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Memories of
Coming Out: Day 2 

Memories of
Coming Out: Day 2 

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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. On the second day of our coming-out series, Brooke Knows Best star Glenn Douglas Packard (pictured), SAGE executive director Michael Adams, and Family Equality Council executive director Jennifer Chrisler share their coming-out 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. On the second day of our coming-out series, Brooke Knows Best star Glenn Douglas Packard (pictured), SAGE executive director Michael Adams, and Family Equality Council executive director Jennifer Chrisler share their coming-out stories.

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Glenn Douglas Packard, actor-dancer (Brooke Knows Best)

The coming-out story that sticks out the most for me would be my national coming-out on Brooke Knows Best. When Hulk Hogan, an icon in the wrestling industry who has a lot of straight men looking up to him, asked on a scale from 1 to 10 how gay I am, it was simple to answer because I know who I am. So I responded -- 10!

Because I grew up a small-town farm boy in Michigan, I think a lot of young men in the smaller states and towns across America responded to learning more about my story -- they no longer felt so alone, because even though there are a lot of us in major cities like Los Angeles, New York, and Miami, there are still a ton of young men scared to come out and feeling very alone in those other areas. By my standing up to the Hulk, they saw that they too could be open about who they are, and it has been nice to be able to inspire others.

I've also heard from a lot of straight men who had seen the episode, and because Hulk was OK with me, it's opened their eyes to realize that we are out there and it's OK to be a bit more open-minded to the gay community.

When the first episode of Brooke Knows Best aired, I had to come out to my whole family in Michigan, from Grandma to nephews to aunts and uncles, and it has been something I've wanted to do for so long. I was a family secret and wanted to bring my two worlds together. Because of my coming out on the show, it has brought my family closer together and they are 100% cheering me on!

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Michael Adams, executive director, Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)

Meeting my first boyfriend when I was 21 triggered my coming out, and that happened in Lima, Peru. I had taken a break from college to spend a year abroad and "find myself" -- and boy, did I!

Oscar and I met on the street during my first week in Lima, when I was lost and asked him for directions. I was so naive back then it didn't dawn on me that he was gay (though it certainly dawned on me that he was cute). Up to that point I'd had very little interaction with gay people; in fact, I'd never been in a gay bar. So, my first gay bar, my first drag show -- many "firsts" took place during my eight months living in Peru.

Oscar and I stayed together for two years. He ended up moving to the United States. And it was at our very first pride parade, in New York City in 1983 or 1984, that I was first exposed to SAGE. I'll never forget watching the SAGE trolley go by full of proud LGBT seniors waving their flags -- and their canes! There was something about that sight that I found so moving. Maybe it's fate that more than 20 years later I have the privilege of being SAGE's executive director.

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Jennifer Chrisler,executive director, Family Equality Council

I came out the first time in 1990 at Smith College. I did the requisite coming-out things -- cut my hair short, bought a leather jacket, told my mother, went dancing, saw the Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge, and started playing bridge at the student center (which was a uniquely Smith coming-out thing to do).

Little did I realize that seven years after coming out, I'd be back in the closet again, dating a Massachusetts state senator and diving for cover if I was at her house and someone knocked on the door (and I mean that literally). My spouse, Cheryl Jacques, was elected in 1992 -- a not-so-friendly time for openly gay candidates. So she hid her sexual orientation during her first run for office. And she kept on hiding it -- after we started dating, after we moved in together, even while we were talking about the idea of having and raising children together.

But in June 2000, budget cuts were threatening to eliminate spending on a suicide-prevention program aimed specifically at LGBT youths. And she courageously recognized how being an out lesbian senator in Massachusetts could offer some small source of support for the many LGBT youths across the state. Together we told the media our story, weathered the small attacks, and enjoyed the huge outpouring of support.

The rest of our story has been a somewhat open book -- sometimes for the good and sometimes not to our liking. But we always remain true to ourselves and to our now-6-year-old twins, because pride in who you are is one of the most important lessons you can teach your children.

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