April 26, 2011

Ed

Ed, age 8
Scranton, PA (1963)

When my mother died recently, I found this photo of me. Simply ravishing, if
I do say so myself. I love how this picture reminds me of being free as a child.


I was an only child and learned early to entertain myself. While I was smart enough to read by age 3, I was also socially naive.

At this age, no one seemed to mind how I acted. Even my parents weren't concerned. In fact, my mother dressed me as Heidi for Halloween in 3rd grade!

Since I was very excited about cars too, I think they were calmer than if I had only played with dolls.

It was several more years before all the bullying and teasing began in junior high, and it was then that I figured out I was different than most of the other kids.

Thankfully, that's long behind me.

And now I have a wonderful partner and circle of friends.  It does get better!

Dexter

Dexter, age 6
Manila, Philippines (1984)

I knew I was "different" when I was 4-years old, and of course, I did not have the words to describe that part of me. And it was difficult for me to define myself because I - like most Filipinos - come from a conservative Catholic family.

I grew up listening to "The Wiz" and "Annie" soundtracks. And to Madonna, who I vogued to in private. TV, movies, and books were my only companions, as I did not have any friends.

I had a feeling then that Bert & Ernie from "Sesame Street" were more than roommates, and that the "Hardy Boys" were definitely having adventures together outdoors and indoors.

In my dreams, "Robocop" was my "roommate," and we weren't solving mysteries.

Looking at my childhood now that I am an adult, I was a very sad boy.

I handled the bullying by taking my mind away from reality. I spent my non-school days locked in the house, and not wanting to interact with anyone.

But everything is different now: I am living with my partner, I am extremely happy, and I do not have to escape to feel that happiness.

Now, the two of us listen to my Madonna and Abba (his favorite) records together, and we spend the weekends having South Australian adventures.

And yes: we have our adventures both outdoors and indoors.
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Annie (Special Anniversary Edition)RoomMates RMK1478GM Sesame Street Bert and Ernie Peel & Stick Giant Wall DecalsThe Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries - Season OnePETER WELLER OFFICER ALEX J. MURPHY/ROBOCOP ROBOCOP 8X10 PHOTO

April 25, 2011

Gabi

Gabi, age 7
Lido di Jesolo, Italy (1973)


I'm on a vacation here, riding a kid's motorbike on a little racetrack at a fun fair. Every night I begged my mom for money to go another round. I grew up in a small town in the center of Germany. I always liked skating, biking, or building igloos in winter, more than playing with dolls, dressing up, or playing hopscotch.


The first crush I had was on a woman, and early on I was fascinated by lesbian love. I had gay and lesbian friends, yet I was always dating men. In my mid-20s I had my first one-night stand with a woman.

Although this was a fascinating experience for me, I only really quit trying to be straight in my mid-40s. My coming-out to my friends, colleagues, and family members was in 2009, after I had fallen in love with a woman. We had met during my visit of a mutual friend in the USA and fell in love almost instantly.

We continued our 17-hour-one-way long-distance relationship for almost a year, seeing each other only every couple of months. I split up with my then-boyfriend a few weeks after I returned home. I came out in a long e-mail, to about 70 people, including my boss. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

We got married in April 2010. She moved across the Atlantic last September, and we now live in the Netherlands, where gay people have identical rights as straight people. Even though we married in Iowa, I couldn't apply for family-based immigration, because Federal US immigration law doesn't acknowledge us as a family (Defense of Marriage Act). Therefore, she gave up her home and moved her cats and herself here. She is now learning Dutch and trying to find a job.

What I would like to tell every kid, whether they feel they are gay or not, is that it's important to find out who you are and what you want. You only have one life.

Be who you are. Everything else will eventually follow.

Steve

Steve, age 11
Victoria, BC, Canada (1974)

This picture shows me with my mother, in all our mid-70's sartorial splendor. From a very early age, there was always something "different" about me.

When playing games with other kids, I was usually given some type of female role.

If we played "Mission: Impossible," I was cast as Cinnamon Carter.

It was never forced upon me, or something pejorative, but rather a natural fit.

Years later, I got to meet Barbara Bain, the actress who portrayed Cinnamon, and I told her "You know, I used to play you" - and she roared with laughter.
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BARBARA BAIN 8X10 PHOTO The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier Gay Marriage: The Story of a Canadian Social Revolution The Sartorialist

Brittany

Brittany, age 5
Galesburg, IL (1992)

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be just like my dad. In this picture, as you can see, I'm wearing a tank like him and posing like him. And look at those guns! He has always been my hero, above all others.

I knew on some level I had a crush on my kindergarten teacher, which was around this time in my life.

I also was beating all the boys at sports and things we did on the playground.

I loved playing with dad's old G.I. Joe figures, and shooting my toy bow and arrow in the basement

I wanted to be Robin Hood.

