October 12, 2016


Tori, age 4
Columbus, Georgia (2002)

All I know is I didn't want to dance with that boy. I pouted the entire time, because no one would let me dance with my best friend Sydney. 14 years later, and I would still rather dance with a pretty girl. Gay as hell now, gay as hell then.

But, growing up I wasn't always so happy to accept that. I struggled with internalized hatred and disgust for a long time. And when I finally had found the self acceptance and love to come out to my family and my friends, they said:
"Why didn't you tell us sooner? Why did you lie to us?"

And, yes, I have extremely accepting and loving people in my life, and they deserved to know. But I was frustrated that no one could understand that I was not afraid of them, but of myself - and of all the people out there who do not share their open minds. 

And above all, my coming out was not about them.
It was not something they had the right to feel angry with me for.

I think it is hard for family members to grasp what it is like to grow up knowing you are different in a way that many do not accept. And not in a "I like weird clothes or weird music and they make fun of me" kinda way, but in a "I love who I love and some people would kill me for that" kinda way. And they'll try, but they may never understand what it is that drives so many of us to hide who we are, and even pretend to be who we are not. 

That doesn't make them any less loving or caring or accepting, it just makes them human. They have no way of knowing what it is like, they can't read our thoughts. They can't relive our experiences or feel our hearts sink every time something hateful is spit at us. They can't imagine what it is like to be afraid to hold the hand of the person they love while they walk on the sidewalk. But they are trying -- always, always trying to empathize and learn and change.

I am so grateful to have people who love me and are willing to try and to change. And to now be able to say that I love myself too. 

I just want anyone out there that's having a hard time finding self-acceptance to know that so many others have felt that pain too. You are beautiful, and there is nothing wrong with you, nothing you should try to change or hide. 

When you learn to love yourself, you get to be proud, and be a part of a community of amazing people. You get to laugh and smile and love wholeheartedly without feeling like you are wrong. 

And I wouldn't trade such a colorful, diverse, and happy life for anything. 
Let yourself in so you can let others in.

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September 08, 2016


Eric, age 11
Toronto, Ontario Canada (1962)

I'm here in the middle with my younger brother and sister. I was born on a farm in a family of seven, and we moved to the city at age 5. Before moving, I was invited to stay overnight at my neighbor Maryann's place. I assumed I would sleep with her, which made her parents laugh. They refused with no explanation, leaving me puzzled and offended.

I had no sense of sexuality till the bullying started in grade 7, and even my home room teacher encouraged it. It turns out he was getting it on with a girl in class. 
I volunteered at recess to clean his blackboards so I wouldn't face the bullies.  

Instinctively, I was sucking up to him (figuratively) to neutralize him as a homophobe - before I even knew I was gay! Even that lecherous teacher was better than recess that year.

Prior to that, I had friends. And a few guys that I liked especially and who remain in my mind as innocent loves. They let me play soccer (badly) and treated me like one of the guys. I thrived on the comraderie. 

I remember in grade 8 a loudmouth teaser tormenting me in the hall, and my friend Bob grabbing him and telling him to stop taunting me. My knight in shining armor was thoroughly a jock and very handsome. Why was he so willing to stand up for me?

Bob even took figure skating classes with me for a while 'To improve my skating skills' and let me play hockey (badly) in his backyard with his other friends. 

I wish I had learned team sports, but I lacked the jock spirit. 
Instead, I filled my plate full with studies, playing piano, and skating. 

Then came high school, which was great. No taunts! I was good at gymnastics, and the teacher made a point of praising my athletic ability in gym class. 

Those were idyllic years. 
My crushes remained fantasies, but they were still vivid. 

I remained in the closet with my family, where there was much upheaval and much heartbreak. I breathed a sigh of relief when I began university far from home and could starting dating etc.

I met a very effeminate, pushy guy from the US on a choir tour, and the sex we had was a nightmare! He eventually hitchhiked back to school - unannounced - and was camped out in my dorm room when I returned, much to the hilarity of my dorm mates. I was a victim, and that episode scarred me for life!

