Each of the following men are openly gay, but each one has a different coming out story to tell.
“I never really had a plan to come out. I knew it had to happen eventually, but it took me a while because I didn't want to be gay. Once you say it, it’s set in stone.
I came out on a whim the summer before my senior year of high school when I was 18. I was talking to someone online, and although I wasn’t really ready to come out, he persuaded me. He told me that we could date once I came out, and being the stupid 18-year-old I was, I did. Initially, I only told my parents and my close friends, and then of course, word spread. It started with a long text message to my parents and then people knew.
"You come out, and who is there to help you? People always forget that the coming out process is ongoing."
I played football in high school, so that made it harder. I had a bunch of friends in football, and they were all kind of homophobic. They used to call people ‘faggots’ and make rude remarks, and I never really stood up against them, in fear of them finding out.
People were more okay with me being gay in my home town, because I am more masculine. But once I came to college, and became more involved in the gay community, there were more problems.
It’s such a complex culture, and you’re just thrown into it once you come out. Most gay guys in college have recently come out, so none of us have really experience with dating or relationships. We all have to learn.
A lot of people make coming out a one time struggle, but it continues past the initial stage. You come out, yet you’re still uncomfortable. You come out, yet people are still rude. You come out, and who is there to help you? People always forget that the coming out process is ongoing. I used Youtube and other social media to help me, but hopefully it becomes more accepted and less uncomfortable in the future.
My roommates have a hard time understanding. When I post photos with them or hang out with them, people sometimes assume they’re gay, which they take as an insult. I have to explain the reverse situation to them. When they message a girl because she is attractive, it’s the same thing. They assume that girl is straight. They give me crap for using Tinder, but how else am I going to know who is gay? In our community you can't approach someone and assume, because people get offended.”
“I known I was gay since 5th grade. I knew something was different, but I didn’t understand it.
Being in a religious family, I was taught that being gay is a sin.
The weird thing about me, is I never really came out. I never thought I had to announce my sexuality, because no one else had to do that. I am fully comfortable with who I am, but why should I have to exclaim it?
I’ve never told my parents, but I think they know. One day, after a rough day at school, my Mom came and talked to me. She told me that being different is okay, and I think that was her way of leading up to it. When she finally asked me, I denied it. At the time, I just didn’t know how to express that to her. It was very hard to say those three words: ‘I am gay.”
Since then, I’ve progressed in a lot of ways. I used to be terrified that people would classify me as gay. I hate labeling. I am just a human being who happens to like guys.
I have grown so much over the past two years. I express myself fully on Instagram, and I use it to share my feelings, show my confidence, and give others the confidence to put themselves out there, and be themselves. Whether simply posting a photo, or opening up to strangers who reach out to me, Instagram allows me to be me.
Although I am more aware of my identity, being an African American gay man is even harder. Coming out is almost impossible because being gay is not accepted in black culture. I am actually still trying to understand being a gay man and a black man. There are many stereotypes about being gay, and many stereotypes about being black, but there’s even more about being gay and black. It’s very hard for me, and I’m still figuring it out.”
"being gay is not accepted in black culture. I am actually still trying to understand being a gay man and a black man."
“I’ve known I was gay since 4th grade. I was born this way.
I didn’t come out until the summer before sophomore year of college. I come from a very small, rural town in Missouri, so once I got to college I became more comfortable with the idea of being a part of the gay community. Coming to college, and seeing another perspective made me feel I didn't have to be ashamed, I could be proud.
It was rough. It affected me mentally at first, not knowing how my family would react. I left a letter for my parents before I left for school. My mom and I are so close and we talk every single day, but after that letter it took her a few weeks to say anything.
When I came back home, upon her request, we had a conversation. There were tears obviously. My parents were sad that I had hid myself for so long, but they eventually understood.
It’s still a bit tough. I’m only out to my immediate family. It’s a long process. My dad is a farmer and my mom is very religious, so it wasn’t until that conversation that they truly realized I wasn’t joking and it wasn’t a phase. They aren’t going around with a pride flag, but they’re taking small steps towards acceptance.
Being gay has definitely never held me back. It helps me. Being involved in greek life and being involved on campus allows me to push for inclusivity and show others that you can be involved with greek life and be part of the LGBTQ community. Occasionally, things have been said that I don’t agree with, but I don’t let it get to me.
