Celebrating Pride: 11 People Share Their Stories


June is LGBTQ Pride Month. To celebrate, we planned to use this post as an opportunity to highlight the stories of various LGBTQ-identifying members of our community.

Then the terrorist attack in Orlando happened. When these kinds of events occur, the word “tragedy” loses its weight. “Tragedy,” a single, lonely noun — the best one we have to describe such horrors — falls short when what we need, rather simply, is for the people who we’ve lost to come back. Maybe that’s why we can’t find our words in nightmares. They escape from our minds and hearts along with any cause to celebrate. Mourning is the only thing that feels appropriate.

But remember that these unthinkable events are exactly the time to celebrate. We must celebrate the lives lost. We must celebrate their names and legacies, their families’ strength. We must celebrate our differences, acceptance and equality. We must celebrate those who carry these values forward.

Before the Orlando attack occurred, we planned to ask 11 members of the LGBTQ community to talk about how they “came out,” or why they didn’t. No one should have to explain themselves and often there is an unfair burden placed on LGBTQ people to do so, but at Man Repeller, telling stories — especially ones about acceptance and self-compassion, often colored with humor, sometimes tinged with sadness — is how we attempt to take apart the walls that perpetuate shame and divide us. Safe spaces for candid discussions are how we build sisterhood and brotherhood and human-hood.

If “tragedy” sounds empty, here’s a word that’s actually useful: Camaraderie.

Which is why we thank those who spoke with us. This is how we celebrate. This is how we throw light into the universe: by sharing stories and love, by talking and learning and, ultimately, by breaking down barriers and crashing through those walls. This fight belongs to all of us.


Kristin Lyons

Kristin is a Mental Health Counselor working in New York.

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how and when you “came out”?

I think the biggest misconception about “coming out” is that once you are out, you’re out. “Congratulations! You DID IT!” *Fog horn* and that’s it. This, for me and for many, is not the reality. There is certainly something significant to be said about the first time I found the strength to tell a teammate from my basketball team in high school that “I think I like this one girl….not all girls… but just this one.” In fact, my willingness to speak up about who I am was met with the response: “Holy crap, Kristin, I am going through the same thing. I think I like this one girl…and definitely not all girls, too!” As a femme queer person who has always been able to “pass” as straight in society, I come out every single day, over and over and over again.

And then… sometimes I choose not to. Because while sometimes it feels really good and empowering to express to people both alike and different from me who I am, sometimes it may feel uncomfortable, scary or flat-out unsafe. Sometimes all I want to do is live my life and not be put in a position to have to advocate for who I am, or if I’m “really” gay, or “why” I am gay. Most of the time when I come out, the response I am looking for is “cool.” Sometimes “cool” can speak volumes.

What did that feel like?

For me, the only thing that has ever come close to feeling as good as loving myself and the person who I am is intrinsically believing that others love and accept me for who I am. Feeling accepted and being authentic enhances my relationship with myself and with others.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

There are many direct and indirect pressures to coming out and expressing yourself. The tragedy that happened to our Pulse Family in Orlando has created the essential awareness that you NEVER know how anyone is going to react to “difference.” There may be relationships or environments in a person’s life where being out is potentially harmful/unsafe for them. To anyone who is struggling with accepting or sharing parts of yourself with others…I have been there, sometimes I am STILL there, I am with you, so many are with you…you are not alone.

I may not know you personally, but I love you. I have experienced shame, radiating acceptance and everything in-between when it comes to being who I am. Your identity is your business and deciding when or if or should you disclose it is YOUR process. Demand people who support your process. As a Mental Health Professional, I will say that coming out affirms a core component of an individual’s identity, facilitates integration of the different identities individuals carry and promotes openness that enhances relational connections with others. Sometimes, like in my story, your willingness to be vulnerable and share parts of yourself may just be what someone else needs to give them the courage to be who they are. A great platform and safe space to promote the development of an affirming and robust self-concept is through personal psychotherapy and/or group therapy. Man Repeller: I am currently accepting clients. 😉

phillip salem-man repeller-pride-max hield photography

Phillip Salem

Phillip is a 29-year-old gay male and the owner of and designer at OWEN.

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how and when you “came out”?

