May 16, 2016


Shaun, age 12
Buffalo Grove, Illinois (1991)

Growing up one of my favorite places was the Richard Simmons workout studio. Tucked away in a strip mall in our suburb between a Chinese restaurant and a Baskin Robbins, it was aptly called, “Slimmons.” My mom would take me with her after work, but I didn’t join the other kids in the play area. I’d sit in the back and watch the overweight women flapping their arms in the air as they sweated to the oldies. I memorized the routines, so sometimes I’d join in the fun. After class, we’d pick up Chinese take out and a pint of Rocky Road for dinner.

One evening, I had to use the bathroom. On the bathroom wall was a large poster of Richard Simons dressed in his iconic red striped shorts and rhinestone studded tank top. 

I loved and hated Richard Simmons at the same time.

I appreciated him for his flamboyant exuberance, but I was also embarrassed by it.

I sat down on the toilet and grabbed the magazine on top of the stack – Muscle and Fitness.
I thumbed through the pages looking at pictures of scantily clad, bronzed men and women. 

But when I reached the centerfold, I was paralyzed.  

The left side of the page was a woman in a gold bikini flexing her biceps. Meh! On the right was a man in a royal blue Speedo holding a bar bell over his head. 

My eyes raced over the picture of the woman, without so much as a glance, and landed in the center of the right page - directly on the man's Speedo bulge. I felt a spark, a tingle, a jump. This caught me off guard and I quickly looked up.  

My eyes landed on Richard Simmons' photo again - and he glared at me like he knew my dirty little secret. So I shifted my gaze back to the magazine first to the left side, at the woman. Again, I felt nothing. I then looked back to the right, at the man - and I sure felt something.  

"No,” I thought, “this can’t be right...”
I repeated the steps several times:
Richard, Woman, Man - Richard, Woman, Man.

And it was at that moment - as I took a dump at Slimmons, with Richard glaring at me - that confirmed what I had been trying to suppress for years: 

I was definitely gay!

Editor's note: you might remember Shaun from THIS brilliance! :)


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April 18, 2016


Ray, age 11
Villa Park, Illinois (1970)

I was about age 11 in this photo of me and my siblings on vacation. It's hard to believe, but there is three years between me and my older sister on the right. And the rest of us are only one year apart!

As for me, I grew up very fast. And I always knew I was gay. But looking back at this pic, I don't understand how it was a shock to my parents when I came out.

My siblings knew I was gay right from the start. When I told my parents, they were very accepting to me and my friends. All in all, life was good. 

That was so long ago, that in this day and age, it just breaks my heart how some parents can just toss their kids out of their lives for being gay. 

We've come such a long way, but we still have a long way to go. 

Today, I'm 56 years old and living a wonderful life in fabulous Las Vegas. 

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March 29, 2016


Erica, age 3
Bedford, Texas (1999)

I'm too queer to be straight, yet too straight to be queer. 

I grew up as a huge tomboy, always wanting to play with Legos and GI Joe dolls, but my parents insisted I have a bunch of "girly" toys instead.

I was always jealous of my younger brothers, who were both really into cars, Legos and Nerf guns. I was very unlike my younger sister, who adored frills, pink, and wearing makeup. Thus my mother always complained I wasn't feminine enough.

I always played "doctor" with the neighborhood girls, having my head against their chest.  

The one who got away, was this beautiful girl named Alyssa. 
We were both really into each other, and I wanted her to be my girlfriend. 

Eventually, I stopped talking to her, as she had gotten back with her boyfriend. It wasn't until years later she told me she had a huge crush on me, too. 


I haven't came out as bisexual to my family yet as they are homophobic. I hear the words "It's just a phase!" or "Are you sure you're not just gay?" all the time.

Nope, I'm not "just gay," as I am crazy in love with my loving boyfriend, 
who just sees me as a wonderful person. No labels needed!

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March 01, 2016


Anthony, age 1
Panama City, Florida (1994)

During my teenage years, I wasn't popular. I didn't have a supportive family and I didn't have many friends. And growing up with the hidden identity of being an LGBT kid was rough, especially once I tried to start dating.

As I was rejected by everyone around me, I quickly got attached to guys who showed me any kind of attention. Yet I felt alone in the world, as if no one understood what it was I was going through.

After a little bit of growing up, I finally met a guy who was different.
He was so sweet, caring, and genuine.

I didn't know what to expect, especially being so used to heartbreak and pain. 
But he changed that within me. He taught me how to love and be loved.

He showed me what it was like to be free in my body. And then he PROPOSED! 
We have been happily married 3 years now.

