Telling our

Telling our

Eileen GearingAge: 44 Residence: Orlando, Fla.
Occupation: Medical biller

On coming out:
After years of feeling suffocated in the workplace, I
decided it was time to come out and be proud of who I am. At
my last job in Connecticut, my constant fear of
rejection perpetuated a web of lies that were way out
of control and very hard to keep track of. I promised
myself when I moved to Florida the lies would end. I
currently work in a very small medical office and have
become close friends with two very conservative female
coworkers. One of them is a preacher’s daughter who
voted for George Bush based on “moral” issues,
and the other one would have voted the same, had she
made it to the polls that day. After two years of
enduring a nagging pit in my stomach and waiting for the
right moment, I finally sat them down and said,
“I am gay.” The reactions from both
women were all I had hoped for; acceptance, compassion,
honesty, and respect were given to me that day. A
50-ton weight was lifted off my shoulders and that pit
in my stomach is long gone. I came out to my boss and
the rest of my coworkers a week later, and they too showered
me with love and support. The truth never felt so

John StormonAge: 48 Residence: Olympia, Wash.
Occupation: Water quality technician

On coming out: I
work for the state of Washington, Department of Ecology,
protecting groundwater quality. Although I’ve known
that I’m gay since I was in college, I
haven’t shared that fact with others until now. At
the age of 48 it’s time to be out and proud. I
like to think of myself as an honest person;
I’m tired of lying to the people I care about.
I’m not sure how coming out will change my
life, but I hope that it will help me to be more open
and share my feelings.

Sue DeVolAge: 34 Residence: San Diego
Occupation: Law enforcement officer

On coming out: I
entered Point Loma Nazarene College, a small Christian
school in San Diego, when I was 17 years old. I shared my
dorm room with three other girls, and my quad
consisted of 12 girls total. We had little space
between us, and my girlfriend would visit a lot. After a few
months I got a letter from the dean of students
requiring me to meet with her. My roommates had sold
me out. They didn’t even approach me with their
concerns! I was blindsided. Right out of the gate, the dean
asked me if I was in a homosexual relationship. I
didn’t lie. “Well, Sue, you have an easy
decision to make now. Either you can tell your parents or I
can. And being a parent myself [how smug of her to say
this], if my daughter had something like this to tell
me, I’d want to hear it from her and not the
school administration.” My coming out consisted of
being forced to tell my parents that I had a
girlfriend. I wrote them a letter because I
didn’t have enough courage to tell them in person.
Mom thought it was a phase, and Dad refused to talk to
me. I was too young to handle this, especially without
any support. I knew I wouldn’t get backing from my
roommates, school administration, or anyone else. My folks
still aren’t excited about my sexuality, but I
know they love me and are proud of my other

Paola LipovskyAge: 36 Residence: Bethel, Conn.
Occupation: Banking associate

On coming out: I
am currently in a committed 10 1/2-year relationship
with my wonderful partner, Patty. I’m out to my
family and friends, but not out at work. I feel like
I’m leading a double life every time I go to
the office. I never talk about what I did on the weekends
because I am so fearful of sharing my true life.
Sometimes I wish someone would ask me if I were gay,
because I think I would answer truthfully; I can’t
seem to say it myself. For over a decade I’ve
lived this way, and I am getting really tired of being
so scared and deceitful. I hope by writing this I will
be free of my fears and I’ll come out completely.

Jan UnderwoodAge: 51 Residence: Bakersfield, Calif.
Occupation: Associate clinical social worker

On coming out: I
got married at 19 years old but soon came to the
realization that I was more attracted to the lesbians at my
local hot spot than to my husband. I soon divorced and
made my way to the lesbian table at the bar.
Unfortunately, I could not fully come out. I was so
scared of what society would think of me that I fearfully
followed the norm and married for the second time. My
second husband and I started going to individual
therapy around the tenth year of our marriage. On my
first visit to the therapist’s office I announced I
was “bisexual.” While in therapy, the
truth kept surfacing, and I soon had to confess to my
husband that I was living a lie; I was not a heterosexual
woman. It was painful but absolutely necessary to give
my husband—and I—the dignity we both
deserved. After my divorce I fell in love for the first
time. When that relationship broke up, I called my
father and confessed with a torrent of tears that this
“friend” was a woman. My sweet 70-year-old
father was nurturing, compassionate, and emotionally
understanding. He held my hand, comforted my heart,
and dried my eyes even though he was 1,500 miles away.

