June 19, 2022

Al

Al, age 2

North East, Pennsylvania (1972)



I am the youngest of four siblings. I have two older brothers, and you've heard about the "gay theory" right? The more older brothers you have, the more likely you could be gay.

I'm not sure exactly what age I knew I was gay, but I knew I always liked looking at male bodies at summer camp, in gym class, at swim practice, and on TV. And I just thought all guys were feeling that, too. So as long as I wasn't blatantly obvious, no one ever said anything to me.

I knew of two pretty "out" guys (well, as out as you could be back then) who were obviously gay. I don't know if they ever announced this, but they never seemed to have any problems with it in school.

I was always interested in other things besides sports. I played with Barbie dolls with my three close "girl friends" from the neighborhood. So that might have been a clue. Plus I was always taking Ken's clothes off as often as I could! 


As a pre-teen, I used to dance to my 45 records alone in our basement. It was very "Solid Gold" type dancing. And I wonder if any of my family members ever saw me? Surely, they would have known.


I was also fascinated with "celebrity" culture.
Wanting to be a celebrity, and wanting to meet one. 

Because I thought if I became famous, I would finally feel loved.

See, my parents were from the generation where verbal "I love you's" never happened. And as a gay child who already felt different and alienated from my whole family, I needed and wanted that extra assurance and care from my parents.

One family moment that stays in my memory was a New Year's Eve party at our house, and I was told that you kiss everyone at midnight. I was around age 9, and I went and kissed my brother on the lips. And I remember him reacting strongly against that. I don't remember my parents reaction exactly, but I'm sure somehow that moment seeped into my subconscious: it isn't OK to kiss another man.


Another strong memory was getting my International Male magazine subscription around age 15, the closest thing we had to male erotica at the time. I used to pretend I was one of the models, and would "hump" the bed. But I was imagining it was a woman, not a man. Certainly kind of odd, right?


I also used to rent those soft-core straight movies like "Red Shoe Diaries" in the 80's, and I knew I was only renting it for the men, because they were all usually very hot, and there was always a lot of nudity! But I never watched any gay porn until after I came out after college.

But speaking of college: I repressed my sexuality all throughout it, tried to go the whole "straight route," and I even turned my back on my closeted friend from high school when he came out to me later in college. I thought he might be trying to get me to come out, too.

So I lived in a frat house, "dated" girls, and even had sex with two women. But not very successfully. And that just turned me into a raging alcoholic. I would get super drunk at our parties, and that's how I would get out of sleeping with girls. Which is pretty sad to think about. My frat brothers even called me "Too drunk to f*ck!" But it never stopped me from getting drunk again!

Eventually I moved to Orlando, FL because I knew I couldn't come out in my small hometown. And there I started going to a straight club on Thursday nights, their "Bad Disco" -- aka gay -- night. And once I started going alone, I remember being cruised and cruising men for the first time, and it started to feel validating

When I got that attention, it was the first time I actually had another man look at me, as if they liked me. Which most straight peers get to experience in high school. So because I had no male sexual contact with anyone in high school or college, I was like a kid in a candy shop!

Then in the 90's, I remember racking up big bills on pay phone-sex lines that were big back then. I had a bit of a sexual addiction and was having phone sex with random strangers from all over the country. One of my phone sex regulars even met me in person, but I turned him down. His reality just didn't match my fantasy.


Because I was playing so much those first few years of coming out, I did some pretty reckless things. A cop even caught me making out with a guy in a car. That was scary, but thankfully he was cool about it.


After awhile, I started feeling kind of angry about being gay and coming out. I felt like I was wasting so much time trying to find sex, which was never even that great.

And I blamed all my energy trying to get laid as even more internalized homophobia. 
But, all of that did kind of inspire my creative genes as an artist.


So I took all that angst and used it for inspiration, and sculpted of some of my most powerful art pieces. Which is another story, for another day.

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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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March 07, 2022

James

James, age 3
Madison, Wisconsin (1993)




Five years after this photo, when I was age 8, Joss Whedon ruined my life.

You see, I wasn't always a drag queen. Okay maybe I was. But there's still a possibility that I might have ended up a lawyer or a UFC fighter.

You see, I was once a young, well behaved Catholic school boy. But then I watched "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" - the movie, not the TV series - but that also proved to be quite influential. 
The film starred Kristy Swanson and Luke Perry (the world's oldest high schooler, but boy was he dreamy). I watched it constantly, wearing out the VHS tape my parents ripped off HBO.

I remember Kristy gets harassed by David Arquette, who 
takes a hot dog off of Kristy’s plate and holds it to her crotch and asks: “Buffy are you hungry?”

And she slices it clean off with a butter knife!

Well, I decided wouldn't it be
hilarious to do the same thing to my friend Connor at lunch one day. I took the offending frankfurter out of its bun and presented it to him aside my crotch and quoted David Arquette word for word, a performance I think even he would of been proud of.

Needless to say this, didn't win me any
People’s Choice Awards.

Nope, I got thrown into the principal's office, and got a weekly visit to the school psychologist - for making a joke? Sure it was crass and bluer than my usual material, but I was just an up and coming comedian. Right?

