Effective April 25, 2019, the Biden Foundation suspended operations. Read more.

For LGBTQ individuals – especially for young people — family and community acceptance can change everything. This summer we asked you to tell us how either acceptance or rejection has impacted your life. We continue to receive powerful stories from across the country, and invite you to share your own. Here’s what we’ve heard so far.

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I came out to my parents when I was 15. I told them I was bisexual. My mom didnt believe me and said it was a phase. She believe I was only saying it so I could get attention and be one of the “cool kids”. She also said of anyone found out, I’d loose all my friends, no one would want to talk to me, everyones parents wouldnt let their kids hang around me. I felt like I had just told her I murdered someone… I had already told friends at school and they all didnt seem to care. They treated me the same way. So my moms comment left me really confused. I later on wanted to learn more about the LGBTQ community. Through that, I found out I was actually Pansexual. Again. My mom was the only one who seemed to care and be upset…. It just seems like I disappoint her everyday, simply because of my sexuality.

Anonymous, 17, she/her
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Though I knew my parents were both supportive of gay people and lesbians, my mom had made many negative comments about bisexual people. … she would say they were just confused or would eventually pick a side. This caused me a lot of anxiety and led me to doubt my identity in the two years that I spent in the closet. However, when I began dating a girl at age 16, I knew that coming out was inevitable despite my concerns about biphobia. Though I knew I would be safe if I came out, I was worried about my identity being disregarded or delegitimized. It was pretty agonizing to me to keep my relationship a secret from my parents, and it definitely took a toll on my relationship. Ultimately, I came out to my mom when she found me crying in my room about our breakup…I clarified that I was bisexual, not a lesbian. I asked her if she was disappointed in me, and she hugged me and told me of course not, and that she loved me. She was much more concerned about making sure I was okay emotionally after the breakup than the gender of the person involved. More importantly, she told me she regretted the dumb old comments she made, and that she accepted my bisexual identity. Since then, both of my parents have been super supportive of my identity, and I have never once felt invalidated for my bisexuality. My mom even celebrated pride month with me this year!

Anonymous, 17,
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My parents don’t know that I’m lesbian and I’m still in the closet. Three people know including my sibling and best friend. My parents are from Bangladesh and they are Muslim, so it’s scary not knowing what they think about… the LGBTQ community. I’ve overheard them say some gross and mest up things about gay people. Whenever I’m around them I constantly have anxiety. Just thinking about coming out to them makes me want to jump off a building. I get so scared of them. A lot of mixed emotions. Acceptance by your parents means so much to me. Knowing that my parents might hate me for being lesbian makes my stomach turn. Every time we are together there’s like a huge weight on my chest and its like I can’t breath properly around them.

Anonymous, 12, she/her
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I came out as transgender at the end of my 8th grade year. When I started high school, I had socially transitioned… For six weeks, I used the men’s room at school without a problem, but then someone anonymously complained about it, and I was called out of class and into the Guidance Office and told that I had to use one of the few gender-neutral restrooms on campus. That was confusing and humiliating for me. … [My mom and I] filed a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, and they conducted an investigation over months, but just as that was wrapping up, the current administration was elected and we couldn’t reach our OCR investigator anymore. We still don’t know the status of that complaint. Finally, losing hope, we contacted Lambda Legal, which helped us file a federal lawsuit against the school district. We filed in June 2017 and went to trial December 2017. It was the first transgender student bathroom case to go to trial, and it was exhausting. I was a junior in high school at that time, and on top of homework, clubs, volunteering and sports, I had to also make time for meetings and calls with lawyers, deposition and trial prep, and the trial itself, during which I took the stand to speak in defense of trans-inclusive bathroom policies. The judge ruled on July 26, 2018, that the district policy was unconstitutional under both Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause, which was wonderful. I felt so validated and so valued at last, and as a senior, I now have the right to use the men’s room at school. But the process of having to sue the district definitely changed me. … I’m a leader of my school’s GSA and have been working to build the club into the strongest it can be. I don’t back down from a challenge as easily as I used to, and I am a lot more confident in standing up for what’s right.

Anonymous, 17, he/his
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When I was 18, I left home for college. My family and I had never had any talk with each other about sexuality or gender. Once I moved I started to be happier and feel less judged, so I decided to stop worrying about what they might think. A year after being away I was talking with my mom and she asked me how I identified. I almost wanted to cry because of the way she asked let me know she had researched this for me. We had a long conversation about gender and sexuality and where I stand and at the end of it I felt so happy and free. I have never felt in my life like I had to hide, but that moment with her made me feel so open and free it was indescribable.

Jonah, 19,
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…When I came out to her as gay when I was in 9th grade she yelled at me down the stairs that I didn’t know what I wanted and that I wasn’t gay. When I came out as transgender, female to male, to her I was told she wasn’t going to use my name, that using my pronouns weren’t going to happen very quickly if at all and I couldn’t transition. … I came out to her three times, and the third time I went to my dads as protection I suppose. … My dad and stepmom as well as my siblings became my biggest supporters and I don’t know what I would’ve done if they hadn’t accepted me alongside my mom. It’s been almost four years and she’s finally come to terms with it. I wish my dad was still here because he was my biggest, biggest supporter; my best friend.

Jamison, 18, he/him/his
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I, for about about 3 years now, have known that I am a lesbian. I fell in love with my girlfriend (of nearly 2 years, now) who once was my best friend. I love her more than I could ever describe. I kept our relationships hidden from my parents and family for over a year. I was afraid of how they might react. My father was always rather one-minded. And I love all of my family so much. My mom eventually found out and asked me about it, kindly. She gave me the option to deny telling her, but I told her. She was very supportive of me. She doesn’t quite understand what it means or what I am but no matter what she loves me. My dad, however, still doesn’t know. I don’t know when I plan on telling him…. Nearly everyone knows now, even family. I’ve experienced a lot of judgement, but overall my people have not abandoned me. Me and my girlfriend are still very in love and I plan on marrying her.

Anonymous, 17, She/Her
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My parents are not accepting of me being transgender. They believe I’m going to grow out of it …. I’ve told them about three years ago now, and they still havent made any sort of step to learn to accept me for who I am. It made me self-conscious of how people perceived me and my actions. They want me to postpone any medical transitioning until I’m out of college and I have a steady job. These experiences have made me severely depressed and anxious over everything. I constantly feel like I’m disappointing them. All of these have impacted me by making my self-esteem very acute, I’m uncertain about my future, and I’m scared to talk to them sometimes.

Oliver, 18, he/his
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I have had experiences with both acceptance and rejection from family. When coming out to my father, I was supported from the beginning and he has made me feel comfortable and even encouraged me to be my true self always. My mother on the other hand, while she says she is accepting, has encouraged me to keep my identity from other members of my family and the community at large. She has also brought people into my life through people she has dated who are openly homophobic. These situations lead me to have a strained relationship with her and to feel uncomfortable in being my true self and in expressing my thoughts. I always have to question whether I should or should not say something and what I can and cannot do in order to keep fighting out of the house.

Anonymous, She/her
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Tell us about an experience: When I was 16, I really started to explore the parts of my sexuality and identity I had hidden and tried to get rid of. I started to realize that I couldn’t change how I felt about who I am and who I love, and that I couldn’t hide it any longer. I told my friends, and they accepted me immediately… But, at the time I was writing in a journal, and my mother found it and decided to read it. When she saw where I wrote out how I felt, she got mad. She is a Jehovah’s Witness, and very unaccepting if anyone who isn’t straight and cisgender, including me… she confronted me and asked “how could you betray me and Jehovah?!?… She continued this rant about how God will kill me, how I am worshipping Satan, and how disappointed and disgusted she was. Within a year of her finding out, I had started to date my first girlfriend, and she kicked me out when she saw us walking together. Since I was a minor I ended up having to go back, but she had taken quite a few of my belongings which I haven’t gotten back over a year later. She still refuses to accept that part of me, to call me by my chosen name, or to even talk about the community.

Nikki, 18, they/them
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When I came out to my mother as lesbian, her reaction was instant tears of sadness and anger. She asked me questions rooted in disbelief, and the conversation ended with her saying, “I will never accept you as being that (gay).” It’s been nearly three years since we had the initial coming out conversation, and my mother still maintains that homosexuality is something you can be cured from, as if it were a disease. This experience has impacted my life profoundly, as communication between my mother and I has never been the same, and I feel afraid and uncertain about what I should say to her. My mother cites her religious beliefs as the reason as why she cannot accept me as a queer person and has sent me many text messages and emails containing bible verses and false acceptances, only to culminate in her reiterating that I can be saved from being gay. Because of my mother’s lack of acceptance, it is difficult for me to navigate my personal relationships while remaining honest about who I am. I am hesitant about being in a romantic relationship because I don’t want to subject my partner to homophobia; I am hesitant about telling my mother about my personal life because I know she will be angry and disapprove. My mother’s reaction perfectly illustrates why homosexuality is a struggle, as I am constantly forced to choose between being honest or being treated with respect.

Becca, 23, she/her
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Growing up in a small, unincorporated town at the base of the great Appalachian mountain range, diversity was something that always seemed to come up short. Our town of 8,000 was 92% white, 68% working class, and at least publicly almost exclusively comprised of straight people. When I entered high school, only one out of some 600 peers identified as LGBTQ+. This changed after I came out to my parents and community in the summer of 2013. As I was preparing to graduate high school early that coming fall, my family life began to deteriorate; in March, I lost my home and family, eventually being displaced some 2,000 miles to Phoenix, one of the only places I could find immediate, stable housing and work. Over the next six months, I was fortunate enough to work two jobs to cover a bedroom in a friends home before returning to start my undergraduate studies at the University of Tennessee in fall 2014. … Acceptance, broadly, could have drastically changed my trajectory over the past four years. While I am grateful for the experiences I have had and the ways they have shaped me, they have not been without pain and loss.

Hera Jay, 22, they/them
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It’s always been easy for me to be myself. I never had fear that anyone would reject me for who I am. As a child, my parents showered me with love and told me that, no matter what, they would love me. To not care what people think, because all in all I’m still going to be me no matter what. … So, when I said I liked women the same as I did men, it wasnt a big deal. I knew my circle of loved ones wouldnt chastise me. I knew they would say ok cool and move on with their day. Because having a strong support system, is the thing I’m most thankful for. I’ve always been this way and I’ve never felt uncomfortable in my skin. Its thanks to them that I can stand and say I’m bisexual and I’m proud.

Nicole, 25, she/her
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When I came out as a transgender guy, most of my family was accepting and loving. My mom, on the other hand, was a whole different story. She was convinced that I was faking it for attention, and she told me I’d always be her little girl. She told me “God doesn’t make mistakes, he made you just how you’re supposed to be. You are a girl.” But I’m not a girl, I. Am. A. Boy. This is who I am. My mother’s words still hurt me… Everyone deserves the right to feel safe in their own household. Everyone deserves the right to be unapologetically themselves, as long as they’re not hurting anyone else. I live with my mom, and to feel unaccepted and unloved in my own home is horrible. I don’t want any other person to go through that.

Anonymous, 13, he/him
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My family has accepted who I am from the moment I let them know about my queerness. I volunteer at youth LGBT centers in my community and have been able to return that love and support to kids who truly need it. My family and friends treat me the same as before I came out. They stick up for me. I have even been able to show some of my conservative family members how normal being queer is. Some have changed their longstanding views of the LGBT community. Minds can be changed by being patient with people who were simply raised with a closed mind. It is possible to open those minds up. I only have this confidence because of the support and acceptance my friends and family have shown me…. I am so thankful for my parents and for my friends. I would be nothing without them being so open to who I am…. my education success and career success and my happiness and zest for life have come from me loving who I am, and that came from my family and friends teaching me that who I am is perfectly normal and beautiful. … I am here. I am queer. I am a product of acceptance and love.

Casey, 24, He/His
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I grew up in a very religious and conservative household. I knew I had same-sex attraction at an early age and this started a strain in my relationship with my parents. In my teens, I spent everyday praying, repenting and asking God to forgive me for having these feelings and that He would take them away. This triggered a lot of depression and anxiety I have now… I grew a hatred towards myself. He didn’t take these feelings away and I was left feeling broken and torn. My parents later acknowledged that they almost placed me in foster care because I was seen as a monster for having these feelings. With everything telling me I was disgusting and perverted, I attempted suicide twice. I was so alone and scared. I began at the University I am still attending, and I was finally in an atmosphere where I was able breathe and find myself. For the past year and a half I have healed so much by accepting every part of me and realizing that God loves all of me. I also have a chosen family now that understands the pain I have gone through and supports me wholeheartedly.

Benjamin, 21, he/him/his
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On December 22, 2016, I came out to my family as gender-questioning. At that time I had experienced gender dysphoria for years, but denied it and my queerness for fear of retaliation. I wanted my dad to accept me. I wanted my mom to love me for who I was. Instead that evening ended in me crying in my mom’s arms while my dad yelled about how wrong I was. … Tensions between me and my father escalated the more I tried to come out to him…. Finally, it happened… My dad informed me, with tears in his eyes, that he and mom decided they weren’t going to pay for college anymore. In an instant my entire life disappeared. By denying me college I couldn’t access my medication, and I couldn’t go back to the one place I felt completely welcomed and loved. I started crying, and after a while I managed to get to my bedroom and pack my things, but not before he took away my most valued possessions. My laptop, tablet, important mementos, he even tried to take away the stuffed animal frog that was given to me when I was three days old and had been my faithful companion for 18 years. Then, at around 5:30 AM, I walked out of my house, with just a suitcase and the clothes on my back. I didn’t even have shoes.

June, 19, she/her
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Growing up with only my mom made a lot of things very difficult on us. We struggled in a lot of ways, but we succeeded in a lot of other ways too. One of those successes was the unconditional love my mother had for me. My mom has never once asked me my sexuality for one reason and one reason only, it doesn’t matter. Never feeling pressured to be a certain way, gave me the freedom I needed to explore who I was without restriction. I never felt ashamed of being attracted to both girls and boys, because my mother never taught me I needed to be. I’ve always been open about my sexuality, because my mother never taught me not to be.

Alexandria, 23, She/her
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When I came out as transgender nonbinary to my family, it made me realize a world where LGBTQ+ people are universally accepted for who they are can exist.

Anonymous, 12, they/them
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My mom read my diary and found out that I was bisexual and then she told me that God didn’t love anymore, and that I’m wrong and she even woke me up in the middle of the night because she couldn’t handle me being bisexual. She told me I couldn’t talk to anyone who is LGBTQ+ and then eventually i could not handle her rejection of me and she continually blamed herself and told me that it’s just because I was sexually assaulted by a guy and now I’m scared of guys. I just don’t know how to explain to her that I’ve liked girls and guys since 3rd grade and that I’m not going through a phase. After a week of my parents threatening to send me to conversion therapy I told them it was a phase and now I’m back in the closet.

Anonymous, 17, She/her
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I came out to my family at 16, shortly after the current president was elected. Although my parents were seemingly supportive, they are outwardly homophobic, transphobic, and racist. As a child I always knew that I was different but I didn’t know that being gay was an option. In my household, being gay was always the brunt of a joke and even now my parents are still passively homophobic. If a gay couple comes on TV or is even mentioned my mother will say something close to “That it disgusting, it’s an abomination,” and continue to rant about how god hates gay people. These micro-aggressions from my own family have affected me deeply. They have turned into self-hatred, anxiety, and even self-harm. My parents have made me loathe myself and loathe the god that they worship. I feel as if I am disgusting to them unless they are ignoring a part of my personality. They have alienated my sister and her wife due to their involvement in the LGBT+ community and although I do love them, I do not wish to continue a relationship with them after being able to move out and support myself, unless they become more accepting to every part of myself.

Sara, 18, she/her
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The first people I came out to were my parents. They both took it surprisingly well. Their acceptance and support lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. Of course, not everyone was so accepting. My aunt gave me a bible with all the scriptures that oppose homosexuality highlighted in yellow, and all the ways to redeem myself highlighted in purple. I was really close to this aunt before this incident and since then I havent talked to her at all. I feel like my family is incomplete without her but she doesn’t want to be a part if my life anymore. This was , without a doubt, the most soul crushing experience of my life. After that I slipped back into a deep depression and had to start seeing a therapist regularly. I’ve also had people call me “it” and “thing” instead of using my name. Being dehumanized is a new level of hurt.

Hannah, 20, they/them
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I am 24 years old. I grew up around Wichita, KS. I felt constant rejection by people around me even though they didn’t know I was gay. Their actions and words hurt more than they will ever know. Talking bad about a group of people without knowing the person they’re talking to is in that community is hurtful. I came out to my family at age 20 and feel generally accepted by them even though I know most of them don’t approve. I had always heard about Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community and had to experience it for myself. I moved here in November 2015 by myself and have no regrets. People are extremely kind and accepting of myself and my values and it’s an incredible feeling. My only wish is to have my family here with me! I hope that other young people can have an experience like mine that will make them feel loved and accepted.

PJ, 24, he/his
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I was on the late-blooming side of puberty, so at age 13/14 I was just starting to explore my sexuality. I was beginning to understand that I was sexually attracted to men, but I was brought up in a small Oklahoma town where those kinds of things would immediately label you as “other” and result in lots of bullying and ostracism. So, I kept it to myself and never talked to my mom about it. I wish I hadn’t. I lost my mother at age 14 to a genetic disease… only one month after she had been admitted to the hospital. This changed my life in so many ways, and continues to do so. Grief is something that will never truly leave you. Fast-foward to age 21… I began the process of coming out to my more extended family and friends, which actually went better than expected. However, I carry around a lot of regret about not being able to talk to my mom about myself and hear her acceptance… in August 2018 I ran into one of my neighbors who I often refer to as one of my “bonus moms” because she took care of me after my mom passed. She and I had a teary-eyed conversation about my mom and she told me that my mom had always suspected that I might be queer, and never wanted to pressure me to act one way or another. She took steps to keep me in smaller schools to protect me from bullying. She had a movie and other media prepared that she was going to show me to help me come to terms with my queerness, but that she never got to show me because she passed away. My bonus mom assured me that my mom always loved me and would have been incredibly proud of me for having reached the decision to come out on my own. My mom loved me so much. This was one of the most important experiences of acceptance that I have had in my entire coming out process.

Blake, 21, he/his
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I haven’t officially come out to my parents as nonbinary, but their opinions have told me enough to know that they would not accept me. The subject of nonbinary genders came on a political talk show, and my dad expressed a “disliking” to them, for lack of a better word. He didn’t think that nonbinary genders were real, following the “only two genders” belief, with my mom agreeing. This single interaction has led me to a constant need for independence, along with a damaged relationship with my parents. I have already mentally prepared myself for the comments like “that’s not a real thing” or “it’s not a phase,” and even making plans of what I would do if I ever got kicked out for my identity (or worse: conversion therapy, which is legal in my state.)

Anonymous, 14, they/them
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I once had a very close friend of mine who I hadn’t come out to yet. Even though he was the son a Christian preacher I though he would acccept me, long story short, he didn’t take it well. He told me that being bisexual is wrong and that he can “fix me.” He said if I was in a heterosexual relationship then I would just become straight, no matter how many times I tried to explain to him that it didn’t work that way he refused to listen. He and I don’t talk very much anymore but I think he’s slowly starting to acccept that I’m not going to change. This experience really changed me on how I do come out to people and who I come out to. I’ve learned to be more cautious of who I’m coming out to and that not everyone is going to be accepting of me. And you know what, that’s okay. Not everyone fits into everyone’s perspective of “normal” and I just need to be who I am and accept myself for who I am.

Anonymous, 14, she/her
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I started coming out as pansexual to my friends in 2016, and at the time everyone was supportive, but now I’m not friends with most of them. I started coming out to my family in 2017, and it went alright. My grandparents specially, I wrote them a letter and left it on the table as I walked out the front door to go to school and we talked about it for maybe ten minutes and then haven’t talked about it since, but a lot of tears were shed when we did talk. I came out to my aunt and uncle this past July. I came out to my uncle first and I just started crying and he gave me a hug and told me that he will always love and support me. Then I came out to my aunt and she was supportive of me too, we talked about it for awhile.

Anonymous, 16, She/they
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When I came out as transgender in high school I was fearful. I was fearful that I would be rejected and even harassed by my peers. However, when I came out the reaction of my peers was so overwhelmingly positive. I remember the first prom I went to another transgender girl was elected prom queen. The support that my peers showed me and my community made me feel like any other normal high schooler. And not having to worry about assimilation. Not having to fear for my life at school alllowed me to focus on my education. It also allowed me to go through my entire high school career not feeling like my queer identity was a burden. That is something that’s going to stick with me for the rest of my life.

Ermiya, She/her
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I grew up in a religious community that was openly hostile towards the LGBTQ community. Being gay meant that you were actively destroying the family, something the church believed was a grave, moral sin and plague on society. Members of the LGBTQ community were regularly excluded from church rites and rituals. I didn’t come out of the closet until I was an adult because of how scared I was of rejection. I was terrified that if my family and church knew I was gay, I would be rejected by both, and I couldn’t fathom going through life gay and alone. I told my parents in 2014, and it was rough, but okay. Initially, they couldn’t understand how I could just leave behind the religion I’d grown up with. But, when I explained how painful it was to go to church and hear the constant attacks on my humanity, they were moved. They came to realize that they wanted me to be happy and healthy more than they wanted me to be a part of the religion.That realization meant the world to me. It told me that my parents understood that I was their son first and foremost, even if my life played out differently than they had always thought it would. It made my home a safe space for me to be.

Luke, he/his
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I am very fortunate to have a really supportive family and group of friends. The few negative reactions I’ve received have been drowned out by the overwhelming love and support from the people around me. My friends were the ones who shaped my initial coming out experience the most: my friend group is very diverse, with the majority of us having various gender and sexual identities. I was questioning for a long time and had a really difficult time coming to terms with being queer as I was afraid of being different or not being accepted by my family. My friends were so encouraging during that process and gave me so much love as I struggled with my sexuality. Seeing them be so unapologetically themselves and be proud of who they are gave me the courage and strength to come out not only to my loved ones, but to myself as well. As someone who has always been afraid of being different, I don’t think I would’ve been able to accept myself had I not had so much support and encouragement. Being surrounded by love from the very beginning gave me the ability to love myself…

Aly, 18, she/her
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My mother has been a source of endless support and love for me. She isn’t a Catholic, and yet she supported my decision to convert to catholicism a year ago, and we are able to talk endlessly about theology (and everything else) and she offers insight and challenges me so that I am more confident in what I believe. Additionally, last Thanksgiving she asked me if I was a lesbian (because let’s be honest, I’m not subtle), and when my answer was of course yes, she supported me and offers me constant support even in the face of homophobia and problems within my family and the Church.

Anonymous, 17, she/her
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I’ve spent a great deal of my life moving between biological family and foster homes from California to Mississippi, and I’ve been in homes and communities that range from accepting and welcoming to toxic and hateful. Although I currently attend a prestigious college in California and have a very loving foster home to go home to, this wasn’t always the case. Being in a community in South Mississippi where I was pushed around, called “faggot,” and even jumped in the street opened my eyes to the very real dangers Queer people face daily, especially post-marriage legalization. Experiencing foster homes that were sold to me as warm, safe spaces but turned out to be spoiled and cold places where I’ve been assaulted emotionally and physically have made me cautious, but have also grown my passions for defending LGBTQ youth, foster youth, and other disadvantaged and oftentimes invisible subcommunities in our nation. It has also made me bold, encouraging me to use my very existence as an unapologetic act of protest. I will not tone down my Queerness, or my Chicano/Latinx identity, or my foster care status, or anything else about me simply because it makes those with privilege and power uncomfortable.

Daniel, 19, he/him/his
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I always been bullied of who I am and how I look. Everybody always had a slick comment coming out there mouths. Some individuals don’t realize” WORDS” hurt. I was always attracted to the same sex but I didn’t see my self as a female. My family thought I was in tomboy phase and I would grow out of it but that wasn’t the case. As I got older I wanted to dress as boy. I knew I couldn’t do that in my grandmothers house. So I left at the age of 16 years old and was placed in a group home. Thats where I was able to dress like the young man I was suppose to be. I’m different even though I feel like I lost family and friends because of this. I am happy with myself.

Tia, 22, he/his
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My family and community acceptance experience has been pretty mixed. My family overall was pretty accepting. I did the unconventional method of coming out on Facebook because I don’t like talking about myself. My mom had a few questions, but they were typical questions for an asexual (“what does it mean?”, “are your hormones okay?”, “is your significant other okay with it?”). I was really happy my family was so accepting. It has made me feel closer to them in a way that I never thought would be possible.The community was a very different experience. Being asexual, there’s a lot of misunderstanding on what it means. There are some people within the LGTBQ community who don’t think we belong. But there’s lack of acceptance among straight cis allies. When I was in college, I remember pushing myself further in “the closet” and further into denial because of my roommate (a straight cis ally with queer friends) thinking it was funny that I never had sex. It almost feels like that, within a community setting, the only place I feel total acceptance is among other asexuals and aromantics. It’s wrong. It makes me feel out of place in society. It makes me uncomfortable with strangers unless I get to know them really well.

Rachel, 25, She/her
34 |

I broke ties with my birth family when I was 19, and had been going to college completely on my own anyway, so my best friend’s parents took me in for school vacations, family dinners, and care packages. My best friend was OK with me coming out (as a college senior at age 21) until I decided to come out publicly, and all of a sudden her mom, sister, and the pastor of their church all wrote me to let me know they were praying for me to “come back to Jesus.” She wouldn’t speak to me, I was no longer invited for family dinners, and having no biological family to rely on made this cold-shoulder devastating and heartbreaking. I knew I didn’t want homophobic people in my life, but now it felt like I didn’t have anyone. I moved to work as a grad student at a catholic university in a big military town, and faced ugly letters slid under my dorm door, catcalls in the elevator, and my boss implied I should shut up and remain celibate or I’d be facing the wrath of God. … Incredibly, my boss from my time as an undergrad RA reached out! She called me every night, invited me to stay with her and 2two other amazing women when I needed a break from campus, made sure I was eating and taking care of my mental health. Those three women have no idea of the impact they had in my life. All of a sudden, I have 3 mom-characters in my life! They love me, care for me, check in, and even took me shopping for my birthday! … I genuinely never thought I could be this happy. I’m proud of myself for fighting through the abandonment, finding my chosen family, taking care of my mental health and not giving into suicidal periods!

Sierra, 23, She/her
35 |

I can’t come out to my family because of their relationship beliefs and I have lost friends due to my identity. I’m scared to come out fully because of the what if’s. There’s nothing more terrifying than the thought of losing friends and families for being yourself, especially when it’s painful to shove down that aspect of who you are.

Anonymous, 15, xy/xym
36 |

When I realized I am queer, I knew that my parents would love and accept me still. My mom is the best ally I know, always working to educate herself on newer terms and taking me to queer events. My dad told me he had always thought I was attracted to women. I have been able to thrive as an out queer woman thanks to the love and support my family has given me. They also love my girlfriend. My grandparents always ask when she’s going to come visit with me.

Lili, 20, she/her
37 |

When I came out to my parents, I was forced through conversion therapy. It nearly destroyed me. I developed a cutting addiction and attempted suicide. Since then I have grown and developed, but I suffered from moderate to severe ptsd, depressions and anxiety.

