Pride month feels a bit different this year. We’re living in a time of a global pandemic and aggressive police brutality. People are dying around the world from corona virus, being murdered for the color of their skin and sexuality. Never forget that Stonewall was once a riot against police brutality 51 years ago when the first brick was thrown.
Although we won’t be parading around with the people we love this year.
Love Wins & Love Will Always Win
We hope you enjoy the faces of 51 members of the LGBTQ+ community who came out to share their stories & how they plan to celebrate pride this year.
I was a really difficult teenager, high school was rough and I struggled immensely my junior and senior years. I was a competitive swimmer and water polo player, took advanced classes, and was in an advanced language immersion program. My aptitude was high but my motivation had burned away. Feelings about my weight and appearance consumed my waking hours. I remember thinking I’d rather live a year in a perfect body than a lifetime in the one that I hated. Sleep deprivation from both my activity schedule and my own choices fogged my mind. The way I was treating my body made it nearly impossible for me to even begin to comprehend things like my AP Biology coursework even though I loved the subject. I was trapped in a mental fog where I could see my end goals but never find my way there. This led to failing grades, quitting my water polo team in the middle of a game, and volatile relationships with my social circle and Mom.
The tension between my mother and I escalated over my senior year. In the middle of one of our weekly midnight screaming matches I responded to one of her questions with “It’s because I’m fucking gay!” My Mom went quiet (usually a bad sign) she walked out of my room and sent my little sister in. My sister was great. She hugged me and told me she loved me while I cried.
We didn’t talk about my sexuality much after that. There was so much I was working through at the time that it wasn’t the most pressing issue on everyone’s mind but it did shift my family’s idea of what my future might include. Losing the expectation of a future where their oldest son had a wife and grandkids for them to meet and love took my Mom and Dad some getting used to. What really shifted my family from acknowledging my gayness to accepting and appreciating it happened a few years later when they were invited to my gay uncles’ wedding. They freakin’ loved it. For weeks after the ceremony my parents told me story after story about the character and vibrance of the guests and how all of my uncles’ friends are both brilliant and entertaining. So, mahalo gay weddings for making gay acceptance easier.
Life Update: I did become a published marine biologist and have discovered new species despite failing AP Biology.
I think we all will need to be a bit more outward this election year - especially throughout the month of June and November. Since we aren’t getting a parade or a specific event, we need to push visibility and action in other ways, day-to-day leading up to and following the election. Definitely fly the flag and wear the rainbow, but also have important conversations about LGBT+ issues, equality for POC, equality across classes, and important political convos that need to be happening so we ensure a better government for our country. This year it’s more important than ever that we are involved and take action. And then we will have something to truly celebrate in 2021!
In all seriousness, I think we all wish we could have some sweet, cinematic, romcom story like “Love, Simon”...but that’s just not reality. The reality of coming out, and mine, was filled with a lot of pain, physical and emotional, lies, deceit, mistakes, and change. I still can’t remember if I came out by choice or if I was finally caught. I always knew I was gay. Both my parents cried but for different reasons. I was 14, in 2005, and my mom (and biggest supporter) was worried about how difficult things would be for me. She had always known but the final confirmation seemed to change things, the dangerous world that lie ahead. My father, who was a fan of the word “fag”, sat me down for what I’m sure he thought was a heart wrenching tale of disappointment at not have a hetero son. I was an Honor student, class president, and nationally ranked swimmer...but still not good enough. (We have not spoken for several years at present.) The rest of my nuclear and extended family...I’m not sure if they knew what to do. It wasn’t a topic of conversation or concern. •
At school, in public, at parties, at practice, a few people stuck by and stuck up for me but most remained silent when I was insulted, accosted, and threatened...just for who I was. People I thought cared about me turned a blind eye or literally turned their back as insults were hurled my way...it was heartbreaking...and eye opening. It was painful. I was alone. But it made me strong. Stronger than I thought I could be and for what life had ahead. •
Live your life. Live your truth. Don’t be afraid to be who you are because life is far too short. Too short to keep dead weight (i.e. people) around.
Can't believe it has been 5 years since I "came out". Feels like I've been out longer, but I guess that's because I didn't really start living my life, my real life, until I came out. I was a very stubborn, angry, and frustrated young adult in the closet. I ended my passion for dance and went to college for engineering, the "smart" and practical thing to do after high school. I was determined to live a "normal" life. A life where I would get a good job; a job that could sustain myself since I would be alone and in the closet my entire life. Or at least that was my plan. That all changed the day I got hit by a car while biking home from class one day sophomore year. I was mostly okay getting only a minor concussion, some bruises and cuts, and so I wasn't really taking the accident seriously. Luckily my mom forced me to think about how lucky I truly was to only have minor injuries, where I could have ended up in the hospital or even dead. It sounds a bit cliche, but that made me realize life is too damn short and can be taken away from you at any instant. This was my wake up call. Shortly after the accident and the talk with my mom, I came out to everyone. Then, later that year, I switched my major, graduated early, and moved to LA to pursue my dream of being a professional dancer. 2 years later I landed my first big break as one of the "Pitcrew Dancers" on Rupaul's new Drag Race Live Vegas show. I am out, proud, living my dream and couldn't be happier.
