(Above) Trent, Age 4, 1976: "Growing up Southern Baptist, I was taught that being gay was bad. My mom thought gay people were mythical beings, 'like werewolves of vampires,' she once said. One time at dinner, when my parents found out that I went to a drag show with my then-girlfriend, my father told me he used to go to gay clubs to 'beat the shit out of fags.'"
Just in time for National Coming Out Day, a new collection of childhood photos called Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay hits bookstores nationwide today, featuring 100 heartfelt, homegrown photos of some of today's most notable LGBT faces. The new book, authored by DJ and blogger Paul Vitagliano, and published by Quirk Books, features adorable, often campy childhood photographs of people who today are proud members of the LGBT community. The photos are accompanied by first-person stories, which speak to anyone who has struggled with feeling different, coming out, and discovering what it takes to reach a day when it gets better.
Based off Vitagliano's popular blog of the same name, the author says he wanted to create a book to document the cultural experiences of growing up gay from the 1950s to present-day. "I wanted the larger message to be: I faced the same adversity you do today, and I ended up as a happy, loved and proud gay adult," said Vitagliano. "I omitted particularly brutal memories simply because I wanted this book to be appropriate reading material for kids as well as adults."
Check out the slideshow below for a sneak peek of some of The Advocate's favorite photos and stories featured in the book, and pick up a copy of Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay today.
Paul, aged 4
1984: "My childhood dream was to be Snow White. Although I couldn't whistle, I regaled everyone with my versions of 'Whistle While You Work' and 'Some Day My Prince Will Come,' raising some eyebrows around the house… My fairy tale has a very happy ending: I found my way out of the dark enchanted forest to a place of self-acceptance. I even found my own handsome prince, and our life together is as close to 'happily ever after' as I can imagine."
Melissa, aged 6
1988: "I remember thinking I was a boy, seeing no difference between me and other boys. It wasn't until puberty that I realized I was indeed a girl, and that sent my world into upheaval. But once I metother gay people in high school, I finally understood that I wasn't different or weird. I was just queer. And that was awesome!"
Matthew, aged 5
1995: "I wore this outfit to the park with my family, and some boys made fun of me. I was so upset, I never wore it again. That broke my mother's heart. She didn't like seeing me feel uncomfortable trying to be myself or doing things I wanted to do. I'm proud of my parents for buying that fairy outfit for me when I asked for it."
Marco, aged 6
1961: "This photo was taken at a cafe in an Italian spa town. My mom, dad, brother and I all sat down in these modern 1960s chrome chairs: however, I was the only one who crossed my legs in such a flirtatious way! As children, we almost never censor ourselves."
Liz, aged 6
1961: "I was obsessed with NASA and wanted to be an astronaut. I would lie upside down in our living room chairs and pretend I was orbiting Planet Earth in my own rocket. When I developed a huge crush on my butch gym teacher (didn't we all?), my mother told me that crushes on other girls were perfectly normal."
Kevin, aged 4
1964: "At the time this photo was taken, I was joyful, giddy, fearless and ready to perform. I mean, who wouldn't want to dance around on stage and receive all that attention? … It took me a long time to get comfortable with this photo, but now I look at it with great affection."
Kent, aged 8
1971: "In homage to my mom's Italian heritage, my dad turned our boring suburban backyard into a beautiful oasis with Roman columns and replicas of classical statues, When my sister suggested I give Caesar a little kiss, I went for it!"
Gabi, aged 7
1973: "I didn't quit trying to be straight until age 45. I met a woman during a visit to a mutual friend in the United States, and we fell in love almost instantly… I married my love in April 2010, and we now live in the Netherlands, where gay people have the same rights that straight people do."
Dennis, aged 3
1974: "It's still amazing to me that my pose here was not a clear sign to my parents. When I told them at the age of 19 that I was gay, their reaction was less than supportive. … They did not want to believe that this little boy, with his knee pointed just so and fabulous hands on his hips, grew up to be a gay man. Denial, anyone?"
Clarissa, aged 4
1973: "I always wanted to be tough and dirty, and I would go to work with my dad the mechanic. My mom found a way to get me to wear dresses by making them herself, patterning them after Lucy Van Pelt of the Peanuts cartoon: I acknowledged Lucy's toughness, and I felt tough in those dresses, too."