February 19, 2011


Derek, age 7
Provo, Utah (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")

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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Tessa99999 said...

Amazing story and adorable picture! =)

ShazBennett.com said...

love this story! And Sharlene Wells went to my high school! You radiate her poise!

Coco said...

Ah, Derek, awesome post!! As a fellow Utahn, I have seen how poorly gay kids and adults can be treated, especially by Mormon parents and the Mormon religion. I thinks it's absolutely wonderful that your parents have accepted you as you are.

P.S. Sharlene was quite the lovely and poised Miss America, wasn't she!!

caseyoconnell said...

Great post! I think your message to gay kids is wonderful--I'd love to live in a world where all kids believed in their individuality and worth.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. Just thank you.

DanielHaas said...

Churches need to proclaim the Good News to all people. I am sorry the faith of your upbringing did not live up to its mission. Unfortunately I am not aware of too many "amazing organizations that are out there" down in here Utah Valley.