My advice for any other LGBT kids who were/are in my kind of situation, I just need you to know things will get better! Life can be very tough and strange, but there's happiness waiting for you.

Keep your beautiful heads up, hang on to your strength and show the world who and what you are: FREE! 

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January 27, 2016


Christopher, age 8
Sulligent, Alabama (1979)

Clearly as displayed in my photo, I already knew how to descend a staircase with flair while holding a cocktail. Even though that’s probably just a Pepsi...

But as one might imagine, growing up in rural Alabama was challenging for me. 

I certainly wasn’t like all the other kids, and because of that I was an easy target for name-calling and bullying - of which there was plenty. And, of course, I had to remain “closeted” until I left home. Even though everyone knew that I was as gay as a Christmas goose, it simply wasn’t discussed.  

One particular Sunday evening when I was only about 3-years old, Miss Christine was visiting during our family's weekly "visit" gatherings, which meant lots of gossip. She was one of our town’s hairdressers who sported a bouffant so high it was in danger of being caught in our ceiling fan. She was always very smartly dressed, with impeccably polished nails and perfect hair. 

I was fascinated with Miss Christine. She was like a real-life Dolly Parton - minus the huge tits and rhinestones - right there in my living room. However, even the snappiest dressers can drop the ball, and one Sunday evening I went over to Miss Christine, crawled into her lap, looked her straight in the eye and said - keep in mind, I wasn’t yet four years old:

'Miss Christine, you look real pretty...
But your purse and your shoes don’t match.'

Let's just say it was the first time I made a room fall apart!

Once I got to college in the larger city of Birmingham, I began to realize there was a great big world outside of my small hometown. And I finally was able to start becoming the person I was meant to be, in all my glitter-encrusted glory.

I launched a successful career as a professional dancer and choreographer, traveling all over the U.S. with musicals and working with some of the greatest pros in show business. I have had the good fortune to live in New York, San Francisco, and now currently Los Angeles. And I’m blessed to share a gorgeous home with my amazing husband and our two cats. 

Currently, I “co-exist” with the “showgirl, chanteuse, and Southern belle” Poppy Fields and perform as one-half of the cabaret act “Mack & Poppy.

It does indeed “get better” - but here’s the catch: You have to make it get better, and realize that there are always hardships, always tests, and always people who will hurl insults your way - even when you’re an adult.  

You learn, though, to remember that the ones who take issue with you and/or your sexuality are insignificant, and those who are truly meant to be part of your life, or are important in your life, don’t give a damn who you love.

All-in-all, it’s been an amazing ride and great life, and it’s still going strong. 

And I sure learned a lot from those “steel magnolias” that surrounded me as a child; and I know that wherever she is now, Miss Christine would be pleased that my purse and my shoes always match!

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December 03, 2015


Fernando, age 3
Havana, Cuba (1967)

Growing up in in the 1970's in Cuba, I had never heard any official talk about gay people. But, the only time I did hear references to gay people, it was always derogatory. I do remember that I was never allowed to speak ill of people that were perceived as gay. I had a gay cousin and people always made fun of him.
If I had ever joined in to insult him, my mom would’ve smacked me!

My first memory of realizing I was different was when at around age 6 or 7 when I found a packet of pornographic photos. The sex described and shown was totally heterosexual, but my eyes were glued to the males in those photos. 

As I didn't know about gayness or sex, it wasn't about that. It was just something within me feeling - different. I always had crushes on the cutest boys in my school, but I never thought about sex until age 15.

I'd met this kid from the neighborhood that was very cute and who wore the sexiest red Speedos. But I never acted on the fantasies I had about him, though. I dated girls and even had sex with them. It was not entirely unpleasant, so I never felt the awkwardness that some kids growing up gay feel.

I moved to New York City in the late 80's. I was walking around 42nd Street one day, and I walked into a sex shop, and right up front they had a display of gay porn. I opened a magazine and it was as if a lightbulb above my head went on!

I thought 'WOW! This is what it's all about!' Soon after that, I started my quest to find a mate, and in 1992 I met my now-husband. 

One night he left me a phone message and told me that he loved me in French. My mom heard it and asked me why he had said he loved me. I simply said, 
'He is my boyfriend.' And she simply said, "Oh, OK. As long as you don’t become effeminate, it's OK with me!" And that was how I came out.

So I guess you could say I had it a little easy.

I did not feel the depression or heartaches that most of us go through. One of my girlfriends had a bit of a problem when I told her, but it quickly vanished and we remained friends until the day she died. 

Today, I am openly gay at work and in my private life. We never officially told my grandma or my husband's parents, but they figured it out for themselves and it was never a problem for them, either.

