Showing posts with label Mormon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mormon. Show all posts

November 02, 2011

Kurt & Matt

Kurt & Matt, age 5
Springfield, Oregon (1990)

I'm here on the left with my twin brother, Matt. I guess my experience has been different from most others, in that I didn't really realize that I was gay until probably middle school. Even then, I wasn't ready to admit it to myself or anyone else until I was a senior in high school.


When I stumbled upon this picture at my dad's house, my first thought was,
"How did you all NOT know we were gay?" Especially when we spent so much time playing Cinderella - and need I even mention my purple My Little Pony?

My brother and I have been really lucky to have a supportive family and friends. And thankfully, we haven't experienced any of the nightmare scenarios you too often hear about, when people begin the process of coming out.

Maybe if we'd stayed in the Mormon church, things would be different. But we stopped attending when around 8-years old, and we haven't looked back.

Growing up, I never thought that if I came out as gay, that my mom would soon be saying to me, "You should go talk to that cute gay guy at Starbucks."

But she did. And kids, it really does get better - so hang in there!
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Also check out "My First Gay Crush Blog"

April 07, 2011

Jason

Jason, age 8
Page, Arizona (1984)

I'm the middle child in a family of 10 boys, no girls. My parents were (and still are) ultra-conservative Mormons. To top it all off, my dad was the Phys Ed. coach at our local middle school. Which, I suppose, makes him more of a lesbian?

I have so many funny memories from my childhood. Luckily, I was blessed with a healthy dose of innocence to protect me from the repressed social 'norms' all around me.

I knew from age 5 that I was attracted to other boys. All my best friends were girls, but all my crushes were boys.

Back then, I figured everyone felt that same way, so there was no need to talk about it. 

In my pic, all the obvious signs were there for the whole world to see:

Leather boots, bow tie, carrying my Cabbage Patch doll (named Clifford), and protectively mothering my younger brothers for the photo. That's Josh, Jacob, and Sam with me here.

What I wish I had, is a picture of my pink flannel E.T. night gown! My mother had received a box of donated clothes, and when I searched through them and found that 'gem', I became obsessed!

I would come home from school, take off my school clothes, and don my night gown. I was obviously very comfortable in it, because one day I wore it while riding bikes with my neighborhood friends. Which is when and a kid shot me (twice) with a BB gun! Imagine, my first gay hate crime at age 7!

I also remember my infatuation with Wonder Woman. It went beyond idolizing her - I wanted to BE her! I'd sneak around into our side yard and pray to God with every fiber in my being, to PLEASE let me turn into Wonder Woman.
I did the spin, and when nothing happened - I literally balled my eyes out!

There are certainly more stories, like drama class, choir, and being the only boy on the clogging team for 5 years. Yes, I was a River Dancer years before it became a cheese-tastic phenomenon.

All these years later, I'm so grateful for all the colorful experiences that shaped my childhood. I've gone through some struggles with my family, but I'm happy to say it's all been worth it. The biggest victories have come from being exactly who I am at all costs. And I can honestly say I'm proud of the man I am today.

It's my sincere belief that the best way we inspire others, is to live by example.

And I hope that the gay and lesbian youth of today continue to embrace the uniqueness, that is inherently ours for the taking!
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"



Wonder Woman: The Complete Second SeasonMichael Flatley - Lord of the Dance8: The Mormon PropositionE.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial (2-Disc Widescreen Limited Collector's Edition)

March 09, 2011

Ross

Ross, age 7
Greencastle, Pennsylvania (1976)

Since I was 5 or 6, I thought about kissing boys. Sure, that sounds a little early, but I was brought up in a strict Mormon family, and we had to prepare early for our "Forever Families." My preparation wasn't exactly what they had in mind.


This picture was taken for Halloween. My sister had been going to beauty school, and it was her idea to make me into a girl for the evening. Practicing on someone is one thing, but she went so far as to make the blouse and skirt to boot.

At the school's Halloween party, everyone just stared at me wondering: "Why didn't that stupid girl get a costume?"

Good times...

I wasn't a girly boy, but I wasn't a boy's boy either. So fitting in with other kids wasn't really an option. We moved a lot (around the world), and I made friends here and there.

But nobody in my family or church prepared me to deal with the homophobia that hit left and right. I really envy the kids of today. I met a guy the other day that came out when he was 16, and his family didn't bat an eye.