But this incident led to the first crack in the foundation of my childhood innocence. See, I was always a tad odd, but in my own way, I felt I was charming. Sure, nobody played with me at recess - but that's because I didn't play sports. Sure, nobody came to my birthday parties - but that's because every February 19th a plague hit my class.

And suddenly, I was now
"Weird James" at school.

I was James the weird kid for years, up until the
weird started to bleed over into the queer. It starts with the tingly feeling you get when you see Jerry O'Connell as the hotter brother in "Sliders" then as the dreamy boyfriend in "Scream 2" and by the time I got to Jerry O'Connell in "Tomcats" — I was GAY!

I've been beaten up, chased home, and had things thrown at me. Taking the school bus filled me with dread. I was late to school for 6 months because I was afraid to stand at the school bus stop. It's impossible for me to write a coming out story since I've kinda always been out. I just didn't
know it.

By the time high school rolled around, I decided it was time to drop the facade and I came out at age 16. Like all of us, I was gayer, more louder, and draped in as much attention grabbing rainbow as I could find at your local Spencer's gifts. I was proud, and for the first time in my life, I felt unsinkable.

But it took me a long time to learn what
"finding my tribe" means. I went through a long period of finding friendship with other outcasts who needed companionship. And I also found the true power of being different.

My message to queer kids today is: being gay is a beautiful thing, and it's a gift.

It's a free pass to be the most interesting person in a group - unless of course someone in that group is a pro wrestler or a trapeze artist, then
they are the most interesting person. But I'm sure they couldn't sing a Donna Summer medley worth a shit.

In closing, I'd like to contact anyone with even the closest six degree of separation from Joss Whedon, to
 let them know the damage has been done!

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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"

August 07, 2020

Tommy

Tommy, age 9

Bloomfield, New York (1989)


In my photo, I'd just won 2nd place in the Hula Hoop contest at my Catholic church's spring picnic. I was quite proud of my ribbon hanging from my ear.

My mom always said I "walked like John Wayne" but after watching home videos of me as a little kid, it was abundantly clear I did NOT walk like John Wayne. Not with that swish in my little hips! I was effeminate, plain and simple.

I loved playing with 
Tonka Trucks and Hot Wheels, and I also loved to sing and dance, but only when no one was looking or listening. Not because of the impression it gave, but because I didn't think I was very good at it.

Around the same time, my babysitter was letting me wear her daughter's dresses and bought me girls' panties to wear. She understood me better than my family would probably ever admit. Love you, Mrs. K!

I soon started watching "Who's The Boss" every chance I had so I could see Jonathan Pintauro as "Danny." By 12 I knew
exactly why I liked him so much!

I had a crush on a boy in middle and high school, and this caused me to "fear" I was gay, which was very difficult to admit to myself. Of course, I never asked him out. I dreamed of fooling around with him, but in real life I would have been thrilled if he had just held my hand.

At age 19 I was in the military and living in California. I met a man 3 times my age and got into my first gay relationship. It didn't last long, as I had no idea who or what he was talking about most of the time. And I was probably a bit of a brat. Anyway, it proves that when it comes to relationships, sex isn't everything.

I came out to my family only a few years ago, and I surprised no one.
And 
I have the wonderful blessing of family and friends who support me.

Today, I enjoy my career as a machinist, living my life as true as I can each day.
Although I have no boyfriend or husband now, I have no doubt that someone special is out there waiting for me. :)

For those of you who are "different" - in any way - go ahead and OWN IT!
You are who you are, and love yourself first!

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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"

January 01, 2020

David

David, age 12 
Tasmania, Australia (1963)

This photo of me was shot during my first year at high school, and was set up by a semi-professional photographer and friend of my father. I was posed in a cow paddock with Rani, our family dog. The picture was published on the front cover of a national magazine called "Health."


By this age I had questions about myself and knew that certain situations sparked my curiosity. But in 1963, there were no places to go to find answers.

I didn’t know the word to describe myself and no one at my school used the "F" word. And the word "Gay" just wasn't in the vocabulary.

I had a very happy upbringing at home, and was a straight A student at school. The other boys ridiculed my inability to catch a cricket ball or my failure to kick a football straight, but I was never bullied or belittled. And the guys came to me for help with their homework.

I was editor of the school magazine for two years and was on the student council. I was always a leader: popular, confident, optimistic and outgoing.

No one ever guessed that I was gay, least of all myself.

I also read avidly. My favourite character was William Brown, a permanently 11-year old boy portrayed by Richmal Crompton in the 39 novels he wrote, starting with "Just William." He and his closest friend, Ginger, along with the other Outlaws, got up to all sorts of wild adventures, none of which I dared to copy!

I never missed watching "Leave It To Beaver" featuring the inquisitive and often na├»ve Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver, portrayed by Jerry Mathers. Only years later did I realise why I thought Beaver was the most handsome boy on TV.

I grew up in a conservative family and belonged to a strict Protestant church.
My dad was a high-profile pastor known all over Australia, and everyone, especially my father, had the highest expectations for my behaviour.

Any deviation was frowned upon and could be punished.
So I was eager to please my parents and happy to conform to their standards.

