February 11, 2015

Jessica

Jessica, age 1
Tasmania, Australia (1993)

I am on the right and my twin sister is on the left, looking at the camera. At this young age, I had no idea I was gay. However, looking at this photo now, I am clearly more into that kiss than my twin sister Emily. 


I grew up in a highly Christian home and grew up thinking I hated gay people. 
I even said things like that a lot. Hating myself was more like it. Just after my parents started their own church, I made a joke that if they didn't let me date this boy I liked, I might just date girls instead!

There was so much truth in what I said, yet no one had any idea.

My parents took their 'discovery' of my sexuality really badly. I had my first girlfriend was when I was 14, and she was not welcomed. Even though I was sent to a private school, no matter where I went I found girls to love!

My parents have come such a long way in their acceptance of me. But more importantly, I have discovered my true self. I also discovered in time that I didn't have to look, dress, or act a certain way to be a lesbian.

I am now a very happy, highly feminine woman who loves the 1950's and red lipstick. I am a pinup model, a dancer, and a gay activist for my community.

I've been engaged for over a year and have big gay plans for my life with my beautiful partner. And that includes many kisses like the one in my photo!
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"


January 21, 2015

Bill

Bill, age 3
Brooklyn, New York (1963)

This picture should have given my family some clue! This Norwegian boy on the left was a childhood friend, and I have a look on my face like, “Look! I got one!”

As a kid, I loved TV shows that featured boys around my age, like Eddie Munster and Will Robinson on "Lost In Space."

I also remember watching the original "Mickey Mouse Club" on TV. While most other boys were crushing on Annette Funicello, I was crushing on Cubby!

If anyone had asked me as early as age four who I wanted to marry when I grew up, I would have said that I wanted to marry a man. It just seemed natural.

But elementary school was a very difficult time for me.

I got bullied and beat up a lot, but I didn’t really know why;
I just thought that’s how school was.

By junior high, kids had apparently picked up on me being gay, because the bullying definitely took on a homophobic aspect. Of course, self-preservation caused me to deny it, and I had girlfriends all through high school. Probably because I was easy to talk to?!

After high school, I went through a very difficult time in a very homophobic church. After what could only be described as spiritual and emotional torture,
I left. Within a year in 1980, I was instrumental in founding the world’s first LGBT-affirming Apostolic Pentecostal church.

Most of my family took my coming out very well.

To celebrate, my aunt Lois called a friend of hers, and together they “raided” a gay bar in Asbury Park, New Jersey, where Lois played matchmaker for the guys inside, deciding who looked good with whom!

Presently, there are many positive LGBT role models, and I hope LGBT kids will look to them for encouragement and affirmation.

Today, I'm a 55 year old man, happily partnered with another 55 year old man. As I look back at my childhood - and especially this picture - it makes me smile.
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"


December 29, 2014

Charles

Charles, age 4
Longport, New Jersey (1967)

I'm from the South New Jersey shore. Philadelphia was our big city. Home was a beach town, so it was empty in the winter. Empty except for the “locals,” and being gay was a concept that didn't fit in with the “local” mentality. My parents were decent people, but they were locals, too. 

Being gay was a tough and lonely journey for me. I thought the boys were cool, but it was because I was attracted to them. I know that now, but I didn't back then. I attended Catholic schools, and had no issues about that.

My photo was taken by my grandfather, with me atop my father's desk chair. 


I loved superheroes as a kid, as they were people with great gifts who just seemed so "normal" on the outside.

Their “secret” was their hidden powers.

Suddenly, they became super-special, the people they really were. They stopped hiding. That transformation is the core idea that got me through it all.

As a kid I also loved Lee "The Bionic Man" Majors. He was the perfect real-world superhero: handsome, bighearted, strong, and sweet. And for vision and resolve, to overcome and triumph, I admired Abraham Lincoln. His story is amazing.

My parents were crushed when I came out. It hurts a loving child so much to disappoint his parents. But in time, that healed.

Today I live in Puerto Rico and I'm a successful lawyer. And being gay never kept me from anything. But I kept myself from things. Until I remembered that we are here to be a point of light in the world. Then, suddenly, everything began to change. I also fully realized that I was born this way. 

I already had everything I needed to be who I am meant to be. 
And when you realize that too, it's like your own personal 4th of July! 

So go and do your thing!
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"


December 04, 2014

Shaun

Shaun, age 6
Johannesburg, South Africa (1993)

As far back as I can remember, I always knew that I was gay and that I liked boys. Interestingly enough, within myself I never had an issue with it. But I was always worried by what other people would think or say. This is something so ingrained that I still worry about it to this day.

