Joel, age 7
Houston, TX (1977)
This photo was shot in Galveston, Texas where I still often retreat for all the good memories of being at the beach. My cousins, my brother, sister, and I all grew up kind of like siblings. We all got attention in our own way.
I loved watching the "Super Friends" and Godzilla movies on Saturday mornings.
I was not too precocious, but I was different.
I was often the gentler boy, and I knew I was gay in junior high school. But I was a husky, so no one really messed with me or picked on me, except my own brother. While I could have done without his bullying, in some ways, it made me a fighter.
My story is not as horrifying as what could have been, but my Southern Baptist faith and fear of God kept me in the closet until I was 34. Thankfully, my mom and dad were supportive when I came out. And my pivotal moment was a collision of faith and identity, as the Bible says "The truth shall set you free."
So I held on to that promise. I thought it was worse lying about myself, than facing the truth about how I love.
So my message to the LGBTQ youth of today is: Stay true to yourself.
The only ones you are accountable to are yourself, and your God.
Joel's first, famous-person same sex crush:Ricky Schroeder (in "Silver Spoons")