My coming out story actually happened when someone at my first university consistently shouted homophobic remarks at me. At the time, I was still not out and was dealing with my own insecurities about being gay. This person kept asking why I “acted so gay all the time” and “why I carried a man bag because that just made me look like a girl.” She kept saying such negative comments and homophobic remarks that I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt like I couldn’t stand up for myself so I finally came out to my friend Sacha that week in my dorm room. I remember her smiling and saying, “I know. Where do you want to go for dinner?” I loved her response because I knew that she just accepted me for me and wanted to let me know that being gay was just as okay as being straight.

I remember feeling so much pressure to come out and I remember wishing that I didn’t have to. I kept asking myself, “Why can’t I just live my truth rather than feeling the need to tell my truth?” They might sound identical, but there’s a difference.

My wish is that one day the LGBTQ community can live their daily lives and respond to their feelings without having to worry about coming out. I think “coming out” needs to be retired at some point and the LGBTQ community can just live freely and openly, which I think is the direction we are definitely moving in. I know that if I have children, I want them to come home and tell me about the boy or girl they have a crush on, no matter what gender they are, without having to come out one way or another.

What did that feel like?

Before coming out, I felt so ashamed to be gay. I felt like I was such a liar. Why did I have to keep this “secret” and why didn’t my heterosexual friends have to come out to me? If I had the confidence 10 years ago that I do now, I would not have “come out.” I would have just lived my life as Phillip who just so happens to be gay, because being gay is only one part of me — a part of me that I love and accept — but just a part.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

Really find your allies and open up to them. If you have trouble finding people, I know many colleges and high schools have LGBTQA clubs and programs that welcome all members of the community, even if you do not attend that specific school. Reach out and find that support.

I feel so lucky that I grew up in a home that fully supported me and that I live in a city that I feel very safe in. However, I know many cities and countries where there are so many LGBTQ people living in fear and my hope is that they find that support system. And I hope homophobic people around the world start getting educated to get rid of their ignorance. Because homophobia isn’t about religious beliefs or what’s wrong or right, it simply is about hate…and the hate needs to stop.

mila jam-man repeller-pride-max hield photography

Mila Adderley

Mila, a transgender female, is a singer-songwriter, a recording artist and a possibility model.

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how and when you “came out”?

I desired ownership of my being. To have full accountability of my space in the world. I knew it would only benefit me in the long run. Coming out was less about an announcement and more about revealing more of me every chance I could. Speaking on it when necessary. I have to live with myself so I wanted those around me to be in the know. There was a take-it-or-leave-mentality in the beginning, but I had to do the work for myself to be okay. Time healed the early disconnect I faced with family.

What did that feel like?

I felt every emotion one can feel when revealing their truth: extreme vulnerability, uncertainty, opportunity, hope, nausea and more. I didn’t feel loneliness. I knew I was not alone. That was comforting. The belief that I would thrive facilitated my reality.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

Be patient with yourself. Love yourself. Even the unfamiliar parts. Learn everything you can about yourself. Learn what you want. What you don’t understand about your truth. What scares you. Research and gather information. That way you have the tools to no longer live in someone else’s projection of you.
I spent many years realizing my truth as a woman. Journaling. Reading. Exploring, safely.

Lastly, the world must know I love myself fiercely. I am a symbol of worth. Of triumph. I have irreplaceable value. I represent transformation and resurrection. I am light. As a trans woman of color, I possess the spirit of life because I live every day with purpose, uniqueness and joy. Not everyone knows how to handle that, which is so beautiful.


Chelsey Kent

Chelsey is a CPA in New York, and an avid adventurer and traveler.

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how and when you “come out”? What did that feel like?

Once I realized who I was and how I identified, it was nearly impossible to keep that part of myself in hiding. When people meet me, it is immediately clear that I do not identify on one pole of the gender binary. Little kids in gas stations are hilarious. They will just stand and stare, trying to place me into one of two buckets that we have created as a society. In a way, this sort of visibility is relieving. It takes away the burden of coming out over and over again to strangers as non-binary. On the other hand, having a non-binary presentation provokes anxiety for the exact same reasons.

