As a gay millennial living in New York City, I often joke that my biggest concern is trying to figure out which handsome men in the Financial District are gay or straight. Whatever happened to stereotypes?4. My Little Pony
While many of us don't set off any gaydar, there are others who certainly gave off a few telltale signs when they were growing up. Their mothers probably should have picked up on them, right? My mom had many opportunities to figure out I was gay. When I came out during my freshman year at college, she screamed, "But you played football!" Yes, I did play sports, but I also watched Clueless regularly and told people that Marissa Cooper from The O.C. would make an interesting best friend.
Below are similar stories from guys around the country; in the comments, tell us the clues that should have tipped your mom off.
1. Color Sensitivity
"One Christmas morning, I threw an ABSOLUTE FIT when the color of the Abercrombie sweatshirt I received was the wrong shade of yellow (it was "mustard" and I wanted a "bright yellow").
I was only able to internalize my horror long enough for my family to get to my grandparents' house, at which point I locked myself in one of the bedrooms and screamed/cried at my mom when she asked what was wrong. From then on out, she always took me to pick out the exact clothes I wanted before wrapping them up as gifts for birthdays or holidays." --Peter D., 27, Madison, Wis.
2. Female Avatars in Video Games
"My mom should have known I was gay since the third grade, if not earlier. I was obsessed with fashion and style, and always had dreams of working in fashion, which for a Korean mother isn't an easy pill to swallow. I also always picked the girl characters in video games. Kitana from Mortal Kombat? Yas hunni, slay!"--Steven Chong, 28, New York City
3. A Love of "All Things Musical"
"Although I came out to my friends and family my senior year at the University of Notre Dame, the jig was pretty much up when I wrote the following line, without an ounce of irony or self-awareness, to begin my college admissions essay: "I consider myself a lover of all things musical." When I gave the essay to my mom and aunt to proofread, my "gay" faux pas quickly spread throughout the whole extended family.
My entire family has been nothing but accepting and fully supportive of me since coming out, but there has also not been a single family party where I haven't been jokingly referred to or introduced as 'The Lover of All Things Musical.'"--Sean C., 29, Houston
"My mom was proud to raise the world's first Brony. My childhood toy of choice was the My Little Pony -- and I had hundreds of them. Merely collecting the ponies was not enough for this drama queen though. My ponies served as cast members in my own full-on soap opera. Borrowing plots and characters from Beverly Hills 90210
and Days of Our Lives
(which I watched with my mom), my ponies acted out storylines involving teen pregnancy, drug addiction, and near-death falls from the ledge of our above-ground pool.
One time, Rocket, a pink boy pony with blue hair and a rocket symbol on his back, developed a strange crush on Scottie, a green boy pony with pink hair and a terrier puppy symbol on his back. Mom encouraged this pony drama -- she stood in the girls' aisle of KB Toys as I decided which pony was the right fit for my collection, listened intently as I explained who each pony was dating, and even helped me decorate their pony homes (they were not stables!) for Christmas."--
Rich F., 30, New York City5. Three-Piece Suits
"Growing up, I was always fascinated by my mom's clothes. Whether hiding in the middle of the racks at women's clothing stores while she shopped, or giving her advice on the right accessory to complete an outfit, I was her go-to fashion consigliere. To this day, I still know her closet and its contents well enough to give the occasional advice in advance of an important evening.
So, I don't think it came as a major surprise to my parents when I came out of my own closet at 18. Of course, my preference for three-piece suits at age 4 might have been their first clue Lucky for me, my coming-out just brought us closer together as a fashion-conscious family."--
Todd Sears, 39, New York City6. Whitney Houston
"When I was about 10 years old, I was in love with Whitney Houston. Like most gay boys of the time, I seriously couldn't get enough of her. When she released "I'm Every Woman" I was literally OBSSESSED. One Saturday, after a couple of hours in my room working on my "project," I told my parents I had something to show them.
I recreated her look from the music video, stuffed my shirt with pillows and flawlessly (for a 10-year-old) lip-synched my personal rendition of the song. I nailed it, choreography and all. Every. Single. Word. The best part is that before I started, I handed her a note that read: "This is for my favorite woman, inspired by my second favorite woman. BUT I'M NOT GAY, MOMMY."
Apparently, I was wrong." --
Damion M., 26, Los Angeles
8. Beach Boys
7. Dress-Up Parties, In Mom's Clothes
"When I made my brother play dress-up with me we always used my mom's clothes. My excuse was that my dad's clothes were too big for us."--Frank C., 54, New York City
"Growing up LDS (Mormon) in Pacific Beach and La Jolla in San Diego, I never was the kid that hung out at the beach to surf. My mom once asked me why I did not learn to surf, I told her it was because the guys made fun of me and told me I was a fag. ... She told me to act more masculine. I appeased her by spending lots of time at the beach. I just never did bother to learn to surf. I went to the beach to look at men.
