Charles, age 13
Georgetown, Ontario Canada (1975)

This photo was taken in our kitchen with a friend, and it was the last year I was allowed to go out trick or treating. I remember being very excited and proud of this Mickey Mouse costume that I put together all by myself. You can see the excitement and panache that I had - while my friend simply put on a mask with whatever jeans, t-shirt and jacket he was wearing, and just stood there.

I always felt different. My earliest memory of this was about age 5, as I remember wanting to be picked up and held by a friend of my step-father. I didn’t know I was gay, just that I wanted to be close to a man. I remember the first time I heard someone use the word “fag” - and although I didn’t know what it meant,
I could tell it wasn’t a good thing to be called.

I am the only boy in my family with 5 sisters. While I enjoyed playing road hockey with the other boys in the neighborhood, I also spent lots of time with my sisters playing with their Barbie dolls. I also showed my little sister how to pierce Barbie’s ears using straight pins with the pretty “pearl” tips which we took from our mother’s sewing box. I also would tease Midge’s hair and give her the most fabulous “up-dos” and use scissors to make her skirts shorter and sexier (actually, sluttier).

At school I was usually found skipping with the girls rather than kicking a soccer ball or whatever the boys were doing out in the field. No one seemed to care, but then in Jr. High I realized that I had to ‘butch it up” if I was going to survive through high school.

The first person I told I was gay was my sister who is just older than me. I was in college at the time. I made her swear not to tell anyone else. Little did I know she told her boyfriend (his attitude toward me never changed a bit), and eventually most of my other sisters. I finally got the courage to come out completely and tell my mom (on Mother’s Day) when I was 30.

My fear that I would be disowned and ostracized from the family turned out to be unfounded. Today I am happily married to a wonderful man, who attends all our family events with me.

Everyone comes out in their own time and special way. For most of us it turns out to be a non-issue. If you think you are gay and you feel like your life is terrible, remember - IT GETS BETTER!

Charles' first, famous-person same sex crush:
Russell Johnson (The Professor on "Gilligan's Island")