Ara, 18, they/them
38 |

A month ago, I came out to my parents as transgender via therapist. My dad, as I expected, was very supportive and gave his best effort to adapt to my new pronouns and name. Later, I would find out that he bought a book “How to Raise your Transgender Teen,” which really touched me to know that he was actively trying to educate himself on something he may be new to experiencing. My mom, however, was the bigger issue… she seemed to be willing to be accepting. I had specifically chosen to come out to her in the presence of a therapist knowing she wouldn’t dare show her true colors in front of another person… The next day, she told me that she had “changed her mind” and refused to use my correct pronouns/name, making sure to tell me how it “made her sick to her stomach”…. Now, with my dad having passed away, she’s the only parent figure I can look to for support, and it disappoints me that she can’t be bothered to try to be accepting of my situation.

Anonymous, 16, he/him/his
39 |

My family has been accepting of LGBTQ+ people for as long as I can remember. My dad’s sister married her wife the year I was born, and I’ve always had queer people in my family and known that loving them and accepting them was morally right. I didn’t fully accept that I was gay until I was 20, and I didn’t tell my family until a year later. I knew they would be accepting, I knew they wouldn’t disown me, and I knew that my immediate family and the extended family that I told would support me. It was still terrifying to say those words and anticipate how they might react. I had no reason to believe they would be anything but accepting (and they weren’t!) but I was still nervous that our relationship would change. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for my fellow queer people who can’t tell their families and communities or who face rejection when they do.

Kelly, she/her
40 |

I am extremely grateful to have been accepted by my family. Growing up, I did not have a father figure in my life. It was my mother doing it all alone and I can say she did a fantastic job. Coming out is not easy. Telling my friends was easy but the family part was a task that I was hesitant on doing. I had a strong feeling my mom would be accepting and happy with it but there was still that part of me that was unsure of how to do it, when to do it. She was the one who actually asked me if I was gay as we were shopping for an outfit for me to attend New York City Pride. I told her, “Yes. I wanted to tell you after the parade with all of my new rainbow gear.” She started to laugh and assured me that this changed nothing whatsoever. … She will attend marches or events in my honor and support me to no end. Knowing that my one and only parental support system is that wonderful makes me so unbelievably happy. Between her confronting opposers or happily discussing my life with others, this display of acceptance is one that has made my life happy and less worrisome. The conversation of my coming out will be something I will never forget and her actions and love following it have positively impacted me.

Antonio, 21, He/his
41 |

In the early stages of my life, being gay was rejected. It was a terrible thing if you were gay. It wasn’t my family that rejected it, but the community I was living in. At 14, I decided to change my life, and I came out to my mom, dad, sister, and grandmother; it wasn’t easy; however, it was the best decision I’ve ever made. My family was very accepting, and I am so very greatful to live with the accepting family that I do. …Coming out was the hardest thing that I’ve ever done, even with my family accepting it. I think that if we keep fighting for equality and acceptance, we will achieve our goal one day. If we keep working as a community, we will achieve greatness.

Anonymous, 14, He/His
42 |

When I finally came out to my family as bisexual (later came out as a lesbian), they embraced me with open arms and made me feel loved. The fact that I love other women does not make me any less of a person. If I didn’t before, after I definitely felt I can tell them anything.

Sydney, 22, she/her/hers
43 |

Most of my family accepts me for who I am. Some of them I’m not out to because I know they would stop talking to me. Some of them that I am out to ignore my LGBT identity and act like it’s not a big part of me. The real problem, though, is at school. Everyday in the halls walking to and from classes I get called homophobic slurs and get nasty looks. The teachers see it happen and don’t do anything to stop it or to help me. This makes going to school extremely difficult, exhausting, and scary. It’s not fair that straight kids get to walk through the halls unbothered while I get slurs yelled at me.

Anonymous, she/her
44 |

I tried to come out to my family in 2013 as nonbinary. When I told my parents over breakfast, I was asked why I couldn’t just pick one [gender] or the other and called a cross-dresser. I was 15. By senior year I was out to my friends and the president of the GSA, but at home, I was still being misgendered by the people who I loved the most. I began volunteering in the community and speaking as an educator in my area, and my parents wanted to come to see me at one of these events (thinking that I was speaking as someone who worked with trans youth, not as a trans youth). It was inevitable. I burst out in tears to my mom at midnight. Every time she calls me “they” I have to stop myself from flinching, still afraid that she found out on her own terms and will deny me again.

Al, 20, they/them
45 |

My experience with coming out as been fairly blessed. I haven’t experienced any direct instances of rejection, and most people have been supportive. However, I feel like people have a lot of internalized queerphobia or ignorance of queer issues that’s difficult for them to move past. Living in North Carolina, I worry about outing myself in public, and it feels dangerous to be authentic. The family members and communities that have accepted me have given me a sense of security that I don’t always find elsewhere. They’ve also given me hope about the future of our nation’s struggle towards LGTBQ+ equality. Without a sense that I would receive at least some acceptance, I wouldn’t have been able to come out, and my anxiety and depression would have become inescapable.

Ansleis, 18, they/them
46 |

My first kiss was magical to me. Even though my entire world once revolved around holding in this secret, my sexuality, it now revolved around living it proudly. But my first boyfriend wasn’t blessed with familial support like me. He was sent to a gay conversion therapist…. I watched him turn from being excited to … deeply ashamed. The way he looked at me changed. I was to be avoided as often as possible. I was now an object of disgust. And he viewed himself as broken. He was made to think he was so broken that only suicide could keep him from further agony. His family heard him, finally, just before it was too late. He was never the same after conversion therapy. His family convinced him he was abhorrent to God and his family if he continued his ‘lifestyle.’ This damage cannot be easily undone.

Alex, 25, He/his/him
47 |

I have had to come out 5 times. I went from calling myself a cis lesbian, to calling myself a cis gay, to calling myself a gender fluid gay, to calling myself a gender fluid queer, to understanding my sexuality and gender identity in entirely new ways and deciding on the labels of queer and trans. I know that sexuality and gender identity are fluid, but the reality of dealing with changing labels is much harder. For my mom though, it was just part of loving me. When I came out as a lesbian, and even when I referred to myself as gay, my mom proudly wore a shirt that said, “I love my gay daughter.” … When I started to question my gender identity, I was afraid of what her reaction was going to be. … Well, it didn’t take long for her to take her “I love my gay daughter shirt” and make some changes. She crossed off the word daughter, and used colorful sharpies to make the shirt say, “I love my gay gender fluid child.” Once again, I felt totally seen and affirmed. … When I left for college, I changed my name. I changed my pronouns, first to he/him and then to they/them. I started seeking resources to help me with my medical transition. I was planning for top surgery, for testosterone. I knew that this was going to be a much bigger deal for both of my parents … They started to understand that in order for me to be happy, to be me, to be confident, I needed this. Though it took them a little while, they started to use the language that I asked them to. My mom, realizing that the shirt she had worn for the past few years, was no longer accurate, asked me for a new one. I invested in one that said, “I love my trans child.” She wears it proudly. She has become my fiercest advocate and my biggest fan.

Dylan, 24, they/them/theirs
48 |

My dad had known about me being bisexual for a year before I finally told him I was gay, then after another year I told my mom. It wasn’t in the best way (which I regret doing) but I felt brave enough to. A few hours later I went downstairs to talk with her and explain that I was still the same me, and that me being gay was just an extra little surprise. Unfortunately that isn’t how she saw it. My mom said that I had been lying to her for 2 years, that hurt me so much that I struggled not to cry in front of her. What’s worse is that my dad didn’t say anything. Now I’m even more uncomfortable about it. I cant even talk about my girlfriend or mention that shes part of my life because I don’t want to be restricted. I just want to be me, and so does my girlfriend, but its hard especially when we are too scared to even hold hands in public.

Anonymous, 16, she/her/they/them
49 |

Growing up, I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted in life. I always knew I was a lesbian, but I figured being straight was better because I thought that’s what people saw me as… A straight African-American girl. I’ve kept this secret for as long as I can remember. But, when my sister came out to our family saying she was gay, I thought maybe this was my time to come out. Two years later, I decided this was my time. I found the girl of my dreams and so I came out to my grandmother. I thought she would reject me, I thought my friends would reject me, I just thought the whole world would reject me for coming out. But, it was just the opposite. Everyone supported me and my relationship. It was like a secret was lifted off my shoulders. This definitely changed my life for the better. I was able to just be me without all the hate and the fear of going around having people think I was straight.

Casmere, 22, she/her
50 |

So I’m gay and it’s been a struggle all my life ever since I realized I was different. I… but I learned overtime that I had to be myself because that’s the best self that you can be. I came out as bisexual in seventh grade to some of my friends, … the beginning of eighth grade year I got depressed because I was still trying to date girls and make myself like girls but it wasn’t working. … I got more depressed, until I finally talked to someone – my best friend at the time … I talked to her and she helped me through it. She told me and I quote ” …you need to be yourself, because that’s the best you that you can be.” … I realized she was right I need to be myself. So over the summer before I started high school the next year … I came out to my mom as gay and she told me she loves me the way I am no matter what. I came out to more of my friends and I felt comfortable being myself. When I went to school last year, my first year of high school, I was out as gay….it was like I had lifted thousand pounds off my shoulders. I was free. I was free from my depression. I was free from keeping secrets from my family and friends. I felt amazing. I was a new person…. To this day I continue to live life out and proud. I plan on coming out to my brother and my dad soon I’m nervous but in the end I know they love me.

Anonymous, 15, He/his
51 |

I was born with XY chromosomes. But I am a woman. I was raised to believe gay people were sick and perverted. I was hardly aware of transgender people until I was almost twenty years old. At age 23… I decided I needed to transition to be happy in life. Me having gender dysphoria perfectly explained many of the struggles I’d had since birth. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was an actual human being with a future. I worked with my therapist and a transgender specialist to write a 26-page coming out letter to my parents. It detailed my feelings, what transitioning would mean, and revealed to them the great extent of my struggle with my sexuality in high school. The next evening, my parents gave me a 72-hour eviction notice that declared me a danger to them and my younger sister. They forbid me from speaking to her. They refused to answer my questions. They refused to speak with my therapist. … they demanded I see a Christian sex counselor for therapy, alone, before I would be able to speak with my sister again…Through my therapist I found an LGBT couple that agreed to let me stay with them for a week. I then moved in to an apartment … For the eighteen months since then, I’ve had almost no contact with my family, except them sending me emails about how I’m not forgotten, or how their god can make me whole again. I’ve been rejected by my parents and sister. On my 25th birthday, I lost my relationship with my older brother. He told me he believes I am a man and that his god can help me live a happy life as one. He refused to use my new legal name or the appropriate pronouns, and I couldn’t take the abuse anymore. One set of my grandparents, with whom I had a very good relationship prior to coming out, refused to let me live with them when I was faced with homelessness because my “life choices” made them “uncomfortable.”

Fiora, 25, she/her
52 |

In 8th grade, my best friend and I were pretty much inseparable. That year … I developed feelings for him that I had never experienced before… As the summer came to a close the love I developed for him had grown. We texted the night before school started and when the first day came I tried to find him in the hall. When I did, he was with his football friends and it was like I didn’t even exist. He completely ignored me the entire day and I was so upset and confused… The next day I pulled him aside and asked him face-to-face what was wrong and he seemed scared and kept looking around. This went on for a year and by the start of the next school year I finally had enough I told him that if he wanted to be friends he had to explain himself. I even came out to him to try and get something out of him but he had no answer. So I had to tell my best friend, the first boy I ever truly loved, that we needed to stop being friends. Without saying anything, he walked away, and broke my heart. After a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that he was scared. Scared to associate with me because of my sexuality. Even if he was gay or not he didn’t want to let any feelings through for fear of his team or parents finding out. In the end I learned two very important life lessons. I learned that fear should not come between yourself and happiness and I learned how to let go and move on.

Adam, 18, he/his
53 |

Growing up as a kid was little difficult. To be asked if you were gay at a young age by other students you start to question yourself and ask why are they only asking me this. By the time I was a teenager I understood what I was but still didn’t have the courage to come out. Even though my parents, family members and friends would be accepting I still had a dark fear. Finally once a senior in high school I finally came out and I can honestly say I wish I did it sooner. A HUGE weight was lifted off my shoulders. I was very blessed to have acceptance. It took a little more work from my father to hear the news but overall he came through and supports me in everything that I do.

Michael, 23, he/him
54 |

I grew up in a deeply religious home. Throughout my youth, my sibling and I were exposed constantly to homophobic and miseducated views about the community we would later come to call home. My mother’s and my relationship is on shaky ground. In her heart she believes there is something wrong with us, that we are damaged and less deserving of respect and support. She has told me she will never go to my wedding (as I am a lesbian) and if I ever decide to have kids she does not know if she will be in my life. The same goes for my brother who identifies as a gay man. My grandparents on her side of the family believe that LGB people are all secretly pedophiles and that they are evil. We have both struggled with depression, self harm, suicidal thoughts, and with the knowledge that in our life it might not get any better. But we continue to fight for our fellow LGB family with knowledge, science, and compassion because even if only one more person can be shown that they are still able to find happiness and are deserving of love, we have done well.

Julia, 21, She/her
55 |

I am sixteen years old, Christian, and living in North Carolina. When I was fifteen years old, I came out to my mother with tears in my eyes. I didn’t know what her reaction was going to be, if she would reject me or what. Upon telling her, I requested her to not tell my father. She said she would not. At the time, I did not know how she felt about this news. And it killed me. I was (and still am) open with my friends and teachers about my sexuality. All of my friends knew. One day later, I was eating lunch with my dad. A normal, happy day. But around 8:00, my mom called me and told me that this whole day, my dad knew about me coming out. She told my dad after I specifically told her not to, and she said she wouldn’t. … I found the courage to go and talk to my dad about this situation. In short, he was furious at me. Saying things like “I wouldn’t get into heaven” and “my grandfather would hate me for it” (my grandfather is a pastor) and that “being gay is the one thing that you will not get accepted by Jesus for as a Christian.” It shattered my heart. After this two-hour-long conversation, we ended with me saying “I’m not gay.” Frankly, I’m done with this. For over a year now, I’ve been hiding my sexuality from my family… A day later, my mom said that she was “disheartened” by the fact that she would “never get to see me walk down the aisle with a woman,” and that I’d “never have kids.” … I’m very scared of my parents kicking me out. Despite all of this happening, I love them.

Anonymous, 16, he/his
56 |

I’m a bisexual androgynous person. I’m a teen that lives in a family where everyone outside sees my parents as a friendly, open, loving parents. But the awful truth is that it’s not. Since I’m biologically a female, my mother has believed for the longest time I should be wearing makeup and make myself look “my best”, which in my definition is myself. But she has shown multiple times that she despises how I dress and present myself to people. My father in the past, has said that people in the transgender community should instead accept what they are born as, and that he believes people that are non-binary and pansexual are just “attention-seekers”. So if I ever told him I like looking like a male, he would lose his mind.I have only come out to them as bisexual, my father has been fine with it. My mother on the other hand, has not. I came out to her in my freshman year of school, and has been denying it ever since. Her main claims towards me are “You’re confused” “You’re influenced” and the most popular one: “You haven’t dated a girl yet” From how my family speaks on the issues on the LGBTQ+ community, I barely talk about my friends, or my interests, which is hard for me. I feel as if I locked myself in a shell, unable to freely speak my mind and talk of what I love. It hurts. It often makes me feel alone, defeated, and I very often get depressed of the thoughts that maybe I’ll be alone for the rest of my life. But I know I’m not, I hope I’m not. I’ve got one great friend, and I have always enjoyed being by her. She, like me, is not well-accepted in her family for being Bi. With my parents claiming to be lgbt allies to the outside world, it’s a hard punch to my face. Because they only say it, never show it. Especially to their own child.

Anonymous, 17, he/she/they
57 |

My first taste of acceptance was from my friend group. I had only had my eyes opened to the LGBTQIA+ community when I had moved, and along the road I had met many different members of the community. When I realized I was nonbinary, my friends and my boyfriend accepted me with open arms. To this day there are people who I know still see me as the gender I was assigned at birth, but I’ve never faced rejection in the face from those I care about. Family acceptance is so vital to people like me. To know that you can be yourself and be seen as what you really are with your family must be so incredible and freeing. Being closeted is disheartening to many people (including myself). And, since this community is about acceptance, exclusive speech can be damaging and hurtful. It’s the least we can all do, to make people feel welcome and accepted in this community.

Anonymous, 15, he/him/they/them
58 |

I have always had problems being accepted. I am a child who was adopted from Russia with a lot of issues on … relationships attachment and etc. I have always known there was something that I couldn’t find about myself and it was getting to me. … I found out what was causing my low self-esteem – it was because I wasn’t showing who I really was … I am now a teenager and I go to school everyday thinnking, ugh why can’t I be myself and why am I getting bullied all the time?… I am just a person who wants to be treated the same. …Being your authentic self is being true to yourself. We were born this way and we can’t change, all we can do is grow and accept that it’s that way.

Anonymous, 17, she
59 |

My story involves my family’s acceptance of my sexuality and how, almost five years later, I begin to realize that my personal feeling of acceptance within the LGBTQ community had much less to do with what others thought and nearly everything to do with loving myself… I’m 11, maybe 12 years old riding shotgun in the car with my mom… and my pubescent mind was swirling with thoughts. One of them was “I could kiss another boy, but I could never love one. No. That would be weird.” This was the very beginning of what would turn into nearly a decade of trying to be someone I was not and the covering up of my truth any moment it tried to show itself. Eventually, at 20, I couldn’t hold my truth in any longer. I came out. I told close friends first who then encouraged me to share my news with my family. … I went into the world a bit. A place I never went, though, was to that part and truth that I covered up for all those years. My experience in coming out of the closet didn’t mean that I had everything clear. That place that held and still holds my “covering up” and prejudices is something I’m just beginning to explore. Why did I find it difficult to befriend other gays when I love meeting new people? … Certainly there are external threats to the LGBTQ community that are out of our control. But love of self can and will only come from ourselves, from myself. I didn’t make many gay friends because I was prejudging them… I choose to start loving myself and accepting myself by taking control of my narrative and my past. My past is important. My past has led me here. And it’s time to face the prejudices and rejections that I’ve been covering up for too long. It’s time to live in my truth. It’s time to be me.

Kyle, 24, he/his
60 |

When I was a senior in high school, I was the president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The previous student leadership team had graduated all members but me, so I planned our schedule, did fundraisers, spoke at events, did panels, and recruited six additional students of different races, genders, sports, and denominations to create a diverse environment. After I came out, “corporate FCA” told me that they would not allow FCA meetings to happen at my school if I continued to serve as president. So, I left. They said I was welcome to attend the meetings, but I couldn’t be their “poster boy” anymore. I didn’t return. Neither did half of the leadership team, several teachers, and over half the participating students (of which I recruited 100). My school stood behind me when what I thought was a welcoming and Christian organization would not, and that’s something important I want to see happening more for Queer students in the south and traditional places. There is love. Everybody deserves it.

Jack, 19, he/his
61 |

In the spring of this year, my partner and I applied for a permit in our city (Starkville, MS) to host the very first LGBTQ Pride Parade in the town. We both had been involved with LGBTQ activism at our university (Mississippi State University) and wanted to bring acceptance into the town. The city’s board denied our application. We were contacted by Roberta Kaplan and represented by her firm when we filed a federal lawsuit requesting that the city’s decision be overturned. In the two weeks between the rejection of the application and the later acceptance of it- hundreds of people in our town, state, and across the country reached out to us and thanked us for fighting for what was right. I would walk down the street and people stop me in tears because no one had ever recognized LGBTQ people in our town. After the board reversed their decision, we were able to host the largest parade in Starkville’s history. 2,500+ people flooded the streets during the parade in support of the community. When Emily and I turned around to see the end of the parade, you couldn’t see the street because so many people were covered in rainbows and joy. This was the most amazing experience of my life. My partner and I were able to make change in small town Mississippi- change that people older than my parents had been waiting and hoping for. I am dedicated to making sure this never goes away here in Starkville. I hope our story will allow others to feel hopeful in the fight for equality across the state and across the country.

Bailey, 22, she/her
62 |

I came out to my mom when she fpund my Instagram account and was wondering why I was following so many LGBT+ groups. She was just like , “oh, ok, don’t tell your father” and it was way better than I expected. No prying questions, doubtful or judgemental looks. It made me way more confident in who I am. Family and community acceptance provides a source of validation, comfort and, a sense of safety. I’m still afraid to come out to my dad because I know he’ll never except it and I’m afraid he’ll do something to mom over it.

Anonymous, 15, she/her
63 |

My wife and I were both raised in the Mormon church… The LDS church has come out with several talks and discussions on how to treat the LGBTQ+ community and it ultimately is this: We do not accept LGBTQ+ individuals as who they wish to express themselves to be. Our parents, both families have very conservative beliefs, were angry when we came out as a couple and I came out as transgender. Soon after we told them we were engaged. My family shamed me into changing my last name, excluded me from family or family friend events, and told my fiancee that she couldn’t be around my younger siblings (my sisters are around her age). I felt so suddenly disconnected from my old friends and family members that it became overwhelming. I attempted suicide. I was ready to drive my car off the canyon that my town lives by, but was stopped by my future wife and supporting friends. They stood at the edge of the canyon until an ambulance and police arrived to help me. My wife also battled her family. She was sent to an outdoor wilderness therapy program in hopes that she would be converted back to the church and leave me. I am grateful that she still chose to be with me after her time in the program. We lost a majority of our friends who were also members of the LDS church. … Unfortunately the town we live in is predominately Mormon and/or conservative. My wife is harassed in person and on social media from people who grew up in the same community, trying to convert her back to the LDS church. I don’t feel safe sharing that I am transgender with my coworkers in fear of discrimination or termination.

Brandon, 24, he/him/his
64 |

I am a bisexual who is still in the closet for many reasons that aren’t surprising. I am mixed (race) but when you’re in my town depending on who you talk to that changes. In the time between my eighth grade year and my freshman year I faced 3 different racist interactions. I also live in a family setting that is not fully ok with everything in the modern world because of religious views. My grandma disapproves of all of the LGBTQ+ community, my grandpa is only ok with some lesbians, my mom doesn’t mind as far as I’m aware, and my community….well it just depends on who you ask. There are other people in my school who are a part of the LGBTQ community and they have been accepted by some but not all. Yet, none of them were black/African American or anything else they are all Caucasian. I want to come out but after what I’ve dealt with just for being black which has been a longer problem than the LGBTQ community I don’t want to deal with that again.

Anonymous, 15, She/her
65 |

This past school year at my local middle school one of the male students wore a dress to school just simply because he felt like it. The dress met every single school policy and rule except for the unwritten one. That kid was dress coded almost immediately after walking into the school. Because of that kids decided that was unfair and that the next day they should wear anything and everything rainbow. Kids who hated that idea and/or were against the LGBTQIA community decided that the day after everyone wore rainbow they would wear black. Now thankfully things didn’t get out of hand as a reaction to either side, but it hurts to think that even in middle you aren’t safe from retaliation. But kids are that young and already showing views like that – it shows that they are being taught this at home and with the way things are now. There isn’t really an age where you can be care free of being hated because of being who you were born to be. I wish you could educate kids that we should except everyone even if your parents say not to. Even at age 10/11 you aren’t totally free of negativity for coming out and being who you are and loving who you love.

Anonymous, 15, she/her
66 |

I consider myself so very lucky. When I can out to my mom as gay my mom said something along these lines: “I’ve known since you were like five, I love you and that will never change. I will always have your back.” She is my biggest support system and I am thankful for that every day. Because of her I know I can be myself and no matter what because I know she will always be there for me. My friends have also been really supportive towards me as well and I am so thankful for them as well.

Anonymous, 15, He/his
67 |

Growing up in deep southern Georgia, it wasn’t the easiest of my life experiences. But with the support system of friends, it made a lasting impact on my life and has played a major role in my character development. Initially, my parents disowned my sexual orientation, and even kicked me out for being gay, but over the years, they too have learned and grew and now completely accept me for who I am. Sometimes, love takes time, and we are all constantly learning about life as we trek through it. The most important aspect for me has been to always hold my head high and keep on the pathway of my future, and the change I can bring with it.

Andrew, 21, he/him/his
68 |

An experience that I had would have to be a recent family event that I had. Derogatory names were exchanged, not between the both of us but only my sister. The names exchanged with my husband were horrific. “… f****t”. Another experience I had, I was being picked on while I was still in high school. A guy that I barely even knew looked over the school bus seat and said “what are you looking at f****t” then he threatened me.Growing up in Kentucky is rough. Especially in the western region. I wanted to share some of my experiences in hopes that it will create a better future and hopefully extra protection for those who can’t protect themselves.

Matthew, 20, He/his
69 |

Before coming out during my first year of medical school, the primary factor holding me back was a fear of disappointing my family and losing favor in their eyes. I had always felt loved and supported growing up, but I somehow felt that telling them that I was gay–that sharing one of the most vulnerable and intimate parts of my life with them–I would become lesser. Because of the stress of medical school, and through the support and encouragement that I received from a few very close colleagues, I decided that if I did not come out, something was going to snap–and I didn’t want that something to be me. After a very emotional and tense weekend of conversations, long drives, letters, and countless tears, I came out to my family, the last ones to learn that I am gay. Instead of the rejection that I feared, I was met with unconditional love and acceptance. My parents told me they were proud of me; they were proud of every part of me and celebrated that I am gay. Now, they continue to support me, advocate for me and others, and educate themselves on LGBTQ issues. I’ve learned that sharing the most vulnerable and intimate parts of our lives can be such a challenging obstacle, and I know for many it doesn’t turn out the way it did for me. But, if we choose the right people with whom to share our true selves and with whom we can be vulnerable and honest, the reward–unconditional love and acceptance–is one of the best gifts life can provide.

Sam, 23, he/him/his
70 |

I am immensely lucky my parents and sister are wonderfully accepting of me and my identity. They stood by me when I came out as bi, and as gay, and they told me they love me and they are proud of me. They help and support and listen to me when I am confused and struggling with being a queer woman, and they stand up for me and my decisions in front of our less accepting extended family. … My family is the most important part of my life, and they’ve been one of the most inspirational and influential parts of my experience growing up as a gay woman. My parents’ love and acceptance makes me proud and confident to be me. They make me happy to be alive. What could be more important than that?

Lizzie, 21, she/her
71 |

I came out in a video on my mom’s Facebook page in June and so far have raised $12,000 towards my hometown’s first gay pride parade! With my parents’ help, I have been lucky enough to spread the word …

Anonymous, 12, she
72 |

After coming out just recently, a relative of mine asked someone behind my back asking what “triggered” me as if my sexuality was something that needed to be “triggered”.Family Acceptance is important because I am human and I deserve to be accepted as I am. I do not want to settle for tolerance just because some people cannot understand that being myself is okay and completely valid.

Anonymous, 17, She/her or they/them
73 |

When I first found out there were different sexualities to identify, I was happy until I found out that my parents don’t agree. I hid it and tried to deny anything other than heterosexuality. When my parents first found out, my mom was moderately okay with it from my brother, but when they realized it was both of us my dad, my best friend essentially said we weren’t the children he wanted. He said it in anger, but there’s always a little truth in it. That’s where a lot of my anxiety stems from, feeling like I’m not accepted by those around me despite what they say. I’m proud where I can be, but I’m trying to slowly reintroduce it to my parents.

Casey, 24, she/her
74 |

When my sister came out as bi to my Mom and told her she has a girlfriend, my Mom responded by telling her that love is a beautiful thing and if her daughter loves her girlfriend then she loves her too. As someone who is gay myself and wasn’t sure how my Mom would react this has given me the confidence that when I do come out she will be accepting. My Dad however has made several comments mocking and making fun of gay people and I can’t describe how much it hurts to hear what is essentially bullying coming from your own parent. I don’t feel like I can fully be myself until I am out to everyone, but with him I’m worried that our already difficult relationship will be further strained by it.