And when it was time to pick a college I only applied to one school. Brigham Young University- awaii, in Laie up on the north shore of Oahu. We had gone on a family vacation the Christmas before and looked at the campus. All I needed to know was that is was at the beach and that there were lots of handsome men on the beach. When I got to school in Hawaii I had my Tahitian girlfriends at the Polynesian Cultural Center teach me their dances and all about tiare-scented coconut oil for a good tan."--
Morgan S., 47, West Hollywood
9. Spice Girls 12. Grindr
"I would have to say the big red flag for my mother wasn't that I was playing Spice Girl Barbies, but I couldn't just be any Spice Girl, I HAD to be Posh. That or the fact that every one of my main characters in The Sims was a gorgeous, well-dressed woman."--Russell R., 27, Buffalo, N.Y.
10. AOL Chat Rooms
"In the days before Grindr, AOL chat rooms were where you went to connect with other gay men. The painstakingly slow dial-up access (can you still hear the modem noise?) and the by-the-minute charges would yield a $200 bill at the end of month, which was pretty telling of my gay online activities. I was also always curious about who around me was gay offline too.
On the weekends, I would frequently head into New York City from the suburbs to Chelsea and the Village to scope out the gayborhood. I would also venture to clubs like Limelight, Twilo, and to gay bars and parties, like Starlight and Beige. And, I grew up in a family with two gay brothers, and many of my closest friends were girls growing up, so I'm sure my mom had a pretty good idea of my gayness."--Joel Simkhai, 38, Los Angeles
11. A Bewitching Halloween Costume
"Forget the 'N SYNC concerts and the Spice World poster on my door. When I was 5 or 6, I demanded that I be a witch for Halloween, specifically because 'the hat was fantastic.' Her and dad got me the fake nose, green face paint, and yes, the fantastic black hat. Maybe that's why when I came out she told me she 'figured as much.'"--DJ R., 26, Pittsburgh
"Aside from collecting Beanie Babies throughout grade school and managing the girls' volleyball team (sports!), passing out on the couch over college break with the most luminous orange Grindr glow on my forehead was probably my most shining (and defining!) moment."--
Fran R., 27, Washington, D.C.13. A (Platonic) Love of Lucie
"My mom witnessed the biggest fight I ever had with my dad. My dad approached me and offered to buy me a (female) prostitute for my 16th birthday. Horrified at the thought, I completely freaked out! I protested, cried ... hyperventilated!
My famous quote from the fight: 'I don't want a WOMAN for my birthday!!!!! You promised you were buying me tickets to They're Playing Our Song
starring Robert Klein and Lucie Arnaz on Broadway!' It's an exact quote."--
Joe Gulla, 51, New York City
14. Beanie Babies
"It should've been a sign when no one in my family -- not my brothers, not my male cousins, not my female cousins, not my aunts or uncles -- was more excited about their Beanie Baby collection. To the point that my grandmother and I would attend Beanie Baby conventions. Repeatedly.
And I would place my most prized Beanie Babies (purple Princess and tie-dyed Peace) in their own display cases. I'm not saying that collecting Beanie Babies was gay. But, then again, all my friends from elementary school who collected Beanie Babies with me came out too."--Curtis C., 28, San Francisco15. Shania Twain
"Looking back, there were a few obvious signs my mom should have picked up on. If it wasn't asking Santa for glitter gel pens and Grease
for Christmas one year, then it was listening on repeat to 'That Don't Impress Me Much' by Shania Twain on my Walkman. Make it work."--
Malcolm W., 24, Philadelphia16. Precocious Kissing
"My mother seemed genuinely shocked when I told her I was gay. Driving home for college break, I got mad at her for not already knowing. Even though I hadn't actually said it, I felt as if I'd been telling her about my gayness since the day I was born.
When I was a toddler, I was a ball of queerness, camp, and baby fat all rolled into one. C'mon, I drank chocolate milk out of a baby bottle even after I learned how to walk. I loved wearing ridiculous costumes and tight jeans. I loved posing for pictures in the park; at least I look happy in the washed-out photographs. And every birthday, I asked that my gift be a mermaid doll. Of course, none of this tipped my mother off. Let's blame it on motherly denial or naivete or a strange mix of both. But who's to say why she still didn't know when I was 5 years old, when she caught me making out with another boy."--
Oscar Raymundo, 29, San Francisco
17. The Sound of Music
"I had the entire soundtrack to The Sound of Music memorized by the time I was 6."--Fritz S., 49, New York City
"I was an introverted child. Quiet and gentle. With a love for animals. From the earliest age I always felt I was different and always wondered if others could tell. I was very close to my mother (yes, a mama's boy). When I was seven I was playing with my younger sister and two family friends, both young girls. It occurred to me that it would be very fun to play dress-up. So I disappeared and came back with my mom's wig and put on one of my sister's dresses.
The girls erupted with applause and we decided to show my mom. I walked into the living room, and I'll never forget my mom's face: startled at first and then laughter. She took the pic you see here (I'm second from the left). I recently spoke to her and asked her if this episode tipped her off. She said this one didn't tip her off, but the following year when I insisted on going to the Boy Scouts Halloween party in a dress and wig, she had an inkling. Needless to say, I was the only little boy in drag. My dad who grew up in a rough neighborhood, worked in construction, and was very volatile, did not know how to handle me, and my childhood with him was painful. But I knew I had to march to my own drummer and I did. Thankfully."--Evan Lobel, 50, New York City
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JEFFREY HARTINGER is a writer and lives in New York City. Visit his website or follow him @BuffaloGuyInNYC.