A photo/essay project for LGBTQ adults (of all genders) to submit childhood pictures and stories (roughly ages 2 to 12), reflecting the memories and early beginnings of their innate selves. See how nurture allows what nature endows - and it's their nature, their truth!
I ran across this picture in a box of photographs. I don't even remember taking it. My mother used to like to dress me up and I was a bit of a mama's boy.
My parents had some inkling I may have been gay and I was told that I was taken in for tests. All I could imagine was a doctor holding up paint swatches,
or pictures of accessories, asking me: "Do these shoes go with this purse?"
As I was a small kid, school was rough. Grade school wasn't that bad, but once I got to high school, it became worse. I was thrown in many a trash can, had food dumped on me, and other kids would scream names at me. So I spent a lot of time in the theatre - aka the cafetorium - and made it my safe place.
I remember riding my bike home one day when this group of kids ambushed me and threw large cement nails at me, hitting me in the face and head. Or the ones who surrounded me and pulled out a switchblade. Thankfully, a friend pulled up in his car and saved my life.
Everyone basically knew I was gay, so coming out was kind of pointless. When I came out to my mom, she made me sweat through the entire process. After going through that agonizing moment, she just laughed and said they had known my whole life. I thought it would bring us closer together, but it didn't.
However, my father has been my true hero through it all. It was on July 17, 1986 when he said he was proud of me. I wrote it on may calendar.
Later I went to a performing arts college, so I felt totally comfortable. I remember the moment I made it clear to the wig mistress. She asked if I was straight, and the world just stopped and went into super slow motion. It felt like an eternity before I said, 'No, I'm gay' and she didn't even miss a beat.
I'm now 47 and have been with my husband for 17 years. I also have a successful career doing wigs and makeup for live theatre, and I don't take shit from anyone.
I am on the right and my twin sister is on the left, looking at the camera. At this young age, I had no idea I was gay. However, looking at this photo now, I am clearly more into that kiss than my twin sister Emily.
I grew up in a highly Christian home and grew up thinking I hated gay people. I even said things like that a lot. Hating myself was more like it. Just after my parents started their own church, I made a joke that if they didn't let me date this boy I liked, I might just date girls instead!
There was so much truth in what I said, yet no one had any idea.
My parents took their 'discovery' of my sexuality really badly. I had my first girlfriend was when I was 14, and she was not welcomed. Even though I was sent to a private school, no matter where I went I found girls to love!
My parents have come such a long way in their acceptance of me. But more importantly, I have discovered my true self. I also discovered in time that I didn't have to look, dress, or act a certain way to be a lesbian.
I am now a very happy, highly feminine woman who loves the 1950's and red lipstick. I am a pinup model, a dancer, and a gay activist for my community.
I've been engaged for over a year and have big gay plans for my life with my beautiful partner. And that includes many kisses like the one in my photo!
This picture should have given my family some clue! This Norwegian boy on the left was a childhood friend, and I have a look on my face like, “Look! I got one!”
As a kid, I loved TV shows that featured boys around my age, like Eddie Munster and Will Robinson on "Lost In Space."
I also remember watching the original "Mickey Mouse Club" on TV. While most other boys were crushing on Annette Funicello, I was crushing on Cubby!
If anyone had asked me as early as age four who I wanted to marry when I grew up, I would have said that I wanted to marry a man. It just seemed natural.
But elementary school was a very difficult time for me.
I got bullied and beat up a lot, but I didn’t really know why;
I just thought that’s how school was.
By junior high, kids had apparently picked up on me being gay, because the bullying definitely took on a homophobic aspect. Of course, self-preservation caused me to deny it, and I had girlfriends all through high school. Probably because I was easy to talk to?!
After high school, I went through a very difficult time in a very homophobic church. After what could only be described as spiritual and emotional torture,
I left. Within a year in 1980, I was instrumental in founding the world’s first LGBT-affirming Apostolic Pentecostal church.
