Joe, age 7
Oak Park, MI (1970)
This is me and my sister Lisa. I knew I was gay around the time of this picture. How could the person taking this picture not know that I was gay? For goodness sake, I'm posing like a proud little girl - and I love it!
I remember showering with other boys in Cub Scouts, and being intrigued and aroused by the other boys' bodies. I knew I was sexually different by 6th grade at a sleepover, when the boys took out Playboy magazines and talked about girls.
I remember thinking eventually they will also talk about boys, but they never did.
So, I kept quiet.
I was an effeminate boy, who liked to play house and lip sync to Cher songs.
I'd put my sister's black tights over my head, throwing back the legs like long hair, as if I were actually Cher singing "Half-Breed!"
My parents weren't OK with this. They'd shame me, make me take off the tights, and put the hair brush down. I felt terrible, knowing I wasn't like other boys.
Although I kept my sexuality quiet, other boys - and girls - could see that I was different, and I was bullied. I was name-called queer, sissy, and f*ggot constantly. I was spit at, pushed around, and punched regularly.
Unlike other gay boys, I told my parents. They came to the school and told the teachers and principles, but nothing changed. I became isolated and depressed at age 14, and my mother took me to therapy, which saved my life.
The therapist was open to hearing about my real thoughts, fantasies, and identity.
He taught me how to fight back those bullies with my words, and it worked.
It inspired me to become a therapist as an adult.
My message to gay kids now is:
If you hang in there, you will be able to make your own way. And not be at the mercy of the bullies, or anyone in your life who is not doing anything about it.
Be it a guidance counselor, teacher, or a trusted adult:
Tell someone what is happening to you, so you are not alone. There is help.