I know people who are afraid to come out because they are in a fraternity. They are scared to be different and I understand that. Luckily, my fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, is very inclusive and we embrace everyone.
"So many people will categorize you as flamboyant and feminine, or masculine and muscular. But everyone, gay or straight, is different. I grew up on a farm. I do not enjoy shopping, I do not wear makeup. I am me."
My position as a MU Summer Welcome Leader is what really pushed me to come out. I wanted to be able to help students in my same position, and I wanted to be honest and truthful. After announcing I was gay, some of my Summer Welcome students came up to me. Many of them said that having someone like me in a leadership position and acting as a role model, helped them be more comfortable and be proud of who they were.
My biggest advice to people struggling with their identity, is to come out when you’re ready. Everyone has a different process and has a different story. Whenever you are comfortable enough, and you’re ready to take that first step, just know there are people who support you.
People outside of the gay community should not assume you know someone’s story. So many people will categorize you as flamboyant and feminine, or masculine and muscular. But everyone, gay or straight, is different. I grew up on a farm. I do not enjoy shopping, I do not wear makeup. I am me.
On the other hand, don’t tell me how I should live my life. People always tell me I’m confused or they throw the religious aspect at me, but they are forgetting such as large part. Do they think I wanted to be ashamed of myself when I was young? Do they think I wanted to lie my whole life?”
I knew I was gay when I was 4 years old. I have always been a very introspective and self-aware person, and I just knew. It wasn’t a choice and ‘phase’ wasn’t even part of my vocabulary.
The first time I admitted to it was in 4th grade to my best friend, Emily. During recess at my Catholic day school I told her and all she could say was, ‘okay, cool. Let’s go play.’
From then on throughout 4th and 5th grade I came out to more and more people. The last loved one I came out to was my Dad. My dad is so not emotional. He is a typical all-American man. He was the most popular kid in school, soccer star, and all of that. When I told him, he just started crying. All he could say was ‘I’ve been waiting so long for this. I could tell you where holding something in, and now it’s time to breathe.’
"white gay men have an easier time coming out. People of color or people of minority on the other hand aren’t so fortunate. It’s great that we have made it this far, but there is a long way to go to ensure everyone and anyone can come out."
I was very inspired to be a Summer Welcome Leader in order to be a voice for others. A lot of people don’t have a voice to share their stories, so I saw this opportunity.
Almost every day of Summer Welcome I would have a parent or student thank me for sharing my story. Whether they too have gone through something or they know someone who has, it was important for them to know that someone is flourishing at Mizzou and living their life.
I feel so privileged to be where I am. A lot of middle-class, white gay men have an easier time coming out. People of color or people of minority on the other hand aren’t so fortunate. It’s great that we have made it this far, but there is a long way to go to ensure everyone and anyone can come out.
“When I was super young, I used to watch ‘Danny Phantom.’ I knew he was cute and I just thought that was normal. I soon realized that’s not how everyone felt.
I had always been in a religious private school, but once I transferred to public school, I was more comfortable with the idea of coming out. Knowing the book [the Bible] you’re reading and the moral lessons you’re learning go against how you feel was and is very hard for me.
"how will I handle the looks and stares my husband and I will get. It will be like coming out all over again. Hopefully by that point I won’t have to explain the ‘two- dads’ concept."
One day in 7th grade, my parents saw some texts on my phone and I was kind of forced to come out. They, being the religious people they are, sat me down and talked to me about the whole thing. ‘This is a phase,’ they said. ‘This is the devil,’ they said.
After that, we all just swept it under the rug and didn’t talk about it.
Even to this day, they still don’t get it. They are religious, nice, loving people, but they do not support it. Both of my parents are protestant, so they believe everything in the Bible. Unfortunately, that means they believe the verses that say being gay is a sin. We’ve talked before but nothing too major or in-depth.
They aren’t rude to me about the situation, but I’m unsure of what to do. What if I get a boyfriend or want to introduce them to someone? Although they disregard my sexuaity they want to be there for me, it’s very confusing
I never thought there would be any progression on their opinions, but recently my mom opened up to me. She said she is trying to understand more. She always disregarded feelings of love in a gay relationship, but she acknowledges them now. I remember her saying, ‘you may want me a 1,000 but I’m at a two.’
I think having my own kids will be very tough. I wonder how I will handle the looks and stares my husband and I will get. It will be like coming out all over again. Hopefully by that point I won’t have to explain the ‘two- dads’ concept.
