Jason, age 4
Iowa City, IA (1978)
I grew up in a rural farm town in Iowa. I always felt different, but didn't know quite why. But I lucked out having a mom who supported how different and creative I was from a very young age. She encouraged me to bake, sew, and garden with her. Particularly since my 2 sisters were less interested in all that.
My mom wanted them to hold on to her memory, but they soon became my play costumes.
My mother had two close friends with sons, both a bit younger than me. One day while all the moms socialized at our house, we three boys dug into the closet where my great-grandmothers clothes were stored.
We donned various items of clothing, and then paraded out to show them.
We performed a Woman of the Year beauty pageant/fashion show, going back and forth with new ensembles, and doing a fashion runway. And all our moms thought we looked adorable.
I'm still amazed to this day how they didn't scold us or try to stop our behavior. In fact, they applauded our antics.
Years later, all three of us boys came out as gay.
My mother jests that "there was something in the water" where we grew up.
She understands that being gay is like a gift, and I am so grateful for that.
I'm now a multimedia and performing artist, and much of my work is proudly gay-themed. I know that the encouragement I received from an early age to be myself, no matter how different, helped me on my path.
I had to be extremely cautious at different points in my childhood and teenage years about my expressive nature, but I made it through. It didn't necessarily get easier or better, but I got bolder and more certain about who I am.
Which is, being most grateful to be born this way.