Christopher, 18, he/his
75 |

Not so long ago, I moved to the United States as a young immigrant with no family or friends in the US. One of the reason that I ran way from country was that my family were so against LGBT people and my parents were very conservative Christians. Including my friends. I thought I would find a safe place somewhere else in the world but after living months in three different shelters, finally I got a place to call home with a foster care program. I came out to my foster parents as a result of telling my counselor why I really wanted to die and disappear as soon as possible after two years of medication. …Although, my foster parents were OK with me …one of my foster brothers didn’t agree …. He and his other friends have threatened me – to tell everyone in my christian high school …. I have been and teased about my sexual identity but I cannot ask for help at my school because I will be kicked out if I do. … if I come out or my foster brother keeps spreading the rumors around, it could put everything in risk … I have attempted to kill myself on numerous occasions and been to a few emergency centers. But, I am planning to fight this back and I could win this war and give the opportunities for other young LGBTQ people across christian conservatives school and other institutions across the nation to be powerful enough to stand up…

Freddy, 18, Undecided (he/her)
76 |

Coming out was never meant to be comfortable. I lived in Southern California. Growing up in a small town in a small desert in San Diego County. …When I came out to my parents, they made constant threats. At one point my dad ripped my pride flags off my walls and burnt them. This emotionally traumatized me. My parents threatened to switch the school I was going to, take away my phone, get rid of the internet at our house, and so on. All this right after I had come out to them. After a while, my family changed, and the most comfortable thing to do was to ignore the elephant in the room altogether. …I knew the consequences of coming out but I also knew that being true to who I am is far better than living in shame, fear, and sadness. Throughout middle school and the first couple years of high school, I found I would filter myself. Every step, hand gesture, and move I would make. It was all monitored just so I could fit what was “straight” or “acceptable”. The majority of my community was great but I am aware that many people still talk about me and throw around gay slurs without a second thought at who it effects. My life hasn’t been perfect. I could never regret coming out. I do regret not doing it sooner.

Anonymous, 17, He/his
77 |

I’ve been really fortunate to have had a great deal of acceptance and support from my family, friends, and community. From my partner’s grandfather who on learning I was trans shared that “you just know who you are,” to a youth pastor who welcomed my coming out story with a big hug and a smile to a former coworker who gushed with excitement to my partner and my sister who have both been tremendous allies and advocates for me. I know, having talked with many other LGBTQ+ folks that I have the rare privilege of a family that is extraordinarily supportive and I’m grateful for that. That’s not to say that it’s all been easy or that there hasn’t been plenty of need for explanation and education; but with every step that I’ve taken out into the world I’ve been able to do it with family and community behind me in support.

Kat, she/her
78 |

I was raised in a religious, Middle Eastern family and was conditioned to reject any sort of ‘unnatural’ sexual desires. This took a strong psychological toll on me because, well, I was gay. I was always ashamed of being this way and attempted to ‘pray the gay away’ on a daily basis. My homosexuality has been a backlining source of my depression and suicidal tendencies throughout my life. Luckily, I discovered the world of acceptance … once college came around. I gained a newfound sense of confidence as I came out to my those within my social circles. The only people left to tell were my family. I know my family’s views on homosexuality, which is why they were the last people for me to tell. When I told my siblings, they were surprised but also overwhelmingly accepting and encouraging. I was most nervous to tell my mom (much more religious than my siblings). When I came out to her, she told me that she’d rather I not be gay, but that she still loves me the same regardless. She apparently knew I was gay since I was 3, and had long anticipated this conversation (a mother always knows). The acceptance I’ve felt from my family is amazing; this burden that has been lifted off my shoulders allows me to see that it really does get better. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, you just have keep going until you see it….

Michael, 22, he/his
79 |

I never came out to my family, instead I was caught… My parents found out I had sex with a man instead of me telling them… They immediately assumed I was raped, because they never thought their own son could ever want to have sex with a man, but I told them I did… they were silent and then they just ended the conversation. My sexuality has only ever been mentioned once since then. My mom told me she loved me, but she disagreed with my “choices.” I was crushed… did she say she loved me? Yes, but she couldn’t stop there! And she’s never stopped there since… It’s always I love you, but…

Anonymous, 17, he/his
80 |

Coming out to my conservative evangelical parents was very difficult, and took a long time. They were very upset, and had me talk with someone from the (now disbanded) Exodus ministries. Luckily, I wasn’t forced into ex-gay therapy but I was forced to lead a double-life during high school. I was accepted at school and dated boys, but then I had to lie to my parents about where I was and who I was with. I’ve been with my current boyfriend for 6 years and while they’ve met him and ask about him, they’ve made it clear they would not accept or attend our future wedding. The experience has severely impacted my view of myself in context of my religious beliefs, and caused me to separate myself from the church I grew up in. I’m now trying to return to my faith, but it is difficult when most congregations are non-affirming. My boyfriend and I are hopeful, though, that we’ll find an accepting community soon.

Joshua, 24, he/His
81 |

Last January, I came out to people in my life as asexual. Last August, I came out again as panromantic, which means I’ll date any gender, but I’m still asexual. This past November, I started coming out (hopefully for the last time) as nonbinary, which for me means that I’m closer to being a guy than being a girl, but I’m not fully either binary gender. My parents, little sister, and paternal grandmother have openly supported my transition so far, including my new name and pronouns, and while I’m not sure what the rest of my family thinks, no one I’ve come out to has been openly hostile. This past July, I performed at an art exhibition near where I live, reading a poem about my nonbinary identity, and my family and one of my friends came to support me. I love the fact that I’m able to be open about sort of being a guy around the people I love, despite the fact that there are people in the world who would insist I’m a girl. I’m not out at school yet, but here’s hoping everything goes well when I change that at the beginning of the coming school year.

Anonymous, 16, They/them or He/him
82 |

Tell us about an experience: I am growing up in the middle of Oklahoma, my parents are Christian, and I was afraid of who I was. I was in the car with my step dad driving home having a deep conversation and he started talking about stuff he was prepared for and one of them was of one of his childern being homosexual. I started sweating bullets but I had to tell him who I was, I was so afraid of being cast aside from my family but he accepted who I was and later I told my mom, her having tears of joy. This meaning that if your family doesnt accept who you are then there are others who will. I had a loving family who cares for me, they will care for you as million of others will.

Anonymous, 15, he/his
83 |

My childhood was relatively happy and normal in the heteronormative sense of the word, until I hit the teenage years. If becoming a man and going through puberty was not confusing enough, figuring out that I am gay in a society that was less tolerant towards gay people made life even harder. I was rejected by all of my classmates, even other kids I did not know. I was bullied physically and mentally for most of my middle and high school years. These experiences were difficult, those were darker times when I hated myself and life and would go home bloody and bruised every day, but I am stronger now despite the pain. I would not change the past. I no longer care or worry about rejection. I am a gay man and that is ok, whether other people like or accept that fact is solely on them. Hate has no place in our society. Nowadays, homophobia is silent but apparent, and less physically inflicted. Most people are generally accepting.

Kieran, 22, He/His
84 |

I came out this year as gay … and my parents almost kicked me out of the house, but I promised I wasn’t going to tell anyone (including friends) so I could stay because “they couldn’t go through the embarrassment of the people thinking it was their fault “

Anonymous, 15, The/them
85 |

Tell us about an experience: When I was in high school, I realized I was gay. I was scared to come out to my family and friends. My senior year, I told my art teacher, that I was gay. It was such a liberating feeling! Her calm and encouraging response to me coming out to her, was a major confidence boost. It helped me come to terms with my sexuality, and come out to my family, who all support and love me.

Kyla, 23, she/her
86 |

“Just stop this already. This doesn’t matter; it’s a joke. You’re a joke. This whole thing is a joke and your rights are a joke.” Eight hundred students and teachers in my school’s auditorium sucked in their breath. I felt blood rushing to my face and heard my heart thudding in my ears. How could I have anticipated that my presentation about LGBT+ rights in foreign countries would elicit this type of reaction? I wanted to give up, run offstage, and never show my face again, but I couldn’t accept that if I did, this homophobic behavior would go unaddressed… For the next few hours, I remained unaware that someone else in the audience had been filming my response… a video surfaced on social media with a target drawn tauntingly over my body I was in the crosshairs of a digital rifle. … Until this experience, I had never understood the true reach and impact of my words. My eyes were opened to how I had the power to inspire, enlighten, and infuriate groups of people. Bigotry had prevented me from speaking out for months; however, I know now that I will never let hate silence my voice again. In this quest to be unapologetically who I am, I’ve become a more thoughtful public speaker, I’ve become more motivated and determined, I’ve learned to take risks, I’ve stopped fearing the unknown, and I’ve gained resilience and emotional strength.

Ellie, 18, she/her/hers
87 |

My immediate family accepted me coming out as bisexual fairly well. My dad gave me a speech about how that didn’t mean anything was wrong with me and that lots of people had same sex attraction. I think he needed to say it more than I needed to hear it. I was more afraid to come out to my mother (my parents were going through a divorce at the time so I told them separately). When in the closet, you try to hope that things will turn out better than you expect, but until the words leave your mouth, you can’t shake the overwhelming fear that your family aren’t the people you thought they were, and that they don’t actually love you unconditionally. My mother was, and did. However, my extended family on my mother’s side is another story. I am the “rainbow sheep” that we don’t talk about. My grandmother stopped speaking to me for a while. She was “hurt” by my “decision.” My grandfather told my mom “We love her anyway,” as if this was something wrong with me and they would love me in spite of it. It hurt. And for a while, I was grateful. Grateful that after what seemed like a long while, my grandmother spoke to me again. Grateful that they didn’t disown me completely. But now, I wish they had. At family gatherings, it feels like I am outside in the cold, looking in through a window at a happy family, and I’m not allowed inside. I shouldn’t be grateful for scraps of love.

Rebecca, 23,
88 |

I was born biologically female yet I told my parents I wanted to be a boy at the age of four. My parents were not sure what to say. I was told that I was born a girl and that’s what I am. I remained masculine and identified as a “tomboy” during my childhood. … In 6th grade, when I was 12, I started to realize that I was attracted to both boys and girls but suppressed it because I was convinced I was going to hell because of it and that’s what my school had been teaching me. By the time 8th grade rolled around my friends convinced me that no guys would want to date me if I continued to dress like a boy/masculine. I conformed to what society expected of me and started dressing more feminine and styling my hair a certain way, etc. I then attended a one-hallway Christian high school and that only made me conform more. I was terrified that if I even admitted to myself that I was bisexual that I would go to hell. … I came out as bisexual (I now identify as queer) publicly my sophomore year of college. I was surprised at how many people from high school were okay with it and how many friends I lost because of it. I was petrified of coming out as transgender because I knew nobody from high school would ever talk to me again because of it. However, at my college I made a solid group of friends and support system through the LGBTQ organization on campus and the school’s pride center. I finally had the support I always needed which gave me the confidence to come out once again… I realized that I didn’t need anyone’s approval to be myself. I just needed mine.

Kyra, 21, He/him/his
89 |

My family is overall very, very accepting and wonderful about my being LGBT. Coming out as nonbinary, however, was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, because for years they’ve been saying things that were unintentionally transphobic. They never meant any of it in that way, but it still hurt, and it made coming out very, very difficult. Thankfully, when I did come out about being nonbinary, they were very accepting and supportive.

Anonymous, 16,
90 |

My parents struggle with my sexuality; my father is outwardly supportive but does not try to understand it, and has made worrisome comments in the past. My mother tries to pretend that it doesn’t exist. She makes no effort to acknowledge or accept it, and for her sake I must hide it from my extended family or risk shaming her. This means that I never feel comfortable with my parents, because there is always this underlying issue that I can’t talk about. It makes time with them stressful, and makes me less willing to see them. I’ve been lucky, though, to have a sister and many loving friends who accept me wholeheartedly as I am. Their support gives me the strength to face each day and be proud of the man I’ve grown into. I actively participate in LGBT groups that seek to educate, support, and advocate for our rights and humanity. I like who I am, even if I know others do not. There are good times and bad, but as long as I have some support network, I know that I will make it through to the next day.

Brent, 22, he/him
91 |

When I was 16 years old I had a revelation. I was struggling to find the words to describe how I felt and what was happening. Finally, while I was at summer camp that summer, I heard the words “transgender” explained and I realized that was me. It took a year for me to tell my family. The night I did it was scary and hard. I was sobbing and having an anxiety attack. My mom finally asked “what is this about? What triggers this?” And I told her “mom, I’m not right. I don’t belong in this body. I can’t keep living this way. I’m a boy mom. I’m a boy.” She took it in stride that night but the next morning she didn’t speak to me. Didn’t speak to or about me for about a month. My dad, who is a county police captain was shockingly the most accepting. His words were “look, I don’t care what you are. I just want you to graduate high school in one piece.” He even printed out a 100+ page guide on “how to support your transgender child” and made my mom read it. In the end it all worked out. I got to start testosterone and my dad paid for me to get top surgery this past March. I’ve never been happier. I still have a long way to go but I’m able to get there now that I’ve been given the resources to be who I am.

Eliot, 20, he/him/his
92 |

In September 2017 I made a choice to come out to my family. A choice that affected my life for better and worse. I, as many others, decided to come out as a Bisexual. As hard as that is, the weeks to follow were even harder. See, I live in a staunchly conservative town, so I knew I would be met with much backlash. I was met with even more hurt than I expected. My family welcomed me with fairly open arms. …But school, the one place I should feel safe in, turned its back on me. When I was a kid I suffered the painful grip of sexual assault by my next door neighbor, who happened to be a male. This opened the door to an unbearable amount of torture. I felt trapped, like nobody was on my side. Day after day, hour after hour, I was met with constant scrutinization, even to the people I once called friends. This terrible time started to lead me down the worst path possible. I found myself constantly in my own head. Closed off the rest of the world. My thoughts got darker, and darker, until one day I made a choice I wish I could change, I made plans to rip my own life away. In that moment I didn’t think of my parents, or my siblings. Just my own pain. Some call that selfish, but I have been there. I call it pure exhaustion. Pure self-hatred. But, I never went through with my plan. …. So, I use my story as motivation. Motivation to follow my dreams and use politics to change lives. So now I help others in my community come out. Even the smallest words help.

Anonymous, He/His
93 |

I grew up in the Christian faith, and remember being told by pastors that being gay was a choice, and a sinful, bad one to make. My own parents were also vocally homophobic and would rant about how bad, gross, etc being gay was and showed clear disgust for it. One time, they even threw a fit when they learned of a lesbian couple adopting a child together in our area… These things caused me to subconsciously shove parts of myself and feelings I had down into a place where I wouldn’t think about them. … I had been scared to unpack the feelings I had until I was out of college at 22… I fought myself and the intense shame and guilt, then finally concluded that I was bisexual at 24.

Cristal, 25, she/her
94 |

When I came out to my family, my parents didn’t get mad, but wanted me to fix it. And when I came out to my friends, there was no acceptance. I was beat up and made fun of. I had no more friends and had no will to live. But I spoke to a teacher at my school about it. We decided to start an LGBTQ club at school which helped me and others through our coming out experience.

Anonymous, 15, He/ His
95 |

I came out to my parents when I was thirteen years old. It was 2004. The world wasn’t nearly as accepting as I’ve seen it become over the last fourteen years… When I told my parents I was gay, they didn’t believe me. They didn’t think I was old enough to be able to understand what gay actually meant. And to them, their daughter being gay meant a hard life of constant struggle to be accepted and respected. … They didn’t understand then that what I needed was unconditional support… What hurt worst was how they made me swear I wouldn’t tell my younger sisters anything. I made the promise because they seemed so adamant about it. But for nearly three long years my relationship with my sister who was my best friend became strained. I was hiding from her something huge. Something that was a big part of me because my parents made me promise not to tell her. They didn’t want me to influence her, as if by my being gay she would suddenly be gay too. I fell into a deep depression from the time I was thirteen until I was seventeen. I’d contemplated suicide and had been put into therapy by my parents. It didn’t help. After I came out my relationship with my father deteriorated almost completely. … Things have changed a lot since 2004. I’m engaged now. Living with my beautiful fiance. We have a dog and are currently planning our wedding, which my parents support and have helped pay for. My family and friends are all going to be there.

Meghan, she/ her/ hers
96 |

I came out to my parents and siblings over the past month or so. All of my brothers were very accepting, as were their wives. My father actually came out to me before I came out to him. My sister and mother, however, rejected me. Although my sister has gradually accepted me, it was only yesterday that my mother called mye abnormal, disappointing, and claimed that me finding myself has led to me hurting our relationship and other familial ties. She doesn’t just not understand me, she has refused to try and learn to understand me, preferring to live in ignorance. This has left me broken-hearted and put down. I love my mother, and I wanted her to be my best friend in life, but she chooses not to associate with me and rejects me.

Kaitlyn, 19, she/her
97 |

I identify as a gay member of the LGBTQ community. I just recently came out to my family, and have received nothing but support. The support and love of my friends and family makes me feel valid, and I wouldn’t be able to stay afloat without it. … It feels incredible to know that you are an accepted and valuable member of your friend group, community, family, etc. Being supported by the people I’m close to has helped me realize that there’s nothing wrong with me, and my sexuality doesn’t change their view of me.

Dew, 18, he/ him
98 |

I’m an active member and supported for the North County LGBTQ resource center in Oceanside, CA. I have seen, heard and witnessed both acceptance and rejection. [E]veryone should be created equal. We are all humans and that makes us the same. Race, religion, sexual identity and many more things are not things in which we should be judged on.

Laura, 43, she/her
99 |

I have been working as a scientist in the industrial sector for 44 years and have, currently, three coworkers that I know of who are openly gay and in my estimation, are simply, well-known and well-respected coworkers. They are parents of adoptees (who have turned out just fine, thank you), they are dating the field and discuss relationships w/ their allied coworkers in the same terms that cishetero folks do… As long as you are a contributing adult who is doing no harm and not breaking the law… you get to be evaluated, respected, disrespected, liked, tolerated, etc. as the person that you are; just get the job done, same as everyone else on the agenda item list.

Christine, 66,
100 |

My twin sister was always the quiet one the reserved one the shy one once in middle school she got picked on teases and bullied. Most of all she didn’t like herself. She was gay and for a long time hated herself for that… she tried to change but couldn’t so she became introverted and shy and mainly tried to be unnoticed… I wanted a twin I could talk about boys to and she wasn’t that for me and it made me sooo mad. Later one day in our 20s she told me she was gay. And it wasn’t a surprise. I was glad she was finally able to say it out loud I was happy that finally she would find a way to love herself. But that didn’t happen so easy. She struggled a lot and found “love” in all the wrong places. Finally now In her 40s, I think she has found the right kind of love. And a newfound confidence and love for herself.

Heather, 41,
101 |

I have watched a fellow parent in my community go from “I don’t know what I would do if one of my (three) daughters came out as gay,” to showing pride in her two daughters and son. She has educated herself about the lgbtq+ community and even become an activist with the local pride organization.

Jayna, 37, she/her
102 |

Our daughter’s friend was kicked out of her home January 2nd this year. No clothes, luggage, drivers license, etc. Her parents are Southern Baptist “Christians,” and wanted her to try conversion therapy, but since she refused, they have only very occasional contact, and berate her when they do. They are spreading rumors that my wife is crazy, that we are a bad influence, etc. You get the message. Through a very warm community response, and a great benefactor, she was able to go to college this past semester and got a 3.4… With even more community support and hard work over the summer on her own behalf, she is back off to college this weekend.

Chad, 59, she
103 |

My cousin Jim visited when I was about ten… Jim was different. He came into my room with his knitting and talked to me. He listened with me to my Beatles records and was patient while I showed him my cats and my Barbies. That meant more than I could ever say… When I got older, I learned my cousin was gay. His mother didn’t want him at family functions because she was afraid the family would put him down, etc… Finally, Jim came to visit my husband and me when we lived in Portland. He came out to me then. I told him I’d figured it out long before and I loved him no matter what… Now that Jim’s actually telling the family, who mostly suspected already, I’ve defended his rights to other family.

Becky, 60, she/her,
104 |

In the early 90s, my eldest cousin was living in Portland Maine. His sister and I went to visit him at his apartment. when he greeted us at the door, his face was black and blue. [He explained] that he got beat up at a bar the night before. He said he had even made the news, which was coming on in a few minutes. We sat down with him to watch the news… The reporter quickly referred to it as a “gay-bashing incident…” My cousin wouldn’t make eye contact. He said “Oh boy. Talk about coming out in a big way,” and he giggled nervously waiting for our reactions… No one should have to be afraid to just tell. But obviously that fear comes from the idea that you could be rejected, that grandma and grandpa might end up hating you… or that strangers in a bar will be offended and gang up on you to kick your ass for some reason known only to them. I know it’s still tough, but I do think that if he had grown up now rather than going through his twenties in the 1980s, he wouldn’t have felt the need to hide.

Cheryl, she/her
105 |

I am very honored to be one of my company’s advocates for inclusion LGBTQ persons as corporate employees and leaders as wells in the company’s supplier base… Participating as part of diversity and inclusion is an opportunity to promote LGBTQ persons in retaining top talent and making my company a better place to work.

David, 67, he/his
106 |

I have family members who are gays or LGBTQ. Our family has always been loving and accepting of all people. Where there’s acceptance there’s peace, there’s unity, there’s LOVE.

Melissa, 48, She/her
107 |

My twin sister gave birth to twins four years ago. At first, we thought they were twin girls, Elena and Maria (not their real names)… At around 2, [Elena] told my sister he was not, in fact, a girl, but a boy. My sister listened with an open mind, and waited. Elena kept telling my sister that he was a boy, and wanted to wear “boy” clothes, play with “boy” toys and cut his hair. My sister talked to her pediatrician and sought specialist care and learned that she had a transgender child. This was a surprise to me, Elena’s aunt. I had always thought that transgender issues didn’t surface until children hit puberty. Thanks to my sister, I now know that many children identify as trans in early childhood and that, in fact, the identity is biological and formed in the womb. I read up and the subject and am supporting Mark (Elena’s new name) in his journey.

allison, 46, she/her
108 |

When my twin “grand daughters” were a little more than two years old… [one granchild] started telling anyone who would listen, “I’m a boy,” and later, “I’m a boy in a girl’s body,” which I considered amazingly assertive for a two-year-old… At first I had a hard time using the correct pronouns and made a lot of mistakes… When this subject first came up, my understanding of the word, “transgender” was unformed and confused, especially the distinction between gender identification and sexual orientation. I had never really thought much about it except in the most general way. When faced with a transgender grandchild in the family, I let my daughter, for whom I have always had the greatest respect, lead the way, and she, in turn, took her cues from my grandchild… After approximately six months, I accepted that this was not a child’s passing fantasy and that our grandchild was going to need all the love, acceptance and support we could muster.

Bill, 74, he/his
109 |

Growing up, I was teased for dancing and cheerleading… and I would come home everyday and cry to my parents. I ended up turning into a bully and bullying other kids that acted or seemed to be gay. I regret that everyday and have realized what kind of person I was to those people back growing up. This impacted me because I constantly see bullying happening throughout the world and country and I know what those people are going through and it needs to change!

Austin, 27, He/His
110 |

Knowing the rejection of a parent through racism, I could not bear to put my family through that. We love all our children and grandchildren regardless of their gender or sexual preferences. I also understand the rejection of LQBTQ youth when they are not accepted by their family. My uncle, now sadly deceased, came out about 15 years ago and was terrified to tell me (as his only nephew). I told him that it absolutely did not matter what his choice of partner was as long as they were happy.

Andrew, 54, he/him
111 |

Well I’m the grandmother and I quite frankly pity anyone that cannot accept a person for who they are. My granddaughter is not flawed she is I perfect person that loves and gives with all of her heart She’s loving.. kind and gentle.. a good Christian… A teacher who adores every child in her room. What more could you possibly ask for then the perfect person that she is?

Betty, 71,
112 |

When a good friend of mine, who had been the worship leader at my church, told me his story of having suffered through nine agonizing years of “reparative therapy” only to emerge from this experience in despair and suicidal, I knew that something needed to change. The Christian community in which I grew up had marginalized LGBTQ Christians by requiring something impossible from them in order to be acceptable – to change their innate, God-given sexual orientation or gender identity. It would be the equivalent of my church telling me that I had to stop being Japanese American before I could be acceptable before God! … This epiphany made it clear to me that I was being called by God to leverage the relative authority I had in my local church as a lay leader to create a safe and welcoming space for our queer brethren. … Four years later, this space, a fellowship group called The Open Door, has seen about 200 lgbtq Christians come through our church, with about 50 (and growing) finding ongoing Christian community with us that they have not been able to find anywhere else.

Marian, 59, she/her
113 |

In the summer of 2016, just minutes after Sarah McBride spoke at the Democratic National Convention, my child found the words and courage to tell me that they identified as being transgender. Through Sarah’s storytelling, my child was finally able to be free to express their true gender identity. Coming to this realization and being able to socially transition was the missing puzzle piece to my child’s happiness. Learning that our child was gender expansive was something we had never imagined. We were scared. We knew that my child had been struggling with finding happiness, but we did not even know that children that age could express a different gender than what they were assigned at birth. We knew that we had to affirm our child in order for them to be happy and healthy… my child was able to attend the first day of fifth grade as the boy he knew himself to be. The principal, counselor and teachers embraced us and together we learned how to navigate this new territory. A few of my child’s friends dropped off and some parents asked probing, inappropriate questions, but that first year was magical for my child. Their standardized test scores skyrocketed and we were all amazed. My child’s mind was finally free and they were able to focus on school, learning and having fun with friends. … Towards the end of sixth grade my child was anxious and missing a lot of school. After some investigating, we found out that our child had been severely bullied by an older kid. … My family and I realized that our bubble had burst and hatred had crept into our lives. As we prepare to start a new school year we are also preparing to introduce our child as non-binary and will be using they/them pronouns and a gender-neutral name. So, we are embarking on yet another gender journey in which we fully support our child and in which we are going to have to continue to educate and advocate, trying to win hearts and minds one at a time. We know it is going to be difficult, but it is what we need to do as a family. We will continue to tell our story so that others know that they are not alone.

Sarah, 53, she/her
114 |

We all need places to belong and family was the most important for my [transgender] son. Since he was given up for adoption, a part of him felt he had already been rejected by his biological parents, so were we going to add to those feelings of rejection? … I was also sad for his future and feared he wouldn’t be accepted as his true self in work. My greatest fear is he would not find love. But I would do it all over again, because Aiden is a kind, compassionate, confident and humble human being today. Somehow he found his way out of this dark and lonely place and I believe our family standing by his side made a statement of his worth and his forever place in our hearts. As far as the community, our greatest rejection was from the Lutheran church we were attending. My son loved God, but on the day he was told to leave and only return when he found himself (in other words, don’t be queer or trans), he thought he was not longer worthy of God’s love… Today, I have found churches that are working hard to be inclusive, accepting and loving towards the LGBTQ community. All of these personal and community challenges we faced made us stronger as a family. It caused us to connect more strongly together, communicate more authentically and love more deeply. We felt no matter what adversity was placed before us, we would find a way through it because we had each other… As a result, I believe we are living life on a different level of joy, gratitude and connection… so no matter what we have gone through, I feel this journey has been a gift to all of us.

