I have so many childhood pictures that, without a doubt, foreshadowed my future life as a gay man. In this picture, you can see that I was a happy child, who perhaps already had an affinity for phallic symbols. In other pictures in my collection, you'd find that I often pretended that I was a high-end fashion model, with one hand placed perfectly on my hip.
I always played with my girl cousins and with their Barbie dolls. I sang, danced, and acted in our community musical theater.
And I got excited when the boys from "The Dukes of Hazzard" or Uncle Jesse from "Full House" took their shirts off.
Growing up as a Filipino American, with two immigrant parents and a large Catholic family, I quickly learned that these behaviors were unacceptable.
And I was often teased by my older brothers and male cousins.
I'd also see the looks of disappointment and disapproval in my parents' faces, when they saw me with a doll in my hand, or sketching my dream wedding dress.
To add even more pressure, I was already being teased as an ethnic minority;
for the foods that I brought to school, for the funny ways I pronounced things,
or sometimes blatantly for the color of my skin or the shape of my eyes.
Somehow at a young age, I realized that I couldn't hide my race, but I could try to hide my sexual orientation. So for the next 10-15 years, I had to pretend to be something I wasn't, while repressing layers of guilt, shame, hurt, and sadness.
When I was in my early 20's, I made the best decision of my life, and I slowly began to come out of the closet to my friends, my family, and eventually my parents. While some people were surprised and distant at first, most of my loved ones were able to show me that they still loved me.
But more importantly: for the first time in my life, I learned to love myself.
To all of the gay kids out there who are struggling with their identities, know that you're not the only one. We may not know exactly what you're going through in school right now, so we can't guarantee that "it will get better" right away.
But, I do hope seeing role models who got through it all at least gives you some hope that life is worth living. And, that you are amazing just the way you are.