Most of my family took my coming out very well.
To celebrate, my aunt Lois called a friend of hers, and together they “raided” a gay bar in Asbury Park, New Jersey, where Lois played matchmaker for the guys inside, deciding who looked good with whom!
Presently, there are many positive LGBT role models, and I hope LGBT kids will look to them for encouragement and affirmation.
Today, I'm a 55 year old man, happily partnered with another 55 year old man. As I look back at my childhood - and especially this picture - it makes me smile.
I'm from the South New Jersey shore. Philadelphia was our big city. Home was a beach town, so it was empty in the winter. Empty except for the “locals,” and being gay was a concept that didn't fit in with the “local” mentality. My parents were decent people, but they were locals, too.
Being gay was a tough and lonely journey for me.
I thought the boys were cool, but it was because I was attracted to them. I know that now, but I didn't back then. I attended Catholic schools, and had no issues about that.
My photo was taken by my grandfather, with me atop my father's desk chair. I loved superheroes as a kid, as they were people with great gifts who just seemed so "normal" on the outside. Their “secret” was their hidden powers. Suddenly, they became super-special, the people they really were. They stopped hiding. That transformation is the core idea that got me through it all. As a kid I also loved Lee "The Bionic Man" Majors. He was the perfect real-world superhero: handsome, bighearted, strong, and sweet. And for vision and resolve, to overcome and triumph, I admired Abraham Lincoln. His story is amazing. My parents were crushed when I came out. It hurts a loving child so much to disappoint his parents. But in time, that healed. Today I live in Puerto Rico and I'm a successful lawyer. And being gay never kept me from anything. But I kept myself from things. Until I remembered that we are here to be a point of light in the world. Then, suddenly, everything began to change. I also fully realized that I was born this way. I already had everything I needed to be who I am meant to be. And when you realize that too, it's like your own personal 4th of July! So go and do your thing!
As far back as I can remember, I always knew that I was gay and that I liked boys. Interestingly enough, within myself I never had an issue with it. But I was always worried by what other people would think or say. This is something so ingrained that I still worry about it to this day.
The problem with society is that being gay is regarded as not "normal." I read an example once that’s stuck with me throughout the years because it is so true:
If an adult sees a boy and a girl playing together, they'll often ask playfully 'Is she your girlfriend?' or visa versa. However, if it's two boys or two girls playing, nobody will ever ask them that same question.
These subtle hints in every aspect of our culture cause being gay (and the coming out process) to be very difficult for many of us.
I first came out to my friends as a senior in high school.
They took it without even batting an eye, and my best friend’s biggest issue was that I hadn’t told her earlier. I'm fortunate that many of those people remain close friends to this day, and it is directly a result of their acceptance that I am the person I am today. I ended up having to come out to my family, because I had gotten myself into a situation where I needed their help. And without them knowing the boy involved was in fact my boyfriend, they wouldn't be able to understand the full situation.
My mom took my coming out the best. She took some time to process it, but today she is my number one cheerleader. But my dad is the unsung hero in my life story. He immediately realized my situation and fixed it quicker than I would have ever imagined possible.
I will forever be grateful to him for standing by me during that time.
My mother tells me the staff at the Sears portrait studio were so impressed with this photo of me, that they wanted to hang it on their wall in the lobby.
"What does the T stand for? Is it Tammy?" they said. "No," my mother corrected. "More like Tommy." This was my first reported instance of an occasion that would become a regular theme in my life.
I was 2-years old and people were already doing double-takes while apologizing under their breath for misidentifying my gender. "He’s pretty - for a boy” was the first of the backhanded compliments I was poised to receive as I got older.
As a kid, it used to bother me that I was often mistaken for a girl, and my easily mortified teenage self suffered accordingly. Because people didn’t quite know how to categorize me by sight, I learned to transcend polarization.
I understood early that gender was a social construction that was completely malleable. I felt the need to refrain from conforming to the gender biases of popular culture and to create my own.