Marsha, 71, she/her
115 |

I don’t understand how a parent can reject a child. My husband and I wanted desperately to have our own child. After operations and tests and artificial insemination with no positive results we were advised by the fertility doctor to check out adoption… We had asked God for a healthy child. Didn’t specify gender or color. We got a healthy baby boy that [by the way] was gay. When he told me he was gay all I felt was that he was the beautiful healthy child I had asked God for. My son came out to me on the night of the 2012 election. I was at work with a bunch of good ole southern Republicans. I couldn’t listen to the election results so I asked my son to call me and let me know who won… About an hour later my son calls from a bar and [said], “Mom he won again, he won again and I’m gay!” I said “Cool!” My son, “Mom, I’m gay!” I said “Cool! You are the same child God gave to me and I blinked my eyes when you told me and nothing has changed!” Soon as I hung up that phone I started to research what I could do to let my son know nothing was different. (My husband had one time many years before our son was born that if he had a gay child he would kick him out. My decision if he hadn’t changed his views: I would kick him out!) I realized how much my son’s friends had meant to him and how much support and love they had given him.

Debra, 62, she/her
116 |

My son who is an active duty Marine came out to us about 4 years ago, although we already knew. He was deployed and over Skype he said, “Mom I have something to tell you.” I could tell he was having trouble getting out the words and his voice was breaking up. I stopped him and said, “I KNOW.” He said, “You know what?” “That you’re gay,” I replied. Through the tears I could see a huge weight was lifted. A calmness overcame him and me as well. I never wanted him to feel LESS THAN. He said, “I was so afraid you and dad wouldn’t love me anymore.” My response was, “I’ll love you even more… because every time you meet someone who’s judgmental or has hate in them, remember I’m sending extra love your way to get you through those tough times.” He is such a remarkable young man. He’s met someone who fills his every moment with love, laughter and happiness and [who has] become such a big part of our lives. I have now gained another son. Our entire family loves and respects Ryan for who he is and who he loves. He’s a wonderful Marine and his dad who served for 29 years is more proud of him than words can describe.

Michelle, 47, He
117 |

I come from a very large, well-educated Irish Catholic, albeit liberal, clan. Our daughter “came out” in 2009, the last year of her doctoral program… I guess because of my family background I knee-jerked that it was just really no one else’s business, but I also needed to read and learn about the whole situation. I read lots of books and was able to supplement that with real-life experiences. Mainly, I met as many of her friends as possible and kept my mouth closed, my ears alert and easily kept my heart open. So many of these kids had no family support, some had been kicked out or otherwise abandoned by their families. In my mind I saw my daughter happy and her friends became children of my heart. When engaged, my sisters gave their niece and her fiance a wedding shower. When they got married in Iowa (legal back then) most of my family traveled to celebrate their marriage. The announcement of twins coming brought showers, joy and anticipation, and those children have, in their little fists, their grandparents’ complete love. Maybe my story is dull and normal, but I have grown more tolerant & accepting because of my daughter. She has made me a better person… My family has taught and encouraged me to love my neighbor. My daughter has taught me that all my neighbors are created equal.

Bridget, 68, she/her
118 |

Proud mom to a 27-year-old gay son. I was a big part of my non-denominational church, serving as the women’s ministry leader, youth leader and marriage counselor, and home group bible study. My husband and I were very well loved and depended on for many many roles… and we loved our home church. Our pastor and his parents are very dear friends, but I have walked away from all it and our pastor as he believes LGBT have no place in leadership roles at all. After many many discussions with him, there are no compromises to be made. While I don’t believe being LGBT is a sin, even if it were, we are all sinners, and if every pastor chose to ask the question to every leader on Sundays what sin they are in or have committed during the week, they too could not lead. It’s a pick and choose for pastors in my book on who they want at their table, and God doesn’t look at it that way. We have to do more and be more if we want our LGBT children to stop committing suicide and being kicked out of their homes at such tender ages. I’m in a large group of mama bears who support and reach out to our lost youth who have been bullied, kicked out, depressed, need emotional support and just a… mom.

Marcie, 56, she
119 |

When Max came out as trans four years ago, he was 14, and my reaction was so similar to my own mom’s response to my coming out as bi to her when I was 19: “Okay. What do you want to eat?” I had NO IDEA how much more difficult life would be for Max. I knew there’d be a learning and adjustment curve as I rushed to make the external adjustments he’d been making internally for years. I also had a pretty good idea how our community would react: we live in a small town outside Denton, TX. The looks, the just-loud-enough-to-be-heard comments, JrROTC struggles with uniform requirements… but oh, the up-side! The support from Max’s younger brother’s friends, the discovery of a whole new group of queer friends and allied parents! … We have hosted (so far) one trans and one pan/queer young adults as “our other kid/roommate” when their own families rejected them. I’ve watched Max become politically active and form his own support community among both queer and non-queer peers… We’re re-forming our world. We’re being ourselves in fear-based world which uses that fear to control. We’re being our silly Southern selves. We are the family we believe everyone deserves, as best we can, mistakes and all. Finally: Max’s first medical transition appointment was on my birthday this year. At 19, HE was in charge, and I watched him advocate for himself as I had advocated for his disabled brother when he was alive. I got gleeful with him, as we giggled about this incredible huge big deal that was happening. It was the best birthday present ever: watching him be re-born in the way I hadn’t noticed years ago.

kasie, 48, she/her
120 |

My daughter Helen came out to us as gay during high school. She is a triplet (the others are a boy and girl)… She went to a Catholic High School and I don’t really remember anyone saying anything to her… Helen helped many see being lesbian as just the way people are. And wanting to make sure others feel that way, I started a small club at that same school (where I teach) for gays and straights. We call it Spectrum, like the rainbow. The kids who are LGBTQ know I am an ally and have hung out in my room. One student asked the principal if they could have a club and she asked me if i would head it. Now, the Catholic church is not against homosexuality, but… there are a lot of closed minded people in this community, including our bishop. So I was asked to keep it on the QT. Not all kids who are gay have come. We have one student transitioning. He came for a while, but stopped. I have kids in and out with maybe five that come every week. We just talk, gossip, eat treats! I don’t really feel like I am doing anything, but I guess it is a safe place for the kids and that is important.

Maureen, 59, she/her
121 |

I am a lesbian and my son is gay. We’ve both had to deal with rejection from our families. My son had to sue his employer, the City of Memphis, for discrimination because of his sexual orientation. We are excommunicated from my family on my father side because of religious beliefs. But we are still standing.

Gwendolyn, 54, she/her
122 |

My daughter came out to me as transgender when she was 16. I felt I had failed as a parent because I had no idea she was transgender. I read every article and book I could find. When we told family and friends we gave them articles and books they could read. When my parents heard about the statistics of suicide attempts by trans teens, they knew there was nothing they could do but immediately support their granddaughter. They have in turn educated their friends. People you wouldn’t expect to accept my daughter have because they have been educated about what it means to be transgender.

Christine, 51, she/her
123 |

We are blessed to live in [Northern Virginia] where we have been accepted and embraced by my child’s school, our neighbors, and other parents. We are so incredibly thankful that our child has what we believe to be a safe place to grow up… We are a military family (my husband is an Army LTC (JAG)). We had planned to go home to Texas upon retirement, but know that we have it too good here in VA to leave. Fort Belvoir has a gender clinic at the hospital, we have two other military kids in our neighborhood that are transgender. We are not alone. We are home. Yet, we know that his life will be more difficult than we can possibly imagine even in the best of circumstances.

Sharon, 43, she/her
124 |

When my transgender daughter came out to me via text on her 16th birthday, I was full of fear. I didn’t understand what transgender meant… I was fearful of my daughter being physically or verbally attacked at school, fearful of losing friends, fearful of having to separate from family members who might be un-affirming. When we finally “came out” to family and friends, everyone was supportive and accepting… My path to acceptance was complicated by my Catholic faith. Sadly, during the last presidential election, our church made its position on the LGBT community very clear. We were not welcome there. It took me two years to come to terms with my daughter’s gender identity, but I supported her 100%. Ultimately, I left the Catholic church. I would never turn my back on my child. God calls us to love one another. This is the message I carry in my heart until I find an affirming faith community.

Cindy, 47, she/her/hers
125 |

Our youngest son came out to us when he was a freshman in college. We had long suspected he might be gay but he threw us off the scent a number of times by dating girls here and there in high school. I believe we raised him in such a way that he always knew he’d be accepted by us and the family no matter what. We have no issue with him being gay, of course. His brothers are very supportive; we’re a tight-knit family… We’ve had other members of the extended family, who were unaware of Jason’s sexuality, say very ignorant and hurtful things.He struggles with depression, and is being treated accordingly. He lives 1800 miles way from us now and so we worry we can’t be there immediately if he needs us. But he is doing well, and is happy. And we’re very proud of him, for his intelligence, his strength and his adventurous spirit.

Douglas, 57, he/his
126 |

My son is transgender. He officially came out to family and friends while in high school. We sought family acceptance first for obvious reasons love from your own flesh and blood should be the biggest source of love regardless of your situation. Then we had to tackle my son’s high school. Their acceptance and understanding of what he was going through took our breath away they did everything right by him and allowed him to be his authentic self. It breaks our hearts to see the school district being sued by folks who don’t embrace this community. Thankfully, numerous federal judges have also sided with the school district and allows them to continue their practice of allowing transgender students use the facilities they identify with. Church was another story and my son was practically rejected by some leaders by being told he was not allowed to go with the boys’ small groups. My son faced discrimination when his name change was denied by a county judge thankfully the ACLU took his case and helped him to refile. His name was granted by a different judge.

Melissa, 49, she/her
127 |

When Katelynn [my transgender daughter] first came out to us, I was scared. I asked her if she was sure. I was worried about her safety. I was also alarmed by the high rates of depression, substance abuse and suicide among transgender youth. I was worried about what family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers might say or do… I was AFRAID, but I was also DETERMINED to do that was best for my child’s health and happiness. That meant supporting her transition… We were very lucky that our school district, Warren Township, worked hand in hand with us to create a safe and accepting environment for our daughter. Their policy was always that they will do what is best for kids. Discussions with administrators were always respectful of Katelynn’s identity, our concerns as a family and what made us all feel safest. We listened to our daughter and recognized that SHE knows better than anyone else who SHE is inside… I hope all parents will LISTEN to and SUPPORT their kids. They know what feels RIGHT and TRUE to them. When we allow our children to grow into their true selves, we set them up for success as happy and healthy adults.

Carissa, 47, she/her/hers
128 |

When my son was 13, he came out as bisexual… At school, he became a resource for other students. They asked him questions about being bisexual: “How did he know?” “When did he know?” “Did he like boys and girls equally or one gender more than the other?” … We are very fortunate that my son attends a school with commitment and resources to uphold its mission statement of inclusion. Occasionally, someone still calls him mean names attacking his sexual identity. Most recently, during football camp, my son told the offender that if he ever said that to him again he would break the boy’s nose. He wouldn’t actually initiate violence but he has my permission to use his Jui Jitsu, boxing and football skills to defend himself! … I have had to teach my son that not all places in America and the world are accepting and tolerant of the wide ranging spectrum of sexuality… It seems this generation is generally much more accepting about varying sexual identities. This fills me with hope.

Sahaja, 54, She
129 |

My son who is now 24 came out to me when he was 22 or so. I made sure he knows how much I love him and I do! I asked him to keep it a secret. I am afraid of the people who can hurt him with rejection. In asking that have clearly somewhat rejected him. I love him and it is very hard for me to fully support him. I am embarrassed to say this but it is true.

Jennifer, 45, she/her
130 |

My son came out to me when he was 15 years old. He was striding nervously around our living room, saying he had something to tell me He came out with it and I said the “right things.” I said, “Well, son, I don’t care about that! You are [my son] to me and always will be!” Then I said a dumb thing: “But are you sure?” He said, “Geez, Mom. Everyone knows I’m gay. All the kids at school can tell.” But here’s what I want to say: Why did my son need to be nervous? Why had I never discussed sexual orientation with him or with my other son? Why did I ASSUME my boys were heterosexual? I talked to them about safe sex, but not about different kinds of sex. We parents need to smarten up and open up opportunities for our kids to know they are all right and they are loved, NO MATTER WHAT!

Rachel, 65, she/her
131 |

My [18-year-old] daughter is only just coming out to the world and presenting female. It’s a long process, with many small steps, and she has my full support. But she didn’t always, and it wasn’t an easy process. In high school… she told me one of her friends was transitioning female-to-male, and had top surgery while still in high school… I was surprised that their parents let them do that at such a young age. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then I realized: “EVEN IF IT IS A CHOICE, IT ISN’T MINE TO MAKE.” … I was still resisting my daughter’s identity at the time. She hadn’t made a definitive statement to me, preferring to ease me into it with such statements as “I think I might be trans.” But when I had that epiphany about choices and decisions, I realized it applies to my own child as well as others’. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal imperative or a choice. It isn’t mine, and it isn’t my business. It’s only mine to support. So I went from a reluctant supporter to an enthusiastic supporter… I just spent the weekend visiting family, who had questions, but nobody tried to say she shouldn’t be exactly and wholly who she is.

Jennifer, 48, she/her
132 |

While raising my kids, my mom put me under pressure to attend a church of her religious choosing. I refused to join that church or any church that promoted itself as a moral authority but that held immoral beliefs. I don’t think discrimination and hatred are appropriate parts of a religious belief system. I also was concerned that my kids could come out in their teens and I didn’t want them to be damaged by religion. I did my research and found the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian/Universalists. We went to a Unitarian church and it was celebrating same-sex marriages in CA before Prop 8. I wasn’t looking for a church that focused on LGBT issues either, however, I came around as this was better than a church filled with hate. We also marched in pride parades. I thought I did all of this for others until my daughter told me this past week that she is a lesbian.

Susan, 62, she/her
133 |

I count myself as lucky at the support I have from family, friends, school. I have a 12 year old FTM transgender son. He came out to us in January of this year (2018). He had been struggling in school, with anxiety, with depression. Once he came out to us and we got him involved with a support group I have seen a much happier person… It was scary finding the courage to tell family and friends and though some may not understand they have been respectful… We are lucky that school officials and students have been so supportive. While some students aren’t accepting not one has bullied my child. Those that don’t accept him have been respectful by saying I don’t believe in that, I’m not going to call you him or by your chosen name and they have gone on about their business. Though when situations put them with my child they are kind. I have heard horror stories from other parents at the support group we attend. So I am really thankful that the small, conservative town I live in has been very accepting.

Shelley, 44, she/her
134 |

When our daughter came out as bisexual (later trans) I will never forget later that night when we were lying together on the couch and she thanked us for not “wanting to beat (or otherwise force) the gay out of her.” It broke our hearts to realize firsthand that there were parents out there like that. Who could disown their beautiful intelligent child like that? Shameful.

Mary, 62, she/her
135 |

[Our child] turned 3 in March. A few months ago she verbalized, for the first time, that she’s a girl. It was a very profound moment… We live in beautiful but backwards N.C. The school where [our child] will attend just made a decision to not allow a trans girl to use the restroom of the gender for which she identifies. I’m doing my bit to fight but nobody is listening. I’m beginning to spend less time fighting and more time researching where we can go (meaning move to) this year that will be best for [our child].

136 |

The day our transgender son first began using his new name and proper pronouns in high school was very frightening for our family. We didn’t know what to expect from his classmates. He was entering his freshman year with students who knew him as female in middle school. What we didn’t know at the time was that he had a vocal support group watching out for him led by his older sister, her friends, and most of the girls volleyball team. We began to hear stories of these awesome young ladies sticking up for him and rushing to his defense. We came to learn that the youth of today are much more progressive in their attitudes and accepting than we had anticipated. Just knowing that there was such love and support within the school made it much easier on [our son] and us.

John, 54, he/his
137 |

I am the single parent of two children who are of different races than myself. My youngest, who was born [male at birth], is African American. At the age of 7, she made the courageous decision to live life as her true self. What a blessing that my entire family including my elderly father has embraced her for who she is. At school, as a girl of color she has been embraced by her classmates and teachers alike. I know that we are in the minority, as so far, our transition has been smooth. I do not doubt that in the future we will have many obstacles to face, but for right now, we are so blessed to live in a community where conspicuous families are not ostracized, and are embraced.

Alison, 49, She
138 |

My husband and I had suspected that our son was gay from the time he was in elementary school. He came out to us over Christmas break of his freshman year in college. Even though it was not a surprise, I still had a grief reaction. I was worried about how he’d be treated because he was “other” and full of sorrow that he wouldn’t be a father. I realize now, of course, that he still can be a dad if he so chooses. When our daughter Margaret came out four years later, it was a complete surprise to both of us. It took awhile for me to get my arms around the fact that she’s gay. It was initially more difficult to accept since she’s the second person in our family to come out and her coming out was a new revelation. I find the language used by [Roman Catholic] Church officials about gays offensive. They’re labeled as “intrinsically disordered” or “objectively disordered.” … Being part of a supportive Catholic community has been important to me throughout my adult life, and I want all three of my children to experience this same gift should they choose to do so.

Beth, 68, she/her
139 |

My youngest has come out to me. My youngest is trans. Truth is, I love my kids and life is hard enough without me trying to define who they are. And high school on top of this? The last thing needed is a dad that isn’t supportive of who [my child] is. So I listen and help them figure out what their identity means. Then I back my child up. [They] will never have to fear rejection from me. I’m dad. My title and pronoun means “I support you as best as I can, at all times.”

Russell, 51, he/his
140 |

I don’t think that a child can truly be themselves and trust people without family support. We teach our child that no matter what the world says, we, his family, will always accept him. No matter what. We are his first friends… We lived in the Bay Area in CA. We moved to Eugene and found that our child was able to be much more accepted, dealing with much less micro- and flat-out agression from schoolmates and school faculty. It’s been an incredible journey and we are still in the throes of it all. Next week, my son starts blockers.

Lara, 45, She/her
141 |

My son told my husband and I he was gay the night before leaving for Air Force Basic Training. His older brother was there and had been the only one who knew for over two years. I won’t lie… I cried. The first thing, right or wrong, that went [through] my head was, “Has he been hurt? Was he sexually assaulted, has anyone hit him, made fun of him?” The next thought was sorrow that his future that I had envisioned in my head was never going to be. The next was anger, why was he telling us this now… Then, I looked up and saw my baby boy… looking at me with a mixture of fear and conviction in his eyes. I looked at his brother, crying and I know fearful of what his mom and dad were going to say or do. Knowing that what happened next could either crush his brother or give him wings. 1 Corinthians 13:13 in that moment became life to me. “Three things will last forever faith, hope, and love and the greatest of these is love.” We chose love. I have faith that the life God have to my son is his life to live and I accept that. I have hope that he will find peace, joy, and happiness. And I love him. No matter what.

Dawn, 45, she/her
142 |

Our son was born in 1990 and as a freshman in high school he came out as gay. He was teased and bullied some and mostly tried to hide it from us. But then, in a short period of time between 2005 and 2006 there were a rash of suicides in [Thurston County, WA] by LGBTQ youth or those perceived to be. Our son, who grew up with two loving, accepting, out lesbian moms became suicidal. We knew that if our son was having such a hard time then what about all those youth who did not have support? Out of it we started a nonprofit called Pizza Klatch which provides confidential, facilitated lunchtime support groups in our local high school and middle schools. We now have 21 groups every week and growing… We have an average of 300 youth attending every week. Many talk about how Pizza Klatch has saved their lives. How it has kept them in school and it is their favorite time of the week.

Lynn, 62, she/her
143 |

If you love that person, you love he/she as who they are. If you have love for human, you will love people as who they are. No matter how hard it may be, I faced it, because I love my child.

Christine, 64, she/her
144 |

I am a mother of two children. My youngest child has always been pretty gender-nonconforming. After months of discussion and soul searching together, we decided together that when we moved schools… we would register my kiddo as a boy (born biologically a female) with a name we chose together. We had an amazing experience at the new school, with staff being extremely supportive and was ever vigilant to prevent bullying that we had dealt with in the past… There was a minor bullying incident, but it was nipped in the bud quick and hard by administrative staff. One of the kids was unaware he came across as a bully and is now actually my son’s friend. This was a happy surprise… We do have some family that I have had to cut out of our lives due to their lack of acceptance; I will not allow anyone to abuse my kids. After explaining that calling my son by his birth name is a form of abuse, I basically told them that if they can’t accept who my son is, they aren’t welcome in our lives. When they figure out that their opinion isn’t as important as my son’s autonomy as a human being, they can be welcomed back.

Kelsey, 36, don't care
145 |

In 2016, our 17-year-old daughter came out as lesbian. We were conservative Christians. Kayti told us she had great news. Half-laughing, half-crying, she handed us a book called “This is a Book for the Parents of Gay Kids.” She invited us into a journey. She said we will probably say dumb things and she may do dumb things, but we have a foundation of love. In those early days, our certainty was clear love God and love Kayti. We had not challenged the beliefs we grew up in, but began to dig deeper and have since become lovers of LGBTQ+ community. Our youngest daughter recently came out as pansexual. She was 13 at the time. We have also been caring for our son’s friend who is 17 and FTM transgender. His mom is dealing with mental illness. He has been staying with us for almost 2 months. We plan to take him officially into our family when he turns 18… I have learned it is better to ask questions lovingly, even if I am awkward at it. My kids give me grace and gently guide me if I am not using language correctly. By pressing in, they are assured of my love for them.

Kirsten, 45, she/her
146 |

Our immediate family accepts and loves our son. We live in a small town in Oregon that has had a long history of being conservative and had a large tea party movement about 10 years back. The staff at our local high school I believe are allies for my son. The student body is another story he feels like about half of the student population hates him for who he is. This fact and our last presidential election has moved our family to be activists in our small town. We run a group of Canby Progressives making small changes to our local government and support organizations like the high school’s GSA. We even brought in Brandon Wolf last spring to speak to the high school students who is a Pulse night club survivor and a part of the Dru Project. We are determined to change the tide to a more accepting community.

Sara, 47, she/her
147 |

I am a mother of six children, with five living. I have five girls that I love unconditionally. My 13-year-old is gay. She told me she was afraid to tell me, because of my want of grandchildren. She built up the courage to tell me. When she told me, I explained to her I already knew. I have known since she was younger a mother intuition. I told her I love her unconditionally and with this news I love her even more and support her 100%. She has since preformed better in school has improved in her social skills.

Quiante, 35, She/her
148 |

My youngest child is six and has been gender nonconforming since being able to articulate at 18 months old. [My child] was born biologically male and initially indicated that he was “a boy who liked all girl things.” This past year, [she] has socially transitioned and now prefers the pronouns she/her and will be starting first grade soon as her authentic self. As Miami is deeply religious and conservative, my husband and I have been loud and proud advocates in our community and our school district. We are active members of PFLAG and offer our support and resources to other LGBTQ parents in their journey. We believe that visibility is key to show others that there is absolutely nothing wrong with LGBTQ youth and that the elementary school system needs to be not only inclusive, they must be affirming as well.

Jaime, She/her
149 |

My 12-year-old stepchild attempted suicide because he wasn’t getting the support he needs from his mother or his community. Thankfully he survived but every day since then I worry if he’ll try again. I’m desperate for his mother and others around him to learn about how to be supportive and how necessary it is for them to be supportive. I really don’t think these folks understand how much damage they’re doing to these young people.

Amanda, 40, she/her
150 |

When [my daughter] decided to transition we wrote a letter to her family and our friends explaining her transition. It was too emotional and in depth of a conversation to have with everyone. We decided to communicate it in a letter. We enclosed a photo (donated by a photographer that does free family shoots for families with transgender kids) of [my child]. We also asked that our loved ones share a letter of support with [her] before her 8th grade year started (and she had to socially transition with her peers). It was amazing!

Shannon, 40, She/her
151 |

When my daughter was 12 she had to fill out a health form at her doctor’s office that asked her to identify her sexual orientation. She looked at me, concerned about answering. I knew what an important moment that was for her and my reaction would influence the future of our relationship. I simply said that whatever is true for you is true for you. With that she could exhale and know that I have her best interests in mind at all times. My daughter is 15 now. She is not out to all of our family nor all of her friends, but she knows that she can talk to me or her dad or her brother and that support structure will always be there for her. She has had enough of an emotional reserve to help others through moments of emotional crisis and recovery from suicide attempts. She has been able to be their source of strength in part because she has us cheering her on.

Lori, 50, she/her
152 |

I have a transgender son who at 15 came to us with this information feeling very worried and alone. His father and I just hugged him and reassured him that we’d do whatever we could to help him be himself at school, at home, and in the community. He has been very lucky in our community to be accepted but many of his friends have not had the same experience. Even my 92 year old Grandma has been a wonderful supporter of our son. I don’t tell him, but I worry about him all of the time. I wish I could be with him all the time to protect him from hate and fear, but we have been lucky so far to have support from his school, coach, and friends. I wish I knew how to do more.

Patty, 44, Her
153 |

[My son] was barely 13 years of age when he realized he was “different.” I now realize the courage it took for him to share his secret with me. At the same time however, I began to grieve the loss of the child I had known. Overnight, [my son] went from academic to survival mode… I removed [my son] from [his high school] after he discovered a written death threat in his day planner and after meeting with [the] principal, regarding the death threat in Michael’s planner. This was not the first time [my son] was subject to violence… At the time, I had little knowledge of the LGBTQ community; particularly their lack of rights, both civil and human and in my wildest dreams I could not have imagined that one of my children, because he is gay, would have any less rights than my oldest son who is “straight.” A hard reality; yet one that made me determined to educate myself and to be a voice for my youngest child who has every right to live safe and affirmed, as well as authentically, as a gay male and without fear for his life on a daily basis.

Rhonda, 64, she/hers
154 |

When [our son], one of our twins, was 12 he told us that he believed he was gay. We had a big family meeting and love and hugs were shared and for the next two years we really never talked about it again. Fast-forward two years [when we had moved to Boston] … [our son] was terribly irritable and I sat him down to talk with him again. I knew that he was probably starting to have some teenage feelings and had not come out to any of his new friends. I was right, and this was the reason for all the irritability. The next week he told his friends and they went and restarted their Gay Straight Alliance club and he became a co-President and those kids loved and accepted him like nothing else. We then moved to south Florida where we found him hiding his true self from new friends again and it took about a year to get past that. Military kids have it so rough with all of our moves and being gay cannot be easy in this world!!!

Liz, 49, she/her
155 |

My husband and I knew our son was gay before he was born (from a dream). … He finally had the courage to come out as bi at age 15 to us and then finally as gay at the age of 16. We told him we knew the whole time and shared that were surprised it took this long. He explained that when he was in the first grade a teacher told him he was going to hell and to never tell us. It broke my heart. … Our whole family is behind him but sometimes it seems like the world is stacked against him.

Doreen, 46, she/her
156 |

As a son of a United Methodist minister, my family and my (church) community have always been sources of love and support for me. Without these constant sources of love and support, I would have struggled even more to understand what it means to be a Japanese-American father of two gay sons. With my family and church community to fall back onto, I can confidently express my love and support for my sons without fear of being judged or feelings of shame.

Glenn, 63, he/his
157 |

While my journey as a parent keeps changing, I am at peace knowing that both my sons are happier than I could ever imagine, being authentically who they are and were meant to be. Both Derek and Kyle are blessed with professional work environments that not only support, but embrace who they are… And in April this year, that love and support was demonstrated when we were blessed by Kyle’s (our younger son) marriage to a wonderful young man, Zacj. This has been a highlight of our year. It was an amazing opportunity to share in a day full of love, joy and hope. My wish is that other parents of LGBTQ children can experience same genuine love and hope. As Kyle shared in his wedding vows, this is the fairy tale ending that he thought he might never havehow lucky are we!

Karen, 59, she/her
158 |

I recently learned that I have a beautiful daughter instead of a son. She’s in the beginning stages of transition now. We are afraid to share our joy with anyone in our extended family or our community. We live in a rural, extremely conservative area. I fear for my daughter’s safety. I fear for her life. She rarely leaves our home. There’s little doubt that being outed in this community would have dire consequences, possibly even deadly. … My daughter should be able to attend festivals, go to movies, go shopping, & basically live a normal life without fear. Without the acceptance of the community, that’s not possible.