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November 02, 2015


Dennis, age 6
Portland, Oregon (1978)

"Once upon a time, there was one little boy who went to a car show..."
Specifically, it was the "World Of Wheels"1978 car show, and I'd spent weeks begging my parents to take me to the show!

My dad was thrilled, as I'm sure he believed that his son had actually developed an interest in cars. The same son who played with dolls, whose favorite comic books were "Supergirl" and "Wonder Woman" and who insisted on getting a "Dorothy Hamill haircut."

You can see the compromise we ended up with in the picture.  

Of course, my dad had no idea that the REAL reason I wanted to go was that Laurette Spang from "Battlestar Galactica" was going to be there. And there she is with me in my photo! 

She was one of my favorite people on the show. 
Of course, I had no idea her character was a professional escort.

I didn't know what being "gay" meant before 1978, because I'd never been told the term by my parents. I knew I was "different" from the other guys because whenever I (regretfully) found myself grouped with the boys, I was so bored by the things they loved: sports, cars, sports, trucks, sports, boats, sports. Yawn. Whenever I had the chance, I preferred socializing with girls, who were SO much more intellectual and interesting.

However, in 1978 an older neighbor guy moved in next door and I developed a massive crush on him, to the point where I was actually writing out his name in a notebook over and over like you see in bad TV movies. I never acted on my dreamy-eyed crush, but I was dimly aware somewhere in my brain that things would be bad if ANYONE found out about my feelings - including him.

I never  suffered any real abuse for being gay in my early life because I was always "the weird kid" who was viewed as super-intelligent with odd interests, like obscure horror movies and sci-fi shows from other countries.  

That all changed in high school, though. In my first year, my parents sent me to a private, religious all-boys' school and it was a living hell every single day. I was miserable, and I barely attended classes because I always felt sick and scared.  

I was failing all my classes and there were even days where the priest-teachers would spend hours explaining to us all why people like ME were awful monsters. They even instructed the other students to identify suspected gay kids for treatment and counseling because such a "gross" life needed to be "corrected."

Fortunately, I got myself into a public school, then a good liberal college where I could express myself and be who I really was. And I haven't looked back since.

Coming out was a weird sort of non-event. I had attended a Gay Pride parade during college and my folks saw me on TV. They asked me why I was there and I confirmed it. Then they simply ignored it, and acted as though it didn't happen. To this day, they talk to me like I'm straight, so I've simply decided I'm not going to make myself suffer for their denial of reality.

Today, I work in an excellent government job with a very tolerant environment where differences are encouraged. I have a terrific life and think of myself as being truly lucky to have gotten where I am today. Without those early experiences, I wouldn't be where I am now.  

My message to gay youth today is:

No matter how painful an experience is, remember it's your decision every time how you react to it. EVERY decision you make helps turn you into who you will be in the future. I turned out great despite all the adversity and I enjoy a great life of success now.  

So, please, PLEASE turn your agonies into strengths, and your sorrows into the foundation of your character in handling tough times.

And when all else fails, find joy in just being fabulous!

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October 12, 2015


Greg, age 3
Klerksdorp, South Africa (1991)

This photo was taken over Christmas at my grandparent's house. Not happy with my own presents, I had seized my cousin's rainbow umbrella and started performing "Singing In The Rain," from one of my favorite movies as a kid.

I grew up in a wonderfully accepting, progressive home, and my parents have almost always been fantastically supportive of who I am. But bullying at school was a daily reality for me growing up, and there were many times when I ended up in tears. 

I came out in college and it was without a doubt one of the most liberating experiences of my life. Yes, it caused some pain at first, but that faded.

The freedom I felt did not.

Unfortunately, I did grow up in a culture that is possibly still globally synonymous with racism and intolerance.

The prevailing opinion in my community was it's better to date a white man rather than a black woman. Either way, there's not much acceptance going on.

But ultimately, I’m grateful for these struggles. They forced me to become a better person, more tolerant, and understanding of people different from me.

I have learned that being different is the most fantastic gift. It makes you more confident in who you are, as there is just nowhere for you to hide, anyway.

But, it took me years to relearn what I already knew when I was age 3:

If you want to dance around with a rainbow umbrella, GO FOR IT!
People might laugh with you or at you. Either way, laughter is always good!

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September 15, 2015


Adam, age 2
Fayetteville, North Carolina (1987)

I was always known as  the "Miracle Baby" in my family, as my folks were in their 40's and in poor health when I showed up. I was brought up in a very strict, Pentecostal Christian household where sin and anything pertaining to the world were forbidden. Like most only children, I was somewhat spoiled with attention.

