February 28, 2011

Marco

Marco, age 5
Chianciano Terme, Italy (1961)

This photo was taken during summer, at a café table in a spa town in Italy.
My mom, dad, and my brother and I all sat in these very modern, 1960's chrome chairs. However, I was the only one who crossed my legs - and, I must admit, in a very flirtatious way! When I was a child, I loved all the female singers that were popular in my country, but with the secret desire to be like them!

I am certain that nobody "becomes homosexual," and many of our childhood behaviors, events, and choices are revealing.

Except to our parents, who almost always do not capture the true meaning of it all.

Rather, they document it precisely with the opposite intention: to normalize what would otherwise be seen as embarrassing.

Many of us understood very well what was going on, even if we didn't have the tools to express it.

As children, we almost never censor ourselves, putting forth those features which, when older, we would be ashamed of. I knew it all from very early on, and even if I thought it was wrong, I couldn't be any other way. So I spent a lot of thoughts and energy that could have been better spent otherwise. If only my feelings didn't have obstacles back then.

Seeing this picture now, I think: Wasn't it so obvious that I was gay from the beginning?! My mother knew and would ask me occasionally during my 20's, but I didn't actually admit it and come out to her until age 45. To my surprise, she was very happy and said, "Didn't you think you could have told me before?"
So I'm happy I got to tell her, before she died.

So, my message to all young gay people now is:
Tell it without fear - because your photos will tell it anyway...

As for my first, famous-person same sex crush?
Wow, I don't remember, it was 50 years ago!

Also check out "My First Gay Crush Blog"

Dennis

Dennis, age 8
San Diego, CA (1973)

In the pic on the right, that's me as a freshman at NYU in 1983. When I rediscovered this pic some time ago, I laughed for days. It would still be 20 years after that when I'd really come out of the closet. Before that happened, I served on a Mormon mission to Brazil, got married in the Mormon temple, had 4 kids, and continued pretending I was straight.


I don't remember the context of that dorm room picture, but it definitely seems Freudian or symbolic somehow. Why did I pretend I was coming out of a closet? Of course, I knew I was gay at the time. All my classmates were coming out, yet my smile belies the terror that I actually felt inside. My family and religious community would never accept me unconditionally as a gay man, and I knew it.

But how did I think I was fooling anyone? I was enamored with Timothy Hutton, the band Loverboy (mostly because of that album cover showing the butt in red leather pants), and I loved all things theater, especially musical theater. New York City welcomed me in its loving, understanding embrace, yet fear still made me to reject a very fundamental part of myself for years to come.

Even coming out 20 years later, I was right about the non-acceptance of my family and church community. But true peace really only comes by living on the outside in a manner consistent with how you feel on the inside. It feels incredible to finally have that. And my advice is do it sooner, rather than later.

Dennis' first, famous-person same sex crush:
Timothy Hutton (in "Ordinary People")
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Ordinary People Something for the Boys: Musical Theater and Gay Culture Get Lucky (Aniv) (Exp)

Tae

Tae, age 5
New York, NY (1988)

I don't remember taking this photo, nor do I remember the story behind it. Was the fan just lying around the room? Who's idea was it to include it in the photo? Did my pose come naturally to me, or was I coerced by some older cousin who thought it'd be funny? Most of that day's details remain fuzzy, but what I can confirm, is that this was taken while on vacation in Seoul, South Korea.

It's interesting how the brain works, but I have a lot more morose childhood memories than happy ones. I had terrible anxiety and really low self esteem back then, with a constant underlying sense of unhappiness at all times.

Stumbling on this photo a few years ago took me aback, because I actually seem really happy in it. Sure, I have other childhood photos of me smiling, but they're few and far between.

I naturally smile with a slight smirk, so this ear-to-ear grin going on makes me take note.

Growing up, I don’t think I fully understood that I was different. At least not until I graduated from high school. I was always a natural recluse, and feeling incompatible with the people around me was something I grew accustomed to.

But I have grown tremendously since then, and now I am so much more comfortable and happy in my own skin. Coming out to my friends (and more recently to my family) has helped a lot, because I finally feel like I can move on to the next chapter of my life. Chapters which I document on my own blog.

Not everyone is going to accept who I am, but I now know that has nothing to do with me, and has more to do with that person's issues. If a person can't understand the fundamental idea that people are born different, then there's not much else I can do for them, until they come to that realization.