Amanda, 43, she/her
159 |

My response to my son was “Oh, Honey, I know!” when he came out to us at the age of 19. My Catholic faith taught me that my son was made in God’s image, and that he is perfectly made. I believe that our sexuality is a gift and that God would not give a certain percentage of humanity that gift but not want them to fully appreciate that gift like everyone else.

Jenny, 59, she/her
160 |

I’m a parent of a 9-year-old transgender son. I always considered myself an accepting, liberal person, even an ally to the LGBTQ community. But when my son was age 4 and began expressing that he felt like a boy, I did struggle. … I allowed him to express himself with his preferred clothing choices, and even a haircut, but I misstepped on allowing him to socially transition at a young age. Because I wanted an easy path for him. So, I mistakenly stifled him, dismissed him. And by 8 age, he was self harming… A few months into therapy with a wonderful woman who specializes in gender identity, my son socially transitioned. And has never been more confident, healthy, and happy. Had I not have listened, had I continued to stifle him, not embraced his authentic idenity, I am certain he would be a greater statistic, possibly even suicide. I cannot fathom.

Vanessa, 41, she/her
161 |

My child is a transgender male, and we accept and love him as a family. I saw this before my child came out, which gave me time to read and study. What I saw the rates of homelessness and suicide was simply unacceptable. I refuse to accept discrimination and seek to see my transgender son have the same rights and protections as his cisgender brothers.

Annie, 52, she/her
162 |

My trans son doesn’t get supported by his father because dad “doesn’t believe it or believe in it.”

Nicole, 43, she/her
163 |

We are proud parents of a gay son. He’s been out of the closet for 13 years. We accepted him for who he is. But we saw the need to become active supporters to other parents who were NOT accepting of their sons or daughters. We’re Catholic Latinos and the need to educate ourselves was huge in order to help parents that were struggling in their journey. We feel we have saved lives and transformed non-accepting people. Fortunate Families of Catholic LGBTQ is a great community for support, education… We’ve been impacted and our journey has and will be always a part of what we stand because regardless “they are who they are by the grace of God.”

Javier & Martha, 68 & 63, she & him
164 |

Our brave and beautiful son came out at the age of 17, three weeks before his high school graduation in 1999. His truth has been an incredible journey and gift to our family. In the years since, we have been involved with gay advocacy in both public education and in our church.

Nancy, 63, she/her
165 |

Our daughter came out as transgender five years ago. The day she told us, she was sure would be the last time she’d see us. Why? Because so many in the community are shunned by their families. I didn’t understand what being trans was, but I made a point of quickly learning and making sure I was able to answer questions for family members and friends to ensure my child continued to be loved. It cost me some friends; however, I don’t believe they really were friends given their reactions. I went from happy-go-lucky mom in my own little bubble to a fierce Momma Bear that even my children have commented upon! I’m proud to be fighting for the LGBTQ community and am always available to hand out Mom Hugs!

Stevie, 59, she/her
166 |

My step-daughter was talking to me one day after school. She mentioned something about “her girlfriend.” I didn’t react in any particular way. It wasn’t a surprise to me. She was surprised that I did not react, and repeated her comment, and asked what I thought. I said that it was no big deal. She asked what I thought her dad would say. I told her that he would think it was no big deal. She didn’t believe me. She thought her dad would be mad. He wasn’t. To him, it was also no big deal.

Cheryl, 50, she/her
167 |

The discrimination that my daughter suffered as a transgender student in the public school system… has created an inordinate amount of stress for our family. Our daughter continues to suffer from PTSD as a result of the discrimination. The financial impact as we cover out-of-network specialist therapy sessions is crippling. Our daughter has been unable to start her college career for a second year running. As a result of this experience I have joined the board of our local PFLAG chapter and I am actively involved in a start up Safe Schools Coalition to create more awareness around the LGBTQ+ community within our county’s schools. … Even when these youngsters have loving, affirming homes, the school systems are taking way too long to catch up and are actively failing our students in the process.

Rebecca, 47, She/Her/Hers
168 |

Once [my transgender son] found himself and I was able to empower him with fierce and unconditional love and support, that dark and depressed child became the bright ray of sunshine that I had once known. It wasn’t just the new haircut, clothes or name. He had a spring in his step, a genuine smile, and the house was full of contagious laughter again. Our entire family was healing. August helped me see that I had never actually lost a daughter, because he was always there from the beginning. I just didn’t realize it. All he needed me to do was to provide a safe space – a loving sanctuary, that allowed him to reveal his true and extraordinary self.

Robyne, 50, she/her/hers
169 |

Our daughter has been very open about being gay from the time she was around 13/14… In turn her siblings have learned to be incredible allies. Her younger brother, who is 10, lets people know that using “gay” as an insult is not ok. We were at a choral concert when two young men pretended to embrace romantically. The audience thought it was hilarious. My son could not understand why two people acting like they were in love was funny. “If it was a boy and a girl no one would laugh.” … He doesn’t see being gay any different that any other characteristic or attribute. It is not the defining characteristic of his sister. He has grown up seeing acceptance (he’s 7 years younger than her) and it has shaped who he is.

Jennifer, 44, she
170 |

My daughter is a homosexual. Early on, I had difficulty accepting this because I felt that she had chosen a road which would bring her difficulty in her life. She made a heterosexual marriage which eventually made her miserable. I also saw her through several abortive homosexual liaisons. I came to the realization that the only good path for her was what would make her happy whether homosexual or heterosexual. There were some examples of family or community rejection, but I found that the only [things] which mattered to me were her happiness and our personal relationship.

Gwen, 82, she/her
171 |

Three months ago, [my] 17-year-old son came out to the world as transgender. Although we have both had transgender people in our lives for many years, in the past three month I have already learned so much that I never knew I never knew. I am still stumbling over calling my child a son, using his pronouns, and calling him by his chosen name. 17 years is a very long time to get used to getting it wrong. But I am committed to getting it right! I have never seen him so happy, so sure of himself, and so eager to experience life. Every new milestone in this transition process is bringing him such peace and joy. And how can a parent watch their child blossom so beautifully and not be filled with peace and joy, too? I’m on his side forever, no matter what. My son is the best son ever. I’m sure of it.

Misha, 45, she/her
172 |

My son endured some awful bullying during his 10th grade year, over being transgender, that included at one point, classmates hiding in a locker room with their cameras ready, waiting for him to undress… The impact that the transgender journey has had on my life is overwhelming. It forced me to deal with blatant hate that I had never been faced with. It awakened a level of mama bear that I didn’t know was in there. It also led me into new social circles where I’ve met so many wonderful and supportive families and allies. It led us down a road of activism where we stand up for those that cannot, where we speak up for those that haven’t found their voice… I always knew right from wrong but until it touched me personally, I didn’t confront wrong when I saw/heard it. I am thankful that has changed.

Stella, 49, she/her
173 |

When my daughter came out as trans and lesbian, she had the immediate support of myself and her father and most family members. I attended support group in order to best support her, and that’s where I often found the most resistance from struggling parents… I had an [incident] at Book Club when a book about a trans kiddo was suggested… [The[ reaction by some was astounding. We as a group ended up asking one member to leave because of her bigotry but as a group we read the book and [it] sparked very open and interesting conversations… I still have my fists up in rage at times but I am learning to put them down and I am learning more and more each day about the queer community. I have become sensitive to gender bias and expectations via gender roles. It’s been an amazing journey an intimate one sometimes and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Gila, 53, she/her
174 |

A few years ago when my daughter told me that she was dating a transgender male, I had figured it out in advance and knew and liked her partner. It was so easy for me to tell my pansexual daughter that [I] will always love and support her life in fact, it never occurred to me that I would not support her, regardless of the issue on the table. I became aware of PFLAG and NQAPIA through Marsha Aizumi and am forever grateful to her. She has introduced me to an amazing group of people and parents who are doing much-needed work to support and advocate for the LGBTQ and LGBQT API communities. With the blessing and encouragement of my daughter, I am now an active ally and working with PFLAG Denver on programming for the LGBTQ API community in Denver.

Stacey, 55, she/her
175 |

My son came out to his dad and I when he was in high school. (He is now 30 years old.) As a Christian, I had to relook at my belief system. We didn’t kick him out of the house but I had to figure out how this “fit” into my worldview. Now, about 15 years later, my worldview got kicked out (and changed) and my relationship, not only with my son, but the LGBTQ community has grown and I’m a huge ally in all I do in my profession as an educator as well as in my church community.

Terri, 63, she
176 |

I am a parent to four amazing children ranging from 24 years old to 7 years old. My oldest daughter came out as gay in her Senior year of high school and we just celebrated her marriage to her wife this past January. My youngest child is a fabulous gender non conforming boy who loves ballet and the RuPaul Drag Race show… At age 7 he is a powerful advocate for himself and other children just like him. We’ve traveled to Washington to march in protest along with various Pride parades to celebrate love.

Jennifer, 46, she/her
177 |

My husband pastored a church in Jackson, Michigan for 30 years. After we started the process of stepping down, our daughter came out to us as lesbian. She, then, 6 months later came out on Facebook. Obviously, the entire church community knew immediately. Some were wonderful and affirming of her spiritually. Some made sure we knew that if she acted on her orientation, it would be sin. Word got back to us that this was being discussed in small groups in our church… Where once I considered the church to be safe, it no longer is. I’m afraid of church people trying to convince her that she can no longer have God if she’s gay. This has made me an advocate for lgbtq people in the church.

Carol, 61, she/her
178 |

My daughter came out to me when she was 10 years old. She is now 11 and it’s been huge year for her growth and development. Kids at school have had a lot of questions. She’s lost friends who don’t understand her… Her own grandmother said “she’s just confused because of social media. Kids don’t know what is what.” My daughter is not confused. She is more sure of who she is than most adults I know… She’s probably the coolest, most mature kid I know. She’s brilliant. She’s athletic. She’s gay. She has a heart of gold. She is loved. She has thick brown curly hair. The first time she cut her hair short – I mean reallly really short- I cried. Not because I was sad to see the hair go, but because when I watched my daughter look in the mirror for the first time at the hair salon I saw her come to life. She recognized herself and loved herself for the first time.

Kara, 39, she/her
179 |

Until two years ago, my 10 year-old son [X] was my daughter [M]. [One] night he said, “Mom, I’m ready to cut my hair. I want to look like a real boy. And I want to be called “He.” It all happened very fast. The next day we went to Floyd’s and while the Rolling Stones played, my daughter turned into my son. And of course I cried like a baby. I cried because I was so happy for him, I cried because I was losing a daughter and I cried because I hadn’t known. And looking at him without the mop of hair he’d never brush, it was just so obvious. He’d come alive. He was lit up from the inside. His face was like when you’re camping in the wilderness and you look up and suddenly the sky looks completely different because you can see a billion shining stars. His face was like that.

Stefanie, 52, she/her
180 |

I have a beautiful gay son. He is now 28… [My husband and I] told our son he was perfect, the way God planned for him to be. We focused on supporting him and helping him in any way he needed. There is so much more to him than his sexuality. He went to college at 16 … graduated with two degrees at 22 . He is amazing. Our church has been hardest on him, we told our church we support marriage equality, and our son along with LGBTQ fully. We have helped host LGBTQ conference in our city and I belong to a nonprofit group called Mama Dragons. Our group helps anyone with LGBTQ family members and we support each other in any needs… be it housing, suicide prevention, or any type of persecution… We want to help the community and people in anyway possible.

Katie, 59, she
181 |

[My gender-nonconforming child] attends a Chicago Park District camp in our neighborhood. The camp is diverse in every way accept gender identity. Every year, [my child] dreads going to camp, even though they make friends. They don’t want to use the locker room to change into their swimsuit, and they hesitate to use the bathroom. But this year was different. During a field trip, they had a friend ask them their preferred pronouns for the very first time in their life. No adult or kid had ever asked them their preferred pronouns before, and that show of support was huge for them.

Michelle, 46, she/her
182 |

When my transgender son told us he should have been born a boy, like any parents, we were floored at first… I am close to my remaining family… so it was important to have their support. I dreaded telling my mother, who was raised in a rural part of the country and leans toward the conservative side. My mother had a difficult time at first, as she was mourning the grand daughter she adored. She loves him no matter what, but struggled with understanding the situation and had many questions. She hoped it was something that could be changed or reversed and would sometimes debate the issue with me… She now realizes this is who he is, accepts him, and is fully on board.

Valerie, she
183 |

My daughter came out as transgender at 12 years old almost four years ago. While we embraced her, we were scared for her safety and acceptance. We were lucky. Our local LGBTQ center and ACLU helped us to navigate how to best support our daughter and helped us to find our voice to advocate for her. Her school was open to learning how to be an inclusive learning environment. Today, she is a beautiful, thriving high school sophomore attending public school. [My daughter] is very open about who she is and has a passion to help other kids on their journey.Today however, under the current administration, we have seen her rights diminish which is very alarming. It is important to take a stand to protect human rights of LGBTQ+ Americans along with others that are underserved in our communities… Despite my daughter’s broad acceptance, we too have lost family members that do not accept her. It is their loss. We are a stronger family from my daughter’s experience and we have richer conversations about what really matters integrity, compassion and ethics.

Ginger, 48, She/her
184 |

One morning after my son came out his sophomore year of high school, he was attacked with the words “f*g,” “queer,” etc. written on our sidewalk. As his mother, I too was offended. It was a humiliating experience and now regret many years later that I didn’t report it to the school… At the time this happened, my friends and neighbors did not know my son was gay. I was just coming to grips with it myself I love my son and didn’t want him hurt. That is why I went out on my hands and knees and scrubbed the sidewalk clean as soon as I could… I asked my son who could be responsible for the sidewalk and he said that he felt it was “the jocks” from his high school. I wondered if he was harrassed at school, but he told me not to worry about it. Of course I always did.

Jo, 69, she/ her
185 |

I have provided psychological services to college students for three years and have become increasingly more concerned with providing LGBTQ+ affirmative therapy Acceptance is a fundamental psychological need too often denied LGBTQ+ individuals from the earliest stages of life. We all need to be seen, known, taken seriously, and affirmed by others around us. It is important to me that all people are well and feel cared for.

Michael, 37, he/his
186 |

As a teacher, I’ve seen firsthand how both acceptance and rejection impact our kids… One trans student I worked with was so hurt by her family that she dropped out of school and ran away from home, relocating thousands of miles away to an unknown and risky future. While she received some support from school staff before all this, it just wasn’t enough to keep her on the right path to high school graduation and a safe, secure future. On the other hand, I’ve worked with a handful of gay and lesbian students who have had support at home and they have thrived in school… One of my boys had such a great ally as a mother that she was able to convince him to go to the Homecoming dance dressed in the way that made him most comfortable with his identity and it set a new precedent for students to truly come as they are.

Elena, 27, She/her
187 |

Love thy neighbor. No exceptions As an educator who has had the experience of teaching different states, school districts, towns… in communities of different social and economic backgrounds in 16 years of my husband’s military service… I know firsthand how every effort to bring awareness and create a empathetic environment can be life-changing and many cases lifesaving to LBGT youth.

Jennifer, 41,
188 |

My father was gay (he died in 1996 of complications of AIDS), and my son is gay, too. I’m the B on the LGBTQIA spectrum and work as a therapist with youth in my small town… My father came out to a hostile mother who rejected him, but my mom, his wife at the time, was accepting and supportive. When my son came out I was thrilled. I love him so much, and his bravery for being true to himself is vital to this world. At any rate, as of last month I am now officially known as the go-to therapist for trans youth on Medicaid in my county. My clients tell me that it’s my casual acceptance of them that makes them feel so safe with me. Our work is vital, and I have committed myself to focusing on the community and individuals to assist with instilling self acceptance and community support for these kiddos and their families.

Mara, 49, she/her
189 |

For almost 40 years I have been engaged in part time or full time ministry with LGBTQ Catholics and those of other spiritual paths who have struggled with identity, personal and spiritual integration, family issues and work. I have helped schools and church communities to become safe and welcoming environments for people of sexual and gender diversity. Because of this I have been a target for extremists who have accused me publicly of being an advocate for the “homosexual agenda” and rejecting church teaching… I can truly say that my engagement with LGBTQ people and their parents has both challenged my personal growth and my respect for the personal consciences and complex life experiences of those who God loves for who they are. I cannot say enough about the good work of the organization Fortunate Families and parishes that are welcoming to LGBTQ people.

Jim, 80, he
190 |

I work to support the LGBTQ community in higher education by creating systems and processes to help students safely identify and be treated the way they identify Everyone should feel included, safe and [be] treated equally.

Kristi, 50, she/her/hers
191 |

I’ve known I was “different” since I was five years old. … At home I caught negative messages about gay people on TV and disappointingly from my own family. In first grade, I used to say a prayer every night. I still remember it, “God, please don’t let me wake up tomorrow. I don’t want to be like this. Please don’t let me wake up.” … I came out to my mom in April 1997, my sophomore year of high school. She cried. She said she was worried about how others would treat me. I was worried about that, too. But it was more important to live my truth. At school, I put on a confident facade… When I was a 17-year-old senior in high school, my lung collapsed. I ended up in the hospital. One night my boyfriend at the time was visiting me. He was holding my hand as my parents walked into the room. I thought it was okay because I assumed that my dad already knew that I was gay. I was wrong. When I got home from the hospital I noticed that my dad was not speaking to me. My mom confirmed my suspicions. My dad stopped acknowledging my presence in November of my senior year of high school. … Despite the fact that we lived together in a two bedroom house, my dad shunned me and didn’t even attend my high school graduation. His Mexican ideals of masculinity prevented him from accepting the fact that he had a gay son. We didn’t speak to each other for five years. Being a gay teenager with a father who chose to “opt out” of my life forced me to grow up very quickly. … Time has healed my relationship with my dad. We are now closer than ever. He is a fantastic grandfather to my four children.

Steve, 37, He/His
192 |

I came out my junior year in high school in St. Louis, MO. My family was deeply rooted in an evangelical Christian church and there was no GSA at my high school. I was taught that being gay was an abomination to God and that if I prayed hard enough, I would wake up one day an acceptable, heterosexual child of God. I tried for three years with all my might to change. But it never happened. I fell into a deep depression. I lived in terror I would spend eternity in hell. I concocted a plan to run away from my family and end my life, but my mother beat me to the chase. Through spying, my mother discovered my secret. A few days later I woke to her screaming in a religious rage, “Get out of my house, you f****t!” I was in shock as she began beating me with a broom. With my little brother watching in terror, she threw my belongings out the front door onto the lawn and screamed the worst things imaginable. I took my little brother into his bedroom and locked the door. I covered his ears so he wouldn’t hear her screaming and pulled him close. I calmly told him that I had to go now but that I would see him very soon. … I turned away from that house of pain and took the first free steps of my new life. I’m 43 now, and I’m still walking this road. It hasn’t been perfect. I have stumbled along the way. But I have never gone back to that way of living. Today, I spend my life sharing who I am with anyone who’ll listen. I share my story willingly because I’m one of the lucky ones who lived.

Matt, 43, he/his
193 |

I came out when I was 16 in 1992, initially to my mom. It wasn’t a happy self-realization and the context in which I came out was asking her to take me to a doctor to cure me. Luckily my mom was more aware than I was at that point in my life the first thing she said was that she loved me no matter what, and the second thing she said was, “If you’re gay, you’re gay… there’s nothing you can do about it.” … When my senior year hit, I came out in an article on the high school newspaper, of which I was an editor at the time. While the student reaction was mostly positive, the administration freaked out in addition to requiring me to publish my articles anonymously, they quickly came to the conclusion after I had published only two that they needed to throw me off the newspaper. In very quick succession, they also decided to finish my coursework immediately (a half year early) out of fear that they would be responsible for my safety after having come out. I survived the ordeal and went on to college, where I eventually became the president of the LGBTQ+ student alliance (EAGLE) and successfully lobbied the college (Emerson) to officially recognize the group by providing us permanent space on campus, which the group continues to have use of to this very day. Over the years, I’ve discussed my experiences and helped many younger and older persons struggling with their sexual orientation and sexual identity.

Brad, 41, he/his
194 |

I ran away from home when I was 18 to join the U.S. Army. My family thought that it was an odd choice because to all appearances, I seemed to be college-bound and a gentle and mild-mannered boy who eschewed violence, aggression, competition and other traditional “male” forms of social bonding. What they did not know was that I identified as gay and had known without question that I was gay when I was five years old… [My parents] fit squarely into a Japanese-American middle class world view that can be described as live and let live (but do no harm and bring no shame to your family). Back in the 1980s, as a gay teenage fourth-generation Japanese American boy, I could not imagine embracing both the Japanese American and gay aspects of my identity. I could not wait to leave my birth community and did so as soon as I could by joining the Army while my dad was on a business trip (he might have talked me out of the decision). I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. And it was there, in the Summer of 1984 that I came out to my Army roommate who, in turn, came out to me. …When we got kicked out of the Army for being gay … I called my parents and let them know the reason why I was returning home prematurely. My mother tearfully acknowledged that I was coming home as a stranger and my father pretty much accused the Army of “queering” me. … My father’s philosophy of unconditional support for his children was tested as he struggled to understand and honor my relationship. We managed and got along. They came to “tolerate” Chris, my new friends and the emergence of parts of my personality that were repressed when I was closeted.

Eric, 53, he/him/his
195 |

As a young girl growing up in a very conservative mainstream denomination in the deep south, any idea of wondering about my sexuality was suppressed. One example during my teen years brought such shame and guilt. My father found out that I was exploring my sexuality with my best friend and humiliated me asking me if I was having “homemade sex.” In addition, my friends parents and the church that I was an active member with removed me from my ensemble and stopped all communication with her. I later married a Baptist minister and we had two sons. This lasted 23 years. After my divorce I knew it was time to say hello to the real me. I came out at the age of 45 and met my beautiful wife. Last year we co-founded Unlimited Ministries. We are the Senior Pastors and are an open and affirming non-denominational ministry that provides a safe place for spiritual development. “Sharing God’s Love. No Restrictions Apply.”

Madge, 49, she/her
196 |

I’ve had two coming outs. First when I was 20, I came out as a lesbian and at 26 when I came out as transgender. Both times, I faced a lot of resistance and ignorance from my family. I was told by my parents that it was a phase, that I didn’t know what I really wanted, that I should wait until they are dead to transition, that it was a choice and I could ignore those feelings and finally that I was transitioning as way to test their love for me. All of these actions hurt me and felt like my feelings weren’t being recognized and validated yet I was expected to validate their feelings by not being my authentic self? When I didn’t have the support from my family of origin, I sought out a family in the LGBTQ community and I found a huge network of support, resources and care that I didn’t realize existed outside of my small world. Finding that source of support empowered me to continue on my journey of living authentically and over time, my family of origin finally began to accept it on their terms and we slowly have been mending the fractures in our relationships, although some people remain intolerant of my life and I have lessen my interactions with them.

Jaek, 31, he/him
197 |

I grew up in a very conservative Wisconsin town where being gay was not an option. I went on and did what I was supposed to do, get married, have kids and live happily ever after but that didnt happen when I realized after my second daughter I was really gay. So I came out when I was 38 years old before getting outed and now am happily married to a man and we are together with my wonderful ex wife raising out two daughters one 19 and the other 16. Rural gay closeted life is hell and alive and well in the USA . Its bad for your family to come out as others look down on you and can be dangerous as there is a lot of homophobia. I work in banking and finance and it is the same homophobic culture there. We have a long way to go…

Thomas, He/his
198 |

I came out to my Catholic parents when I was 25. While my brother’s have been very accepting of me, my parents have shut me out. Right before Thanksgiving last year my father sent me an email saying saying that I am no longer welcome in their home. That hurt. Family has always been very important to me, and such words are some of the worst things anyone has ever said to me. My parent’s rejection doesn’t not just impact me, but my entire family. My brother’s now do not see my parents either because of the split my parents have created in my family. My grandparents are encouraged not to allow me to bring my boyfriend into their home. This tug of war has ravaged my nuclear family. I am lucky enough to have supportive brothers, friends, and boyfriend, but I do miss my parents. Holidays are the worst. I am hopeful that one day, we might make reconciliation, but till then, life doesn’t stop. I will soon graduate from medical school and have plans to start building my family. They are missing all of these important events in my life. That sucks. It shouldn’t be that way.

Ben, 30, he/his
199 |

…Growing up in a Catholic and Mexican household, I found myself holding back any feelings towards the same sex. Mainly because it would not be tolerated in our culture, let alone with the religion I was brought up in. It was because of this that I never came out or acted on any feelings of love towards the same sex until I was 27. I feared rejection from friends, family and co-workers. I couldn’t fathom the idea of not being able to talk to friends or family because I had “chosen” this “lifestyle.” Sacrificing love was something that I was willing to do, and I had no problem doing it….but the reality was that inside I was sad and lonely. … At the age of 27 I decided to come out to my family first, and I did so with mixed results. My younger siblings were accepting and in a way protective of me and my feelings. My parents and older sibling had a harder time understanding what I was doing. A year before I came out, I started planting the seed and prompting my family about various gay issues that were coming up in the media. I took every opportunity that I found to bring up the subject, to get a take on what family member I needed to convince that being gay was okay. My family eventually accepted who I was, but it took a couple years to get to that point. Out of my friends all but two were accepting. Mainly because of their Christian faith. I will never for get those words, “just because I talk to you doesn’t mean I’m okay with your lifestyle.” That really hurt, it really hurt soooo bad. I try not to think of it, but it’s hard when someone you know for well over 10 years thinks it’s okay to say that to someone….

Ricardo L., 34, he/his
200 |

I am 26 years of age and am gay. I grew up in Utah County, Utah. The population there about 80% LDS (Mormon). Between the ages 12-24, I was raped, sexually and physically abused countless times by countless men. Many of these men were LDS frontmen including Bishops and or public figures. When I would try to report these acts of abuse, I was beaten down by my community and would get told constantly it’s because of my orientation that these types of things would happen to me. “The spirit can’t be with you the way you’re living, therefore it can’t protect you.” This all had an extremely negative impact on my life. I gained severe depression, anxiety, eating disorders and a 14 year battle with suicide.

Evan, 26, he
201 |

While most people at my workplace know that I’m a gender-variant and queer person, not all of them understood or accepted this immediately, and very few of them do things like use the pronouns I’ve specified or refrain from saying things like “sir” and such to me. In my religious communities, however, it is taken as a spiritual obligation to get these things right, and others have corrected people on my behalf when they speak of me and get my pronouns wrong or misgender me. It is an ongoing struggle to negotiate who knows (and is important enough in my life to know) and who doesn’t, and where it is worthwhile to demand that I be seen as I am as opposed to allowing others to impose their incorrect perceptions of me on me.

Phillip, 42, e/em/eir/eirs/emself
202 |

I remember when I was 13 years old and I was just coming to terms with my own sexuality. Still unsure and so confused because in a time when I just wanted to fit in and be normal, and going through so many changes that I couldnt explain, I was realizing how different I already was from my peers. [. . .] I remember my Mom who was loving and accepting as she asked me, instead of me having to tell her when I was twelve. I remember watching her trying to navigate the conversation, and unsure of how to move forward because this was unfamiliar territory for her, just as much as it was for me. I remember my Aunt (Moms sister) asking me as well [. . .] Her love was immediate as well and she helped me navigate knowing what was going on. On the other hand, I remember walking with my Dad and we see a couple in front of us when I was 13 (paraphrasing). He says, Do you see that ” What? Its two girls holding hands, he replies, You should say something. Say what? That its wrong. I mean, you could. After all, its disgusting. What do you mean? They like each other. Is that so wrong? You know it is. Those thoughts are impure….

