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Memories of
Coming Out

Memories of
Coming Out

Davidmorettix390

On October 11 millions of openly gay Americans will reflect on the day they took those brave first steps out of the closet, providing support and encouragement to others who have yet to find their voice. In day one of our series on coming out, Lair star David Moretti (pictured), Big Brother's Marcellas Reynolds, and New York LGBT Community Center executive director Richard D. Burns share their stories.

On October 11 millions of openly gay Americans will reflect on the day they took those brave first steps out of the closet, providing support and encouragement to others who have yet to find their voice. In this series of stories, some of the gay communities most visible performers, activists and personalities share their memories of coming out, and what the experience taught them about themselves.

***

David Moretti, actor, The Lair

Coming out, for me, was a very gray, hazy time in my life. I had been fighting it my whole life, and when I finally acted on it I hated myself. I had created such a guilt trip that I had been dealing with for a quarter of my lifetime that my actions almost pushed me back in the closet. It took me another year to accept it and find good friends who assured me I wasn't the Omen child.

Finally, after that time of guilt and feeling alone and wrong, I was able to enjoy my newfound accepted identity. That's when the coming-out speeches happened.

One in particular was to my pops. It was Halloween time, and he was visiting me here in L.A. I created all this anxiety for myself because it was time to tell the alpha of the family, the guy who birthed me. And you never know how that's gonna turn out -- especially in patriarchal Italian "man eats and makes money, woman feeds and births" culture. That's obviously an exaggeration, but you get the point. So I took a deep breath, told him flat out, and counted the hours (read: seconds) of silence.

All he said was "Wow -- hey, can I still get grandkids?"

All I could do was laugh. He was a progressive liberal alpha Italian -- who knew! He completely deflated the "situation" with one sentence. I told him that kids were definitely a possibility, just not sure how soon. We later had lunch, and that was that. I was a very fortunate kid.

***

Marcellas Reynolds, actor/host, Big Brother / The Style Network

I never really came out to my mother. After a failed engagement to a woman one day, I simply stopped dating women and stopped talking about my relationships to my family. It just segued that easily. But not being truthful about myself and my life caused a rift in our once extremely close relationship. We began to bicker and fight about the past. The truth has a nagging way of wanting out.

One day during a conversation with my mom she asked point-blank and out of the blue, "Are you gay?" We were arguing (strangely enough) about nature versus nurture and religion. It was a roundabout way of discussing childhood sexual abuse. Yes, as a child I was abused. And my mother wanted to believe -- no, needed to believe -- that the abuse caused my homosexuality. To have to explain to someone you love that you aren't defective -- to have to explain to someone you respect that one event (no matter how horrid) didn't make you gay was difficult. In that moment I realized that I was responsible for myself ... that no matter how much I love my mom or hope she can understand me, she won't or can't. It's just too big for her. Is it lonely being gay sometimes? Yes. But is it empowering to be truthfully who you are? Absolutely. Would I change anything? I'd love for my mom to support me for who I am and not who she wants me to be, but I'm happy to be me. And that's the truth.

***

Richard D. Burns, executive director Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, New York

Sometimes I think coming out was when my life really began. I was suddenly able to be myself and believe in who I was. From my very earliest memories, I was always attracted to men. When I was a kid and would watch television, I was fascinated by men like Jim on Fury and would dream about them. I was in love with Ricky Nelson.

Although I knew I was queer when I was a little boy, I struggled in earnest in the fall of my sophomore year at Hamilton College in upstate New York. It was 1974 at a conservative college, and although it was five years after the Stonewall riots, I don't think I was very clear about what that was. At some point I went to see the school psychologist and talked to him about my questions about my sexuality. Even then I was shocked when he told me I could change if I wanted to, and I said I didn't want to.

One day in the spring I saw a small handmade sign in the dining hall that said "Sappho, 7 p.m., 1st floor lounge, Root Dorm." I thought, well, this could be a sign about a feminist poetry group, or it just might be code for a gay liberation group. I decided to look into it. When I arrived I was very tense. I didn't recognize anyone, but it was clear that, yes indeed, these were gay people. My friend Melinda walked in and sat down next to me, then my next -door neighbor from my dorm, Stephen, walked in, and I started to grin.

The group was very consciously described as a "homophile organization," which meant you could hedge your bets -- membership didn't necessarily mean you were gay; you might just be supportive. But I was out.

My roommate and I began to fool around, but that's another story.

And years later, after I graduated, that school psychologist came out too.

Check back tomorrow for more coming-out stories, including Brooke Hogan's Brooke Knows Best roomie Glenn Douglas Packard and Family Equality Council's Jennifer Chrisler.

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