The problem with society is that being gay is regarded as not "normal." I read an example once that’s stuck with me throughout the years because it is so true: 

If an adult sees a boy and a girl playing together, they'll often ask playfully 'Is she your girlfriend?' or visa versa. However, if it's two boys or two girls playing, nobody will ever ask them that same question. 

These subtle hints in every aspect of our culture cause being gay (and the coming out process) to be very difficult for many of us.

I first came out to my friends as a senior in high school. 

They took it without even batting an eye, and my best friend’s biggest issue was that I hadn’t told her earlier.  I'm fortunate that many of those people remain close friends to this day, and it is directly a result of their acceptance that I am the person I am today.

I ended up having to come out to my family, because I had gotten myself into a situation where I needed their help. And without them knowing the boy involved was in fact my boyfriend, they wouldn't be able to understand the full situation. 

My mom took my coming out the best. She took some time to process it, but today she is my number one cheerleader. But my dad is the unsung hero in my life story. He immediately realized my situation and fixed it quicker than I would have ever imagined possible. 

I will forever be grateful to him for standing by me during that time.
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"


November 17, 2014

Tommy

Tommy, age 2
San Jose, California (1975)

My mother tells me the staff at the Sears portrait studio were so impressed with this photo of me, that they wanted to hang it on their wall in the lobby. 

"What does the T stand for? Is it Tammy?" they said. "No," my mother corrected. "More like Tommy." This was my first reported instance of an occasion that would become a regular theme in my life.

I was 2-years old and people were already doing double-takes while apologizing under their breath for misidentifying my gender. "He’s pretty for a boy” was the first of the backhanded compliments I was poised to receive as I got older.

As  a kid, it used to bother me that I was often mistaken for a girl, and my easily mortified teenage self suffered accordingly. Because people didn’t quite know how to categorize me by sight, I learned to transcend polarization. 


I understood early that gender was a social construction that was completely malleable. I felt the need to refrain from conforming to the gender biases of popular culture and to create my own. 

If I liked a shirt in the girl’s department and it fit me, I wasn’t stymied by the fact that it buttoned up the opposite side. I learned how to bridge the gap between my yin and yang. 

I trace the early understanding of gender politics I had to this photo.
T was for Tommy but it was also for trans - as in transcending transgender. 
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"


October 28, 2014

AJ

AJ, ages 5-7
Battle Creek, Michigan (1996-1998)

Growing up, Halloween was always my favorite holiday. This hasn't changed much since I was young, but now I look back on my love for the holiday in a much different light. I think it was the attraction of stepping into the skin of someone who wasn't me that spawned my interest. This lead to me dressing as multiple women during my childhood.


Having been reared on nearly every Disney movie, I was immediately drawn to the female villains. These women were not merely evil (something that I was not), but they were supremely confident in who they were (something I also was not). But above all else, they were interesting.

You can leave your princesses behind, and give me an evil queen any day!

I lived for the time of year when I felt confident enough to dress up as one of these powerful women. In hindsight, I give tremendous appreciation to my parents for allowing me to dress in this way year after year.

We live in a time when something like this can go viral on the internet if given enough traction. I can only imagine it was much more taboo in the mid 1990's.

However, my parents never batted an eye at it, and I think the pictures show that my mother had a fun time herself putting the ensembles together.

It wouldn't be until over a decade later that I managed to find the courage within myself to come out of the closet. Yet I can't help but wonder how surprised my parents must have been, if they were surprised at all.

Although it took time, I feel as if I've finally managed to grasp the confidence and power that made these women so interesting to me.

And for now, we can leave all the curses and spells behind...
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"


October 06, 2014

Joshua

Joshua, age 14
Paradise, California (1993)

As a child, I was generally very quiet and introverted. I always found solace and tranquility in writing rather than involving myself in social activities. But I was active in theater in my early teens and on my high school’s cross country team in my freshman year.

I first came out to my mother at the age of 15. It was pretty rewarding, and my family has always accepted me as a person regardless of differences that may exist between us. As a teenager, I was active in the local LGBT community center, and I have been fortunate that I never have been harassed or singled out for being gay.

During college though, I went back in the closet and I eventually became very religious. As a result of social pressures, I eventually married a woman.

After the birth of our first child, our marriage slowly fell apart. Around the time of our second child, I met a man whom I had brief contact with.

I soon realized I needed to confront my true identity instead of hiding behind a veil of falsehood. 

I revealed to my wife the secret that I had been hiding from her for years. She told me she always had known and was willing to accept the fact that I was gay. We came to the understanding that we would have to separate. 

