Tony, age 6
Natchez, Mississippi (1973)
I'm on the left in my photo, with my little brother. I grew up in the deep south in a very Christian town. Although we moved around a lot, we always ended up back in Natchez.
I knew I was gay as far back as I can remember. I didn't know the term "gay" but I knew I enjoyed being around other boys my age.
I would stay at my grandmother's house a lot, which was the best place in the world to me. My grandmother had 5 daughters and she kept all of their things in what was called the 'toy room.'
I was always dressing up in my aunt's prom dress with all of its pink tulle and fluff, wearing her platform clogs and painting my nails with magic markers.
I loved playing with Barbies and their 70's play sets. I was always putting Barbie and her friends in different hairdo's and fancy dresses, because they were always going to fancy parties. And not just one party, but several a day. Every few minutes they had to run home for a complete makeover for the next party.
And my Miss Piggy puppet was the best thing in my world!!! She and I were inseparable. I would give her amazing hairstyles and make outfits for her.
I also remember sitting on the shag carpet in our living room, watching something on TV by myself. It must have had mermaids in it, because I rolled myself up in a blanket - and I was a instant mermaid!
I remember my mom walking in, and asking me what I was doing.
I said, "I'm a mermaid!!!"
Well, that didn't sit well with my mother. And I didn't understand why she gave me such a weird look after I said I was a mermaid.
Around 8 years old, I remember having a crush on a boy in my class that I thought the world of. I even remember his name -- Billy. I would stare at him in class wondering what it would be like to hold hands and kiss him.
As I got older, things got pretty bad. Kids in Jr. High knew I was different, even though I tried to hide being gay. But the other kids knew. I was always being threatened to be beaten up on a daily basis, to the point I would break out in hives on my wrists everyday before school.
It wasn't any better at home. My father was a sociopath and was extremely mentally abusive. My mom was so busy dealing with him that she only found relief in her Pentecostal church, where I was told I was going to hell for being gay. And those kids at church were more evil than the kids at school!
Looking back, my fondest memories are about my grandmother and her amazing amount of love, because she allowed me to be me without judgement.
That was the world I had at her house, and I'm eternally grateful to her for that.
I do have a happy ending, though. As a young adult, I met a guy in town and I fell in love. And as soon as I turned 18 we moved to Atlanta, Georgia.
Today, I live in Los Angeles and have made my truest home here.
I love my life now and wouldn't change it for anybody else's life!!!
Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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