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Coming Out 2006

Coming Out 2006

Coming_out_0

Our readers tell us about coming out to family and friends--and to the nation. Part 2

RJ deVera, 24 Los Angeles

It's kind of funny. I met my first boyfriend online when I was 15. I've held hands and cuddled while walking in the streets. I had hookups in parking lots, public parks, and movie theaters. Yet even with the audacity I use to explore life, I couldn't tell my parents those three words that could change everything in a heartbeat: "I am gay." I had finally built up the courage to come out to my folks when one day a letter in the mail did all the talking for me. It was an acceptance letter to the U.S. Naval Academy. I guess some might still consider me a closet case, but I hide because I have to. I graduated from the academy and serve in the Navy now, and I'm having a great time.

Alyssa Regulski, 30

Los Angeles

When I sat down to brainstorm how I would share my coming-out story, my mom was the first person to pop into my mind. I wrote an entire essay on the moment she discovered love notes from my first girlfriend in an Easter basket on my kitchen table. I then pondered the moment that I came out to myself. I thought about that first kiss that I never imagined could feel so right. I wanted to tell my story, a simple story--or so I thought. But the real task came when I acknowledged that we come out of the closet time and time again to so many people and in so many different ways. It's not just one incidence, experience, or emotion. It's living. And now the latest chapter in my coming-out is doing it in The Advocate. Happiness for me is being myself. I only hope that those looking to come out realize the extreme joy that can come from the freedom to be you.

Jacob Weldon. 22 New York City

I came out to my Texas family in a suicide letter. As the son of a Vietnam marine turned assistant police chief, I had struggled with traditionalist values my entire life. Combined with the strict religious ideologies of southeast Texas, life had become increasingly suffocating, and I had become decreasingly hopeful. When I awoke in the hospital after my suicide attempt, I had no idea what I was in store for--mostly because the combination of alcohol and drugs had erased nearly all memory of what I had done. Nevertheless, I was soon out of the hospital, out of the closet, and out on my own. Now I'm a gay activist attending Columbia University. Sharing my story with The Advocate is my final step to coming out. I want others to see that I am no longer afraid to embrace the challenges of being openly gay--in fact, I welcome them!

Antonio Martinez, 33 Houston

While hosting the Comedy Central stand-up special Out There 2, Amanda Bearse said, "You know, coming out is a continuing process; once is not enough. You have to keep doing it again and again, like sit-ups." Well, as a portly gentleman, sit-ups and I don't occupy the same galaxy, but coming out is something that I have had to do time and time again. I first came out to my older sister in 1992. She was OK with it. I came out to my twin sister the following March, who later told me in the summer of 1999 that I'd have it coming if I ended up like Matthew Shepard. In the summer of 1993 I came out to my mom over the phone. She cried, said she loved me, and stopped calling me by my name. I'd never thought the word "son" could be so cold. That same day I also came out to my oldest sisters and three of my aunts. Now I'm coming out in The Advocate.

Johnny Bennett, 44 Mesquite, Texas

I have always known I am gay but was afraid of what people would think of me. I didn't want people to not like me or to make fun of me. A friend of mine came out in high school and was disowned by his family, and I was not ready for that. So right out of high school, I got married. When my marriage ended in divorce, I was still afraid of what people would think. So I did what any closeted gay divorce would do: I got married again, this time to my next-door neighbor, Shirley. We were married for 15 years before she died of kidney cancer. Right before she died, she told me that I needed to find "someone" who'd make me happy. You could have knocked me over with a feather. She knew I was gay. After a lot of soul-searching, I took that step out of the closet. I met this really wonderful guy named Joe (pictured at left with me), who was also married with children. We've now been together for over two years, and he has his kids over every two weeks. n

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