Broderick, in his own words:“Whenever I’m asked when I “came out”, I always wonder, “When am I not coming out?” I wonder this because my own narrative of publicly disclosing my sexual orientation is a process, not an event. I remember being nine years old and asking myself when and how I would tell my parents that I am gay. My fourth grade self could not imagine that it would take twelve years of introspection, conversations, self-discovery, forgiveness, and courage before the day finally came.
As a child and adolescent, I had only one prayer: God, make me straight. I wanted nothing more than to meet a girl, fall in love, have 3.5 children, live in the suburbs, drive a minivan, and own a Sam’s Club card. Over time though, I was confronted with reality of my sexual orientation. The more I resisted it, the more lonely I felt. I wanted to tell other people my “secret”, but I chickened out at the last minute every time. I poured myself into memorizing numerous Bible verses, going to every religious conference I possibly could, and singing louder than everyone else at church. While some people end at “pray away the gay”, I tried to “wash away the gay”. I was baptized four times, with each time proving that no force on heaven or earth could rid me of my unwanted sexual orientation.
In college, I heard a speaker cite a statistic that gay men have an average of forty anonymous sexual partners per year. The speaker’s assertion peaked my curiosity and after just a few minutes of research on Google, I realized the speaker had been misleading. This led me to ask myself whether other things I had heard about gay people were consistent to reality. Somehow, I happened upon the website of gay Christian Bible study group in New York City. I e-mailed the facilitator and asked him if I could Skype in to one of their sessions and he said yes. Sadly, I didn’t go through with my intention. However, I kept that facilitator’s information and contacted him the next summer about the steps I needed to take to begin the process of slowly disclosing to others what I thought I had been hiding for a lifetime.
The next part of the story is a bit fuzzy. Basically, over the next four years – up to this very day – I continued to process of coming out by telling my closest friends and family members. I have been met with nothing but generosity and graciousness. Being an openly gay man is a unique gift. I feel so grateful to live the life that I live, to be loved by friends and family alike, and to be able to follow my passion for church ministry as a student at Virginia Theological Seminary. There is no way my nine year old self could have imagined how tumultuous and at times anguish-filled my life would be. But there’s also no way I could have anticipated the joy of this beautiful journey.”
Bob, in his own words:“Being gay means never having to say you’re sorry. Oops, that’s what Eric Segal wrote in “Love Story.” Never mind.
Being gay for me has meant having a special and very close community of like souls, both men and women who often have been outsiders, but never let themselves feel they are victims. It has opened up experiences, closeness, choices and relationships I would have otherwise missed. Ultimately, I never felt being heterosexual would assure me of any privilege or choices I do not have already.
I am keenly aware of all forms of stigma, discrimination and unfair laws that separate gay people and couples from others – but that has given many of us a purpose, by trying to dismantle, battle and end those barriers.
When I was much younger, being gay also meant finding someone to fall in love with. After nearly 20 years together now, I am more sure than ever that I am in love more every day with the man I’m with and the man I plan to marry too. I love being gay, and would never consider even slight longing to be anything else.
I’ve been active in gay civil rights most of my adult life. Two decades ago, I opened one of America’s first communications firms to help shape gay-friendly practices and policies in corporate America. I’ve tried hard to be a bridge-builder who sees opportunity and benefit when LGBT people are recognized, respected and reckoned with – and with the aim to achieve our equal measure of rights and responsibilities.
(The gay community in D.C. is) Hard to define or to single out, of course. Most people seem to come to Washington later in life, for school or to pursue career goals. I was born here, and Washington DC always has been my community – or a mix of communities. We tend to be more fixated on politics of course, and more global with a very transient and international bent too.
You might say we were once a small southern town with a lot of pretensions to be a more sophisticated world capital. The men and women who live and work here, gay and straight, are ambitious, smart, and probably not so fashion-forward as other cities or in other world capitals. We tend to work long hours, but also have a love of celebration, travel, good food and good sports.
Coming out is a lifetime of steps. I first began poking my head out with friends and family members in my early and mid 20s after leaving college. While I worked at the U.S. State Department immediately after graduation, and later in the U.S. Senate, being completely open did not seem an option at the time.
Simply put, many of us remained reticent or reserved about sharing our sexual orientation until we knew and trusted someone – since there were clearly barriers and attitudes that stood in the way of advancement and career choices. Nonetheless, whenever I told others, I never even once regretted it. I always felt the burden was lifted, even so slightly, and it gave others the chance to be more honest and open too – whether gay or straight. It always has improved the quality of my friendships and associations since I never found being gay stood in the way of connecting with others and forming lasting ties.”
Evan, in his own words: “When I think of my sexual identity, I try not to think of myself as a gay man, but rather a man that just happens to be gay. For me, to be gay is to be yourself. I like rap music, Mini-Wheats and 19th century French impressionism, collect political buttons and talk about pugs all the time. While there are some things that interest me that some would see as synonymous with being gay, there are many that aren’t. With that, there’s no cookie cutter definition of what it means to be gay and there shouldn’t be; everyone is different in their own unique way.