Matthew, 28, He/his
203 |

When I came out, my father kicked me out of the house. My mother and brother moved out with me and helped support me. Since then I have had difficulties relating to men and dating men.

Jared, He/his
204 |

Have lost many friends but gained true friends. My father struggles with it but loves me.

Kathy, 56, she/her/hers
205 |

I was one of the founders of Exodus International, 1976-79. Since I left, I have been speaking out against “ex-gay”/conversion therapy and have been pushing for a nationwide ban. I run a Facebook group for 15 former “ex-gay” leaders who have denounced the practice and we are dedicated to ending this sort of unscientific and harmful “therapy.” We are part of the #bornperfect campaign. I also run a Facebook group for “ex-gay” Survivors, their friends and allies. I am also the survivor of a hate crime in 2002 that injured me and killed my best friend. My family had a hard time accepting me as gay, so I want to help other families become accepting and affirming. Because without support, LGBTQ lives are destroyed or lost forever.

Michael, 64, Him, he
206 |

There’s never just one coming out story. …I’ll share when I came out to my sister. I’m not sure if it was an acceptance or a rejection. I had just come out to my parents and that seemed to go well. I was reassured that I was loved. It was the year 2002, a year after 9/11. I think Ellen was already out so the country, thanks in big part to cable TV was getting more progressive. My sister is twelve years my senior. At this point in her life she had a house, a dog, a husband, and two daughters. The perfect white picket fence American Dream. I was still in highschool, struggling with identity like most teenagers at that time. My parents and I decided to have dinner with my sister and her family one day… At least once a week we would all dine together. A small town in Texas means everyone is close by. After finishing our meal, my sister and I were in her garage and I told her that I was gay. And she started crying. I was heart broken. I didn’t mean to upset her. I didn’t think this was the response I would get from her. Everyone else was so subdued in their reaction. What took me even more by surprise was the first word out of her mouth after she calmed down a bit. It was “why?” It took me years to fully understand what she meant. She said “why” but what she meant was “why does your life have to be so hard?” Her response was out of concern for me. Maybe she remembered the story of Matthew Shepard. Maybe she sees that her part of the world isn’t as progressive. Maybe she’s worried about her little brother she helped raise. I felt rejected at first. Now I’m accepted.

Alex, 34, he
207 |

For the longest time I was ashamed of who I was. I hid it for such a long time until i met someone who made me feel so comfortable and proud. My sexuality is a big part of my identity and though it isnt fully out there, I still am disgusted by the rejection I get. Youre a girl, youre supposed to marry a man. Youre a girl why do you want to wear boy clothes. Everyones so focused on what people should and shouldnt do and what makes them comfortable theres no thought or care for how it makes the person directly dealing with this feel. Everyone wants to be liked and loved. To be judged on something that you cant help is an awful feeling. Theres so much hate in the world and why should you feel it from the ones who are supposed to love and care for you the most?

Chelsea, 26, she/her
208 |

My family has been generally very open, but I have only discussed my orientation with my mother and brother, who were openly accepting of all of me. My mother continues to ask me lots of questions as she tries to understand how I feel and how she can be a better supporter of me and this community. But back in the beginning when I first came out, she really struggled and confessed to me that she would have an easier time if I was just a lesbian and not bisexual. Not choosing a side is just as mystifying to her as being one or the other is to me.

Crysta, 35, she/her
209 |

As a young boy, I had inklings of my own bisexuality. But, since I grew up in a rather homophobic environment (as many kids do), I forced myself to suppress those feelings. I got so good at it, that I myself became homophobic. I got over my own homophobia as an adolescent, but my own feelings remained suppressed until very recently. It was an INCREDIBLY STRANGE FEELING to realize I had been living without this part of myself a combination of liberation and remorse. It felt like that poor little kid who learned from his friends and his church that being gay was morally reprehensible suddenly reawakened and shed that false belief. It was like a biblical ‘shedding of scales from my eyes.’ I couldn’t believe I had been living without a major part of my personhood for most of my life. I also struggle with depression, and when this realization hit me, I suddenly realized that a big part of my sadness was due to the social difficulty of coming to terms with my sexuality imposed on me as a child and as an adult. I wouldn’t wish that pain on anyone. Even the ones who convinced me that the feelings I had were evil. Perhaps they too are in denial of their own true sexualities due to their upbringings. I forgive them, and I forgive myself for allowing them to change who I was.

S, 28, He/him
210 |

While I was in the process of coming out I experienced some anonymous harassment at my university through the leaving of safe-sex pamphlets with taunting notes in plain view on my dorm room door, which, while not only humiliating, forced me into the position of openly lying to friends and apartment-mates who found them, or coming out to them not on my terms. While those friends where quite accepting, being out of control in the situation was sobering and really hit home for me the idea that some people thought this process was not mine to direct and I didnt have the right to control this information about me.

Eric, He/his
211 |

When I first came out at 14, my parents had a difficult time accepting me. They felt that I could be changed through therapy with a psychologist and by taking me away from my girlfriend. It was very hard because all I wanted was love, acceptance, and support from my parents. I always believed they would love me regardless of my sexual orientation. Being a teenager is hard but being a lesbian teenager was even harder. My experiences I faced were life changing because it made me strong, accepting of others, loving of everyone, and hopeful for change. I am now five years married with my girlfriend they tried to keep me away from. We have a beautiful two year old daughter that we conceived together with the help of a sperm bank. My life is beautiful and full of love and support now. My mom loves me for who I am and my family like her own. Most of family and friends came to our wedding and are very supportive of our life. Things do get better and there is always light at the end of a dark period.

Victoria, 28, She/her
212 |

I was 17 and in my last year of high school when I came out as gay to my strict, conservative Christian, Asian-immigrant parents. My father responded by withdrawing his financial support from my impending college plans. My mother tried to ransom back my future in exchange for my enrollment in a “pray away the gay” conversion therapy program, which I refused. After graduation I broke ties with both of my parents’ churches (which disconnected me from my Chinese and Korean communities and identities) and struggled to put myself through college on my own terms, through student loans, work programs, and outside scholarships. For years, I rejected the occasional outreach of support from my parents, knowing that each offer came with the caveat of denouncing my queerness and living as an inauthentic, piecemeal version of myself. I graduated college and entered the workforce in the aftermath of the financial crisis. As a queer person of color estranged from my family, community, and hometown, my prospects were greatly diminished compared to the vast majority of my classmates. With parental support, my peers could return home, enroll in graduate school, take an unpaid internship, or relocate in search of better prospects. It took me the entirety of my twenties to find the slightest semblance of financial, residential, and emotional stability that everyone else had seemingly already been gifted from the get-go.

Eric, 30, he/his
213 |

The person I feared revealing myself to the most was me. I drank for years before being able to write, “I’m gay, ” on paper. I’m now 27 years sober. I was terrified to tell my mom, but as it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. “Oh, we already knew,” Mamma said deadpan on the phone the day I came out. Her biggest fears were that I’d be targeted for discrimination and that I’d die alone. Before she died, Mamma held the hand of my partner of 15 years and knew I’d be fine.

Cathy, 54, she/her
214 |

My family is Mormon. I grew up Mormon in a small town in Utah. When I moved away to go to college at Weber State in 2000, I started looking for groups with other LGBT Mormons, but when my family found out I was gay, that all stopped. How can someone coming from a religion that says to “love everyone” hate who I am so much? Over the years they’ve always been sure to make it clear to me that they “love” me, they just can’t accept me. It’s always felt so messed up to me, but the thing that hit me the hardest was what happened next. In December, 2013 when gay marriage became legal in Utah, I married my then-partner. I wanted so bad to be a part of this amazing part of Utah history by becoming one of the first gay couples married in the state, and, I was. As soon as I signed the papers, I asked my then-wife if I should call them or text them and tell them. She suggested text, so I texted my family to let them know. I hoped so bad that they would accept it, now that it was legal, and maybe even offer to help with a reception. I knew it was a long shot, but what I did not expect (while I should have) was for them to call me about 30 minutes later to completely rip me apart. It was my mom that called and she wanted to be sure I knew that I had committed the biggest possible sin and that, no matter what I think, my marriage will never be real … I cried for two days straight … That marriage didn’t last because we were not in it for the right reasons, but in April if 2014 I ended up meeting someone that was exactly everything I needed… On my wedding day, I pushed all of those negative feelings aside so that we could have an amazing wedding to remember … So many people showed up for us. Even though it was her family and not mine, they really are my family. I wrote a long letter that I planned on mailing to my parents the day after I got married that explained everything … I never sent it. Here I am, two amazing years later, and they still don’t know that we are married. We take off our rings when we go around them … It kills me, though … just the fact that I even need to keep it a secret from them to avoid getting hurt so bad. Your family should not make you feel like that.

Michelle, 37, she/her
215 |

I am a lesbian and my son is gay. We’ve both had to deal with rejection from our families. My son had to sue his employer, The City of Memphis for discrimination because of his sexual orientation. We are excommunicated from my family on my father’s side because of religious beliefs. But we are still standing.

Gwendolyn, 54, she/her
216 |

I consider myself a gay American patriot. Came out in 1972, worked with ATT/Telephone company DST then BPA until Bell Atlantic. Out and it took a lot longer for promotions and annual bonuses and raises. Worked for them 21 years until HIV.

Mark, 66, he/his
217 |

My father passed away a little over two weeks ago and at his funeral I met a man who had known him for eight years. This man didnt know that he had an older son. Im the oldest of three children and the only child who has not spent time in prison. However, my father felt that I was a shame to my family name. Im also a veteran and ER nurse who fought DADT (Cook V Gates). Even on his death bed he didnt want me there. Nothing hurts more than trying to live your best life and having someone disown you for doing just that.

Tommy, 36, He/his
218 |

I have had a deep well of sadness throughout my life because of my complicated relationship with my parents. I know they love me, but I have often felt like they love a person who does not really exist, a person that they pray will one day see God’s plan and turn straight, a person who is not me. They are deeply convicted in their Charismatic Christianity. Among other practices and beliefs such as “speaking in tongues” and casting out demons, they believe in faith healing and believe that I need to be healed of the sin of homosexuality. We haven’t talked about it in a long time, though, and they have softened in their interactions with me over time. I have been disowned by my mother a couple of times but called her bluff the last time and we’ve been working on a better relationship on some levels. My parents are loving, they show love, as well, to my wife (of ten years this summer!). I know that they do the best they can and I am not always as brave about how I handle the situation as I should be. It is funny how you remain a child in some ways with your parents. When I am out in the world, I am a fighter for justice but when I visit them I lose my nerve and feel scared of what might happen if I were to stand up for what is right.

kim, 56, she/her/hers they/them/theirs
219 |

My family and my fiances family have turned their backs on us. We had plans to build our forever home on her parents property but as soon as we admitted aloud that we were lesbians and a couple, they kicked us and our children off their property. We are now homeless. If we had family and community acceptance, we would have never become homeless. If we had acceptance, we wouldnt be living in fear of what will happen and our children would feel safe and secure. Instead, they ask questions like why dont grandma and grandpa like us anymore Our parents tell our kids we dont have a home because God is mad at us for loving each other.

Jennifer, 35, she/her
220 |

Maybe I was six or seven years old when my dad found me in their bedroom wearing mom’s bra stuffed with tissue. I was feeling very pretty as he walked in the room, the door had been closed. He grabbed me by my arm, pulled me toward him. I began to cry startled by his aggression not remembering what he shouted. Softened by my tears he sat me next to him on his and mom’s bed. He then gave me my first lesson on how boys should act, how not to cry, how to walk a certain way, to play sports, to hang with the other boys. I cannot forget how gentle he was in that moment, it were as if he felt he were responsible, he was going to make it all right. I felt accepted by him, as long as I was a certain way and so I was determined not to let him down. For the rest of my young life and into adulthood I worked tirelessly to appear as something I was not. When puberty set in, I was not disappointed to become a young man but as I grew older and older that happy little boy dancing in the bedroom grew more and more fearful more and more unhappy. To this day I struggle to accept myself, there are better days, weeks, months. Perhaps when I come to accept myself I will stop pretending it doesn’t matter I be accepted by my family or community.

Paul, 52, he/his
221 |

I can remember knowing that I was “different” from the age of five but not being able to put into words what “different ” was. Growing up even though I did not know for sure I was gay I was still bullied in school in middle school and high school. It was like I didn’t even have to say it or announce it, everyone just knew. What made things worse for me was that I was a twin. It was depressing for me because I saw through her a life that I wanted to have. Things were easy for her. She had friends and was not bullied and and far as I knew she was not gay. …My sister and brother also started to keep away from me as well….I am sure it was easier as a teenager for them to distance themselves from their “gay” sister. For me it was very painful. I did not come out until I was about 23 years old. Living in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time made things very difficult. I knew that once I said the word gay I could not take it back and I wasn’t sure what my family would think. I remember telling my family … it was a total relief. I felt peace for the first time. I don’t think my parents knew how to react, although I think they were expecting it. I believe I was a bit lucky because my dad’s cousin is a lesbian and he loves her more then anything on this planet. My parents reaction to the news was to send me to my dads cousnin’s house to “see that I could live a normal life.” Although I think their heart was in the right place I definilty felt abandoned by them and felt like they kind of sent me away. My brother and sister are super supportive now and my nephew and niece have absolutely no problem calling me and my partner aunt … I worked very hard to educate my family to incorporate my partner into our lives and it has worked pretty well. My family over the years has evolved greatly and love me very much and are actively involved in my life. My partner’s family still have some issues but I would say that we are on the lucky side…

Bonnie, 41, she/her
222 |

I identify as queer. I am currently in a long term monogamous relationship with a straight cis man, but there was a time in my twenties where I was dating women exclusively, and didn’t see that changing. It was important to me to be able to be myself with my parents, and that was often a challenge with my father. Though we were just alike in our personalities, our world views varied greatly, and we often butted heads in ways that were quite unpleasant. I realized I needed to come to him both for myself and so that he wasn’t blindsided by hearing the news from another source in the family. Dad reacted so differently from what I expected. He was calm, not angry, and he seemed vulnerable in a way I hadn’t seen in him before. He asked why I wanted to date women, I explained why … He felt like I just hadn’t met the right guy yet. He said he would always love me and want me in his life, but that he wouldn’t want me to bring anyone around that I was involved with. While that last part was disappointing, I was relieved at the rest. I had been terrified of his rejection, and just to hear him say that he’d always love me, and want me around, was a great comfort. It never was perfect, and there are things I still have to hold him accountable for in my memory of him, now that he has passed. But, I am grateful to him for that day the way he reacted, and the way he didn’t. I understand that he only wanted me to be safe and happy. I also learned through it that my responsibility to myself as an adult is to accept myself, and not need acceptance from others as much….

Lindsey, 35, she/her
223 |

I experienced rejection from my family when I came out as a lesbian, then through growth and self-discovery I’ve learn that I am pansexual. I am about to marry a man in eight months. Of course my family is happy for me seeing that I am in a “straight” relationship but through understanding and love, my fiance will marry me as pan. I am also deaf and blind, I… people with disabilities because yes, we too, experience rejection and don’t feel welcome in our homes….

JennyLynn, 44, She/her
224 |

Since coming out as transgender, Ive been abandoned by my children for over 10 years. Ive missed all three of my childrens weddings. Ive never met my grandchildren. I will never give up on my kids. I Remain hopeful. I try to be the best version of myself and my arms are always open. I will not blame them. I choose to believe theyre doing the best they can within the constraints that some in our society have created.

Stacy, 60, she
225 |

I was fortunate to experience a space of radical acceptance in my undergraduate years at Michigan State University. In my second year of undergrad, I attended the 19th MBLGTACC (Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Asexual College Conference) and encountered a world of queerness I could have never imagined. I was surrounded by 2,000+ LGBTQIA college students from around the Midwest, and nation. This space allowed me to experience radical acceptance and helped me accept myself for exactly who I am. The space enabled me to learn, grow, and gain skills for creating an accepting climate back at my campus. This experience allowed me to unpack my own understandings of masculinity and gender, and discover my genderqueer identity. Being embraced and accepted by community allowed me to feel whole, and valuable. It transformed how I proceeded through life and allowed me to reimagine what I could do in my future.

Justin, 27, they/them
226 |

I struggled with accepting myself until the age of 27. I was raised in a conservative, religious family in South Dakota. I denied myself the opportunity of happiness for so many years in fear of being rejected or abandoned. When I finally embraced my bisexuality it was still a daily struggle. People challenged whether I could make any choices then. My mom worried about me being happy and finding someone to start a family with. This lead me to really begin involving myself with more LGBTQ folks to see if I would find the same reaction. Sadly I did. People can change. I have changed. Im still me, but Im not the little insecure boy I used to be from SD anymore. Im a proud native who fights for equality and acceptance, while challenging the histories and here-say of today.

Shane, 30, he/his
227 |

These experiences come frequently both moments of acceptance and rejection. The most recent, clear moment was my fiances’ aunt refusing to come to our wedding in September because she thinks God thinks its wrong. I understand people having different beliefs, particularly religious beliefs, but it is deeply hurtful and shameful to choose religion (or anything) over family. I cant understand anyone who chooses anything over my (soon-to-be) wife.

Ashley, 25, she/her
228 |

I was blessed with a mother by whom I could not have been loved, nor loved more. She was a Christian housewife who liked to keep her world small, but the second I told her I was transitioning, she said, I dont really understand it, but Ive always told you I love you always, and nothing will ever change that. This doesnt change that either, and well figure it out together. She was my cheerleader and best friend. She passed away from cancer in November 2016, but she got to see me live my best life, and if it hadnt been for her support, I doubt Id be living my best life, or living at all. My father, who was a Vietnam Corpsman, and to quote Lou Reed, is the straightest dude I ever knew… frankly, I expected to be disowned by him, but he surprised me. You only live once, and everyone deserves to be happy. Hes been right by my side. Im so grateful!

SuzyJane, 46, She/Her
229 |

In Japanese culture, there is an unspoken expectation by your parents that you bring no shame upon your family, you honor your parents by who you are and who you become. There is a strong sense of pride. The culture is also one in which you dont display public affection, nor do you verbalize your love, not even to family. Growing up, I yearned for my parents to tell me they loved me. To the point of crying, I yearned to hear those words but never did. Seven years ago, my 89-year-old father was the last person I wanted to tell about my decision to come out of the closet at age 51, thus, breaking up my long-term, heterosexual marriage because I had fallen in love with a woman. It just so happened in my desperation and need to get it off my chest and tell someone before I exploded from holding in my secret, my father, as God would have it, was the first person I told. In preparation of disappointing my father, along with admitting my secret and choosing to break up my family (our son was in middle school at the time), I told my father I would change my name if he wanted me to. I feared shaming the family would bring on certain rejection. My fathers surprising response was, eh, Im a pretty liberal guy. … before I left my father, in not wanting to disappoint him, I stood at the door, ready to leave and said once again, Ill change my name if you want me to. To great surprise, my father responded in a rather annoyed tone, What for? Im going to love you anyway. Those three words that I yearned to hear all my life! He said them at a time when I feared rejection! I ran to him, we hugged and as he patted my back, he told me, Youre my baby.

Suzie, 57, She/Her
230 |

When I came out to my dad at 17, I had never seen him so angry in my life. It’s all a bit blurry now, but I remember him screaming and I just grabbed my car keys and left as fast as I could. When things settled down a couple days later, he told me he considered kicking me out of the house, but in the end, decided against it after thinking about what my mother would have said were she still alive (she passed away four years earlier from breast cancer). For a year and a half while I was finishing high school, my dad and I lived in the same house, but effectively didn’t communicate. Before I came out, he very rarely missed my cross country running, swimming, or track & field competitions, but afterwards he was “too embarrassed” to face the other parents, for fear they would look down on him for “letting” me be gay. In fact, the exact opposite was true … I developed strong relationships with my friends’/teammates’ parents, who stepped in after they observed my dad pulling away. After I graduated, I moved from Minneapolis to Boston for college, then to New York to work on my PhD. For nearly 10 years, my dad and I barely spoke each other. The rest of my family was indifferent or accepting, but my dad was the main hold-out. Then, at my PhD graduation, my dad and some additional family members traveled to New York, where he met my boyfriend. I was shocked at how genuinely nice my dad interacted with my boyfriend, something I thanked him for afterwards. Since then, we have been on very good terms, as if we never had any difficult time in our past. To this day, I don’t have a straight answer about what caused his complete change of heart, but in a way, it doesn’t matter … The whole experience with my father … instilled a semi-permanent feeling of inferiority in me. I wasn’t just a scientist, I was a *gay* scientist. I wasn’t just a runner, I was a *gay* runner. And somehow, that devalued me, made me “lesser than”. It has only been the past couple of years that I have felt truly equal, without any reservation or question about who I am or what I’m worth.

Russell, 34, he/His
231 |

The reasons why I love, respect, and admire my father are too numerous to list. He’s funny, wicked smart, an excellent provider, and he adores my mother, just to name a few. That said, the one quality that stands out above all others is his compassion. He is a man who always has a kind word, a kind hand, and a kind heart. This was never more apparent to me than in 1998. I was living in Kansas City, MO, where I had moved for work, and was terribly lonely; this was not turning out to be the adventure for which I had hoped. After exchanging a few emails with my parents about my situation, they could clearly tell I was feeling down. … Time to tell the truth. The next day I emailed them explaining the reason I was sad was because I was missing my life back in Atlanta and, more specifically, the boyfriend I had left behind. This was the first time I had openly discussed this part of my life with them. … Then, one day while sitting at my desk, the phone rang. “Mike? It’s your dad… Your mother and I are coming to Kansas City… you’re my son and I want to give you a hug and tell you that I promise to love you no matter what.” … Two days and 643 miles later, they arrived in Kansas City where he made good on his promise. It was then I knew everything would be OK. And it has been ever since. This, above all other reasons, is why I love you, Dad. Your purely unconditional love and support is something I will always cherish.

Michael, 50, he/his/him
232 |

I have been lucky enough to have acceptance within my immediate family on my father’s side. Having my family’s acceptance has kept me confident in pursuing my dream of becoming a veterinarian. My family’s unwavering support of me has allowed me to finish high school without any family drama, get my bachelor’s degree with my parents just a phone call away when I felt stressed, start my first job as a broke college graduate with the back-up plan of moving back home available, and finally allowed me to move to Wisconsin from California for veterinary medical school with always knowing my family is rooting for me to succeed. I have not yet come out to my mother’s side of the family since they are Catholic and I am worried about their acceptance. I am hoping they will figure it out on their own and it won’t be a big deal. It has meant the world to me that my family has thus far treated me the same as if I had come out as straight … I think of acceptance as a stepping stone to success. I am able to succeed so far in my career choice, even when it becomes extremely stressful, because I know I have friends and family around me that support me and love me. Without that initial support, I would have a farther reach toward my goal and I do not know if I would be able to continue to achieve it.

Melissa, 26, she/her
233 |

…not so long ago, I was a young person who had no help. I was brutally bullied, beaten, and the superintendent of my school suggested my mother remove me citing “We can no longer guarantee his safety on the premises.” The bullying I endured riddled me with social anxiety, depression and I developed agoraphobia by 14 years old. I was made to feel vulnerable and afraid. Due to the psychological distress of social abuse, I was placed on disability at 18 years old and moved into a retirement village, an independent living facility with senior citizens. I had been effectively discarded and forgotten about by the world. I remained there until just five years ago. I have no family. I was disowned and left alone to fend for myself in a world i was wholly unfamiliar with having never been able to develop the facilities to cope in an adult world. The lack of acceptance robbed me of something far more vital: Self acceptance. I was insecure, self-loathing and the terrible things that happened to me, I had been convinced I deserved as a result of simply existing outside the definition of “Normal.” Because I felt violence and cruelty toward me was justified, I hid from the world. Today, I understand that people like me must develop our own sense of family- a chosen family. There is an entire generation of people just like me who are guilty of nothing but attempting to thrive under extreme duress. There were no campaigns, no awareness initiatives, no visibility for transgender people like myself, no individualized care by therapists or psychologists specializing in recognizing and informing us, much less equipped with the resources to help us thrive.

Phaylen, 40, She/Her
234 |

I came out at 19 years old to my mother and was told by her that I would not get to spend eternity in heaven with my family because of the choice I was making. I was then told by my mother’s brother that I wasn’t allowed alone in the same room with my younger cousin (his daughter). We are six years apart. I was uninvited from birthday parties and family gatherings. My mother passed away in November 2015 still believing I was going to hell. When she passed away, I had to separate myself from my family in the hospital so that I could grieve with my wife. We stayed in a room just down the hall from my mother. I have been told numerous times that they don’t agree or accept my lifestyle. I’ve been told it’s a choice I’m making to be this way. I’ve been told I’m going to hell. The unacceptance and conditional love I’ve received from my biological family has led me down a path of drugs, promiscuity, suicide attempts, and recklessness. I have been with my wife for almost seven years, married for almost four and I have steadily built myself back up as a person with a lot of help from her. She is my everything and I will always hurt knowing that our love is viewed as wrong, immoral, or disgusting not just by my family, but from a vast majority of people I live around and people in this country. It saddens and sickens me. I have a long way to go, but I have overcome a lot. Family and community acceptance is vital to growth and well-being as an individual. I have spent years in and out of counseling and on medication because of not being accepted by my family. I was a self harmer in high school and was admitted to a psychiatric unit. I attempted suicide in December 2010. Being unaccepted and conditionally loved is horrific for your mind, self esteem and self worth. It it something I would never wish on my worst enemy.

Shea, 32, she
235 |

Im lucky. My family accepted me when I told them that I was gay. I told them my freshman year of college over holiday break in 2000. I was terrified. I do remember, my mom asking me some question about a gay teacher form my high school. That was weird, and I was quick to inform her that had nothing to do with me being gay. They told me that they love me and I told them that I love them. It was very quick and anticlimactic.They asked me not to share it with my 15 year old sister at the time, and I agreed to that condition. I came out in college. My universitys counseling center had a support group for people coming out. There was a guy in my group, who was college football player. He was a big hunk of a guy and I remember how shocked I was that he identified as gay. Ill never forget his story. He was home for the summer and told his parents that he was gay. Neither wanted to talk about it, and they ignored the topic for the entire summer. On the day he was leaving to return to school, his dad walked up to him, put a couple hundred dollars in his hand, and told him to never come back home. This big tough football deservedly cried his eyes out in the room in front of us. I think that was the first time I realized how vicious homophobia really is toward us. It turned two parents against their own son and that story terrifies me to this day.

Joshua, 37, he/his
236 |

I came out in my late 40’s. I was married and living behind my father’s house at the time. My father is a deeply religious, evangelical, conservative and I was afraid that he would make me leave if he found out I was gay. One day, after my husband (who was very supportive) moved out, my father came to me, took my hand and said, “I’m seeing things that are against everything I believe in but I’ve never seen you happier in your whole life.” It doesn’t get better than that. Had my father, or other family members, rejected me it would have meant rejection of my children and not just myself. I was afraid to come out to them because I didn’t want my children to suffer. The community is another matter. I’ve live in conservative areas and liberal areas. I’ve lost job, my children have been harassed, and I’ve ended up hospitalized after a suicide attempt it got so bad.

Sharon, 63, she/her
237 |

I was raised as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and was taught to repress and not act on my homosexual tendencies. As a result, I grew up very depressed and suicidal at times. I finally decided that enough was enough, and left the church at the age of 31. The consequences for this included being shunned by all of my immediate family (father, mother, two brothers and two sisters, and their children), my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and all my friends. To this day they still have not contacted me. I used this pain of abandonment to give back to my LGBTQ community by creating a new local nonprofit organization … My vision is to create a support system for my community, as well as to try to promote visibility in an effort to create acceptance in the deep South. Our goal is to build an LGBTQ community center in Mobile, Alabama.