Michele A. HelbergAge: 31 Residence: Astoria, N.Y.
Occupation: Theatrical company manager

On coming out:
The most moving part of my coming-out process was when I
finally let my parents in on what had been weighing so
heavily on me—that I was a lesbian. I was
living in New York City, and being in the closet was
something that was becoming so stressful I went into
therapy. After one particularly powerful session I
walked back to my office, as I typically did, and in a
moment of empowerment, I called home. My dad answered
as I knew he would. “Dad,” I said,
“there is something I need to tell you.”
Now, we have always had a great relationship and could talk
about anything, but I do think the abrupt nature of the call
and perhaps the shaking in my voice scared him a
little. He urged me to continue, and I did. I will
remember to this day what he said when I finally finished
rambling. “You are my daughter and I love you. There
is nothing more to say then that.” It was like
a 10-ton weight had been lifted. At the time I
wasn’t ready to continue my process and tell my
mother just yet. She was from a big traditional
family; her father was a Catholic deacon and her
sister is a nun. However, when I finally did tell her the
response was the same: “You are my daughter and
I love you.”

Renée SheldonAge: 24 Residence: Ashtabula, Ohio
Occupation: Child case manager

On coming out: I
was working as the assistant manager at Waldenbooks and
was engaged to a guy named Andrew. When I first met Andrew I
told him I thought I might be bisexual and he told me
it didn’t matter to him. A couple months after
we got engaged, my boss and I started hiring summer
help at the bookstore. This persistent girl came in and said
she was very interested in the position, so she was
hired. Her name was Kerri. We started getting close
and having personal conversations. I found out she had
secretly dated a girl in high school, as had I! I
couldn’t believe it. She confessed she had
developed feelings for me, which I had for her. I was
up front and honest with Andrew about everything. I had my
first kiss with Kerri on July 11, 2003, and
we’ve been together ever since. We have a house
together and three cats. We’re both just about done
with undergraduate school and on our way to grad
school. I’m going to school for counseling, she
for law. It’s a wonderful little life we have
together, and I couldn’t ask for more. Both our
families are very supportive, want us to get married,
and enjoy seeing us so happy.

Thomas CabanissAge: 57 Residence: Halifax, Va
Occupation: Currently unemployed

On coming out: I
was 45 when I came out in my hometown of Danville, Va. I
have two daughters, and at the time the oldest was 16 and
the youngest was 12. My oldest daughter will not speak
to me, but my youngest daughter had accepted it, and
we still speak to each other. I told my mother about
it, and she absolutely refused to accept it. I came from a
strict religious Baptist background, and that’s
why my mother will not accept it. She was confined to
a wheelchair at the time, and I believe she would have
fainted if she was standing up. She died in 1998 with a
prayer for my salvation on her lips. I hated to lose
the love and respect of my family, but I could not
live my life for them. As for my oldest daughter, I am
afraid I’ve lost her forever, but as long as I have
my youngest I think I can survive.

Bob Schwartz Age: 65 Residence: Fort Lee, N.J.
Occupation: Retired attorney

On coming out:
After many years of marriage and three children, I
came out to my wife. While we struggled, trying
to see if we could create some type of family, I
found support in the Gay Fathers Forum at New
York City’s Gay and Lesbian Center. There I met a man
named David and learned something: If not him, there
really was someone out there whom I could love and
with whom I might live honestly. Well, it was to be
David. We moved in together, and shortly thereafter I
proclaimed our love to all, putting David’s
picture on my office desk. My secretary told me
that when I wasn’t around, colleagues would
stand in my office and stare as though the Shroud
of Turin were draped over the chair. After almost 20
years together we’ve created a wonderful family
with six accepting adult children and six adoring
grandchildren who see us simply as
“Grandpa Bob” and “Grandpa
Dave.” We hope our open love is a beacon to them
and their generation.

Tags: World, World

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