If I liked a shirt in the girl’s department and it fit me, I wasn’t stymied by the fact that it buttoned up the opposite side. I learned how to bridge the gap between my yin and yang.
I trace the early understanding of gender politics I had to this photo.
T was for Tommy but it was also for trans - as in transcending transgender.
Growing up, Halloween was always my favorite holiday. This hasn't changed much since I was young, but now I look back on my love for the holiday in a much different light. I think it was the attraction of stepping into the skin of someone who wasn't me that spawned my interest. This lead to me dressing as multiple women during my childhood.
Having been reared on nearly every Disney movie, I was immediately drawn to the female villains. These women were not merely evil (something that I was not), but they were supremely confident in who they were (something I also was not). But above all else, they were interesting.
You can leave your princesses behind, and give me an evil queen any day!
I lived for the time of year when I felt confident enough to dress up as one of these powerful women. In hindsight, I give tremendous appreciation to my parents for allowing me to dress in this way year after year.
We live in a time when something like this can go viral on the internet if given enough traction. I can only imagine it was much more taboo in the mid 1990's.
However, my parents never batted an eye at it, and I think the pictures show that my mother had a fun time herself putting the ensembles together.
It wouldn't be until over a decade later that I managed to find the courage within myself to come out of the closet. Yet I can't help but wonder how surprised my parents must have been, if they were surprised at all.
Although it took time, I feel as if I've finally managed to grasp the confidence and power that made these women so interesting to me.
And for now, we can leave all the curses and spells behind...
As a child, I was generally very quiet and introverted. I always found solace and tranquility in writing rather than involving myself in social activities. But I was active in theater in my early teens and on my high school’s cross country team in my freshman year.
I first came out to my mother at the age of 15. It was pretty rewarding, and my family has always accepted me as a person regardless of differences that may exist between us. As a teenager, I was active in the local LGBT community center, and I have been fortunate that I never have been harassed or singled out for being gay.
During college though, I went back in the closet and I eventually became very religious. As a result of social pressures, I eventually married a woman.
After the birth of our first child, our marriage slowly fell apart. Around the time of our second child, I met a man whom I had brief contact with.
I soon realized I needed to confront my true identity instead of hiding behind a veil of falsehood.
I revealed to my wife the secret that I had been hiding from her for years. She told me she always had known and was willing to accept the fact that I was gay. We came to the understanding that we would have to separate.
I began to turn to close friends and even rabbis for moral support as I began this new phase in my life. Thankfully, I have found nothing but love and support from everybody with whom I have shared this intimate detail of my life.
As a religious Jew, I hid the secret of my sexual orientation from everybody.
But today I know that Judaism embraces the gay identity, even with certain prohibitions in regard to particular acts.
The essence of being a gay Jew, however, is acceptable in the eyes of God.
I did not know this for a long time, and had I known it, my adult life would have been much easier.
But I am happy now and look forward to a beautiful future in which I can celebrate the internal synthesis of all the different aspects of my life.
I was lucky enough to have been born to a mother who had the innate ability to tell I was gay when I was very young. To be honest, since I was so focused with my studies all the way to about 11th grade in high school, I hadn't really paid much attention to my sexuality.
It wasn't until I turned 16 that I finally came out to myself, and at 17 I came out to my mom.
I wrote a letter wanting to explain everything, since I knew doing it on the fly would result in just a total breakdown.
However, I forgot to put the letter away after I wrote it - it was 4am when I finished! - and my mom found it that morning.
And I'll never forget what she said to me: "The only man I was ever angry about being gay was Elton John, because that was when I knew I wouldn't be able to marry him!"
I know I'm lucky to have grown up in such an accepting household. It saddens me that LGBT youth are harassed and bullied, simply for being who they are.
All I can say is, be proud, stay strong, and never forget that it is you who are in control of your life. As hard as the road may seem, it is your own strength and resolve alone that will carry you through your toughest trials in life.