Bryan, he/his
238 |

Last year, my father gave me an ultimatum. He told me if I wanted to continue to live in his house, I had to let go of this “lifestyle” and stop dressing as a woman. He saw me as an embarrassment to him and the rest of my family. So, I moved out and now live closer to my job (even though I’m not out due to being afraid I’d be bullied and forced out of my job). I’m happier now, have a boyfriend I love very dearly, begun the process to change my name … and discovered which of my friends and family actually care about me. Don’t give up, have hope.

Emily, 26, she/her/hers
239 |

I came out to my family when I was 13; my mom found out about my girlfriend (now fianc) in high school. She rejected any notion of me being gay, even went so far to threaten to switch high schools if I continued the relationship. Of course, I didnt listen but our relationship remained a secret to my family and to the world. This happened in 2008 so being LGBT was still seen as taboo. Fast forward five years, I take a human sexuality class in college and start to explain to my mom that being gay is far too complex for the average person to comprehend. God mustve spoken to her or something because she finally sought help. She talked to anyone who would listen and eventually came to realize that I was born this way. My father on the other hand did not agree. He grew up in a household where machismo was very much alive. We are Mexican, so we do attend church every Sunday and if he agreed with my lifestyle he felt as if he was going against our religion. I enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2014; fast forward three years and my father too came around. When I was thousands of miles away from home he came to a realization that it didnt matter who I loved, all that mattered was that his daughter was happy and loved. Coming out has definitely brought my whole family closer. When I first joined the marine corps, I wasnt allowed to talk about my relationship or mention that I wanted to get married. Under DOMA I didnt have that right; even signing my contract, they ensured that I initialed by the paragraph that said I acknowledge that marriage is between a man and a woman. It was the hardest decision of my life because although I did not agree, I chose to serve my country. A lot has changed in these years.

Brittanie, She/her
240 |

I will try to keep this short. I still carry the pain and trauma of coming out to my parents. I was 18 and was openly gay to all of my friends. I came out to my father during an argument … When I finally got around to saying “I’m gay” he gave me the most hateful look I can ever remember getting from him and said “do you think I don’t know that? Do you think I ever had any hope of seeing a grandchild with my name?” Then he gave me a choice: I could either “live the right way” or get out of his house. They way I saw it, there was no choice. I packed everything I could carry on me. When I told him I was leaving he made sure that I left my house key … I stayed at my best friend’s house (who was gay and whose parents were accepting when he came out to them) for two days before my mother convinced me to come back home. Needless to say things with my parents were consistently uncomfortable. I moved away to Florida two years later. Immediately after moving I met the man who has now been my partner for 22 years. My parents came to visit me for the first time a little more than a year after I moved and met my partner. To say it was difficult and awkward would be an understatement. They saw our apartment and got a glimpse of our lifestyle. They both came to realize that what they envisioned as the “gay lifestyle” wasn’t true at all. They realized that we (gay people) could be people of ethics and integrity who worked hard and lived a healthy lifestyle just as much as any heterosexual people. My partner became as much a part of the family as any of my sisters’ husbands.

TJ, 43, he/his
241 |

I was, lucky (in 2013) to locate on the web (In Erie Pa.) a group of crossdresser /transgender folks. Though that group I friended many people and learn I wasn’t crazy, there were many others like me. Helping me understand a lot of basic knowledge I was able to build confidence to go out and be part of the scene. One of those members had an office in Denver, and came into town a few months later and once I became part of Denver there was no holding me back!! Having a large understanding LGBT community helped so much. I can’t tell about how much of the love and caring friends I’ve found. Having an understanding city has made my life so fabulous. I feel sorry for so many others who don’t have the advantages that I’ve found.

Karen, 69, she/her
242 |

I came out to my family on two occasions. The first time was when I was 18 during my senior year of high school. My parents were not shocked but said that their beliefs did not allow them to accept my sexuality. They went on for years believing that I would change and that it was just a phase. I lived my college years trying to “change,” since I believed that was the only way my parents would be supportive. … Not being able to love and accept myself took a toll on me. … I had a conversation with my parents and told them that it was not possible to change who I was, and that I was done trying to force myself to change and had decided to fully accept and love myself as a gay man. My parents, due to their religious beliefs, did not take this very well and decided I was no longer welcome at home. I found myself panicking. … Fortunately, I had a very supportive manager who let me stay with his family while I saved up to live on my own. I will forever be grateful to that family. Fast forward four years from when I was kicked out, and I am happier than ever. I’ve accepted myself and learned that even if the world hates you, loving yourself is what matters above all. And along the way, I have made a new family, people who accept and love me unconditionally.

Dennis, 26, he/him
243 |

I came out at the age of 21, just three years after my mother passed away. Growing up in a conservative family, I was keenly aware of the rejection I would receive, but a complete rejection from my entire family, church, and a majority of the community I lived in knocked me off my feet. Coming out during the grieving process of losing my mother and trying to navigate my way as a young adult (alone) was terribly difficult and painful and the weight of that journey nearly drove me to suicide.

Emily, 28, She/her
244 |

Being able to live in a community, region and state (NY) that is overwhelmingly LGBTQ positive has given me the “American Dream” of being able to be who I am, marry who I love, make a home together and share our lives while putting to rest legal worry and threats of violence or vandalism. I’m grateful and aware of these blessings, every single day because as a teenager growing up in Texas I almost committed suicide, twice.

Jeffrey, 43, he/him
245 |

When the SCOTUS declared marriage equality the law of the land, the WI ACLU asked my husband and I to attend a special event to sign autographs on posters with our story and an art piece a made related to it. The reason our story was so important to them is because we were the first same-sex marriage in WI. The day we married was the best of my life. The acceptance and joy we experience was like nothing I felt before. … I cannot explain the feeling. It was like dream I never had, but I was so overwhelmed of love to be living it … Our marriage was so public that it forced us to be out at all levels of our lives. It taught us to be brave and face the consequences of taking our lives public. I think acceptance from our communities has strengthened our relationship. It is the shield against vicious attacks. It has dwarfed the hate that we have experienced briefly to the point of it not having an effect on our relationship. Acceptance builds our spirits up and uplifts everyone around us as well. It makes us find the best in ourselves at every gesture, word, and action toward making someone feel accepted just as the are.

Fernando, 39, he
246 |

I’m lucky. My family accepted me completely at age 21 in 1990. Since I’ve worked with LGBTQ youth in NYC and Milwaukee as a volunteer for GMHC in NYC and as an artist in Milwaukee. Working with young LGBTQ people in Milwaukee had a beautiful reaction, sense of belonging, by these great kids! As an LGBTQ man every setting, socially, in public or within family, is a constant negotiation. We learn early to spot allies and enemies. We learn early where harm or danger exists to us. I’m 49 years old and it’s still part of my reality. Why should we live this way?

Thomas, 49, he
247 |

I have experienced the loss of family from my parents for a while. Fifteen years later my extended family still is like, “we want to love you but we can’t because of the choices you have made.” My adult child who seemed to be understandng and supportive kicked me and his half brother and sister out of his life when his daughter was born. … Now it seems that for my own sense of well being I need to consider myself an orphan. … There is a huge hole where family use to be. Such sadness when people you thought cared about you really just leave you out in the dark.

Amber, 51, She/her
248 |

In 2014, my husband and I had our healthy twins boys through surrogacy. Considering this was prior to marriage equality and the backwards TX laws, our surrogate had to terminate her parental rights and we had to adopt our own biological boys. We were blown away when the judge denied our adoption. With the support of organizations such at Family Equality Council and Equality Texas, they provided guidance and direction and we ultimately were granted our full parental rights. … as a gay dad, we have to be vocal and proud of who we are. If we don’t, we cannot expect our boys and the next generation to be proud. It is very important that we continue sharing our story so every LGBTQ person and family know that they are loved and supported.

Jason, 41, he/his
249 |

My husband Erik and I got married in New York City in 2012, well before Montana recognized marriage equality in November 2014. We traveled to my home state of Virginia afterwards where he met most of my family in person for the first time. My sister-in-law noticed our wedding rings and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh, you guys got married!” and she hugged us both multiple times in happiness and excitement. My older brother and her threw a very spontaneous celebration in our honor and he especially has been one of our most ardent supporters, alongside my oldest sister.

Hobie, 58, he/him/his
250 |

I’m 38 years old, and it was only when I was 36 when I came to accept who I was, and WHAT I was. I found a name for my sexuality pansexual. I’ve been trying to teach the people around me what that is, and there is still some resistance to understanding and acceptance of pansexuality. It is frustrating and enraging at times. I know what family and friends to turn to and talk to about my sexual identity, and I know which ones are not open or loving to those of LGBTQA+ status. Even some people in the community do not accept that any one other than gays and lesbians are valid. I don’t understand why anyone would truly not be supportive, as it just seems like common decency. But I have hope things will turn with time.

Quinnanne, 38, she/her
251 |

It was hard to come to terms with the fact I was gay because I knew it would disappoint my parents… in my second year of teaching I came out to my co-workers. It felt like the weight of the world was off my shoulders. … I was still living at home… I started dating this woman and I was lying all the time saying I was dog sitting for this friend or hanging out with this friend, while in reality I was spending weekends with my new girlfriend. … I finally had the courage to come out to my mom. … I went into her room and told her I was dating someone. I never saw her so excited before, my heart was racing and I was so nervous because I knew her next question was “Who?” and I said “Liz.” There was a look of confusion on her face … and she started yelling “What what? I’m confused, what are you telling me? Are you gay?” …. I went to work and cried the whole way there because I knew my biggest fear was a reality that I truly disappointed my mom. I do remember telling her not to tell my dad… About a year later I was at my girlfriend’s house one night and I received a text message from my sister saying, “Do not come home! Dad knows and he’s yelling and screaming.” … My dad didn’t talk to me after that. If he talked to me it was very short and awkward. … Three years after my wedding my dad would have a stroke and be in the hospital for 18 days before he developed a blood clot and passed away. At the time of my dad’s stroke my wife was deployed overseas. I’ll never forget the 18 days I spent with my dad in the hospital. … he told me he wanted to get out of the hospital so he could take me to Turkey to see my wife. He started talking all about the planes that she was loading and what those planes were capable of doing. I look back on those conversations and I know in my heart it was his way of telling me that he finally accepted Alina as my wife. He didn’t have to say those words exactly but I hold those hospital conversations near and dear to my heart.

Melanie, 34, she/her
252 |

My family has accepted me from day one and supported me in every way possible. But I was in my mids 20s and moving up in a company that i had been with for seven years. We got a new supervisor and the minute she found about my lifestyle she made my life hell. And ultimately I lost my position at the company and everyhing I worked so hard for. It tore me down knowing that this could happen in this day and age just because of the person I chose to love. It made me depressed for a while and just made me work harder to get where I am know with an employer who fully supports me…

Stephanie, 34, She/her
253 |

I came out, after I joined the military, right as DADT was being repealed. My extended family rejected me, due to their good Catholic views. My immediate family accepted me with open arms. My mother always taught us kids to love and accept. She instilled in us that GOD does not hate or discriminate he made us perfectly who we are. This acceptance has guided me to where I am today. Though I have lived through hell, being teased during my youth and during my time in service the power of being accepted And loved really made me in a believer of it does get better. I did experience suicidal ideation, when I was sent overseas and trusted another guy who I thought was gay. He lead me on, to just turn around and spread around the command that I was gay. With this being one of my first real out experiences, I was traumatized. It was awful. I didnt want to continue on after. It wasnt until, the night I was going to take my life, that I had fallen asleep and had a dream where, I believe it was GOD said you werent born to die, you were born to live. This absolutely changed my life. I am now out of the military, working to support Veterans in their transition. I am married to my husband of five years and we are fostering to adopt two beautiful babies! I am glad I chose to LIVE.

Tom, 27, he/his/him
254 |

When I became a teacher in south-central Pennsylvania, I wasn’t out to anybody. I would drive to the major cities to go out and would worry about being seen with other gay friends around home. I would drive for miles to eat or shop with my partner and we tried to avoid being seen anywhere in public together. That all changed in one day. Behind the scenes, we had been quietly going through the adoption process and one evening, we got the call and were given 12 hours notice that we were going to be “dads”. Suddenly, I was a dad! At that point, it was impossible to avoid questions such as, “Who is taking care of your son while you’re here at band practice?” or “Wow! Are you doing this yourself?”, so I had to come out. I owed it to my son, my partner, and myself to come out. So I did. You know what? My son turns three this week and in the three years since he came into my life and since I came out to my students and their families, I have not had one single negative interaction. My band families gave my son so much love and continue to do so every day. I’m so grateful that he has such a big “family” to grow up and be a part of. He’ll never fully understand what he has given to his dads, but I can tell you that my life is a whole lot better since he arrived not only because I get to share my love and adventures with him and get to provide him with a great life, but also because I get to live authentically thanks to him.

Greg, He/His
255 |

I hid my sexuality throughout high school (90s) and the first year of college. My “friends” from my freshman year began doing things without me, “forgetting” to invite me to anything, including dinner at the dining common. I was isolated, depressed, angry, frustrated, and constantly felt like I had done something wrong. I finally saw an AIM conversation a couple of them had been having in which they said, “That’s as gay as Jay.” I confronted the person, and it turned out they had been using it as their private little joke between the entire group, and even had “warned” my roommate “about me.” Telling him to watch his back around me, etc. I was furious. I couldn’t take the abuse and mental/emotional pain anymore. I came out, rather aggressively. I called them all on the skeletons I knew about in their closets, including things they didn’t know about each other, and were surprised I knew. I also did it publicly, since I felt it was only fair. The fallout was, of course, I now had almost no friends (not that I really had it turns out). Almost no support system at school. But surprisingly my roommate at the time was a good guy with an open mind, and a supportive person. He never had a problem with my sexual orientation, and I am still thankful to him to this day for it. I struggled for a long time, because … I never saw anyone like me. I felt like I didn’t belong in the gay world, any more than I did in the straight one. It took me a while to find people and friends who showed me that I … I could just be myself, and still be a part of a community. I was very lucky to have a supportive family, who didn’t care about my sexuality and only were ever concerned about my health and happiness, but its been a journey for all of us, and we have all had to learn new things.

Jay, 35, he/his
256 |

I’m a retired LEO and 18-year military veteran. I discovered who I really was after the internet was launched and I learned the word transgender, in my late 30s. After what I call my “Decade of Denial” I realized I only had two options: Eat a bullet and end my misery or finally accept who and what I am. I transitioned and embraced the new and improved me, Denise, a WOMAN, at the age of 49/50. I have lost many friends, some family (my dad has pretty much disinherited me and refuses to acknowledge my existence). My two kids and now my grandkids have stood by me the entire time. It was hard for all involved, but we made it. Since I came out, in 2010, I have been to culinary school, radiology school and still cannot get a job that doesn’t involve asking if you want your order supersized. I’m currently “this close” to being one of the homeless statistics lovely. Another homeless vet. Today, I’ve created my own J.O.B. becoming an activist fighting for acceptance of all, embracing the diversity of our country, educating, advocating in my local community.

Denise, 59, She/Her
257 |

I came out to everyone except my parents at age 23. My parents are Christian fundamentalists so I knew how they would react. I came out to them at age 40 and as expected it did not go well. When I married a couple years ago, that cemented their view that my lifestyle was thumbing my nose at their faith. Last year my wife and I started a church in my hometown in Alabama that supports & affirms LGBTQ. I was old enough that family rejection did not cripple me but my passion is for the youth who may not have the years of experience I did. So my hope is to create a tiny beacon of life with Unlimited Ministries of Alabama. Our church is in Huntsville, Al.

Natalie, She/her
258 |

I was lucky that my church embraced me for me and my parents and friends are accepting. My extended family, not so much. It hurts me, but it is there issue and not mine. I will never change who I am for anyone.

Nicole, 38, she/her
259 |

Believe it or not, even when you come out later in life and are rejected, it still hurts. On 5/31/1990, my daughters 9th birthday, when I was 34, I came out to my father and step-mother. My fathers first words were, Youre going to hell. That night my step-mother called my ex-husband and told him he needed to take my kids away from me since I was, obviously, a bad influence. To his credit, his reply was, well, she grew up in your family, and he has been supportive since (as are my two children and two grandchildren). Eventually my father and step-mother sent me a letter telling me they love me, they want me in their lives, but if I have a partner they will NOT be welcome. I said no, I will not live like that and have not spoken to them since. My children, their grandchildren, also do not interact with them much. Certainly, as an adult, this was not physically devastating to me, but it continues to hurt and to feed internalized homophobia….

Laurin, She/her
260 |

Since I came out at 37 as a transgender female who is also a disabled OIF Veteran, I’ve found that most people are very accepting in general. I’ve lost a few family and friends because of who I am but that hasn’t held me back from living as my true self. ‘Im extremely grateful that the Dept. Of Veterans Affairs and its medical teams to include my Primary Care Physician have supported my transition and supply my life changing and affirming ESTROGEN and TBlocker medication as well my normal routine health care is concerned. I went through the proper start of my transition by means of a psychological evaluation and on forward to the endocrinologist then on to start transitioning.I’m extremely lucky I have the support of VA and my family in this process and continue to do so almost 2 yrs in. It has been so far a very easy process but I fear with our current administration that all my progress could eventually be null and void, this shouldn’t have to be that way for me and countless active duty and veterans such as myself.

Ashley, 39, she/her
261 |

Allowing myself to love how I wanted to was what could give rise to my greatest fear… Im gay and come from a Mormon family. I always felt as if I had to hide behind a facade. Despite trying to live up to the standards set forth by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I wasnt being honest with myself. And that was the greatest sin one could commit against themselves. … the Mormon church has, for quite some time, been openly opposed to same-sex attraction from its members. Unexpectedly, a realization sparked within the consciousness of my mind. Seeing that the rest of my siblings were married, I found myself pitted against the reality of the future. … The fear of losing everything and everyone I knew made me distance myself from them. While they saw someone who was irritable, short tempered, and confrontational, they were unaware at how emotionally conflicted and terrified I was inside. And yet I couldnt muster the courage to tell them. I wasnt brave enough. But the more I dwelled on the future, it became apparent that I needed to be honest with myself. … I was tired of trying to survive. I wanted to thrive. To be honest, I didnt know what to expect. As I poured out my heart and transparently laid everything out, the aftermath left me girted with assurance. For the first time, I gave myself permission to relinquish my fear and chose to instinctually trust in what had been impressed upon me. … Fully understanding the consequences that would stem from this decision, somehow I felt elated. Despite several stumbling blocks, I finally found myself to be in a state of mind where I could accept myself for the first time. I didn’t feel ashamed. I felt empowered by choosing to let myself be unfettered and be who I was.

Kimmi, 30, they/them
262 |

I’ve hidden my sexuality from my parents my entire life to promote harmony in the home. Several other members of my family are aware. I moved states as early as I could to live without any need to fear my sexuality, but it’s still a big issue whenever visiting family in their home.

Sam, 28, he/his
263 |

My grandparents and aunts won’t even talk to me. They’ve cut me out of their lives completely. Still not as bad as the discontent with my bio mom. I first came out as bisexual because I thought that would be easier for her to deal with. You know at least there was a “chance” I’d wind up with a man. But a few years pass and I can’t lie anymore so I came out again only truthfully this time. She’s a Bible reading god fearing Christian, as a kid I wasn’t even allowed to watch movies or shows with overly effeminate men in them. She didn’t talk to me for almost two months and when she did it was short and simple. She told me that she still loved me but encouraged me to turn to god to be fixed not realizing that I spent years of my youth praying for that very thing. She’d continue on throughout many years to tell me how she still loved me and was reguarlly praying for my healing and release from my lifestyle choice. Of course it never happened and she’s started to accept that, she is still struggling with it and doesn’t like it when I talk about it but she’s getting better.

Elizabeth, 27, she/her
264 |

Even before I knew I was gay I was bullied and called a f****t. This happened as early as first grade. I didn’t really understand what it was except the the church despised it. Throughout high school and the military, I remained in the closet because it just wasn’t socially acceptable. I had dealt with exclusion in the past so I hid myself to be accepted.

Donnie, 26, he/his
265 |

When I was about 10 or 11, I wrote a lot of short stories. It wasn’t great writing, but it was fun, and stories I had read on the internet had shown me it was okay if a love story was two guys or two girls. So I wrote little stories where two male characters from shows I liked would fall in love and maybe kiss. One day, my mother found one of the notebooks I was writing in and read it. I got dragged off to a side room and lectured about how gross and disgusting and dirty gay sex was. Which my stories had none of. Because I was 10 or 11. My mother thought that love had to be something profane and sexual if and only if it just happened to be gay love. That moment is one that’s stuck in my mind in the decade and a half since. It’s why I pretended to have straight crushes growing up. It’s why I never introduced my girlfriend to my parents as my girlfriend, not even when I was thinking about proposing. It’s why they don’t know I’m transgender/nonbinary. My mother acts now like she’s changed, like she can be more accepting, but I’m never going to forget that she wanted me to know that being gay was dirty and wrong. I don’t know that I ever would feel safe coming out to her. I don’t want to risk it, so I put up with being misgendered by the people who are supposed to love me most.

Hayley, They/Them
266 |

Mark, my husband, and I, have been together now for 31 years. We were officially married February 16, 2004 in San Francisco, when Gavin Newsom opened City Hall for us. After the California Supreme Court annulled the marriages we were remarried in Phoenix in 2014. Everything is legal, now, but it has always been spiritually sound. We have loved each other for a long time, and raised our daughter…since she was about three years old. Over the years, depending on work, we’ve moved from San Diego to San Francisco to Los Angeles to Amsterdam and to New York City. We’ve had a good life, with ups and downs, but our ties as a family have remained strong. I believe it has been our witness as gay dads that has had the most profound effect upon us. Despite meeting rejection and some odd questions over the years we have also found acceptance and friendship from many. We sent [our daughter] to a schooll in San Francisco, where we were their first gay family, and to another school in Los Angeles. At both schools she learned to be proud that she is a woman, and to believe, rightly, that she can achieve whatever she sets her mind to do. It is Mark’s and my greatest pride that we helped [our daughter] to be strong and independent; and we are very proud of course to be her dads.

Don, 59, he/his
267 |

The first person I came out to in 1990 was my mother; my father had passed away in 1986. When I realized I was gay there was no question the first person I would share this with was my mother. I did not realize until later for many people during this time period the *last* people they came out to was their parents. My mother was incredibly supportive – to the point where she was one of the founding members of Dallas P-FLAG. I was also fortunate to have friends that were supportive as well.

Michael, 53, he/his
268 |

I stood up in a leadership meeting in front of 400 leaders of OhioHealth, my employer, along with 12 others of all diverse backgrounds including others from the LGBTQ community and we outed ourselves to everyone. It was video taped and shown all around our organization. The 13 of us are now being recognized as finalists for this years Prism awards. This has been an incredible experience and overwhelming with the amount of acceptance from my employer OhioHealth and our president Dave Blom. I feel that outing myself helped educate so many people that didnt know I am transgender and made a positive impact. Its just showing others how normal we are and you didnt know. We arent so different.

Sidney, 60, He/His
269 |

Growing up, my father and stepmom always spoke of acceptance and loving who ever made you happy. However, joining Greek life in college made me feel like being gay was unacceptable and would ostracize me in the community. After college, I was still not out to friends and family. I worried so much of what others would think of me and if I would lose friends and family over the simple fact that I was a woman who loved another woman. I looked to television and movies to see other lesbian characters and how they related to others and were accepted … When I finally decided to come out to friends and family I first told my closest friend. She had recently gotten married and while I knew she was very liberal, knowing she accepted others and knowing she would accept me felt very different. She listened to me babble on about who I thought I was and let me finish coming out to her. After she said, “Sean, we asked our pastor to change the wording in our wedding ceremony because I knew one day you would come out, and I never wanted you to doubt that we all love you and accept you for who you are.” Never did I expect that response, and I acknowledge most do not have this experience when coming out to friends and family. I am forever grateful that those around me have lifted me up and been my defender to homophobia around me; especially when I was too afraid to speak up for myself.

Sean, 27, she/her
270 |

I suppressed a lot of my feelings and identity between the ages of 13-20. I grew up in a religious family and went to a Baptist church that believed in conversion therapy. I eventually began confronting my feelings and told my parents. My mom has been supportive, but my dad thought it was just a “phase” and didn’t ever want to talk about it. After telling most of my friends at age 22, I began dating a girl and it ended up being an emotionally, verbally, and psychologically abusive relationship that lasted 2.5 years. I think my biggest challenge is the isolation and the loneliness that often comes with being a minority – especially one that many people consider a sinful choice. The most hurtful thing is when people say things like, “I can love you but I don’t agree with your lifestyle.” I have told people that I wouldn’t choose this if I had a choice. Who would choose to live a life with rejection, shame, fear, anxiety, and depression…? I’m very family-oriented, and I want a family of my own one day. But I know how many struggles I’m going to face to get there. I know I’ll have to face discrimination with housing, jobs, adoption, marriage… I’ll have to face hateful stares when I walk hand-in-hand with the person I love. I’ll have to face slurs and hate from people who refuse to understand. I’m in therapy now and trying to move forward despite the abuse, depression, loneliness and isolation. I want to believe that better things are coming.

Allison, She
271 |

I have known for most of my life that I was different. I grew up within the evangelical Christian community. I grew up having all kinds of girl crushes and I thought it was normal. I didnt know what being gay meant. As time went on my only exposure to anything gay was that I had a gay cousin who died of AIDS and my family treated him like he was a pariah. They gleefully said that he was burning in hell for being gay. It was made very clear to me that being gay was evil and reinforced by every church we went to. I was already growing up with an abusive mother so I wasnt going to rock the boat. I tried being straight and it didnt work at all. It was confusing and disappointing. I came out to a few close friends in my life and they were accepting. …My mom told me once that if I brought home a woman that she would tell us to go out in the barn with the other animals… I told my dad and he was supportive but begged me not to tell my mom. Years have gone by. I moved to another state to be with my partner….After 34 years of friendship my best friend joined a church and decided that being gay was evil and a mental problem. She was helping me plan my wedding. I was the godmother of her three children. I was there for all of their births and every milestone. I loved them like they were my own. Yet another soul shattering betrayal. ……

Meara, 36, She/Her
272 |

I’m queer in nearly every sense of the word. I’ve known from a young age that I wasn’t exactly my assigned gender and that I was attracted to people of any gender. But I didn’t say anything about it because I had people telling me constantly that it wasn’t ok. I worked at a library for a time and I remember having a conversation with another worker about how gay people “didn’t deserve marriage” I joined in for fear that I would be outed with my hesitance. I still regret that to this day. It didn’t take long before I finally couldn’t hold it in and I started to tell people. First I just dropped hints that I didn’t feel sexual attraction. Then I finally started to tell people I was bi. It started with my friends then my parents. When I told my mother she told me I had to tell the rest of the family and that keeping it from them was dishonest and wrong. I can’t express the guilt I felt in that moment. Maybe I was wrong for trying to keep this a secret. I didn’t have anything to be ashamed of so why was I hiding it? That question was answered almost as fast as I thought it. A boy I knew was run out of my church for being gay. It was actually under the suspicion of him being gay, they never even asked him to confirm it. My church, a place I was meant to feel safe and accepted had kicked someone out for the mere suggestion that he could have been queer. What would they do when they found out about me? I actually got to have a conversation with our pastor and he told me it was fine for me to be gay I just couldn’t tell people, date people of the same gender, ask people to use proper pronouns, and I would be prohibited from taking any leadership roles as there was “sin” in my life that could infect those I lead. I accepted that. Then I stopped going to church. I’m still struggling with acceptance in my community. I still don’t go to church because I don’t feel safe there. I can’t go back in the closet every time I step through those doors, I won’t do that to myself. But I can’t be out and safe there. Half of my family still doesn’t accept me….

