March 31, 2011

Eva

Eva, age 3
Los Angeles, CA (1986)

I remember my Dad took this picture in the home I grew up in. I was always a tomboy, and loved baseball caps. Although now, I prefer them on other females.

I first realized I was a lesbian when I started checking out girls, at the time when all of my friends were checking out the boys. Coming out as a lesbian was as difficult for me, as it is for any gay kid.

But the fact that I am physically disabled and non-verbal made it a bit harder. I use a letter board to spell out my thoughts.

So imagine the stress of slowly coming out, letter by letter. On top of that, I didn't have any gay disabled role models to look up to, and I felt very alone.


Fortunately, when I did come out, my family and friends were totally cool.
I'm pretty sure they all had figured it out by then anyway.

Now as an adult, I embrace my queerness and consider it just one more aspect that makes me unique. Being a gay teen can be very hard, but please remember:

There's a whole community that is ready to help you, and embrace you.
It just may not seem that way right now.

I did find other LGBTQ people within the disabled community, and I'm now able to share my stories, frustrations, and joy.

Eva's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Melissa Joan Hart (in "Clarissa Explains It All")
Growing up as a Nickelodeon kid, I particularly loved her spunk.
______________________________________________________
Clarissa Explains It All - Season One Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories (Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies) Pushing the Limits: Disabled Dykes Produce Culture Queer Quotes: On Coming Out and Culture, Love and Lust, Politics and Pride, and Much More

March 30, 2011

Jason

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.

When my great-grandmother died, my mom inherited some of her old clothes, including mink stoles, opera gloves, purses, and hats.

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.

March 29, 2011

Lindsay

Lindsay, age 3
Western, Kentucky (1985)

I think I always knew on some level that I was different – and understood that different was not good. I was a tomboy, and I spent much of my childhood with my cousin Russ, who is the same age as me.


His older brother taught me new words like "f*g" and "queerbait." I have a very vivid memory of Russ calling me gay. We were about 6-years old at the time.
I asked him what it meant and he said, "It means you're a girl that likes girls."

I took a moment to process that in my little brain and concluded, "Yeah, you’re right." We went back to playing in the yard, and I buried that realization deep in my subconscious, to be painfully hashed out later.

At 6-years old, we don't yet have all of the ugly social messages we receive later in life. Messages that make us feel bad about ourselves. Even when I had my first crush on a girl in the 3rd grade, I didn't really know what it meant to be a lesbian. I did know, however, that I shouldn't talk about it with grown-ups.

By age 8, I knew people would think it was weird and wrong. I knew that I really liked Jo on "The Facts of Life" and was fascinated by the character Lady Jaye on "GI Joe." Even though I didn’t understand yet why I liked them so much, I was still embarrassed by those feelings.

Now when I reflect on my childhood, I can see the progression from carefree tomboy fighting on the playground, to awkward pre-teen who invented crushes on boys, to angry teen running away from feelings that I tried to pray away.

When I finally came out to my mom at age 21, she hugged me, told me she loved me, and said, "This is something I've been concerned about since you were 2."

I guess that's why she didn't argue too much when I asked for a He-Man themed 3rd birthday party, as seen in my picture.

I hope when queer kids growing up today see people like me, who are now out and proud - and a Mom! - they know that being gay AND happy is possible.

Linday's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Nancy McKeon (Jo on "Facts Of Life")

____________________________________________________
Nancy Mckeon 12x16 Color Photograph Young, Gay, and Proud!: Fourth Edition (An AlyCat Title) Between Mom and Jo GI Joe: LADY JAYE International Heroes- Covert Operations-fully poseable modern army figure Manufactured in 1990

Zachary

Zachary, age 7
Mount Airy, NC (1997)

I obsessed over the Spice Girls since their first album. I had the Barbies, action figures, and even dressed up like Posh Spice (Victoria Beckham) sometimes.

Until the 6th grade, people called me "Spice Boy." I was teased daily, but I wouldn't let that stop my love of the Spice Girls, and just being who I was.

I knew I was gay very early, probably around 10-years old.

I would always watch pro wrestling, because I liked to see men in tight, little uniforms.

I never had a specific male crush back then. I was just drawn to shirtless, attractive men in general. And nothing has changed on that level.


Coming out was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

However, it was the best decision I have ever made.
I am happy with who I am, and I'm proud to be a gay American.

March 28, 2011

Rick

Rick, age 4
North Hollywood, CA (1967)

A couple months ago, I was rummaging through old photo albums at my father's house, and my heart stopped when I saw this pic of me as a small child. It really took my breath away, because it confirmed for me just how early in my life, that my path was set. I was not to be like other boys. Thank God!

