I'm Henry on the right, with my brother Rocky on the left. Growing up searching for a sense of self is hard to do. My parents, especially my mother, made it virtually impossible for me to be comfortable with coming out at 17.
Our household told us that being gay was a sickness, and that we were defective.
I suffered at the hands of shrinks, priests, and my mother's tactics trying to "change" me. The one person who made this truly bearable was my little brother, Rocky. He is also gay. And he always supported me with no judgments.
Growing up, I knew Rocky was gay before I knew I was. He once performed "I'm Every Woman" by Chaka Khan in my mother's platforms, to cheer me up once when I was really down. Our mom caught us, but I remember him really looking up to me, trying in earnest to seek my approval.
We were different as boys. Rocky liked perfume, make-up, and glamor, and I liked sweaty men, rock music, and leather. We still like the same things now.
He was a Goth and I was an awkward punk, just trying to fit in.
We once got into a fist fight as teenagers when I slept with Chris, a boy he had a major crush on. He was Rocky's sleepover guest, but he'd made his way into my bed. My brother screamed at me, "I hate you, you f*cking whore!" as he wept.
That very moment, my dad asked my mom just what we were talking about.
Of course, we couldn't tell them what was really going on. Rocky didn't speak to me for 2 weeks, and I felt like crap - but he eventually forgave me.
Rocky's support made me stronger to come out and accept myself. Doing so made him more comfortable with who he is, too. There's been love, laughter, and some tears. But thankfully, I had my brother with me the whole time growing up.
So I need to say:
I love you, Rocky.
I know I don't say it a lot, but this is the best way for me to show it. You have been my rock in many ways. We bonded with a united front, and our parents eventually came to accept us as well.
I now live in London with Bren, my partner of 9 years, and our dog Jolene. We also run a successful tattoo shop in the city. Looking back at this photo, it's a reminder of how much my brother Rocky really means to me.