But to the kids that still have the narrow-minded families and churches to deal with, I tell 'em this:

Be true to yourself. You're the only one that's ever going to make yourself happy. Don't rely on loved ones or God to be true to yourself. Rely on yourself and respect life, and you'll grow into someone pretty awesome.

Currently, I'm a return ex-Mormon missionary with a partner of 19 years.
And life is good. It's like Grandma Moses said, "Life is what you make of it.
Always has been, always will be."

February 28, 2011

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)

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

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.

February 19, 2011

Derek

Derek, age 7
Provo, UT (1985)

Growing up, we spent every July 4th at my grandparents' house, where we'd watch BYU's Stadium Of Fire fireworks show on the front lawn. Sharlene Wells (a Utahan) had won the 1985 Miss America pageant and was a guest star at the show, and this was my tribute to her. I thought my family might get bored waiting for the show, so my solution was to bring Sharlene Wells to them. I can still remember watching her win the crown on TV, and wanting to be classy like her. I didn't know that someone so poised and perfect could be from Utah.

"Eat your heart out, Sharlene!"
I had the best Barbie collection on my street and was given a Cabbage Patch doll, named Richard, during the height of their popularity.

My Janet Jackson posters, karaoke machine, and Madonna tapes were my prized possessions growing up. I was never ashamed for liking these things that other boys weren't playing with. To me, these things were perfectly normal.

I don't remember realizing that I was gay until much later, and I was never really taught what gay was.

Once I was older in the Mormon church, and due to my peers using "gay" as a derogatory term, I learned it was something that was different. Something that society didn't accept. That was the first time I felt different.


I hid in the church as long as I could, before realizing that the self denial and suppression it expected from me was unfair, since this was who I was and this was how I was born. I didn't come out to myself until I was 20, and to my family a couple years after that.

I have the most amazing parents, who taught us kids to always be ourselves and to love unconditionally. They taught us to not put labels on people. They have embraced each of their children individually, and love us for exactly who we are.

My message and advice to gay kids out there is: You are heroes.

You won't know it until later, but you are heroes. By being yourself, you are changing this world for good and are instrumental in spreading love and equality awareness. If you feel alone, please reach out to one of the amazing organizations that are out there, and surround yourself with people who make the foundation you stand on even stronger.

Derek's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Pierce Brosnan (in "Remington Steele")
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Remington Steele - Season 1 Janet Jackson - Design of a Decade 8: The Mormon Proposition Sharlene Wells, Miss America

February 13, 2011

Lisa

Lisa, age 8
Mesa, AZ (1993)

When I look at this picture, it sparks many awkward, depressing memories of never fitting in with my perfect happy friends, and my strict Mormon family. Just a few months before this, I had long hair and I convinced my mother to let me cut it short. Although I look back now and see my desire to have such short hair as an obvious foreshadowing of the future, at the time it traumatized me.
Since then, I've vowed to make myself look as girly as possible.

"God doesn't make mistakes."
I have vague memories of "experimenting" with my best friend Ashlee in 4th grade. It was all innocent at the time, but looking back, I think about the feelings it gave me and how much I loved it.

The first time I remember having a crush on a girl was at age 13. I'd doodled on a piece of paper about loving her, and my sister told my mom.

When confronted about it, I said, 'Nooo! I don't love her like THAT, just as a friend!'

That was when I realized I was different, and there was something about me that I was suppose to be ashamed of.

I soon moved myself slowly back into the closet, locking the door from the inside.

Shortly after that was when I learned the word "Lesbian" from my brother. It has been a long, treacherous road coming to terms with being not only gay, but gay AND Mormon. It used to break my heart to be different, and I cried so many nights asking God to change me.

But now I thank him for making me the person that I am, because I love who I am. And it DOES get better, no matter how hopeless or alone you feel. I promise.

I've been blessed with an amazing family that loves me and supports me, no matter what. Although being gay and Mormon is hard, when I start to feel sad,
I hear a voice inside my head saying, "God doesn't make mistakes."

And I feel content.

Lisa's first, famous-person same sex crushes:
Whoopi Goldberg (in "Boys On The Side")
Janeane Garafalo (in "Mystery Men" & "The Matchmaker")
Anna Chlumsky (in "Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain")
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Boys on the Side [VHS] Mystery Men Gold Diggers: The Secret of Bear Mountain (Amazon.com Exclusive) Why Theology Can't Save Us, And Other Essays on Being Gay and Mormon