I don’t really have a coming out story in a way that’s similar to everyone, however when I was young like around 10 or so, I would sneak to play with my sister’s dolls.
Growing up, it's kind of forced upon most kids that certain toys are for boys only and girls only. Deviating from that, as a kid, I just thought I was breaking the rules.
One time my mom caught me and she had, what I thought was, a disapproving look.
I was terrified, and both my parents asked to talk to me. They asked if I was playing with my sister's dolls, and at first I made an excuse that I was just arranging my sister’s toys.
They assured me that its okay if I was, so I admitted to it. I thought I was tricked and I'm in trouble.
Then my dad said: “your mom and I don’t care if you play with dolls or toy trucks, we don’t care what you want to do when you grow up, but all we want is for you and your sister to be happy” and they both gave me a hug.
That stuck to me ever since, even though I didn’t really fully understood it back then, looking back my parents knew I was gay. The more I understood myself the more those words made sense.
Coming out was a process for me like most people. I hid it for so long but realized this was who I was and that I needed to start living my life for me. I was terrified, like everyone, to say it to myself, let alone others. In all honesty, I only had a few rough conversations and I'm very grateful for that. The one that always has always stood out to me was shortly after I started coming out, my straight best guy friend from my fraternity and I were hanging out post-college and heading out to the bars. I knew that I wanted to tell him in person versus a call or text and this was one of the few times I would have the chance. We headed out and I knew before we got inside I needed to just say it. I looked over at him with what I can only expect fear on my face and he looked back at me and I said, "Do we need to talk about it?" and he replied, "Nope! Let's go take a shot." and we hugged and walked inside. It was the easiest, happiest, relieving experience in my whole journey. I had built it all up and he already knew and I knew he knew, but the fear of not being accepted kept me from trying. I'd only wished we'd had the non-conversation earlier! :)
Even though I didn't officially come out until a year after graduating college I had a lot of friends who definitely knew what I was doing behind closed doors. I can still remember when I finally came out to two of my best girl friends. They definitely knew I was already hooking up with guys it was still nerve wracking to actually say the words. After brunch one Sunday we were walking through a local park in Lancaster, PA where I grew up and I asked them to sit down on this random bench so we could talk. They sat there giddy and waiting while I awkwardly fumbled through getting the words out. They were so excited for me to finally tell them that I was gay which was a huge relief but also one of the best gifts we could give each other as friends. To feel their love and acceptance was so amazing and definitely gave me confidence going into other harder conversations with family in the future. Whenever we are by that park we still talk about that bench where I came out to them over 10 years ago.
I was out to my brother before I could even come out to my family. But instead of foolishly believing what he heard, he made sure to talk to me and bluntly asked if I was gay. I said yes, and he didn't judge me nor made me feel bad about myself. Now that I think about it, this is quite remarkable because he was the epitome of your typical Mexican-macho guy - who bullied me for being too "delicate" growing up. However, his compassionate attitude at that moment gave me the strength to come out to my parents a few years later.
In 2008 we were on a family vacation (like aunts, uncles, my cousin’s future wife, grandparents that whole thing) in Jamaica (which weirdly my mother had won at a wildlife preservation fundraiser dinner), I had put off coming out to my parents every time I had been home for the holidays but I didn’t as I didn’t want to “ruin” Christmas/Thanksgiving/Easter/Arbor Day/National Ice Cream Day. Apparently, I decided that coming out on vacation in a not so gay friendly country on the beach while everyone except my mom and dad we're in the water was a great idea.
Good news, I got the “oh we know response” AND then we ate ice cream out of coconuts.
Let’s ignore that the next day we got stuck in a hurricane.
I think we all have had very different coming out stories. For me growing up in a small town in Maine being openly gay was not an option. I spent most of my time growing up thinking about what I wanted in life, being pressured to go to college, start a family, buy a house. Things changed once I went to college, I had this freedom I never had before. Being myself was ok! I fell for a guy the summer after freshman year, we had a great summer with family and friends but he was always just my friend……we all know what that means. It wasn’t till I was 20 when I met my parents for lunch one afternoon. We chatted for a while, but on our way back to my car I told them that my “guy friend” they met a few summers ago was more than a friend. We all went silent until my mom said “I know.” Then my dad said while crying that no matter what they love me and are happy I told them. But he also made it clear that I am the only one to pass on the family name so I better still have kids. This was a huge weight off my shoulders. I am happy I came out to everyone now. Yes, I have lost some of my friends but I have also gained new and better ones along the way.