Being constantly outed based on your appearance fosters an internalized self-consciousness over the very expression that makes you feel your most authentic and confident self. There isn’t one defining moment that I can point to and say, yes, that is when I came out. I feel like I probably should have known more about my gender identity or sexual orientation at a young age, but the world was different 10-15 years ago. GLEE didn’t exist, and I grew up in a tiny rural town in Western New York where I literally showed cows at the county fairs in the summer.

(I’m not kidding. And yes, I know the lyrics to all of the country hits from the ’90s.)

I didn’t have the language to understand the complex continuum of gender or sexuality, only my personal feelings of alienation and discomfort around so many gendered paradigms.  For those of you who I might be losing I highly recommend googling the Genderbread Person.

I started realizing I was attracted to women my senior year of high school, and I began sharing this with some of my closest friends. In college, I further explored my gender identity and expression. The latter has taken the most time to own and feel confident about, but I can say that wearing a tux in my best friend’s wedding was one of the times that I felt the most myself to date.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

You are beautiful no matter how you identified yesterday, how you identify today or how you will identify tomorrow. Everyone’s journey in discovering themselves and their process of sharing who they are with the world is unique and nothing makes one path more beautiful than the next. Coming out is a process and you will likely come out to yourself a couple times, too, as you grow into yourself and your identity. I would urge you to build a support system of a handful of people who you can be yourself around and who encourage you to continue exploring your identity. This has been an invaluable asset throughout my life, and I still rely on my support system on the more trying days. Despite the obstacles, I wouldn’t change or take back any part of my process. Be proud of who you are and how you got there. Value your personal journey of discovering yourself. Anyone who you share yourself with is lucky to have heard more about you.


Max Stein

Max is the founder of Brigade

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how and when you “came out”?

I came out shortly after graduating from college and moving to New York. I am not sure that I felt pressure to make an event of it. Instead, I would say I felt a lot of anxiety about being totally and completely sure before I spoke the words, as they felt very permanent. In retrospect I probably waited too long…but you live, you learn, and I don’t really have regrets.

What did that feel like?

I had a small list of people I felt I owed it to — to let them know firsthand. The weird thing is that with each person I told, I still had a lot of anxiety. I had no friends or family who I even remotely imagined would be upset, but I still was really nervous. I am not generally an anxious person and can’t really explain it. I am also not sure when exactly the anxiety went away. Regardless, it all feels very silly now.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

I am usually not short on advice, but I feel like this is so personal. Do what feels right, and try not to be scared. Life always works out.

kim stolz-man repeller-pride-max hield photography

Kim Stolz

Kim is gay, was born and raised in New York City, and lives with her girlfriend on the Upper East Side.

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how and when you “came out”?

I came out a little bit and then all at once. I spent the end of high school and college coming out in pieces–to my parents, my friends, my classmates, my family. I never felt the pressure to come out, though I felt an innate pressure from myself to be who I was outwardly and confidently. I’ve never known any other way to be.

What did that feel like?

I remember my family struggling with my coming out in high school and college but when people ask me if that was “difficult,” I always feel somewhat puzzled. It should have been difficult, but the much more overwhelming and overarching feeling was that I was understanding and feeling love for the first time, knowing that could not possibly be “wrong,” and so in fact it wasn’t difficult – I was too excited about who I was and the things I was feeling. Apparently I was so excited about it that in 2005, after I graduated college, I came out on national television via a reality television show, which would pretty much mark the last time I would ever have to come out. Suddenly my sexuality was Google-able and the continual process of “coming out” that many gay people experience was all done for me in a 3-second moment on television.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

Through all of my coming out experiences, whether to one person or several at once, one thing remains constant: the more confident and definitive you can be in coming out, the less room you leave people to judge you or let their ignorances or internal insecurities and homophobias play a part in your story. So my advice to anyone thinking about coming out is, first and foremost, do it. There is not a single benefit to staying in the closet and, if anything, it is almost always damaging to your career, friendships and certainly relationships. And when you come out, be confident, be definitive and be proud — what you express will be the guide for everyone around you.


Dash Katz

Dash is a queer, New York-based singer/actor/entertainer.

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how and when you “came out”?