Although, I didn't fully admit that I'm a lesbian until I was 17.



But once I came out, I looked back and realized SO many instances over the years that made me slap my forehead and think: How could I NOT have known?

When I came out to my parents, they were devastated, as they are very religious. My dad said that somehow he wasn't surprised, and had seen this coming.
It killed me to disappoint him. All I had ever wanted was to impress him and be strong, just like him.

My parents are not in my life now, but I can honestly say that though I miss them terribly and wish things were different, I am so glad that I figured out who I really am.

I have felt more freedom and learned more about myself and the world since
I came out, than I ever thought I could. I know that a lot of why I have made it out on my own is how strong my dad raised me to be, and I am proud to be his daughter every day.

Not everyone understands us, or why we are the way we are, but that's okay - they don't have to. We all have to make our own way, and as long as you are happy with your life and the decisions you have made, that is what really matters.

April 22, 2011

Guy

* HAPPY EASTER, EVERYONE! *

Guy, age 8
Seattle, WA (1970)

Here I am, ready to spring into action to deliver Easter treats! I was really channeling the Easter Bunny: note the way I'm holding my hands to simulate paws. Of course, I hopped around as much as possible when in this costume. Walking was so banal and just not the Easter Bunny way.

I was also probably inspired by Bobby Van, and his hopping number from the film "Small Town Girl." Stereotypically, I have enjoyed musicals from an early age.

It's a family trait.

Proto-gay that I was, I loved the crafty and decorative aspects of Easter.

One year, I made little Easter baskets for my family. I filled them with candy and placed them outside my siblings' bedrooms very early on Easter morning. As if the Easter Bunny was some kind of springtime surrogate for Santa Claus.

I think costumes and masks have been important to a lot of gay kids, long before they knew they were gay. They provided the opportunity to take on other personalities.

Paradoxically, we were more ourselves in costumes and masks.


Dressing up, it's as though we could take on our true personalities using the pretense of those costumes, and the creative freedom they provided.

While I didn't know I was gay at this tender age, I knew I wasn't like most of my contemporaries. Despite that, I didn't have a particularly difficult childhood. I was fortunate to have 7 older siblings who came of age during the various social revolutions of the 60's and 70's.

They weren't wildly non-conformist, but they weren't conformist either. And they suggested the possibility of independent thought and becoming whoever I wanted to be. I was also lucky to grow up in a home where education was highly valued.

We were raised Catholic, but were encouraged to read and to explore a broader world of ideas. This provided so many options.

I can't remember any same sex crushes from that era. I'm sure I had them, but
I was fickle too - moving on from one to the next like, well, the Easter Bunny.
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Small Town Girl Broadway Nights: A Romp of Life, Love, and Musical Theatre Adult Easter Basket of Sweets, Large Gay Seattle: Stories of Exile and Belonging

Lulu

Lulu, age 5
Victoria, BC, Canada (1965)

That's me, the little boy - oops, grrrl - on the left with my brother and sister.

At some point, my mother gave up trying to dress me like a proper little girl for everyday wear. But then school came and spoiled all that.

I would tear my dress off the minute I got through the door at home, leaving a trail of clothes behind me.

I left elementary school as a happy heterosexual, and went that way through high school. And, on to a marriage and having my own daughter.

But today, I'm the happy little lesbian I feel I was born to be. Thankfully, these days, there is more freedom to be a square peg that doesn't fit into a round hole...

Jamie

Jamie, age 11
Whitehall, Ohio (1977)

This picture shows one of my last years trick-or-treating in costume. And I have no idea what prompted me to dress in drag. As an adult, I have no affinity for that. But I look a LOT like my mother in that getup.

From the age of about 4,
I knew I was different.

After quickly learning the word "sissy," I also learned that it was BAD, and that it somehow applied to me.

I did everything I could to "butch up" and tried to cast aside anything girly or frilly.

This was kind of okay, as I loved trucks and cars, too.

So it wasn't hard to fake it.


I was uncoordinated and hated sports, so it was a struggle to "keep it in the closet." Fortunately, my straight brother was as uncoordinated and as unconventional as I was.

I loved "Wonder Woman," "Charlie's Angels" and "Three's Company." And ABBA. Mom had sussed me out, but we never admitted it to each other until I was 30.
I knew, however, I was gay by the time I was 14. And after having attributed my feelings to "envy" before that.

I found this picture embarrassing for years. But I like it now.

