February 22, 2011


Kelly, age 2
Lynchburg, VA (1972)

I knew I was different when most of my friends in school were girls. I also had a flare for fashion, as the kid in parachute pants and skinny black leather tie.
I could not go to a Prom in just a black tux, I had to have color. As a pre-teen,
I "experimented" as most boys do. But the summer before 9th grade, I spent the night over at a friend's house for a couple nights.

"Did my mom really think I wouldn't be gay?"

We found dirty magazines in his older brother's drawers, and we commented on the guys. A few hours later, he broached the subject of 'testing' the waters.

I said okay, with the stipulation that if I did not like it, I didn't have to return the favor. We fooled around, and from that point on, I definitely knew I was different.

Through the rest of high school, I had a few girlfriends. In my freshman year of college, I got a summer retail job and started getting hit on by guys there, but I just tried to avoid it. But, I met a guy around my age, and we ended up going out secretly. For over 13 years, we would sneak around. He was out, but I was not - and as I got into a high profile job, I could not come out.

Then, September 11, 2001 really woke me up. At that point I decided I needed to get out more, which meant visiting my "secret" friend in Washington, DC. We really clicked, and I decided that if anyone asked, I would tell them the truth. After 9 months, I quit my job and moved to DC to be with him. Eventually though, we both realized we were better off being friends and not lovers.

At age 32, and after burning through my 401k and too much alcohol and drugs, I broke down. I drove 5 hours to my mom's house in Southern, VA. I was a nervous wreck, but I spilled the beans to her. We cried, and though she said she did not approve, she made it clear she loved me. She also told me not to tell my father (they were divorced), so I didn't tell him.

I'm now in Richmond, VA and out and open. I met Jeff in 2002, and we've been together ever since. In 2010 we got married legally in Washington DC with my best friend as my best man. Our beautiful reception included friends, fraternity brothers, co-workers, and most importantly, my dad, step-mom, brother & niece.

Having to make this short, I just have to say to anyone:
I was fortunate to have very cool and open-minded friends. Though my mother still does not approve, she still visits, and gives Jeff a Christmas present every year. And just my dad just officially knowing within the last year has been awesome. My brother, who even lived with us for a while, has been a great bridge to my family and making it easier to cope.

I am out at work and somewhat active in the gay community here in Richmond. To say there have not been some rough spots professionally and personally would be a lie, but each rough patch has made me learn and made me stronger.

It is such a great feeling to have the weight of hiding who I am off my shoulders, and be able to live openly. I was born this way, and I love it!

Kelly's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Tom Cruise (in "Risky Business")


Jimmy said...

I would think that growing up in Jerry Falwell's backyard would be challenging, indeed!

caseyoconnell said...

Congratulations on your wedding!