I finally had a few good encounters, but never found someone I really wanted to be with and who really wanted to be with me.

So my story has no 'happy ending' yet. 
Sadly, I keep looking but never seem to find a stable relationship. 

I suppose I might still be the problem?

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
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August 01, 2016


Hartson, age 10
Paducah, Kentucky (1976)

I think this photo of me just about sums it ALL up!!! ;)

I always liked being an entertainer, and in 1976 I also learned to play the flute. 

Later during Middle & High school years while in the marching band and playing in parades, my "friends" would yell out, "Play that skin flute!" 

Something tells me they knew I did. And very well!

Growing up in a mid-sized city had its drawbacks, but I think it made me into a great person. 

Now at age 49, I look back and remember all the fun stuff, not the crappy stuff. 

So that's my advice to LGBTQ kids reading my story today: 

Just enjoy life!!!


Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
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June 08, 2016


Andrew, age 3
Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset UK (1988)

The picture shows me a little disheveled looking. I don't think I look much different these days, though my little brother here has changed a lot! I suppose the earliest sign that I was gay was that out of the four sons she had, my mother always described me saying, "He was never any trouble at all." 

I was a very gentle, sensitive child. Unlike my little brother, who was an absolute nightmare who never stopped screaming and crying!

I knew I was gay from the get-go, and it sometimes caused me embarrassment. Like entering a flower arranging competition at school, simply because I wanted to arrange flowers. 

Why? Because I loved flowers!

And I didn't think anyone would notice I was the only boy to enter a flower arranging competition. 

Unfortunately, for me, I won! 

I had to accept a prize in front of the whole school. And because I was a boy, 
I think some bitter parents bypassed the early signs I was gay. I think they assumed my mother had created the arrangement, and I was simply cheating. 

Ironically, my dad had picked the flowers, but it was all arranged by myself. 

The obvious "gay" behaviors I exhibited were never discouraged by my family.
At my grade school, I was friends with everyone in my class, and we all loved each other. So I never felt that I should be deeply worried about being different. Although, I was definitely aware of it. 

It wasn't until Jr. High when things changed and I realized my gayness was something to not draw attention to, despite it targeting me for daily insults. 

Today I can say I know that things do get better as you get older. And now I hope sometimes to bump into old bullies from school and not be scared of being gay. 

It's such a liberation, not being embarrassed or ashamed anymore. 
And I still love flowers!

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
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May 16, 2016


Shaun, age 12
Buffalo Grove, Illinois (1991)

Growing up one of my favorite places was the Richard Simmons workout studio. Tucked away in a strip mall in our suburb between a Chinese restaurant and a Baskin Robbins, it was aptly called, “Slimmons.” My mom would take me with her after work, but I didn’t join the other kids in the play area. I’d sit in the back and watch the overweight women flapping their arms in the air as they sweated to the oldies. I memorized the routines, so sometimes I’d join in the fun. After class, we’d pick up Chinese take out and a pint of Rocky Road for dinner.

One evening, I had to use the bathroom. On the bathroom wall was a large poster of Richard Simons dressed in his iconic red striped shorts and rhinestone studded tank top. 

I loved and hated Richard Simmons at the same time.

I appreciated him for his flamboyant exuberance, but I was also embarrassed by it.

I sat down on the toilet and grabbed the magazine on top of the stack – Muscle and Fitness.
I thumbed through the pages looking at pictures of scantily clad, bronzed men and women. 

But when I reached the centerfold, I was paralyzed.  

The left side of the page was a woman in a gold bikini flexing her biceps. Meh! On the right was a man in a royal blue Speedo holding a bar bell over his head. 

My eyes raced over the picture of the woman, without so much as a glance, and landed in the center of the right page - directly on the man's Speedo bulge. I felt a spark, a tingle, a jump. This caught me off guard and I quickly looked up.  

