May 07, 2018


Doug, age 11
Las Cruces, New Mexico (1981)

I'm on the far left here, and the only one 'posing' in this picture of my siblings, cousins, and my grandfather. Like so many others, I too destroyed most photographic evidence of my gayness as a child, as it made me physically sick.

As an adult, I tried to be straight. So I got married to a woman.

We had two wonderful children together, but my secret was destroying not only my life, but my most important family members as well.

After finally coming out at age 36, my wife and I moved through our divorce as painlessly as we could and we remain great friends.

My kids are successful because of the love my ex-wife and I still share.
And today, we have each remarried -- both of us to amazing men!

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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February 13, 2018


Samantha, age 3
Wildomar, California (2001)

I’m the one in the diaper with all my brothers and three family friends in the back. It was my birthday and everybody had been wearing boxers the whole day so, obviously, I was in my pull up! My mom made everyone "dress up" for pictures -- but I refused.

I was always naked back then. I didn’t even know the difference between boys and girls until I had to use a separate bathroom in first grade.

Being raised with seven boys made me think I was a boy, too. I just didn’t know any different. I wore their hand-me-downs, and we played with (and destroyed) toys together. It was just my life.

I didn’t know what gay was until my dad told me never to come home with another girl or he’d kick me out. I wouldn’t even hold my best friend's hand in school for fear of being seen as gay. But I wore the label “Tomboy” proudly in my oversized T-shirts and baseball caps!

Seventeen years after this photo was taken, me and two of the boys behind me are proudly gay. Both parents struggled with it, but they’ve been so supportive. They love me and I’m so grateful to have them.

After depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, and self harm, I’m much better now. I’m in college and proudly lesbian. I love who I am and I’m not ashamed of it.

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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November 13, 2017


Ryan, age 8,
Quezon City, Philippines (1990)

I grew up a poor, black child....oh wait. Wrong story! :) Growing up in the Philippines, being a flamboyant young boy wasn't an issue. And luckily, I grew up with not only my family's support, but also the support of my friends. 

The topic of sexuality and being gay was not yet discussed at that time. 
But what I know is that everyone saw that I was happy, and they let me be me.

And I do remember when I was age 11, I told my parents I was going to the neighborhood fiesta. I left the house in a white T-shirt and cut off denim shorts and my "tsinelas" - they are also known as flip flops. I joined the masses to enjoy the festival until I heard a popular song being played in a distance.

I walked over to see what was happening. A crowd had gathered to where the song was playing, and I saw a few girls dancing in formation to the beat.

The song was called “Aringkingkingking" - and I have no idea what that means! But in a quick instance, without even a thought, I tied a knot on my white
T-shirt, just above my left hip to bare my mid-drift, and I joined the dance.

I copied every step, every move, and every flare. I was happy and overjoyed, especially when the crowd erupted in cheers and applause!

This story has nothing to do with my picture here, but I thought it was a perfect memory to share. However, I DO think this picture perfectly sums up me, my fashion sense, and my ability to coordinate clothing at an early age.

I mean, only us — those who are a little different, a little or a lot gay — can put together prints serving a BATMAN look, and know the world can't tell you SHIT — because you OWN it!

Of course, when asked to pose - even as a young child - there was always a little sass and a little flirt in my pictures. This image couldn't be anymore ME, and proves that I was BORN THIS WAY!

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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August 28, 2017


Kelly, age 9
Cordell, Oklahoma (1986)

I was born n' raised in a small rural town in Oklahoma. My Daddy was the high school football coach, my brother was the all-star athlete, and my uncle (my Dad's older brother) is Mickey Mantle of the New York Yankees. No big deal, he's just mentioned right up there with Uncle Sam, apple pie, and Jesus Christ.

And then there was ME!

Townsfolk would ask, " gonna grow up and be a famous baseball player like your Uncle Mickey?”

'No,' I'd say. 'When I grow up, I'm gonna be a black soul singer just like Diana Ross.' 

Because one is just about as likely as the other.

The only thing Uncle Mickey and I had in common was switch-hitting!

As a kid, I used to dress up in Grandma's clothes and play Dolly Parton songs on my lil' geetar.

And they had no clue what the hell was happening!

But regardless, I was blessed with parents who always encouraged me to embrace my differences and “eccentricities.” They accepted me as every parent should for their child! Bless their wrinkled little hearts.

And as you can see in this picture, I LOVED being a little girly-boy. I think I had just told Santa that I wanted a Barbie, a boy, and some boobies! It made him very uncomfortable, and I didn't understand why. Because I loved being different than my peers, and I wasn't ashamed to be me.

That's a true testament to my upbringing.

But, like most of us, I had my fair share of getting bullied from time to time. Usually from kids from other schools at out-of-town events. Their favorite taunt was always "Are you a boyyyy or a girrrrl?" And I'd say 'Both!' Like it was a bad thing? I never could figure that out. Who wouldn't wanna be both?

Luckily, because of our LGBTQ pioneers that came before me, we now have terminology that kids can use today. In my case, it would be "gender-fluid."
Or as I prefer, "two-spirit" because after all I AM a Cherokee Native American Poke-A-Hot-Ass from Oklahomo.

So when I look at this picture of me and Santa, that's who I see — a late blooming two-spirited little gender-fluid kid, almost too comfortable in my own skin — but unsure how to explain it to others. Yet, never afraid to show it or be it, and most importantly — never once told to hide it.

And that would be my Christmas wish to Santa today — for every little boy and girl and in-between to be given the freedom to be in love with yourself exactly as you are! And to realize that when another person tries to hurt you, they're actually the one who's hurting.

Because people who love themselves, don't hurt others.
So don't ever let anyone change who you were born to be.

I’m Kelly Mantle, and I was BORN THIS WAY!

Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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July 05, 2017


Candace, age 3
Panama City, Florida (1970)

I don't remember who owned this motorcycle in my photo.
But I do remember that if my brother thought it was cool, well - so did I!

This little tomboy was raised in a Southern Baptist home in northern Florida, and I was taught forgiveness and to love your neighbor as yourself. I was what you would call "all in" and I was very involved with the church as a young girl.

Since no one in my life ever discussed gay people and I was taught "Christian love," I was completely unprepared for the total rejection I received from my church and family when I came out. 

Today, I still consider myself a recovering Southern Baptist.

Yes, 2017 is a world away the 1980's. But figuring out who you are is difficult for any kid, especially for GLBTQ youth living in a far right, Christian home.

While I had little support from my family I did find support from the GLBTQ community. That "family" saved me. 

So to all GLBTQ youth: You are loved!
And to the families of these kids: Love them, period!    

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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May 04, 2017


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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