My photo was taken on Christmas Day, 1987. That year, I got a red Radio Flyer wagon, clothes, a Sit 'n' Spin toy and several little trinkets. But my most prized gift was the My Buddy doll I had begged my parents for. I'm sure that they weren't thrilled to buy me a doll, but since the little boy in the TV commercial had one, they relented. 

You can see just how surprised I was, pointing at the gifts and saying: 'For me?' 

I always loved playing with dolls and I had a huge collection of My Little Pony dolls. I can remember the embarrassment on my dad's face (RIP Dad) as I ran down the "girl's toys" aisle and picked out a new pony. 

I've known that I was different from the time I was three or four years old. I had what I guess you'd call a crush on my youngest uncle. He was handsome and would spend time with me, so I thought he was the greatest guy in the world.  

I developed several crushes throughout my elementary school days. Even so, I would always tell people that I had a "girlfriend" (usually just a close female friend), because that was the normal thing to do.  

I was around seven years old when I first heard my parents and the members of my church talking about "those queers" and "them homosexuals." When I finally did understand what these words meant, I was extremely afraid and ashamed.  

My two biggest fears were: going to Hell and disappointing my parents. Yet, I couldn't help the way I felt. No matter how hard I tried or how much I prayed, my feelings for guys remained the same.  

When was ten, I made the mistake of telling my mother that I wanted to be a girl. I wasn't transgender, but I thought the only way I could have a boyfriend was to become a girl. My mother had a fit and told me that God would send me straight to Hell if I kept thinking that way. I think that was when I first began keeping my feelings to myself.  

All through my high school years, I had devastating crushes on guys and hid behind my religion. The reason I didn't have a girlfriend wasn't because I was gay. In my mind, I was just saving myself for the right girl. Then the day came (after college) when I couldn't lie to myself anymore.  

Today, I'm out to some close friends. My family is intensely homophobic, so I keep my personal life to myself. I did attempt to come out to my mother, but she threatened to out me to everyone and ban me from her life. That was, by far, the hardest thing I've been through to date. And I even considered suicide. 

I couldn't imagine a world in which I could truly be happy in my own way. 
But I persevered and I am thriving the more I learn to love and accept myself.

I still have a long way to go, but I have amazing friends who love me and a partner who makes me feel like I'm the only man in the world.

For today's LGBTQ kids, I would say this: Hold on!

And think for yourself. Don't allow the ignorance or religious fervor of others keep you from being truly happy. Our world is changing and our time is coming.

I may not know you, but I send my love to you.  
Just keep holding on to your truth and I promise it does get better. 

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

August 18, 2015


Tim, age 5
Vancouver, BC, Canada (1995)

Here I am with my late grandmother at my kindergarten graduation. She was one of my biggest supporters for my musical accomplishments. I knew from a young age that I was different, but wasn't able to understand what that meant.

I was raised in a literalist, fundamentalist, Christian family that has never accepted an "alternative lifestyle" outside of Christianity.

So you can only imagine what growing up in a family that refers to homosexuals as ‘fags’ or ‘poofters’ was like.

I always wanted to be close with a guy, to feel a special bond between the two of us. 

I guess you could also say I'm not society’s portrayal of the stereotypical masculine man. 

I do not like movies with huge explosions, aliens, and guns. I like musicals, chick flicks, rom-coms, and movies that actually have a storyline.

I listen to Elton John, Barbra Streisand, and Whitney Houston almost daily.
I remember going through a huge Celine Dion phase in middle school and singing "The Power of Love" at the top of my lungs at home. My family did not like the fact that I would sing "...And you are my man!" with such conviction.

At age 19 I came out to my friends and co-workers who were very supportive. But when my family found out about my “sinful lifestyle" in 2013, it was off to Bible school for me and borderline reparative therapy. I have had deliverance performed on me, been sent to Exodus International, told to act more manly, and that if I just think I'm straight that I will be straight. 

Of course, none of that worked. My parents also demanded that I break up with my boyfriend so they could send me to more reparative, conversion therapy. 

After a month of refusing, I was thrown out of the house.

I was blamed for "bringing demons into the house," and my family said they would never come visit me at my new place because they “cannot walk on unholy ground.” That was two years ago and I have not seen my family since. 

The good news is I am still with my boyfriend and we’ve been together for three years. We could not be happier together and will be traveling to Europe soon.
I plan to marry my boyfriend one day and start a family with him. 

I have not seen my family since they threw me out, nor do I think I will be seeing them any time soon. People tell me to not lose hope, but I have to face the reality of a future without them. My friends have become my family and I have never felt so loved and accepted in my entire life. 

While my situation is not ideal, I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.

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