But as a young adult, when I stepped outside those boundaries, I was wracked by guilt and smothered by shame. I carried that shame for decades, and it's one of the reasons for staying in the closet for so long.

Then at the age of 55, I saw the movie "Brokeback Mountain."
And the result was a tsunami of grief and despair.

I decided the pain of staying in the closet exceeded the shame in coming out.

So I soon came out to my family, moved 1000 miles, started a new job, and bought a house. I also met a wonderful man who is now my husband of 12 years, and we couldn’t be any happier. More info on my life today can be found here.

And when I look at this picture now, I wish I could tell my 12-year-old self:
"Don’t worry. The answers will come. Life does get better!"

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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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October 23, 2019

Doug

Doug, age 3
Pacific Palisades, California (1952)

In the 6th grade, I found myself looking at my classmate Steven, and thinking about his cute butt. This frightened me, because I knew I should only have those thoughts and feelings about girls. I had been told that homosexuals were 'alcoholics who have sex in alleys,' and they were 'filthy, amoral individuals who should be condemned,'  and not even pitied. And, that they ended up in jail.

At age 17, I had a crush on one of my best friends which I only later expressed by mail when we went to colleges on opposite ends of the country. 

He eventually stopped responding to my letters.

During my college years, I had romantic relationships with two girls and was attracted to several others

I really wanted to have a girlfriend and eventually be married. However, I was only physically attracted to my male classmates.

I was determined not to be gay, but I couldn't deny my feelings.

During my 20's, my pattern was to develop close, non-physical friendships with my male friends, and after many months, pursue a physical relationship.
While they rejected those advances, not one of them rejected me as a friend.

During the early to mid 70's, gay support groups began to develop on college campuses. I hung around one outside once, but I never went in. My eventual first physical relationship was with a male I had known for 12 months and for whom I was an "experiment" gone awry. Meaning: being gay wasn't for him.

At age 30, I was up late with an older woman I worked for who was attempting to seduce me. Getting tired of the charade, she finally blurted out:

'You're another faggot, aren't you?!'  And I said, "I guess so."

I eventually lost 60 pounds, got fit, cut my long, 60's-style hair, and decided to look for men whom I knew were already gay. Duh, lightbulb moment! My first gay night out started at bars in the Los Angeles area: The Rawhide, Woody's Hyperion, The Apache, and The Eagle. When I walked into The Rawhide, I knew that I was finally where I belonged. Actual tears of joy!

Next was coming out to my three sisters and parents. I made an appointment at my father's office to have "the conversation." He started by saying, 'Your older sister married that horse's ass we told her not to marry. And now they're divorced, and she's living with a man who is ten years younger than her!'

I only wanted to tell him that I'm gay, but he launched-forth again, saying:
 'And your younger sister is dating a damn Mexican!' As he looked appalled.


He then asked me, 'So, Doug, what did you want to talk about?'
I wanted to say, "Dad, you ain't heard nothin' yet!" but I didn't.


I waited a week to tell him. I think he already knew but didn't want to face the inevitable. He asked me, 'Is this something you want to do or something you feel compelled to do?'  I just said, "Both." His face filled with disappointment and resignation, and he asked: 'Is there anything I can do to help?'

Both my parents were accepting of me, but just barely.

I spent 20 years of my life rejecting my true self -- what a waste. If I had it to do all over again, I would have started in high school to develop positive, physical relationships with male friends, instead of avoiding my true feelings.

Of course, that's much easier today than it was in the mid-60's.
My advice is for the LGBTQ youth of today is trite, but true: be your true self.
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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August 11, 2019

Andrea

Andrea, age 3
Baltimore, Maryland (1993)


I had no clue that I was gay while growing up. Looking back, there honestly weren't many clues, as I was obsessed with many typically "girly" things. I loved baby dolls, my Littlest Pet Shop, and my princess nightgowns.

Although I had a tomboy streak,
I largely attribute that to growing up with a twin brother. 

Everything between us was a competition, but there was nothing to hint at my future sexuality.

In fact, it took me well into my college years to begin to question things. I developed a significant crush on one of my roommates during junior and senior year but was too oblivious (and definitely subconsciously afraid) to act on it.

It wasn't until I was age 23 that I officially told my family that I was interested in girls.

I'm one of the lucky ones, as I was born into a family that has absolutely no issues with my gayness. My siblings and I were encouraged to play with whatever toys we wanted and to explore extracurricular activities we were drawn to, regardless of whether they were stereotypically male or female centric. 


So I didn't have to worry that I would be treated any differently once I came out. And thankfully, I haven't been.

My only regret is that I didn't realize I was gay until so relatively late.

I think that if I had had more contact with gay people growing up, perhaps it would have occurred to me earlier than it did.

My wife knew she was gay significantly earlier than I did. She says she thinks this is largely due to the number of other gay girls she came in contact with growing up, especially while playing elite level soccer in England.

At any rate, I am now happily married and, although we currently live in Mississippi (where being openly gay can still be a bit of a crap shoot when it comes to acceptance), we have amazing family and friends and we're looking forward to starting a family in the near future.
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
Click to follow this blog with Bloglovin'