Paul, age 4
Grove City, Ohio (1984)
My childhood dream was to be Snow White. Although I couldn't whistle, I regaled everyone with my version of "Whistle While You Work," and raised some eyebrows waltzing through the house singing "Someday My Prince Will Come" (yes, Prince Charming was my first celebrity crush).
Soon, every wall in our house was covered with oil-painted tributes to my favorite heroines. I then decided that I didn’t want to be Snow White when I grew up. I wanted to be an artist.
I'm grateful that I had a mentor who cared enough to fuel this creative flame, because the other flaming aspects of my personality presented some problems at school.
Boys with high-pitched voices - whose approach to running laps in gym class could be described as "prancing" - didn’t fare well. I learned that in order to survive, I had to conceal those aspects of my personality that made me different.
I wasn't able to describe what I was covering up as "gay" yet, though. That realization didn’t fully hit me until right after college. Still, I knew there was something inside me that needed to be squelched, or it would ruin everything.
Fortunately, this is a fairy tale with a happy ending.
I found my way out of the dark, enchanted forest to a place of self-acceptance.
I even found my own handsome prince, and our life together is as close to "happily ever after" as I can imagine, this side of the Magic Kingdom
I've also continued pursuing my dream to be an artist, and my paintings - many of which explore my journey out of the closet - are displayed in galleries across the country.
Art was my salvation during the most difficult parts of my childhood, and I encourage others who struggle with similar issues to find a way to creatively express themselves.
Paul's first, famous-person same sex crush:Prince Charming ("Snow White")
* Blogmaster's note *
Paul has just co-launched a fantastic blog of his own, called
"You Will Rise Project" which features original artwork and stories of those who have been bullied in the past, to express their feelings through their art as an adult. It's a wonderful project!