I absolutely felt burdened about coming out. To think that the people I loved could potentially abandon me for who I am left me in crippling fear. I later realized that the true, loyal and intelligent people in my life would accept me for being me. Because the LGBT+ community has to come out, life provides a process for us that weeds out all of the ignorant people. I endured a lot of trauma and pain throughout my coming out process. I am a survivor and I am brave. I’m so proud that I have learned to love myself and live my truth unapologetically.

What did that feel like?

It’s really hard to answer this question because it feels far too simplified. Coming out for me and for many others is a collection of different experiences, stages and time. We live in a society where LGBT+ lives are not treated as equals, so we constantly have to stand up for ourselves and our worth. That’s what makes this community so strong and so brave. I feel so proud to be fighting the good fight — one for love and one for equality.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

Live your truth and be yourself. What helped me a lot is learning that sexuality is a spectrum and rarely are people 100% gay or 100% straight. Don’t let society confine you. I personally identify with the word “queer” since it’s very open and fluid. The only person that can identify you is you.

If you want, find whatever word you feel comfortable identifying with. If you’d rather live a life with no labels, that is just as acceptable and empowering. When you first come out, tell the people who you KNOW will be accepting of you. That way you can build an army of warriors who stand behind you and accept you for who you are. Coming out to loved ones (especially family) is never going to be easy. It comes down to taking a leap of faith and trusting that no matter what happens, you are going to be okay.

You have to live your life for YOU. Don’t hide for anyone. Don’t live in fear and don’t live a lie. You deserve to be free and you deserve to love yourself openly and honestly. As my icon RuPaul always says, “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?!”

Once you come out, a life full of freedom, bravery and empowerment awaits you.


Katherine Watson

Katherine grew up in London and is currently studying for her MBA in New York. 

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how and when you “came out”?

I never felt pressure to formally come out even though I knew I was bisexual very early in my teens. I began dating women in high school and was openly bisexual by the time I was at university in London, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a sit down conversation with anyone where I definitively announced that I was bisexual. I understand this is in some ways a luxury that comes with growing up in a liberal environment, but I am hopeful this is the way it will be for everyone in the future.

What did that feel like?

I’ve always found it simplest to behave like everyone already knows, and by this point, I think everyone in my life does know that I have been in relationships with both women and men and I’ve been lucky to never come across anyone who has ever expressed an issue with that.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

I think my advice would widely vary depending on the age, location and background of the person asking. But generally I would say to surround yourself with accepting, open-minded people even if you aren’t ready to share that part of yourself with them yet. Being around people for whom this is no big deal will help you gradually feel the same. I don’t think anyone should feel rushed to tell people about their sexuality if they aren’t ready yet, but I do think the more there are people from every walk of life and every background who are open about their sexuality or even about who they are dating at the moment, no matter the gender, the easier this process gets for everyone else.

nader khorassani-man repeller-pride-max hield photography

Nader Khorassani

Nader is a New York-based attorney/dancer/crossfitter.

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how you came to live your life as an openly gay man?

I absolutely felt pressure to come out. To be honest, “coming out” was something that I dreaded for years before I started to be open about being gay. There was no part of me that wanted to sit anyone down and share that news. In part, it was because I had no idea how to bring up the topic, and the moment never seemed to present itself. Quite frankly, I was embarrassed to talk about it. I wasn’t raised to talk about sex openly, so it felt weird to bring up the topic of who I was sexually attracted to. Plus, there are so many layers to all of our lives – family, friends, co-workers, etc. – that I felt like I had to have multiple coming out “moments,” which only compounded my anxiety about the issue. It seemed so unfair that unlike straight people, I had to affirmatively announce my sexuality to everyone. I wished it could just happen passively, without me having to bring it up.

That’s why there isn’t really one day when I burst out of the closet. Instead, I took a more laid-back approach to coming out. I remember talking about being gay with a few friends in college after they asked me if I was (which I so appreciated), and word eventually spread throughout my friend group that I was gay. It just became a fact that those around me acknowledged without ever really acknowledging, if that makes any sense. I wound up studying abroad in Argentina a few months after, though, and was back at square one, since I didn’t know anyone in the program. I wanted everyone to know that I was gay from the start, so decided I’d drop what I thought were subtle hints to let everyone in on the “secret.” I remember announcing my devotion to Mariah Carey on day two in Buenos Aires in a conscious effort to “hint” to everyone that I wasn’t straight. To think I thought that was subtle. Needless to say, it worked, and I was able to clue people in that I was gay without having to sit anyone down and announce it.

