Healing, One Truth at a Time

An award-winning journalist shares his “It Gets Better” journey to OUT100.

BY Advocate.com Editors

January 24 2014 11:36 AM ET

Patrick Riley is an award-winning pop culture journalist based just outside Manhattan, but the big city is a far cry from his childhood in Savannah, Ga. “Dodging my truth” is how Riley describes growing up in the South in the late ’70s. It was then that he noticed the creative adults in his childhood — church choir directors, musicians, and event planners were “gay, or called ‘gay,’” and their personal lives were “always looked down upon.” To avoid similar judgments, Riley pursued creative outlets while maintaining the appearance of being a “straight teen with a girlfriend.”

After graduating from Atlanta’s Morehouse College with a degree in broadcast journalism, Riley slowly began to come out to his friends and family, one person at a time, and watched his life “improve exponentially.”

Once out, Riley found his life was less stressful; he no longer needed to live a double life at home and at work. “I also found that being transparent gave those who were and are resistant a chance to see what the life and love looked liked on me,” says Riley. “And since I was someone they loved, some of their own ignorance could melt away, one anecdote at a time.”

Riley wishes the It Gets Better Project was around when he was growing up. “I do a lot of career day speeches all over New York City,” he says, “and that work has informed so much of what I do now. It’s evidence that I’m here to have it be easier for a young person who may not have to stay as closeted as long as I did.”

Riley’s message to teens today: “More and more people are understanding and that we should each be allowed to be who we are and what we are and to love who we love. So, even though we must still be mindful that hate and ignorance still exist, the debt on the struggle is soon to be paid.”

Riley was thrilled to win tickets to the OUT100 awards event from the Wells Fargo / It Gets Better contest. “I think the OUT100 represents the same level of power or influence that any other great list does,” he says. “It informs those on the inside and the outside what the pulse of a movement is in that window of time — whether a year or a decade. And because of that powerful message, I wanted to be a part of that movement.”

After attending OUT100, Riley says things are in fact getting better for LGBT people. Aside from advances in marriage equality, Riley also sees gay people as authorities in a variety of fields, from government to science and even sports. Even though more public figures are coming out every year, Riley thinks we should “embrace and respect the individual time that it takes each person to do so. Hearts are healing, one truth at a time.”

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