My eyes landed on Richard Simmons' photo again - and he glared at me like he knew my dirty little secret. So I shifted my gaze back to the magazine first to the left side, at the woman. Again, I felt nothing. I then looked back to the right, at the man - and I sure felt something.  

"No,” I thought, “this can’t be right...”
I repeated the steps several times:
Richard, Woman, Man - Richard, Woman, Man.

And it was at that moment - as I took a dump at Slimmons, with Richard glaring at me - that confirmed what I had been trying to suppress for years: 

I was definitely gay!

Editor's note: you might remember Shaun from THIS brilliance! :)


Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
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April 18, 2016


Ray, age 11
Villa Park, Illinois (1970)

I was about age 11 in this photo of me and my siblings on vacation. It's hard to believe, but there is three years between me and my older sister on the right. And the rest of us are only one year apart!

As for me, I grew up very fast. And I always knew I was gay. But looking back at this pic, I don't understand how it was a shock to my parents when I came out.

My siblings knew I was gay right from the start. When I told my parents, they were very accepting to me and my friends. All in all, life was good. 

That was so long ago, that in this day and age, it just breaks my heart how some parents can just toss their kids out of their lives for being gay. 

We've come such a long way, but we still have a long way to go. 

Today, I'm 56 years old and living a wonderful life in fabulous Las Vegas. 

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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March 29, 2016


Erica, age 3
Bedford, Texas (1999)

I'm too queer to be straight, yet too straight to be queer. 

I grew up as a huge tomboy, always wanting to play with Legos and GI Joe dolls, but my parents insisted I have a bunch of "girly" toys instead.

I was always jealous of my younger brothers, who were both really into cars, Legos and Nerf guns. I was very unlike my younger sister, who adored frills, pink, and wearing makeup. Thus my mother always complained I wasn't feminine enough.

I always played "doctor" with the neighborhood girls, having my head against their chest.  

The one who got away, was this beautiful girl named Alyssa. 
We were both really into each other, and I wanted her to be my girlfriend. 

Eventually, I stopped talking to her, as she had gotten back with her boyfriend. It wasn't until years later she told me she had a huge crush on me, too. 


I haven't came out as bisexual to my family yet as they are homophobic. I hear the words "It's just a phase!" or "Are you sure you're not just gay?" all the time.

Nope, I'm not "just gay," as I am crazy in love with my loving boyfriend, 
who just sees me as a wonderful person. No labels needed!

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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March 01, 2016


Anthony, age 1
Panama City, Florida (1994)

During my teenage years, I wasn't popular. I didn't have a supportive family and I didn't have many friends. And growing up with the hidden identity of being an LGBT kid was rough, especially once I tried to start dating.

As I was rejected by everyone around me, I quickly got attached to guys who showed me any kind of attention. Yet I felt alone in the world, as if no one understood what it was I was going through.

After a little bit of growing up, I finally met a guy who was different.
He was so sweet, caring, and genuine.

I didn't know what to expect, especially being so used to heartbreak and pain. 
But he changed that within me. He taught me how to love and be loved.

He showed me what it was like to be free in my body. And then he PROPOSED! 
We have been happily married 3 years now.

My advice for any other LGBT kids who were/are in my kind of situation, I just need you to know things will get better! Life can be very tough and strange, but there's happiness waiting for you.

Keep your beautiful heads up, hang on to your strength and show the world who and what you are: FREE! 

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

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January 27, 2016


Christopher, age 8
Sulligent, Alabama (1979)

Clearly as displayed in my photo, I already knew how to descend a staircase with flair while holding a cocktail. Even though that’s probably just a Pepsi...

But as one might imagine, growing up in rural Alabama was challenging for me. 

I certainly wasn’t like all the other kids, and because of that I was an easy target for name-calling and bullying - of which there was plenty. And, of course, I had to remain “closeted” until I left home. Even though everyone knew that I was as gay as a Christmas goose, it simply wasn’t discussed.  