I don't remember this picture being taken. But I do remember in the years after this, feeling different and isolated. Like during 1st grade, when I had a mad crush on a 5th grade boy.

I seemed to attract other effeminate boys as friends at school. I was always being taunted, beat up, chased, and teased all through school.

My mother finally allowed me to switch to a small church school mid-year in 8th grade, because I was so miserable at my public school.

It was during high school that I realized what was different about me. I knew I was gay, and it scared the hell out of me.


But how could I be gay? I was raised a Baptist???

Things began to fall into place in my life in my early 20's. I met John, my partner of 24 years, in 1987. We have a wonderful life together, and I have a wonderful and supportive family.

"Born This Way Blog" gives me such a strong feeling of belonging. What a great way to show young "different" people just how many of us have paths to follow that seem so different - yet are actually so alike.

Jason

Jason, age 8
Mechanicsville, Connecticut (1982)

"Mork and Mindy" suspenders, a sparkly Tweety Bird t-shirt, ironing a flowery tablecloth, and that nasty cold sore? Yep, I'm gay. People always ask, "When did you know?" The real question is, when didn't I know? While I didn't know there was a word for how I felt, all I knew is that it was the way I was.


In the 1st grade, I wanted to be Princess Leia - because I had a huge crush on Han Solo.

I'd jump on my Mom and Dad's bed, falling and bouncing, and pretending Han and I were escaping the Evil Empire.

I didn't know I could be a boy and still like boys, so I assumed I should have been born a girl.


Growing up with TV, my gay role models were Jodie Dallas (Billy Crystal) from "Soap" and Beverly LaSalle, the drag queen from "All In The Family." I think Billy Crystal's character had the most impact on me growing up. I assumed that since I liked boys like he did, that I had to get a sex change like he was going to.

I didn't really know what a sex change was, except that I'd be a girl and things would be better. For the longest time as a boy, I secretly dreamed of turning 18, going to Switzerland, and becoming a girl. Thank God for today's TV role models.

I am the baby of 4 children: two gay boys and two girls. My sister Tracy is the closest in age to me, and we would play house together. She would pretend to be Pamela Ewing from "Dallas" and I'd be the alcoholic Sue Ellen.

Our other favorite thing to play would be "2 Sisters." We'd pretend to be sisters who lived next door to each other with our husbands. We had such imaginations back then, and had such fun times.

School was hard for me, and I was bullied as far back as I can remember. I was called queer, f*g, fairy, you name it. It hurt a lot at the time, but I would never change who I was or the person I am today.

I always knew deep down that I was "normal" and its okay if your normal isn’t the same as everyone else. That's what makes you special.

So celebrate and embrace yourself.
You are amazing, so keep hanging in there and love who you are.

Jason's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Harrison Ford (in "Star Wars")
_________________________________________________
Soap: The Complete Series (Slim Packaging)All in the Family: The Complete Eighth SeasonSide by Side: On Having a Gay or Lesbian Sibling (Haworth Gay & Lesbian Studies)

March 26, 2011

André

André, age 4
Baton Rouge, Louisiana (1972)

I recently came across this photo as I was scanning old slides for my parents.
I remember it was Easter of 1972. I'm holding a tiny purse my grandma made from an old margarine container, combined with delicate crocheting.

When I shared this photo with mom, she remarked at how cute my little sister was. When I pointed out that the photo was not of her daughter,
but rather, was of her proud, 4-year old son - she silently turned the page.

Growing up, my sexuality was the proverbial elephant in the room:

Always present, but never discussed.

I've heard we can only see the world with the light we've been given. When it came to my being gay, my parents never had the light they both needed to understand.

In my 12 years of Catholic schooling, just about every report card included the comment, "André is a sensitive boy." That was Catholic school code for "Gay as a daisy."

It was tough growing up "sensitive" and the journey was never easy. It was worth it, though. I can now say I love who I am, and I love the life I've built for myself.

I love that I've learned to honor and protect that sensitive, little boy with the pink Easter purse and black galoshes.

As an adult, I have a terrific job as a writer. I have a wonderful partner and a cozy home with 3 cats. It's exactly the kind of life that I was told would never be an option for me. A life filled with friends, family, and an occasional pink purse.

I live openly and proudly, and try to inspire others to do the same.
And I try to be that light for those who live in darkness.

That's how things get better.