Jamie's first, famous-person same sex crushes:
Lee Majors, Jameson Parker, & Parker Stevenson
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LEE MAJORS 11X14 PHOTOGERALD MCRANEY RICK SIMON JAMESON PARKER ANDREW JACKSON 'A.J.' SIMON SIMON & SIMON 11X14 PHOTOTiger Beat Super Posters 1977 (Shaun Cassidy cover)ABBA: The Definitive Collection

April 19, 2011

Paul, blogmaster

Paul, age 10
N. Quincy, Massachusetts (1972)

I chose this picture, because it includes the women in my life who I love so dearly: My sister Linda, my amazing mom (RIP), and my sister Andrea. Plus, who can resist my red velour shirt, the plastic grape tree, and Linda's insanely florescent eye-makeup? Gotta love the 70's, right?


I'm the baby of our Italian family, and my mom raised me herself after divorcing my dad when I was 7. It was pretty much mom and me on our own for much of my childhood. I'm forever indebted to my mom, for her strength, her support, and teaching me the value of hard work. But the home haircuts? Not so much…

I was a pretty happy kid who loved art, drawing and anything on color TV - a luxury back then! But I was also pegged and relentlessly taunted as the "fag" and "pussy" and "queer" pretty much from 1st grade through high school.

It always amazes me how other kids know we're gay or different, even before we know it ourselves - or at least what to call it. I knew from around age 6 that I felt attractions to boys and men, but the topic of gay or homosexual simply wasn't discussed. Besides Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson-Reilly, I was flying blind.

But I distinctly remember an older male friend of my mom's who used to cut my hair. He was a handsome married man, and I remember liking it when he'd stand right up against the barber chair, and my elbow brushed against his crotch.
But that wasn't sexual at all - it was about a connection to a male.

I seriously loathed sports and gym classes. And it's never fun getting a dodgeball across the face as many times as I did. But the silver lining was my 8th grade gym teacher - a rock of manly muscles, curly blond hair, and a dimpled chin. When we all had to do sit-ups, I purposely positioned myself directly in front of him on the floor, so I could blatantly look up inside his gym shorts!

I was a choir geek in junior high, tried to play the tuba for a month, and played "Macbeth" in a school play. But mainly only so I could paint the castle we used as the set piece. Had I not become a DJ, I'd definitely be a graphic artist now.

My kid obsessions included: MUSIC on the AM radio, Farrah Fawcett, playing Slug in our backyard, "Wacky Packages," "Willy Wonka," banana seat Schwinn bikes with clothes-pinned cards in the wheel spokes, wearing my sisters' black "fall" wigs pretending to be Cher, "Match Game," and mounting yearly Carnivals and Haunted Houses to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

My best friends were the girls, who I definitely related to much more than boys. After "dating" girls through high school (and barely getting to 2nd base with any of 'em), the lightbulb finally went off and I admitted I was gay to myself at 17.

I came out to both my sisters around 19, and they were both completely supportive. And kind of non-plussed, actually. It really was no surprise.

In my first year of college, while still living at home with my mom, she found some gay porn magazines under my mattress. She went to my sisters, and I'll never forget how amazing their cover for me was. They just said to her: "Oh ma, he probably just has those for his art classes, to practice drawing the male form."

I came out to my friends shortly thereafter, and my bestest BFF Pam was practically giddy about it, if not pissed I didn't tell her sooner. Again, no surprise...

I didn't officially come out to my mom until I was 30. Crazy, right? I always felt if I told her, she would just worry about me twice as hard. But on that trip to Boston during breakfast, and mustering up the dreaded 'Mom, I have something to tell you' – she didn't blink, and said "Are you gonna tell me you’re gay?"
I don't think I ever hugged her harder than I did that day.

And I have to say: Moms always know we're gay. They really do. So I encourage those who are afraid to come out, to trust your instinct – and theirs – and be honest with them. Living the closeted lie is like a 10-ton weight on our backs.

In closing, I have to say this to the LGBTQ youth of today:

Stand tall, walk proud, and believe in yourself! And never, ever let those who bully you or taunt you make you stop being exactly who you are. And understand that their homophobia is ugly and ignorant, while you are beautiful and unique!

When we're kids in school, we feel like it's the most important time of our life.
But I gotta tell you: Those years are a mere nanosecond, compared to the lifetime of happiness, joy, and love that will come in to your life as a proud, gay adult.

I was able to turn all my obsessions and passions as a kid, into a career that I adore. I feel blessed to be part of the invaluable contributions that gay people bring to society and to the world. That YOU will bring to this world, too.

But yikes! I think I went way over the 350 word-count rule here.
I'm gonna have to have a word with the blogmaster about that, eh? :)

Paul's first, famous-person same sex crush:
David Cassidy
Obsession is more like it! I saw him in concert, had every poster and teen magazine he was in, and a huge scrapbook! Yeah, Paul - not obvious at all...
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The Partridge Family - The Complete First SeasonBest of Match Game DVD CollectionSchwinn Sting-Ray (Enthusiast Color Series)1977 Hasbro Charlie's Angels Farrah Fawcett (Jill Munroe) Doll