless assumptions of what being a homosexual meant.
What bothers me more though is the growing process of a queer. The rejection, the sneering, the pain… And all from within our own community, the brothers and sisters that are supposed to know similar pains and hold your hand, and all based off assumptions still.
I’ve been told what it means to be a man, what it means to be queer, what it means to be an Asian homo, what it means to have a partner that is older… And you know what? Pretty much everyone was wrong.”
Josh, in his own words: “When I was a little kid I had gymnast Barbie. She was awesome. So awesome that I wanted to bring her to show and tell. My mom sat me down and said, “Josh, if you take her to school, the kids WILL make fun of you” to which I responded, “I don’t care, I love her.”
She was right of course. But as I rode home on the bus in a seat by myself–while everyone else squeezed in three to a seat–I was smiling because I got to sit next to the coolest Barbie of 1997.
Being gay, for me, is telling that story at a party and having an entire room of people nod their heads and laugh in understanding.”
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.”
Lancelot, in his own words: “When I was younger, I had these specific aversions to other’s masculine femininity, drag queens, and gay pride. I remember thinking as a young kid that I didn’t want to be seen as “gay” just as much as I didn’t want to be seen as “straight”. I didn’t want my gender or sexuality to be policed, monitored or critiqued in any way. However, I wore eyeliner and “girls” clothes for three out of four years of high school, and was attracted to men long before that. I was exploring sex with both guys and gals when I lost my virginity as a teenager. But then, it was just sex and I loved all different kinds of people. I partied a lot, painted, did a little writing, moved around every couple of years; I was aloof. I was overly susceptible to constantly living between two worlds or two states of being- my parents’ separate houses, sober and intoxicated, art and writing, awake and dreaming, and ultimately sexuality.
I think I came to understand the words “gay” and “queer” through performance media and my process of developing as an artist and poet. It probably wasn’t until I was living in New York and starting college that I realized how establishing and identifying myself with sexuality could inform my gender, create new aesthetic stakes in my art making, and invert the negative attitudes of people who thought what I desired was inherently flawed. I didn’t want to choose sides, but instead draw attention to my specific, gender duality and see where it landed me. I ultimately reached a deeper sense of compassion and understanding toward myself. I finally wanted to be someone who lived vivaciously and honestly, abrasively if it meant inciting others to be impassioned and stronger.
I took a class once where I had to do a drag performance on the spot. This really freaked me out. But when I took what I learned and filtered it through my own sensibility, there I stood in front of my class wearing nothing but a towel, my whole head masked in a thick layer of white, acrylic paint, dancing Butoh style under spotlight. I’ve never experienced anything so satisfying. After that, I think pushing sexuality and asking what it means in relation to gender, or being “queer”, is to be otherworldly…a strange monster . . . and I find that pretty cool.
I am constantly mediating crippling depression and anxiety. I would like to overcome this daily preoccupation with less paranoia about whether people might react negatively toward me; I already give myself a hard enough time. There were times I felt conflicted or embarrassed about my feelings toward some of my male friends, but they never judged me for it, and being honest always made bonds stronger. I got made fun of for how I dressed in school, even for keeping diaries, but that was pretty short-lived. With the assumption that many people experience self-hatred or violence against who they are, I consciously do not relate my sexual identity with doubt and shame. Sexuality is maybe the one part of my life that I love to celebrate. I am thankful for my own ability to not allow it to breed internal guilt so severe that I’m harmful to myself, or allow myself to be a victim.
“Coming Out” was not a proclamation for me. My sexuality progressed and developed naturally in various and unpredictable ways. Anyone who was in close proximity to me witnessed it happening and accepted what I was doing. On separate occasions, my parents discovered I was dating a guy when I was 16. I talked to them separately about my wonderful girlfriend freshman year of college, and then how another boyfriend took me out for my 21st birthday, and so on. My mother tends to worry and my father is skeptical, but regardless of how they really feel, I can now talk openly with them. I guess in some ways, I still haven’t “come out” to distant relatives but if they were to ever find an interest in my sex life, I would have no problem telling them about it. More importantly, my friends and family can see who/what I am through my actions and physical presence, allowing me the freedom and encouragement to say and do whatever I want. I still have a lot of breaking out to do; my image and energy are too internal for my new tastes.
I recently moved to Philly from Brooklyn. I heard that if you’re not gay here, you’re a minority and I thought that was funny.”
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.”
Ian, in his own words: “Maybe I was lucky but I don’t really remember there being any big deal about coming out. I was about 15 or 16 and pretty confident about stuff, I had always known I was gay and I was never any good at hiding things. I started subscribing to gay news in about 1977 (when I was 15) and this used to arrive in a brown paper envelope. I was also obsessed with gay literature and on my bookshelves there was Edmund White’s, a boy’s own story, Gore Vidal’s, city and the pillar and James Baldwin’s, Giovanni’s room to name but a few – so it was pretty obvious to anyone who cared to look and my poor mum cleaned my room in those days!!!. It was the time of punk and I was a little obsessed with the Tom Robinson Band and in 1977 or 78 they had a rising free EP out which included the song “glad to be gay”. I remember buying this in the local WH Smith (it reached nos 18 in the UK charts) and playing on repeat for hours. So I don’t think anyone in my house had any doubts!!! I recall a conversation with my mum in the kitchen of our house in Newport Gwent when I was about 16 – I guess you can call this my coming out moment but my mum told me she already knew. I think I was a bit disappointed as I was hoping for a bit of a reaction (I liked to court reaction in those days!).
I never actually had “the” conversation with my dad it was just sort of presumed really. I vaguely remember my sister being a bit upset when I told her but she was upset because I had not told her before!
So all in all pretty straightforward and not really an issue or big deal. Mind you looking back I’m amazed at how brazen I was from such a young age!!!
Spencer, in his own words: “I grew up as a gay, Japanese-American, devout Mormon in Boise, Idaho. Convinced that I would overcome my sexuality by throwing myself into a diligent Mormon life, I locked myself in the proverbial closet and promptly ingested the key. This meant not just complete immersion into the Mormon Church, but to stand out from among even the most devout practioners. Wasn’t I told that salvation would be mine if I did everything right? And for all intents and purposes, my upbringing in the Mormon community was idyllic: soccer and baseball with my Mormon brothers; shoveling snow for the elderly on winter morning with my Mormon leaders; I was an Eagle Scout (whose favorite Merit Badge was kayaking), a proud and decorated member of Troop 83.
It is October 1997, and I am standing at the Salt Lake City International airport waving goodbye to my family. My crisply folded itinerary tells me that I will be landing at Hiroshima Airport in fifteen hours. My two-year Mormon mission has begun. Elder Jared is Caucasian, and at twenty, only one year older than myself. He is the first of seven mission partners that I will encounter over the next twenty-four months. These two years spent in Japan speed by, faster than I used to slurp down long strands of ramen at the noodle shops, elbow-to-elbow with well-dress Japanese business men.
My attendance at Brigham Young University yielded the same results: teeming with fresh-faced Mormons, the community came built-in. My junior year is when my communities began to overlap. After much consideration and prayer, I felt strongly that for me to be happy in life, I had to allow myself to love freely, and that meant disavowing from Mormon beliefs and beginning the slow process of accepting myself as gay.
San Francisco has been my home for the last nine years. This is my community. I’m an avid sportsman; completed my first triathlon in 2010, the Escape From Alcatraz. Participated in an Urbanathlon in 2011, finished 47th out of 1,161.”