Also check out "My First Gay Crush Blog"

Jeanie

Jeanie, age 8
Kentucky, 1989

I was always a tomboy. Climbing trees, strategically placing my GI Joes for battle, and playing war with the boys - always won out over makeup, tea parties and Barbies. I hated girly clothes and She Ra was my hero. When playing house, I wanted to be the dad, as I loved pretending I was in love with the girl playing the mom. I never thought I was different, despite my crush on Alicia Silverstone.


As a young teen, there was so much pressure to like boys. Heterosexuality was implied, and I was confused. I never considered that I was gay, so I acted boy crazy, and decorated my walls with posters of male celebrities.

While all the other girls swooned over Jared Leto in "My So Called Life," all
I could think about was Claire Danes. I wrote off the feelings I had for other girls as "admiration" and ignored feeling out of place.

I began dating my best guy friend and married him right out of high school.
We started a family, and I accepted that I was always going to feel out of place, and would never know why. Until recently, that is...

I've met an incredible woman and I've fallen for her. My epiphany finally came:
I knew I was gay. I came out to my husband first, followed by my best friend.
It's been a year since then, and I have come out to all my friends. Fortunately, only a few rejected me.

But I'm still not out to my family. I'm working up the courage to do that. It's a slow progression, trying to change my life completely, but I'm getting there. It's never too late to start living authentically. I'm doing that a little more each day.

My experiences as a child were vastly different from those who already knew they were gay. So I can't really relate to kids who face rejection and bullying.

All I can say is, be true to yourself.
There is nothing more satisfying than being who you are.

Jeanie's first, famous-person same sex crushes:
Alicia Silverstone & Claire Danes
________________________________________________
Alicia Silverstone 8x10 Autographed Photo Reprint My So-Called Life: The Complete Series (w/Book) From Wedded Wife to Lesbian Life: Stories of Transformation Out in the Country

March 25, 2011

Aaron

Aaron, age 8
Berne, Indiana (1982)

I think this picture is funny, because I'm so excited about my pink Easter basket. I think I'm more excited than Denise here, my younger, 6-year old sister.


Growing up in a small town in Indiana, I always knew I was different than other boys. I had a very high voice all through puberty, and I was very androgynous. So it was very hard for people to tell whether I was a boy or a girl.

But that androgyny has paid off now. At 37-years old, people still guess my age as late 20's or early 30's! I love it!

I remember being attracted to boys/men in the 1st grade, having a huge crush on my swimming instructor. All through grade school, I much preferred playing with the girls on the playground, instead of anything involving a ball.

Music and stage quickly became my vice. I was a boy soprano up until 8th grade, then an alto as a freshman. But that also led to many taunts of "f*g" and "sissy."

I remember playing superheroes with my cousins at family outings, and I always laid claim on being "Wonder Woman." I could never figure out why none of them ever argued with me about being her - not even my girl cousins!

But today - I am who I am. I have a wonderful family who accepts me and my partner. While they're fundamental Christians who will never approve of me being gay, they do accept and love me!

My advice to young people, or any people with a fear of coming out is:
Most of the people you're afraid to tell that you're gay - already know. They're just waiting for you to be comfortable enough with yourself to approach them with it.

It's generally not a surprise to anyone. And if they say it is, they're more than likely lying for one reason or another.

With that being said: It's OK to wait until you are comfortable to have a conversation about it. Move at your own pace!

Sandro

Sandro, age 5
Tbilisi, Georgia (1988)

I think a was about 8 or 9 when I have realized I had feelings for men. I did not know at that time those feelings were of a sexual nature. But now that I recall my childhood fantasies, they couldn't have been gayer.

I have a sister, and we used to play Barbie dolls together, where we were best girl friends. I've always associated myself as a female character.

But I didn't connect that to my sexual orientation, or being gay.

Later in life I discovered I fell for boys instead of girls.

I dreamed about Brad Pitt and the Backstreet Boys, and listened to Barbra Streisand and Paula Abdul.

I was suffering from the feeling that I was the only "weirdo" who had these feelings for the same sex.


I was about 13 when I first saw a program about gay men on Russian television. I exhaled with joy to learn that I was not the only one.

I haven't found my love yet, despite having many boyfriends and endless blind dates and encounters. But, I know that I am not the weirdo I thought I was.

I am still very feminine and love to do girlie things.
I love cooking, cross dressing, make-up, gossip, and cute boys :)

Be who you are, because you were born this way, too.

Sandro's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Brad Pitt

____________________________________________________
Out of the Blue: Russia's Hidden Gay Literature : An Anthology Other Russias: Homosexuality and the Crisis of Post-Soviet Identity Video Hits (Paula Abdul)