Despite my desire to avoid coming out “moments” and my success at doing so with my friends and co-workers, I did have one with my mom. No matter how many hints I dropped, me being gay was not something that we had come to acknowledge. At least I felt like we hadn’t. I felt an enormous amount of pressure to have a moment with her and officially tell her, “I’m gay.” I don’t know why, but I felt like I owed that to her. I wasn’t scared of her reaction at all, but I just felt uncomfortable talking about it, so I avoided it for years. Then, one Thanksgiving eve, I decided it was time. I had friends who knew that I was gay coming over for the holiday the next day, and I couldn’t bear the thought of them having to filter or censor themselves for fear of outing me. So the night before they arrived I worked up the courage to tell my mom, and wound up blurting it out in the kitchen after I had a glass of wine. And, after all the years of strife and angst, dreading that moment, her reaction could not have been more calming, yet frustrating at the same time: “Oh, I know, I was wondering what was taking you so long to tell me.” Thanks, Mom.

The result of this coming out process has been that I simply am gay, just like other people are straight — it just is what it is. It’s not something I am hiding, and even more importantly, it isn’t something that I feel the need to inform people about. I’m Persian. I have brown eyes. I’m Irish. I’m gay. My sexuality suddenly is just one part of my identity. If it comes up, I’ll of course be open about it. If it doesn’t, I’m not going to intentionally broadcast it, either, although you’ll probably still know I’m gay. That’s a different story.

What did that feel like?

I felt such a wide array of emotions over the course of opening up about being gay since it took place over the course of a few years. I was terrified at first, to the point that I remember saying, “I’m sorry if that’s a problem” to one of the first men I ever told I was gay (he asked me after my Mariah Carey comment). And although I was never bullied for being perceived as gay, I was definitely made fun of by classmates and other kids my age when I was younger because my taste in music, TV, etc., was something they viewed as typically “gay.” As a result, I developed insecurities about who I was and had low self-esteem.

It wasn’t until I started to live my life openly gay that these insecurities began to dissipate and I started to experience self-confidence for the first time. Fortunately, everyone who found out that I was gay had such positive reactions. I remember people literally cheering and hugging me when I confirmed their suspicions shortly after arriving in Buenos Aires. I suddenly realized that being gay was not a bad thing, and that it wasn’t something that people would constantly ridicule me for being. I didn’t realize that it was okay to like Kelly Clarkson or that I didn’t need to apologize for wanting to see Dreamgirls. Letting other people accept me for who I am, including the “gay” parts of me, allowed me to be confident in who I am.

And sure, there will always be people who make fun of me and other gay men and women for being gay and for liking typically “gay” things, but it’s only been after outwardly owning who I am and what I like — yes, I am obsessed with Real Housewives — that I’ve gotten to the point where I really don’t care about those people anymore.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

I would encourage them to realize that by keeping your sexuality a secret, you’re preventing yourself from having deep and meaningful relationships with those around you. That’s ultimately why I came out. I was tired of avoiding certain conversation topics with my friends and family, of feeling uncomfortable when Bree’s gay son came out during Desperate Housewives, etc., and I wanted to be able to relate more closely to and be more open with those who are important to me.

I felt like not being open about being gay was holding me back constantly, almost like I was wearing a muzzle. In effect, I was. Because I was self-censoring all the time. And you are probably doing the same if you’re not being open about being gay. Whether or not you’re doing so consciously, you’re stifling part of yourself. You’re only hurting yourself by staying in the closet because people who you love and want in your life are not getting to know the full “you,” and your relationships with these people will remain superficial until they do. If you can’t share something so essential to your identity with someone you want to get close with, how do you ever expect to have an intimate relationship with them? Opening up about your sexuality will deepen and improve your relationships with those around you, and with yourself. And to the extent that your being gay will, in the long run, negatively affect your relationship with anyone, you need to ask yourself, “Do I really want that kind of person in my life?” Spoiler alert: the answer is no.