One particular Sunday evening when I was only about 3-years old, Miss Christine was visiting during our family's weekly "visit" gatherings, which meant lots of gossip. She was one of our town’s hairdressers who sported a bouffant so high it was in danger of being caught in our ceiling fan. She was always very smartly dressed, with impeccably polished nails and perfect hair. 

I was fascinated with Miss Christine. She was like a real-life Dolly Parton - minus the huge tits and rhinestones - right there in my living room. However, even the snappiest dressers can drop the ball, and one Sunday evening I went over to Miss Christine, crawled into her lap, looked her straight in the eye and said - keep in mind, I wasn’t yet four years old:

'Miss Christine, you look real pretty...
But your purse and your shoes don’t match.'

Let's just say it was the first time I made a room fall apart!

Once I got to college in the larger city of Birmingham, I began to realize there was a great big world outside of my small hometown. And I finally was able to start becoming the person I was meant to be, in all my glitter-encrusted glory.

I launched a successful career as a professional dancer and choreographer, traveling all over the U.S. with musicals and working with some of the greatest pros in show business. I have had the good fortune to live in New York, San Francisco, and now currently Los Angeles. And I’m blessed to share a gorgeous home with my amazing husband and our two cats. 

Currently, I “co-exist” with the “showgirl, chanteuse, and Southern belle” Poppy Fields and perform as one-half of the cabaret act “Mack & Poppy.

It does indeed “get better” - but here’s the catch: You have to make it get better, and realize that there are always hardships, always tests, and always people who will hurl insults your way - even when you’re an adult.  

You learn, though, to remember that the ones who take issue with you and/or your sexuality are insignificant, and those who are truly meant to be part of your life, or are important in your life, don’t give a damn who you love.

All-in-all, it’s been an amazing ride and great life, and it’s still going strong. 

And I sure learned a lot from those “steel magnolias” that surrounded me as a child; and I know that wherever she is now, Miss Christine would be pleased that my purse and my shoes always match!

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
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December 03, 2015


Fernando, age 3
Havana, Cuba (1967)

Growing up in in the 1970's in Cuba, I had never heard any official talk about gay people. But, the only time I did hear references to gay people, it was always derogatory. I do remember that I was never allowed to speak ill of people that were perceived as gay. I had a gay cousin and people always made fun of him.
If I had ever joined in to insult him, my mom would’ve smacked me!

My first memory of realizing I was different was when at around age 6 or 7 when I found a packet of pornographic photos. The sex described and shown was totally heterosexual, but my eyes were glued to the males in those photos. 

As I didn't know about gayness or sex, it wasn't about that. It was just something within me feeling - different. I always had crushes on the cutest boys in my school, but I never thought about sex until age 15.

I'd met this kid from the neighborhood that was very cute and who wore the sexiest red Speedos. But I never acted on the fantasies I had about him, though. I dated girls and even had sex with them. It was not entirely unpleasant, so I never felt the awkwardness that some kids growing up gay feel.

I moved to New York City in the late 80's. I was walking around 42nd Street one day, and I walked into a sex shop, and right up front they had a display of gay porn. I opened a magazine and it was as if a lightbulb above my head went on!

I thought 'WOW! This is what it's all about!' Soon after that, I started my quest to find a mate, and in 1992 I met my now-husband. 

One night he left me a phone message and told me that he loved me in French. My mom heard it and asked me why he had said he loved me. I simply said, 
'He is my boyfriend.' And she simply said, "Oh, OK. As long as you don’t become effeminate, it's OK with me!" And that was how I came out.

So I guess you could say I had it a little easy.

I did not feel the depression or heartaches that most of us go through. One of my girlfriends had a bit of a problem when I told her, but it quickly vanished and we remained friends until the day she died. 

Today, I am openly gay at work and in my private life. We never officially told my grandma or my husband's parents, but they figured it out for themselves and it was never a problem for them, either.

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