As a kid, it was easy to feel helpless and like I had no way to escape. But I'm happy to say that as an adult, that's where I take all my accumulated learning lessons and use them as tools for life. Wisdom really does come with age, and that's enough for me to have something to look forward to every morning.

Claire

Claire, age 8
Atlanta, GA (1984)


This picture is of me hanging out at my Uncle's house on a Saturday afternoon, watching UGA football with him and my cousins.

The cowboy hat and boots belonged to my Uncle, and he let me wear them all day. I thought I was hot stuff!

I loved being around my older cousins, too! They were so awesome.

And I can honestly say that I was born this way!

And the best part, is that I was born into a wonderfully loving family who accepts me for who I am.





Claire's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Linda Carter (as "Wonder Woman")
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Wonder Woman: The Complete Second Season Men Will Be Boys: The Modern Woman Explains Football and Other Amusing Male Rituals Out of Bounds: Women, Sport and Sexuality Growing Up Gay in the South: Race, Gender, and Journeys of the Spirit (Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies)

Magno

Magno, age 10
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1994)

As a little boy, I was often mistaken for a girl. Not only by school mates who didn't know me well, but also sometimes people on the street. I suspect it was because of my skinny build and my long, bushy hair. My father wanted it kept short, but he'd let me grow it for months before eventually forcing me to trim it.

I also had a very "girly" voice. Some other kids' parents advised me to try and sound more masculine when I spoke, and when I tried to explain to them that my voice sounded that way naturally, they just frowned at me.

I had a best girl-friend in my building who had lots of toys and dolls, and whenever the kids gathered together to play with her stuff, I would always pick the Barbies.

The good thing about coming across as gay so young, is that you never really have to hide or disguise anything. There's no such thing as a "coming out," since people already see you're different, and treat you as such.

The terrible thing about it, is that owing to being different and gay meant dealing with a lot of bullying, confusion, and suffering. I was called "gay" or "f*ggot" often, all before I was even able to fully understand what being gay means.

I went through hell during my school years, and it wasn't until about age 17 that things began to change a bit. That was when I decided there was nothing wrong with me. If people weren't OK with me being gay (be it family members, friends, whoever), then to hell with them.

My advice to young gay kids: School years can be hard, and I suspect they were even harder when I was your age. There weren't any support groups fighting to end the bullying, as there is now. But eventually, all that pain will be gone.

I learned to accept myself the way I am, and learned not to care about other people's opinion about my sexuality.

Magno's first, famous-person same sex crushes:
Macaulay Culkin (in "Home Alone") & Elijah Wood

February 27, 2011

Shannon

Shannon, age 10
Hamilton, Indiana (1983)

Here I am on my first of many motorcycles, in all of my moto glory! I had an older brother I idolized and was raised on a lake, in a neighborhood of boys. Clearly I wanted to be one! I suppose my parents wrote it off as self-preservation at the time, but I knew deep down it was my truth bubbling to the surface.


I played with dolls too, but I was often the "spouse" who kissed my significant other goodbye in the morning, tousled the doll's hair, and whistled as I headed out the door with my proverbial briefcase.

My Mom sent this picture to me about 5 years ago with a note that read:
"I suppose we should have seen it coming..." I called her then and we had a good laugh about what we both overlooked at the time. Being raised in the Midwest in the 80s/90s didn’t allow for much diversity. And being gay wasn't an option.

I love that my parents bought me dolls, motorcycles, and anything else that seemed important to me. Whether they knew it or not, they gave me a safe, loving environment to discover my true self. It took me well into adulthood to figure it all out, but at the end of the day I thanked my parents for their unconditional love.

I came out when I was 30 and one of my friends said it was 'too easy' for me.
I had parents who continued to love me unconditionally, friends who were accepting, and I worked for a gay-friendly company in San Francisco at the time.

In hindsight it may have looked easy, but I went through years of torment;
I never felt like I fit in anywhere. Sure I kissed the little boys on the playground like everyone else, but I was secretly longing for my 2nd grade teacher. She was beautiful, smart, and confident. And all I really wanted was to stay inside during recess and be in her presence.