I began to turn to close friends and even rabbis for moral support as I began this new phase in my life. Thankfully, I have found nothing but love and support from everybody with whom I have shared this intimate detail of my life.

As a religious Jew, I hid the secret of my sexual orientation from everybody.
But today I know that Judaism embraces the gay identity, even with certain prohibitions in regard to particular acts.

The essence of being a gay Jew, however, is acceptable in the eyes of God.

I did not know this for a long time, and had I known it, my adult life would have been much easier. 

But I am happy now and look forward to a beautiful future in which I can celebrate the internal synthesis of all the different aspects of my life.
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"


September 09, 2014

Greg

Greg, age 8
Santa Ana, California (1997)

I was lucky enough to have been born to a mother who had the innate ability to tell I was gay when I was very young. To be honest, since I was so focused with my studies all the way to about 11th grade in high school, I hadn't really paid much attention to my sexuality.

It wasn't until I turned 16 that I finally came out to myself, and at 17 I came out to my mom.

I wrote a letter wanting to explain everything, since I knew doing it on the fly would result in just a total breakdown.

However, I forgot to put the letter away after I wrote it - it was 4am when I finished! - and my mom found it that morning.

And I'll never forget what she said to me:

"The only man I was ever angry about being gay was Elton John, because that was when I knew I wouldn't be able to marry him!"

I know I'm lucky to have grown up in such an accepting household. It saddens me that LGBT youth are harassed and bullied, simply for being who they are.

All I can say is, be proud, stay strong, and never forget that it is you who are in control of your life. As hard as the road may seem, it is your own strength and resolve alone that will carry you through your toughest trials in life.
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"


August 08, 2014

Henry

Henry, age 6
Birmingham, Alabama (1986)

This picture of me and my (also gay) twin brother Andy was taken at our grandmother's house. We would always fight over who got to wear the silky shirt. I'm on the right in the shirt, and Andy is on the left in the heels.

This picture and time of my life brings back great memories, because my grandparents didn't care about our differences. They just wanted us to be happy and to be ourselves.

We were both big fans of Care Bears and My Little Pony

My sister had an ET doll and Godzilla figure that would shoot its hand off. But Andy and I pretty much stuck to our stuffed animals and Rainbow Brite dolls.

Speaking of stuffed animals, I came out to my teddybear at age 5.

But our older sister actually came out before we did, so she helped break our parents in. 

I like to say we all helped drag our parents kicking and screaming into the 21st century! LOL!

For younger gay kids reading this, I would like to tell them that I thank God every day I was born a homosexual. It has helped me to grow as an individual and learn so much more about myself at an early age.
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"


July 16, 2014

Mark

Mark, age 6
Centralia, Washington (1968)

My first grade teacher Mrs. Carlson wrote on my report card:
"Mark is a very sensitive child, wants attention, and needs reassurance. 
He expresses himself very well through his artwork, is quite creative, and has quite a flair for play-acting. He really puts himself into it and does quite a good job." Great insight on her part, as I have become a professional entertainer. 

Mrs. Carlson could also see I was gay, and 'Sensitive' was another 1960's American code word for homosexual. 

She also knew that I had no friends in a neighborhood full of children. It was hard to miss them chanting 'Finley Faggot' during recess, or from over her fence on an occasional weekend afternoon visit. 

She opened my world to the fine arts by way of the local library. The works she put in front of me all had much the same theme - the misunderstood overcoming their adversity to shine greater than ever before. 

Not having friends, I lost myself in reading, listening to records, and stamp collecting. Then my maternal grandfather gave me two amazing gifts: a spinet piano and a 12-inch black & white television. Thanks to him I poured myself into practicing my piano and recreating scenes from the movies I watched at night.

I couldn't catch a ball of any kind, but I could do a great Mae West and W.C. Fields routine complete with a chorus of "Willie Of The Valley." Soon it was quite clear to my parents that my 'creative flair' was not simply a phase.

I'd love to say that it was all sunshine and lollipops after that, but I'd be lying. 
The rest of my childhood was nothing short of a living hell. 

But at age 10 I was in my first play (a community theatre production of an old English melodrama), and I stole the show. I had finally found the one place I was happy and content. Not to mention safe from the constant torment that was the rest of my adolescence. 

Some would say that I escaped into my own private world with theatre. 
But I would say it gave me the chance to escape and join the world! 

As an adult, my performing has taken me all around the world on many wonderful adventures. It was not easy growing up 'different' in a small town in rural Washington. But I am forever thankful that Mrs. Carlson gave me hope that happiness was possible!
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Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"