When I was 16 years old I got into a car accident and I nearly died. As I laid in that hospital bed I was so shook by the thought that nobody would have known who I really was if I wouldn’t have made it out of that car accident. When my mom took me home I remember sitting on my bed sobbing because I finally had a conversation with myself out loud about the fact that I was gay. It felt like I was coming out to myself for the first time in my life. After a couple of days my mom took me back home, I lived with my oldest brother, and on that drive I sat in the back seat working up the courage to tell him I was gay. It was really hard for me because he was the father figure in my life and his opinion of me was the most important. His response was “hmm cool” which felt so empowering because all the fears I had were completely invalidated and I felt like I had just defeated my inner saboteur. I almost felt like a natural high from that situation so I immediately told my mom that I was gay and she asked, “how do you know?” to which I replied, “how do you know you like guys?” Her response was “Hmm well when you put it that way it makes sense. I will always love you. The natural “high” from coming out felt so amazing after telling the people I cared about the most and feeling the acceptance and unconditional love so I decided to come out to everyone at school. I chose to do it in the safest place I knew in the school which was my chemistry class with Mrs Bowers. Earlier that year Mrs. Bowers, at Caldwell High School, spoke about having a gay son who was in college that she was very proud of. So the day I went back to school I stood on my desk in her classroom and shouted “I’m gay” and everyone immediately started clapping.
My mom actually was the person who made me come out as a gay person. Knowing that our only communication during 14 years was only on the phone. But It was super simple. She called me one day and asked me; Steven, Are you gay? I had the option to hang the phone and never talk to her again knowing we do not grow up together. Or to be true to my self and tell her the true. So I told her that I was and right away she open her heart to me and offered to help me. Since then she’s became my best friend and someone I look up to. I was 15 when this happened. Next year I will be 30 and she asked me this year to go wedding dress shopping with her for her wedding next year. I’m so happy to have a mom who supports me in every aspect.
I remember coming home from seeing Oliver at The Majestic Theatre. I told my mother I think I’m bi. Till that point I honestly hadn’t hit that point of puberty where we discover attraction towards another human. I do however remember dancing in Cats my freshmen year of high school, and finding the boys in their unitards somewhat gravitating. That and the underwear section of Macys… Anyway, my mother is a fierce, beautiful role model. When I made up my mind senior year, and told her I was gay her exact words were, “Well at least some bitch won’t take you away from me.” To the ladies in my life, you are 100% that bitch, and I respect the hell out of each of you. But knowing my mom accepted me for who I am in her own way has always been something I am incredibly grateful for. the water was a great idea.
For me I think my most memorable coming out story was when I told my best friend, Derek, who I met when I was a freshman in college. I started coming out to people when I was 14, but when I went to college, I sort of snuck back into the closet a little bit. As freshman year ended, I came out to some of my closest girl friends, hoping they would be safer to tell than my guy friends. I wanted to tell Derek before we went back to school sophomore year though. He came over one day with my friend Chelsea who came for emotional support. He sat on my couch in my bedroom while I sat on my bed with Chelsea, and I couldn't find the words. Finally Chelsea yells, "JESUS! HE'S GAY!" to speed things along a bit. I was terrified of his reaction. Deep down, I wished he was gay too, and I hoped he would come out to me in return, but I was also afraid I would lose him as a friend. He didn't do either. Instead he just sat there for a second until I heard, "That's it?" I was half relieved the he was okay with it, and half disappointed he wasn't gay too. The disappointment stuck - I was so sure he was gay too. I felt a lot better about it the following October though when he finally came out to me too! I remember being so happy and so mad - "WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL ME WHEN I TOLD YOU??" He's been my best friend the last 10 years and we always recap our coming out to each other in October on National Coming Out Day.
I remember my first time officially coming out to someone I knew. It was my friend Branden. Branden and I met in Law School and became quick friends. Branden was also gay, and so I knew he would get what I was going through. The summer after my first year of law school I met a boy and we started to meet up every weekend. He lived in Greensboro, 1hr away from where I lived at home with my family in NC. My parents did not know I was leaving to see a boy every weekend. I kept making up stories of going to the beach or seeing old college friends. This boy was my first boyfriend, and it was a very special time. However, the constant lying to my parents of my whereabouts started to take a toll on me. Guilt and self-loathing started to set in. I remember calling my friend Branden in tears and asking him to forgive me for lying to him, and that I was sorry not telling him that I was gay earlier. I remember asking how could anyone be strong enough to tell their parents. With much love, he talked me through everything. Through my friend and his guidance, I was able to sum up the courage to come out to others and my parents. Having a good friend during that time is so important!