Annie Kurdziel

Annie is a graduate student at Columbia Business School. She’s also a wife, an amateur photographer, a dog and cat owner, and is still figuring out the rest.

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how and when did you “come out”?

I first came out by text, to my Mom, when I was 19 years old. I had my first (girl) kiss a few weeks prior and although I had known it for a long time, I didn’t want to say anything until things were more materialized, i.e., when I had a real person to introduce. This was 2005, so texting was still new and my mom, while many things, is not technologically literate.

An hour later she wrote back “hi” and I knew that things would be okay (and that it took her the entire 58 minutes after reading my text to type that). My family was my biggest priority. As an only adopted child, I wanted their love and support. Although my uncle is gay and my dad’s best friend is as well, the apprehension was still there.

My family is very Catholic and I wasn’t exactly sure how quickly they would embrace my identity. However, I think they ended up marching in Pride parades before I did. After my family, I was quickly aware of my community. At the time,I was a sophomore at a Catholic school in Boston. There weren’t many students there who had come out. I felt pressure, in some ways, to be out on campus because I wanted the culture to change. There weren’t great LGBTQ rights for employees at the time, for example, and I wanted to be part of changing that culture. I also wanted future students to know that you could have a good experience at a Catholic school while being out. (I definitely did, but that was not true for everyone.) If I’m honest, the pressure came from within because I wanted to create change and it was hard to do that from inside the closet.

What did that feel like?

If you’ve ever gone for a long run on a hot day and then come back to take a shower, you know how great that cold shower feels. You’re immediately relieved, your body still trying to normalize after a rush of adrenaline. But then after you get out of the shower you still feel a little hot. I think coming out was like that experience. The process of coming out was the relief of that cold shower. I felt great. The reality is that you still come out again and again. I just started a new internship and had to navigate that process. (It’s been wonderful!). When I started business school, I had to go through that process. I’m sure that when my wife and I have children, we will go through some process of coming out to parents and probably our children’s friends. I’ve been very blessed that with only a few exceptions, coming out has always been a really good feeling.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

Every experience will be different. That’s okay. I’m not sure why I wrote my parents instead of calling them or doing it in person. It just felt right. If you’re struggling with coming out, ask for help. Ask people you trust who have come out. Ask the internet. It’s okay to see a therapist. Therapy was one of the best things that I did when I was coming out — not because it’s shameful or wrong, but because there is so much to unpack when you’re figuring out your identity — to yourself and to others. Mostly, trust your gut and know that even though you might be struggling now, we have all been there. The struggle is real, but it does get better. Sometimes now I even forget that I needed to come out. I just am.

cary gibson-man repeller-pride-max hield photography

Cary Gibson

Cary is gay, grew up in Georgia and lives with her girlfriend in New York.

Members of the LGBTQ community are often unfairly burdened with “coming out.” Did you feel that pressure? Can you share the story of how and when you “came out”?

Growing up in a conservative southern city, the closest societal association to “coming out” was becoming a debutant. Being gay (in any “out” sense) simply was not an option. I spent years hiding that I was gay — cloaking myself underneath various masks. Not coming out immediately was mostly a result of my internal fear (even if it externally manifested in some ways) of not being accepted, hindering my career or disappointing my family. As a youth, if it was not outright-negatively portrayed, being gay was too often associated with some sort of “different lifestyle choice.”

What did that feel like?

When I came out, I realized that I needed to accept myself, and I needed to have more faith in those around me. My relationships and career have only grown stronger without the painful efforts of constantly hiding. I finally feel comfortable in my own skin without all those false advertising layers and I am proud to say I am gay. Coming out remains a continual process as I meet new people, make new friends or reacquaint myself with people from home. Each time I tell someone I am gay, I feel I get back a moment when I was too scared to say it before.

What advice would you give to those struggling to come into themselves? To those struggling to share that journey with others?

With anyone struggling to come out, I believe it is important to give more credit to those around you and remember it is your choice to come out. Your sexuality is part of who you are, not a “choice” — so be proud of it.

Photographed by Max Hield and Krista Anna Lewis.


Team Repeller

This byline is used for stories that involved several Repeller team members, and company announcements.

More from Archive