My path was full of batons, tap shoes, motorcycles, dolls, and Hot Wheels and I wouldn’t trade any of those, because each experience made me who I am today.
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Hot Wheels Molded 48 Car Case - Colors and Styles May Vary Bike Lust: Harleys, Women, and American Society Always My Child: A Parent's Guide to Understanding Your Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered or Questioning Son or Daughter Romancing the Margins'?: Lesbian Writing in the 1990s

February 26, 2011

John

John, age 4
Pikeville, NC (1984)

I always felt different as a kid, but never knew why. I was described as "sweet, caring, loving, empathetic, artistic" - later realizing all those words were code for gay. I was the middle child of 5, with 2 older sisters and 2 younger sisters. My childhood was spent playing dress up and putting on impromptu fashion shows with my sisters. I always loved dolls and girly things, but knew it was wrong and was something to hide. And growing up a devout Mormon didn't help the matter.

When I was finally old enough to realize I was "a gay," I immediately turned to self loathing and entered a deep depression.

I prayed for God to change me, and tried to avoid thoughts of other guys. At 17, I realized I could not change who I am, nor could not 'pray the gay away.'

Not knowing there was a world out there that could accept me for who I was, I tried to take my own life.

I was admitted to the hospital and kept for two weeks in a mental ward. It was there that I came out to my first person. It was a therapist, who on the final day of my stay, came into my room and said she knew I was holding something back.

I burst into tears and said:
'I'm gay, and I think I'm going to hell.'


I was so hoping to hear from her what I felt in my heart, such as, "No, you are a good person, that's what counts. Your actions define who you are, not who you are attracted to." All I wanted was a little reassurance, some understanding and comfort. Instead she said, "Now is the time you should turn to God. Now is the time to pray." I smiled and nodded, but I knew she was wrong.

At that moment, I realized that any God who would condemn me for something I could not control, was no God of mine. I left the hospital renewed in my self worth. I was weeks from my 18th birthday, and finally felt like there was a chance for me to be happy. I came out to others, and each time regardless of their reaction, I came to accept myself a little more.

Today I am a 31-year old man with a bright life and a positive outlook. All my struggles have given me the character and strength to overcome obstacles that would easily derail others. I love myself and know that I am not defined by my sexual orientation. I am lucky enough to have a family who accepts me (now), and a sister who is also gay, and she's an inspiration to me.

I hope anyone reading this can realize that they are special and worthy of love, no matter who they are. Our world is changing for the better, and each new day gives me renewed hope for the future. Life is good, and it is definitely worth living, even when things seem the bleakest. So hang in there! It gets better!!!
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Also check out "My First Gay Crush Blog"

February 25, 2011

Maureen

Maureen, age 9
Pasadena, CA (1957)

I'm here on the right with my BFF Cheryl, who I realized much later, was my "girlfriend". We're snuggled up together here, and we used to hug and kiss every time we met. At our age in that era, people thought it was "cute". I really loved her, and asked my folks if we could adopt her, even though she had parents.


She was my first real "crush" - and though I didn't know why, the way I loved her was "different". Several years later, my next crush in high school was recognized for what it was by the nuns. And my parents got a letter informing them that my classes had been changed, due to an "inappropriate friendship," and my dad didn't know what that meant.

But here, with Cheryl, I knew I was in love and it felt wonderful.

In the 1950's, no one used the word "gay" yet, and I didn't know what a "homosexual" was. But I usually had at least one "girl-crush" every school year. And by the time I was in 9th grade, in an all-girls Catholic school, all the girls would get together and giggle about boys - and I would be looking at them.

Today, as I look at this photo, I wish what I felt then had been recognizable and accepted. After a marriage, kids, abuse, and a nervous breakdown, I finally came out to myself and others at age 48. At that time, I had met the love of my life, and she was a transgendered woman.

Now, I am a Witch and a Unitarian Universalist. My church recognizes same-sex unions, so I married my wife 15 years ago. Today, I am happily settled with my life partner, openly gay, and Pagan. And with children (from the first, disastrous marriage) and grandkids who love and accept Mamo and Nana for who they are.

After all the angst I experienced, I would like to tell gay kids that it definitely gets better.

Maureen's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Audrey Hepburn
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Gigi Hear Us Out!: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present Gender and Culture in the 1950s: WSQ: Fall/Winter 2005 (Women's Studies Quarterly) Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson

Mark

Mark, age 16
Portland, OR (1962)

It's been a great time reading the inspired and heartfelt blog posts here. Now at age 64, it has allowed me to remember that as a kid, I always sort-of knew something was different about me. But in the 1950's, in my little Oregon cow-town, in a religious home, I knew nothing about life until well into college.

I remember wanting a dollhouse at age 5, and having a crush on Rock Hudson the first time I saw him on TV. And KNOWING I needed to someday get out of that remote town I lived in. None of those feelings were connected to farming life, where football was king.

