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'

March 29, 2019

Mike

Mike, age 9
Indianapolis, Indiana (1957)

Here I am in one of my frequent sassy moods, chastising the photographer for taking my picture. I was always very outspoken, but at the same time, I was painfully shy and introverted. Both sides of my personality existed and sometimes one dominated, sometimes the other.

My grade school teacher once sent home a note telling my Mother that:
"Michael likes to entertain his friends in class."

Strangely, when it came to bullying, I only remember one time, when I was 10.

A big neighborhood bully stopped me on the street and asked me if I knew I was queer?

I told him: Yes, I knew that!

That stopped him dead in his tracks and he left me alone!

At that time growing up in the 50's and early 60's, and wanting to avoid trouble, I never forced the issue and never came out to anybody.


I grew up in a home where things like being gay weren't discussed, so I was very ignorant of the fact that we are everywhere and we are just as good as anybody else! I was just me, and most kids and even grownups just accepted me as I was.

I had my first crush on another boy when I was 11 while in the Boy Scouts.
He was an older man: 12 years old! I worshipped him from afar, but never had the courage to go up and speak to him. And I'm sure he never even noticed I existed. But he was gorgeous, like a very young and hot Elvis Presley.

It wasn't until I was 14 and in high school that I started to realize I had actual physical attractions to other boys and romantic feelings for some. And I soon met some other gay boys at school. I went to a very large high school with 4,000 students, so there were several boys there who clearly stood out as gay because they were so very obvious. They couldn't hide it even if they wanted to.

Those other gay boys I met were my first introduction to what other kids similar to me must be like. I was glad to know I wasn't the only one! They instinctively knew I was "one of them" and would talk to me as we walked to classes.

However, I noticed that all of them were mercilessly bullied every day in school. And that made me feel terrible and very bad for them. But I knew if I spoke up in their defense, that I'd get beaten up too. And that made me feel worse. So I kept a low profile and tried to just fade into the background so I didn't stand out.

I tried to deny to myself that I might be gay for many years, but I knew it was true. And I finally decided to accept myself as I am in my early 20's.

To all the gay kids and young people of today, all I can say is be true to yourself. You may encounter people who will be mean and hateful toward you and who will try to make you feel bad about yourselves - but do not let them.

They are the bad people -- not you! Just have the courage to be yourself.
Not everyone will like you, but the right people will!
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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'