Stuart, age 6
Shaker Heights, Ohio (1969)
I've known I was different from the first moments of my self awareness. I came from a mixed marriage that turned into a violent household. My father's family was Jewish and I never felt that I was part of that community. I always felt safe with my mother's family, who lived in a small town in Central Ohio.
Until I was age 5, I was pretty much a rough and tumble boy.
I was obsessed with playing with cars, riding my bike, and doing everything else that boys did.
The only real love that I received was from Leatrice, a woman my father hired to help with house cleaning. I adored her, and she was my world.
My first inkling I was gay was around age 4, watching Batman
and hoping his costume would rip open. I can't explain it, but each episode I hoped it would happen. Of course it never did, but I never stopped hoping.
I later found copies of my father's Playboy Magazines
and tried to will myself to find those women attractive. But when we would be at a pool, I was obsessed with the men in their swim suits and seeing their chests.
I became very body conscious at a very young age, and became painfully shy around other guys. I was skinny and didn't like to fight. I hated gym class because I thought I would get a hard-on in the locker room and would be made fun of.
My home life was violent and unpredictable, and I had no safe haven.
And I was bullied in school. I was beaten up. And I was called a fag.
The "normal" people in suburban Ohio in those days did not acknowledge gay people. I had no mentor, no one to look to for guidance. I just wanted to die and be wiped from the face of the Earth, because I feared I would shame the family.
My coming out happened in January 1983. I saw that gay men were just like everyone else, and we were everywhere and doing everything that "normal" people did. And I also understood that when you hide who are you, you give total power to the negative people around you.
While it took me 20 years to get there - and everyone's journey is different - it was such a relief!
And the reward? I made it.
And I made my now-deceased parents both understand that they didn't "do this to me,"
but that I am who I am, and that I was born this way.
My partner and I have known each other for 32 years and we've been together for 16 years. And all of those years have been warm, loving, and supportive.
We live in amazing times, and its so good to be here and see how the world is getting better and better for LGBT people.
Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"