This pic is my favorite, since being the piano guy at 16 kept me "in" enough at that age to be included. Although I always felt I was alone somehow.

As others experienced, I was aware of being different, but not why or what. So I could not "change" anything. I sort of had to let myself be snickered at sometimes during phys ed classes.

The most intense day I spent in high school was trying to "explain" to my "best friend" - who was unaware of the crush I had on him - that I was upset he was spending so much time with his girlfriend.

In the middle of that awkward conversation, I said out loud (while becoming aware of it), 'This sounds like a girlfriend talk, doesn’t it?'  It bothered me so much, I excused myself and went home. I spent that evening trying to understand what happened. And our friendship became awkward from then on.

Lots of things happened that I should have been aware were gay-like, but there was SO little information back then. I had NO reference for those experiences at all. I simply thought if I stayed "religious" I'd outgrow those "mystery" feelings.

Luckily, my life bloomed at age 21, and has from that time on. And my partner and I are in our 23rd year together.

Clint

Clint, age 5
Bloomington, Minnesota (1987)

This photo of me at 5 is quite the foreshadowing. As a kid, I was an odd little thing. I was a goofball, comical, and very eccentric, and not much has changed since. I was an honors student who was friends with the troublemakers. I liked living a "double life" - studious but mischievous. I think this dichotomy allowed me to also separate my attraction for guys from the norms of male pubescence.

"Foreshadow"
I started thinking about boys in middle school, but I didn't have a strong concept of sexuality or what attraction was.

My attraction to men was asserted in high school. The school jocks were definitely my inspiration, for lack of a better word, while fantasizing. Admittedly I often stole some of my sister's Teen Beat magazines.

It was then that I starting thinking that men were the bee's knees. I also had a big crush on Kevin Richardson from the Backstreet Boys.

I'm a big homo, I know.

In my sophomore year of college, I decided it was time to "seal the deal" and live as a gay man. I started dating an older man, 15 years my senior, and needed to tell my friends and family that he wasn't just a friend. I was petrified.

I am a ballsy guy, so after I told my closest friends, I sat my entire extended family down at Thanksgiving and simply said, "I am gay." The reply from the crowd was, "So? We love you for you." Thus, my coming out was very smooth.

I feel like my picture represents a yearning to come out at an early age, but letting societal norms keep me closeted for too long. I was angry for a long time for not being able to be me.

So, my message for kids who are curious, questioning, or ready to come out is:
Coming out is like pulling off a Band-Aid. Some Band-Aids come off easily, while others hurt. However, when that Band-Aid is finally gone, the healing can really begin. And you will know when the time is right.
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"


February 24, 2011

Dallas

Dallas, age 2
N. Vancouver, BC, Canada (1975)

Here I am age 2, in the yellow rusted wagon in my Grandma's three-level backyard. The view was amazing, and looked out unto the ocean and the mountains. I remember hanging out in the backyard with my hand-me-down denim, bell-bottomed overalls, and Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders t-shirt (thanks Dad), pretending that this backyard was my neighborhood. Everyone was nice, and I had my own bike, so I was completely independent.


When we played house, I never had a "husband" like the rest of my neighbors, and I would live alone or with my best friend. We didn't have any kids, but we had the nicest house in the town. Looking back, I realize that this may have been different than most little girls under the age of 10.

I had dolls, but they usually ended up with hair cut into a short, spiky hairdo, and would often 'kiss' other dolls.

My Barbies took lots of camping trips with their friends in the Barbie Camper, and there was never a Ken doll involved. I realized then that Barbies were supposed to have Kens, but I didn't want one.

I never felt different, though. My parents never, ever, showed disapproval of me. My friends went along with my Barbie antics, no questions asked. I wonder if they realize now that I'm out, that these things were in fact, different?

Back then, I adored Lauren Tewes (Julie on "The Love Boat") and something about her eyes and her smile captivated me. I also loved Joan Jett. Her power as a musician and her raw sex appeal awakened something in me that made me feel strong. I knew I was unique, but it fueled me to remain so, and I did.

My message for gay kids today is:
Don't ever give up your uniqueness.
Embrace what you have. Monotony is boring.

Dallas' first, famous-person same sex crush:
Lauren Tewes ("The Love Boat")
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The Love Boat - Season Two - Vol. 1 Joan Jett In Leather Poster 24x36 Lesbian Plays: Coming of Age in Canada In a Queer Country: Gay & Lesbian Studies in the Canadian Context