Figuring out when I first acknowledged the possibility that I was gay is something that’s been an ongoing endeavor. Sometimes I think I’ve always known. Other times I think it was middle school or college when I came to realize it. But what set off my eventual decision to come out was being hit on by another guy for the first time at a party in October of my sophomore year of college. At first, I was embarrassed because others heard what he said. I always thought other people suspected I was gay and for people to hear another guy say something suggestive to me would only intensify suspicions. It was a frightening prospect considering how when I was growing up in small town North Carolina, whenever someone insinuated that my orientation was anything but straight, it was always in some negative connotation. “Fag” and “homo” are two words that instantly come to mind. After that guy’s initial compliment, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It stuck with me for days, which turned into weeks and then months. Initially, I thought it was just a phase, one single attraction. But by February, I began to realize that there were other guys and that’s when with certainty, it hit me: I was gay. In a near instant, I thought my life was over. From rejection by friends and family to an inability to launch a career in politics or possibly hold public office, I had reasons to believe that everything I had worked for and built up over the years was wasted; complete and total rejection and castigation were an imminent reality. I stopped caring about anything and coupled with other problems I was dealing with, I saw almost nothing redeemable about myself. For those that had perceived me as gay and taunted me for it, I didn’t want to come out because I didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowing they were right and for that, I said nothing to anyone. By May, I couldn’t take it anymore. When something becomes the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you think about before you fall asleep, you have to say something. And with that, on May 12, 2011 for the first time ever, I told another person, my friend Erik, that I was gay. It was one of the most emotionally intense moments I’ve ever encountered. It was relief, ecstasy, disbelief and shock all at once. In the following weeks and months, I came out to friends and family one by one. Some were shocked while some told me they knew all along. Regardless of whether or not they knew, the responses from the people I cared about the most were all the same: Love. Coming out was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If not for peace of mind, for assurance that I’m loved.
Like many people living in DC, politics is an enormous part of my life. I eat, sleep and breath it; I always have and I always will. But what makes me different from many other members of the LGBT community is that I’m a Republican. When I first came out, I found myself not only coming out to my Republican friends as gay, but coming out to my gay friends as Republican. The former was incredibly supportive, loving and accepting of me and told me that I was the same person I had always been. The latter however, responded a bit differently. While some were as compassionate and understanding as my Republican friends were, a surprising number of LGBT people conveyed their discontent. Being a Republican was one thing, but being a gay Republican was another. One person went so far as to tell me that I was sick, a disgrace to the LGBT community undeserving of support; an “Uncle Tom.” Even in the days leading up to me writing this, another gay person (not knowing I was a Republican) told me at a party attended by mostly gay Republicans that most in attendance were “…basically self-hating, clueless people.” Crassness aside, it was insulting to assume that gay Republicans are oblivious to the fact that many Republicans are behind the times on LGBT issues. As a person that works in Republican politics, I know this better than most and it’s one of the mostly profoundly difficult obstacles I face, both personally and professionally. Despite this, I remind myself daily that if I and other pro-equality Republicans leave the GOP on the basis of LGBT rights, then there wouldn’t be anyone left to help change the party from within. Since coming out, I’ve talked to many Republicans and conservatives I previously knew to be unsympathetic to our causes. But after talking with them about the struggles I and others face and a reminder of the Republican Party’s dedication to the principle of limited government, I began to see opinions shift. Playing to their political sensibilities has been key, but what seemed to be the most effective in changing hearts and minds was relaying how, despite being gay, I want the same life that many of them want; one that involves having children, family trips to the beach and the white picket fence sort of life shared with another person that just so happens to also be a man. Essentially, the family values that so many Republicans hold dear are ones that I hold as well. With that, stereotypes are broken. Seeing opinions change, from friends and acquaintances to even my own family members, I’ve learned that though the challenges I’ve encountered have been difficult to bear sometimes, they make you stronger and provide you with the leverage you need to help bring about the change you want to see. The change we’ve encountered thus far has been slow, but slow progress is better than no progress and I’m proud of it.
Last but not least, there’s the D.C. gay scene. It’s a plethora of guys from all sorts of backgrounds from which I don’t know where to begin. The LGBT population is enormous, with nearly one in ten residents identifying as LGBT. Many like myself are from small town America that made the move to the city for work, but many also went to school in D.C. and have lived here for years. Of all the DC gays I know, they’re mostly young professionals working in the private sector and at all levels and branches of government. They’re driven, career-oriented people, but definitely know how to have a good time. Weekend brunch is a way of life and trips to gay havens like Rehoboth Beach and Provincetown are relatively frequent. Relationships happen, but D.C. is a transient city where people come and go all the time; it’s not the most conducive place for a person wanting a relationship. Overall, while the gay crowd in D.C. has some defining features to it, it’s very diverse and within it there’s a niche for everyone. I’m still finding mine and while it’s sometimes a bit confusing and scary, it’s one of the most, if not the most, exciting journeys I’ve ever been on.”