Sometimes there are racial slurs that I pick up on. I was out with friends this year, and some guy called me Jackie Chan. I have not been made fun of my race almost ever, but this just shocked me.
“I had a hard time understanding. For the longest time I just never knew what to do.
Coming to terms was hard. Growing up in a very catholic household, the idea of being gay was hard to embrace. I think my parents always knew though. They seemed to always have a strong idea of who I was, even though I didn’t really acknowledge it until the summer before senior year of high school. Luckily, I never had to have the ‘being gay is a choice’ conversation, but instead once I came out, they reacted well.
I wrote them a letter one night and left it for them to notice. It seemed easier than telling them face to face. Of course, I could not fall asleep that night, and to my surprise they came into my room in the middle of the night. They opened my door and, knowing I was definitely fake sleeping, they said, ‘we love you unconditionally. Have a good night.’
The next morning and the following weeks were not comfortable at all. I would go about the household in silence. But then it go better. They say a weight is lifted off of your back, and I definitely felt that release. I could finally breathe. Yes, the weight is continuously there and the more I come to terms with it and the more people know, the less pressure I feel.
In terms of my school friends, they always accepted me. They just saw me for me. Once I posted about it on Instagram, I received a ton of positive and supportive comments. The only issue was a generally awkward atmosphere once more people knew.
I definitely feel like an outsider. Sometimes, it kind of feels like everyone is looking at me.
When I was growing up there wasn’t any gay presence in my life. I never saw a gay couple or really heard anything positive about being gay, so I still struggle with the dynamic of gay relationships. I hope people will show their kids in the future. The more kids that see and understand homosexual relationships, the more accepting and open they will become.
Something straight people don’t understand, is the limitations of being gay. Not only is ‘fitting in,’ whatever that may be, harder as a gay man, the social interaction is so much different. Every time I walk into a public place, it’s so hard to know who is gay. Without any flirting or clues, it can be hard to know - especially since you can’t assume or base your judgement on appearances.
A straight man looks at a woman because that’s who he is attracted to. The woman could be lesbian. I look at men, who may be straight, because that’s who I’m attracted to. Why is that weird? It excites me when I get the chance to flirt or go on a date.
Speaking of the gay community. There is a group of gay men that need some exposing. I call them the ‘untouchables.’ They’re very similar to the ‘plastics’ from ‘Mean Girls.’ They put themselves upon a throne and believe that they were somehow sculpted by the gays gods. They always act petty and put down other gay men who aren’t at their level. I hope things will get better.”
"When I was growing up there wasn’t any gay presence in my life. I never saw a gay couple or really heard anything positive about being gay, so I still struggle with the dynamic of gay relationships."
“I always felt this way. I never really wanted to date girls. I’ve never really announced it or anything. I gave up on pretending, and I just stopped denying it when people would ask me.
I did however tell my best friend. I needed to cover a hickey that I got from my unofficial boyfriend, and I broke the news to her in order to borrow her makeup. I couldn’t say it. The words were not coming, so I shouted. ‘GAY, GAY, GAY,’ and she got the message. From then on, it got easier.
I don’t really know if my family knows. My mom does, but other than that no one in the family is aware.
The transition between my hometown and college has been so nice. It’s more diverse here and I feel like I can relate more to the people around me. I haven’t really explored the gay community here. I have some gay friends and all of the other gay men I’ve met have been nice, but I’m too busy to really know the Columbia gay community.
I have never been prouder to be gay than I am today. Before coming out I felt constrained and like I was only showing bits and pieces of myself to the public. After coming out, I felt relieved and like I could finally live my life the way I wanted 100% of the time.
Being gay in Missouri can be tough. Yes, I am gay and I am out, but not everyone understands that. I come from a small town where people believe certain things from their upbringing. I think it’s important to listen and honor everyone's opinions and beliefs and help them be more accepting. Whether in rural Missouri or in in St. Louis or Kansas City, we all need to respect each other.
"I have never been prouder to be gay than I am today. Before coming out I felt constrained and like I was only showing bits and pieces of myself to the public. After coming out, I felt relieved and like I could finally live my life the way I wanted 100% of the time."
The purpose of this project is to showcase the coming out stories of young gay men to begin conversation about the complexities involved. This story resonates with me because of my personal, lived experiences as a gay youth.