Anonymous, 17,
273 |

I love the story how I saw a drunk neighbor in my hallway and he invited me over. It become clear how good-hearted and bright communicator he was. He was also a skinhead. We had good and passionate time talking, but it became clear later, as he said, that he hates gays. But I had the guts to confess to him that I am gay. He was like: that’s funny I have nothing against you even though usually I don’t like gays. I was flattered. Because I came through his mental wall, however thick or thin it was on that case. It only becomes to show how people can be open to different people, even if they don’t know it. The fact that people are just people and adaptable is truly a miraclelike. I feel like all of our lives are possible due to that fact – adaptabilty to change. This gives me hope that I can, in fact, come through to other people and other people can love me.

Karl-Gustav, 26, he/his
274 |

When I was 25, it was the first time I had ever heard the term asexual as related to humans. Up until that point I assumed that I was straight because I knew I wasn’t gay. So I went with what seems to be society’s default. But then I fell down the rabbit hole on Tumblr and Reddit and found this whole commuity of people like me. But coming out is hard, because it gets discounted. People don’t think it’s real, so I get pushed to the side or treated lile I’m attention seeking when I just want people to understand. It’s frustrating, because even the lgbtq community pushes asexuals away. We don’t seem to belong anywhere … almost everyone I talk to about it thinks that I am making it up. We aren’t part of the straight community. And there are large parts of the lgbtq community that says that we don’t belong with them either. So not only do most people think we don’t exist, but those who know about us tend to wave us off and not worthy of attention.

Michelle, 30, She
275 |

I waited 10 years to come out to my parents because I knew it wouldnt go well. On my 30th birthday, I gave them a letter explaining that I was gay, jut as I left their house. I didnt hear from them for months. When I finally did hear from them, my mother asked what she did wrong to make me gay. She then told me I was going to hell and that I had destroyed her dream of the perfect family because according to her, I could never be married of have kids (gay marriage had already been put into law by the Supreme Court and apparently my womb disappeared when I came out). My dad insists that I chose this lifestyle and that he will never accept it. Fast forward to the present, four years later, my parents still have zero interest in hearing about my partner (weve been together three years now), our plans for the future, or even inviting my partner into their home. Knowing my parents have zero interest in getting to know me as a gay woman or my partner is devastating. This embarrassment and disgust they hold for me and others like me clouds major holidays, family events (my mom refused to let my partner come to my sisters engagement dinner), and my future wedding to my beautiful partner. I dont even think theyll come to our wedding, let alone be happy for us. Ive been in therapy since I came out to them and am still sure theyre ashamed of me. It hurts to think about it and I want to move past caring about their feelings towards me, but I just dont know how. They used to be so proud of me, but now Im just a the child that ruined our family.

Heather, 34, She/her/hers
276 |

From age eight to 15 my parents would physically and verbally abuse me. I was sent to four different foster homes, each one refusing to house me because of my homosexuality. I put myself through high school and after a lot of therapy, Ive become a nationally known drag entertainer, Im engaged to the man of my dreams, and I have the best chosen family I could ever ask for.

Zachary, 28,
277 |

When I started dating my now wife, I came out to many of my family members. I was most nervous about my grandmothers. My maternal grandmother actually accepted our relationship without hesitation, and bonded with my wife. They spoke several times a week until my grandmother passed away a few days before our big white wedding. I was saddened she couldnt be with us that day (in person) but believe she was with us, on that day and always.

Janelle, 36, she/her
278 |

I been lucky to have been accepted as a gay woman in the Delaware Courts as a Court Officer during 20042016. Although two years prior my situation was not so easily accepted at the Corrections Academy in Dover. I was laughed at and shunned in the showers, this didnt bother me. I was used to that behavior. However, when I was being forced to remove my partner’s ring during my training, I was told to comply or be fired. I notified Governor Ruth Minner, she notified me to keep my ring on like everyone else was allowed to do. A memo was sent to Corrections addressing this. I felt privileged to have such a powerful impact in helping change the former way of handling this issue with gays employed by the state.

Yvonne, 64, she
279 |

My family always told me that they loved me no matter what, but I found out there were unspoken limits. When I came out as bisexual, it was the end of our relationship. Parents, siblings, some extended family, all gone. They didnt even contact me to tell me off for six months … I recently came out as trans as well, and havent bothered trying to contact them, knowing that would be viewed as even worse and even more worthy of terrible insults. My community almost completely abandoned me. I recently got up the nerve to name and count all the relationships I lost after coming out as bi 55. Friendships, family members, people Id known since I was a toddler, college friends, you name it, totaling 55 severed relationships, all people I held very dear. The results of that rejection are indescribable. Saying I miss my siblings is trite compared to the feelings I experience. I have just a couple people left who even knew me as a child, and just a few others who I have more than a two year history with and one of them is my spouse. Losing that history feels like losing my identity as a person, and its hard to rebuild anchors to attach my true self to. … I spent some time homeless after coming out, and am still in constant fear for my financial stability. Having no one to fall back on is exhausting. All that adds up to a lot of depression, anxiety, and suicidal days.

Jordan, 26, He/his
280 |

I grew up in an urban community in the D.C. area. Although D.C. was a liberal city, my immediate community was not. I grew up with a Baptist household with a single black mother from rural Virginia. My sexuality was something I knew I could never discuss. Additionally, I went to Catholic school and had a perfectly heterosexual twin sister. I didnt feel accepted at school or at home. This feeling led me to find community wherever I felt comfortable. Unfortunately, I picked up some bad habits along the way and used drugs to cope with living with duality, depression and feelings of rejection… When I admitted that I needed help with my mental health and issues with drugs, the same family who had shunned me were the only people who were there to help me. As times changed, so did my family’s attitude towards me, my partners and the code of silence that used to rule the household. Although my family is far from perfect, it is an extreme improvement from when I was younger.

Nicole, 36, she/her
281 |

When I came out to my friends in the 1990s, they laughed. I was outed to my mom in the 1990s by my sister and aunt, so I never really got to come out on my own terms. My first girlfriend’s parents/family refused to accept me throughout the entire nine and a half years we were together which contributed to a lack of self-worth and fueled my alcoholism and depression. Needless to say, the relationship ended but not for a lack of trying to make it work. When I met my now-wife and soulmate in 2009, everything changed. Her family accepted our relationship with open arms and wholeheartedly supports us and our daughter, unconditionally to this day. I managed to beat my alcoholism and quit my addictions which has changed my life completely. I am happy, I am accepted, I am sober, I am in love, I am one hell of a human.

Laina, 42, she/her
282 |

My brother, nephew and my son have not spoken to since I came out, but the people that I thought that would reject me has embraced me with open arms.

NickoleRenee, 58, she/her
283 |

I came out to my parents as gay during my junior year of college while attending Indiana University. My parents rejected my truth and pleaded with me to keep my identity a secret. They subjected me to physical and verbal abuse, and police were called in the middle of the night for domestic abuse. Eventually, my parents allowed me to return to school, but refused to help me financially and I was forced to seek emergency aid… Unfortunately, I was unable to complete one of my two degrees and move on to dental school as planned, and I have not had contact with my mother, my best friend, in over four years. Fortunately, I persevered and am an employee with the Indiana Senate Democrats, I have completed my master of public health degree and I am engaged to a wonderful man. We have everything we could ever want and have created an amazing family of our own. However, without the support of my immediate family, I feel that something is missing.

Andrew, 27, he/his
284 |

I’m actually pretty lucky. I could have been homeless after I came out to my family, but instead they decided to love me no matter what and work hard to try and understand, affirm, and support me. It’s been two years, and pronouns are still a bit hard, but they’re trying.

Alice, 31, she/her
285 |

My mother and sister cannot accept my life and my authenticity… my love for my children is unconditional. Every parent and sibling should feel the love and acceptance of their parents.

Darla, 57, she/her
286 |

My sexuality and gender identity are not related to my PTSD or other mental illnesses. But not being able to be accepted, or loved, for the reality of who I am has definitely made it worse… I joined the Navy in 1999, I was barely 18. I spent that time hiding my sexuality, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was still in full effect, and I saw it push people I cared deeply for out of the military. But the military is where I found the people who I still carry with me every single day. I met my two closest friends while I was still active duty. One was in the Army, the other a civilian. One bisexual, the other a lesbian. Between the two of them they taught me it was okay. Even if I had to hide that part of my life while I was in the service. For a long time, they, and the people I met through them were the only acceptance I had. My mother does not accept my sexuality or my gender identity. My dad died before he could find out. My siblings, except for one sister, don’t accept it, and utterly ignore it. The LGBTQ+ Alphabet community has been a hit and miss. Both my gender identity, and my sexual preference is questioned frequently. I have experienced outright denial that it is legitimate, and hostility for not being “gay enough” or “straight enough.” It hurts. But I started to pick and choose my own family, and my own community. I have started to become more active in pushing for equality in the LGBTQ+ community in my own LARP community.

Bee, 37, They/Them, She/Her
287 |

I came out two years ago at the age of 46. I spent my entire life to that point totally focused on being who others expected me to be and putting everyone else first. I was so deep in the closet I didn’t realize I was gay… During the time that I was actively coming out and starting to form my queer identity, my family of origin chose to support [my ex husband]. For example, after I told my dad I was gay, he sent my ex husband a condolence note. They continued to support him during the divorce. Since then, my mom has basically cut me out of her life but will still communicate with him. My entire religious community (shared with him) also turned their back on me. And most of our joint friends supported my ex and no longer talk to me. I think they felt I’d lied to them about who I was, and they hold that against me. But I was only lying to myself, and their rejection of my authentic self really hurt. … I’m now in a relationship with an amazing woman. We have, between us, five children from our past “straight” lives. Her family-by-birth likewise is absent from our lives. But we are building a small but mighty family-by-choice and those who love us are safe and supportive people who value our authenticity and don’t care that we are gay. Some days I miss my “old” life while I was still in the closet because at that time I thought I knew all the answers and I thought I had everything I needed and wanted. This new life is a lot scarier because I am learning to be myself for the first time ever. But I feel alive for the first time. I feel authentic. I understand myself. And even though it’s hard, I’m worth fighting for.

Jen, 48, she/her
288 |

I have been fortunate. My family and friends have been supportive. My school district has been supportive. My principals have been supportive. Up until today I was able to say that I have not had one bad experience with being transgender. Today however, the pastor [at my church] has not been. In fact, after donating hundreds of dollars each year and serving my church for many years as guest director, cantor, choir member and handbell choir member, [he] banned me from participating in all of these facets. … He called being transgender a “choice” and is unwilling to understand who I am and what I have contributed to the church. Moreover, he is making this decision because being transgender is “visible” (as opposed to being gay which is not visible). This is going to make a major impact on my life because I made many friends at this church. I am a man of faith. My connection with God is a strong one. To be told by a priest that I am no longer welcome in the ministry was a tough blow to take. Especially since I met a lot of my friends through the music ministry. It is not an easy thing to pick up and find a new church in one’s mid-40s.

Kate, 44, she/her
289 |

I came out to my family in 1985. My mother struggled with it until her death in 1996, but she never rejected me. I know she loved me. I have three brothers, and they are my strongest allies. I have been blessed with acceptance from all of my family and I grateful for that every day. I have been married to my wife for seven years now, and she is treated as a member of our family.

Barbara, 54, she
290 |

Iowa, 1995: Not the safest place to be queer, especially in high school… I told one close friend first, then a couple more, and then branched out to a few more people. In my journal I used to keep a list of who knew and who didn’t. There was one name conspicuously absent for a long time: Marc, my best friend. Marc and I first met when we were in kindergarten. … Winter, (maybe January), 1996: the time came. I went to a mutual friend’s house, sat down on the couch, and asked the others to say to Marc what I could not. This was the most important person in my life and I had to be prepared that, in a minute, he wouldn’t be. The time came… and it passed. He said “… so?” and I broke down, now understanding that my best friend of 10 years loved me unconditionally. Last month, I visited him and his beautiful family: a loving wife and three beautiful children and I always remember this story. We see each other maybe only once each year but we talk almost daily. Over thirty years of friendship, and always stronger each day. Acceptance has gotten me where I am. Acceptance has made me who I am. Acceptance saved my life.

Sonyl, he/his
291 |

The experience that I had with my family as a gay man has been a bumpy road. I currently no longer speak with a majority of my family due to their lack of acceptance. When I came out as gay to my parents at the age of 15, I had a mental breakdown. … my parents sent me off to a troubled teen rehabilitation school called Abundant Life Academy in Kanab, Utah. While there, the owner of the school took on himself to do counseling with me using conversion therapy tacks. From telling me over and over that I would die of AIDS, drug addiction, and alone with no one around to even want to touch me. From using examples of terrible things that would happen to my body that I don’t care to repeat. I was scarred. My self-worth, self-esteem, family relationships, and my own confidence had been shaken and broken. It has taken me over a decade to feel like I can truly love myself again. I fight a daily battle with my partners to remind myself that I am worth love and happiness. I am allowed to be happy. These are things that I didn’t believe I was allowed for years. My life now is a happy one. I travel the world. I have an incredible relationship and I am on a solid career path. I do hope though that by sharing the damage that was caused to me by this schools tactics that you may be able to take the steps to ensure that no one else has to suffer the way that I have.

Wyatt, 26, he/his
292 |

Being told when I first came out as bisexual at 15 that I was “experiencing a phase” or that my feelings were invalid since I was dating a boy at the time really stuck with me throughout my life, especially the overall response from the LGBTQ+ community and heterosexual community. From a young age, I learned that being attracted to multiple genders was wrong or unacceptable in both communities, that it was truly invisible in the acronym, as I was pressured to “choose a side.” In my family, it became a joke, something they could tease me about, and while in some situations, it was okay, it hurt every time a statement was made. Those are the memories that stick with me almost two decades later.

Emily, 31, she/her/hers
293 |

As a trans man, as a human being, I am a “positive result” and have had an enormously successful and happy life because of the early and continuing support of my wonderful adoptive parents, Charles and Lillian. Had it not been for my parents’ unwavering love, I would have struggled immensely. I have been open/out/proud all of my life. Long ago, I stopped searching for “acceptance” or “tolerance” from others. I expect to be treated with dignity and respect. I also expect others to “celebrate” me for who I am, as I celebrate myself. If they cannot, it is THEIR problem, not mine. I do not allow myself to remain connected to negative people.

Jude, 78, he/his
294 |

I was born and raised into a very conservative religious family. It was the Jehovah’s Witness faith. That “religion” had a really awful effect on my life. I was not only a closeted gay boy growing up in a small town but I was also part of a strict religion that didn’t allow me to have friends outside of the faith. I grew up feeling so isolated. I was eventually outed at the age of 22 by a very close friend. I was shunned completely by all of my family and friends. I was kicked out of my home and had to build a life from scratch. Over seven years later my family and friends won’t have anything to do with me. I hope to spread the word of the awful shunning practice of the Jehovah’s Witness faith and the lives that have been lost because of it.

Nick, 31, he/his
295 |

I often call my parents the Clintons of Christian ministry… When I was 28, I came out to them for the first time. Their initial response was a threat: Either I pray and renounce my “homosexuality” or my dad would resign from the church, they would sell their house in CA and move to NYC and help me “through this time.” … I lived back in the closet for another four years. While in the closet, I armed myself with the Word of God and researched what the Bible may say about my sexuality. I came out to them for the final time and held firm to my identity. That final conversation about my sexuality resulted in harsh words from my parents… I’m the reason why my mom was diagnosed with cancer… Your greatest pride is our deepest shame… I tried for several years to maintain a relationship with my parents, however, our relationship becomes more and more strained as the years go on… I will be open to reconciliation should they ask for it but I will no longer try and change their minds and ask them to let me back in their lives. I’m more at peace with them this way and am no longer living in turmoil wondering if I’m doing enough or doing too much… My experience with my parents has inspired me to minister to other queer Christians, especially queer Asian American Christians, and to help straight Christians become effective allies. Over the first weekend of August, I led a retreat for queer Asian American Christians, where 90% of us have unaffirming parents. We found healing and community amongst each other, knowing that we’re not alone in this life journey.

Serena, 39, she/her
296 |

I came out as transgender to my parents when I was 17, and they reacted terribly. I was sent to a religious counselor to try and “fix” me, to try and make me “their perfect son.” I have since ended up contemplating suicide many times and hating myself for how I am. I try to have pride in who I am and surround myself in good influences but they have destroyed that pride with their constant abuses and threats. … Parents, listen to your children. Put your beliefs aside for one second to get to listen to them. Don’t just hear them, listen to them. Don’t let your beliefs blind you from the extraordinary person your child is and the tremendous courage they are showing by showing this part of themselves to you. Take it from me, your support can mean the difference between life and death.

Alex, 19, she/her
297 |

I came out at age 17 by accident. My lover in high school’s parents found notes we had written to each other. Her parents contacted mine and declared me “insane.” My parents took me to a psychiatrist who said I was “normal.” From my parents’ point of view, that was the end of it. They never said anything to hurt me. In fact, they helped me to see my lover behind her parents’ back. We continued our relationship for several years and never in all these years have my parents said anything to me that would make me feel bad. In fact, I have a nephew who is gay and he went to my mother for advice. She told him to talk to me to help him understand what he is going through. My parents’ love for me never wavered in all these years. They told me to just be myself as they would love me as long as I was good to others.

Pam, she/her
298 |

Until I came out I was terrified of ostracization and physical harm. Luckily my community generally tends to think in a (small L) libertarian style, as long as it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg, it’s not their business. But the people I spoke to personally were generally accepting and welcoming. My family was a harder sell, but they’re coming around.

Cori, 56, she/her
299 |

When I was 15, in 1983, I knew I was different. I didn’t know why, or what, I just knew. I took my mom’s 38, put it to my head and pulled the trigger. Because I liked girls and my mom was very religious. I was so lucky it kicked and missed my head, barely scraping my skull. … I was kept for suicide watch in a ward for 72 hours. During my stay I met with a counselor… I finally told him, “THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME.” I told him I like girls, not boys. “But you can’t tell my mom.” He promised, but was able to explain that I wasn’t alone. There were millions more kids like me. He gave me hope and although I didn’t come out for another 11 years, he saved me. I came out at 26 after trying to be straight for what seemed like forever, and having had three wonderful sons. My mother disowned me she only spoke to me regarding my boys. It was ugly. Religion was my nemesis. I felt rejected and hated by my own siblings, and mostly my mom. Heartbreaking. Fast-forward: I’m 49. I have an amazing partner, grown boys, and grandchildren I adore and who adore me. Imagine if I had succeeded at 15 to end my life. My mom has changed. She is supportive and loves my partner. I am fortunate. I wish my mom would have loved me unconditionally but she didn’t. She couldn’t. Religion has tarnished our bond as mother and daughter. Despite the success, I still feel betrayed by her. She has expressed her sadness at her behavior. Forgiveness is necessary. I can’t forget.

Lynn, 49, her
300 |

When I first came out at 16 it was hard. My mom accepted me, my dad didn’t care, my older brother apparently knew, why didn’t he tell me I’ll never know, lol. But school was a whole different ballgame. I was picked on and made fun of. Kids were mean. I tried committing suicide. I hated myself I felt like I had no one who understood and honestly their wasn’t anyone at that time I could identify with. This impacted my life a lot because now as an adult I want to be that person for kids. That I didn’t have make sure they know they’re not alone. That there’s a whole world out there beyond high school. … My family is my lifeline. As long as I have them then I’m OK.

betina, 31, she/her
301 |

As a nine-year-old, I learned that I was gay by watching the news coverage of Matthew Shepards murder. I went on Ask Jeeves to query, What does it mean to be gay? When I read the answer, I knew I had what Matthew had. I thought it was a curse or a punishment of sorts. After seeing all the talking heads debating the right for gay people to exist and the footage of Matthews heartbroken parents at news conferences, I came to a decision that would most help my family: I took a handful of Tylenol with the intention of not waking up. … I awoke the following morning with the sunshine of my moms smile leaning over me, wrapped snuggly in my blankie. In that moment, I knew how loved I truly was. Two months ago for LA Pride, I decided that I wanted to take an active stance to help build community for my queer family. My partner of 10+ years Dave and I created a massive Pride flag made out of childhood blankets with the message “I hope u know how loved u are” on it. … When we took it to the streets on the evening of LA Pride, we soon found a community of hundreds sharing hugs, stories, and a space to heal.

Noah, 29, he/him/his
302 |

My immediate family has all accepted me which has made my transition easier. Had I come out at 12 when I first realized I wasn’t male, my stepdad would have seen to it that I wasn’t here today to write this. … Family means support and support is everything, and this is one of the few times you can choose your family. I have had multiple people say that they wish they could have been my child for the support I offer them.

Jae, 41, she/her
303 |

I came out as queer later in life (four years ago), so I wasn’t as used to having conversations about my sexual identity with strangers. So, in my mid-thirties, at a professional event, I was shocked to have an experience with a leader/speaker who literally laughed in my face when I said I identified as queer in my introduction. The reason I had approached him was to share my experience with his heteronormative assumptions (he said “Ladies, tell your husbands…” multiple times, assuming that all of the audience members were heterosexual). After approaching him, I was so confused to have someone literally laugh at me… His reaction, behavior, and communication style felt so disconnected from my experience. Honestly, I wanted to run away and hide, because (not only was the power/gender dynamic awkward but) other people were watching this older man uncontrollably laugh at me. However, I chose to stay and share my experience. … So I took a deep breath, leaned in to the strength of my thumping heartbeat, and began to articulate the ways in which his response made me feel uncomfortable and offended. Forty-five minutes later, he apologized, acknowledged the generational differences, and even shed a few tears. The experience taught me a lot about rejection, courage, and resilience.

Rachel, 34, she/her
304 |

My parents were highly educated and well read. There was no Will and Grace, no Ellen, not that we watched much TV running a family farm. Also very little about gays in literature, movies or news. This [1975] was a time that even well educated, liberal people knew little to nothing about gays. … I can imagine if they knew these friends were gay, and people they loved and respected it could have been better for me. I don’t blame them for not being “out.” This was a very different time. And so when I came out my parents, particularly my mom, hit the roof. At the time I was going to college on their dime. And living with them. That ended. They also took me out of the will. … I count as one of my highest achievements keeping the lines of communication open with my parents during a time that no one, nobody, was talking about the issue. I believe there was a year or maybe two that we hardly spoke but gradually we did. And as we repaired our relationship, I believe they came to accept and respect me… I will never quite forget being that young, perhaps 19-year-old person thinking, “What do I do now? Where do I go?” That feeling impacts all I do particularly my commitment to activism. No kid should go through that. We all need our families.

Dita, 62, she/her
305 |

I grew up in rural Dover, Delaware as part of a Mennonite/Pentecostal fundamentalist community. I am third in a family of seven kids and was raised that the man is the head of household and women are to submit to their husbands and raise children. I didnt know what LGBT was until I was around 16 and had left the church. I struggled to accept myself, contemplated suicide many times, and was in multiple abusive relationships throughout my 20s and 30s. I have been happily with my wife for nine years now and our daughter is 21 years old (I had her when I was 20 and was briefly married to a man because I didnt realize I had options). My parents do not accept or acknowledge my wife in any way. I say that it doesnt matter because Im 42, but it does. It impacts me every day on social media when I see my mom liking my siblings’ photos and not mine, or when she sent me the family address list and my wifes name was excluded but by brothers girlfriend was listed.

Leah, 42, she
306 |

My current school and students have been amazing in accepting my family, my partner, and daughter. It hasnt always been that way with other districts asking me not to share/being discriminatory. For me building a family in the classroom is important, which includes getting to know my students and them getting to know me. It was very hard not to share about my family when all the other teachers were able to do so. … [Once] a student asked if I was always so open about being gay. I explained as much as was appropriate, but also said I felt like they should know my family, background, etc., to understand where Im coming from in order to build a foundation of trust. The student responded … “Thats why we love you Ms. S.” This experience let me know that I am making an impact on my students not only as their teacher but also as a role model for students who may not have someone in their lives that can understand where they are coming from.

Lauren, 32, She
307 |

Growing up, my entire extended family as been at minimum tolerant of homosexuality, with my parents and most of my relatives frequently expressing acceptance and teaching tolerance as far back as I can remember. A big part of this was that my uncle is gay, and has been with the same partner longer than I’ve been alive. They both have been big role models for me growing up, and having them around as a normal part of our family and never once treating their relationship as anything different than a straight couple was a BIG factor in giving me the courage to come out myself. … When I worked out that I was gay, which was a revelation I made over the course of a night, I was able to feel comfortable coming out to my friends and relatives the very next day, even though I lived in a very conservative area that expressed a lot of homophobia. What gave me that courage and confidence was that because I’d been around such a positive environment and had such good role models, especially on the subject of the LGBTQ community, I didn’t feel like being gay was anything wrong or anything to be ashamed of, like so many other teenagers in that position have to go to. I’m forever grateful to my parents and family for this.

Doug, 26, he/his
308 |

At 19, my mother suspected I was gay and threw me out of the house. She told me to never come back. I met my partner of 44 years a few months after this and when my father found out that I had a girlfriend, he threatened to come have me arrested and put in an insane asylum. I have not seen or spoken to my parents or siblings since then, but because of my partner I have realized I am stronger and a better person without their negativity and judgment. For years I didnt reveal that I was queer to anyone, for fear of their reaction. I recently decided to come out to others I know and the majority have been accepting and supportive. … I have wondered, over the years, what my life would have been like if my parents had been accepting of me and my partner. Parents have to realize how devastating it is for a child to be completely rejected by their family. A child doesnt become less because they’re queer, they become themselves, their true selves.

Karen, 63, She/her
309 |

I waited until my early 20s to acknowledge my feelings to myself and family. Some close friends knew, but many contacts disappeared after I spoke about my true feelings. My family was acceptive, loving, and life moved forward; for this, I am so grateful. It has been about discovering my identity now that I am not scared to be who I am. I still appear rather straight so I come out to people any time I start a new job or meet new acquaintances. Its no longer scary to correct people who assume my fiance is male Id rather be honest and help them understand. It was also too detrimental to my mental and emotional health to not speak about who I am; I could never go back to running away from my feelings. The weight is gone and Ive never felt more myself.

Caitlin, 28, she/her
310 |

My true friends have always been great pillars of strength who have helped me to learn how to accept myself for who I am, and who have been there when I needed someone to talk to.

Anthony, 39, he/his, she/her
311 |

Before I could even say the words, I was desperate to understand my feelings. Before I could reach out to any family member for fear of complete rejection, I coyly talked around the subject to a friend. That friend said the word to me. “I think you are gay.” In this small town, in a world back in the early eighties, she took me to the closest store, and bought be a book about being gay. That friend will always be family, and will is the reason I say PROUDLY gay! I want so much for younger generations that I see not struggling, to continue that progress. AS THEY ARE!

Joseph, 51, he
312 |

As a gay man I was lucky to have an incredible, supportive family as well as my husband Dale. But the faith community we grew up in was less than a supportive loving environment. He grew up Missionary Baptist and myself as Catholic. I realized in my teens that I was gay and I no longer felt welcome hearing what the Catholic Church believed in. My husband had it much worse as you can imagine.

Dominic, 49, he/him
313 |

I am a baby boomer, born in 1954 and grew up in the 1960s and ’70s in the heart of the Midwest in Missouri. My parents were Ozark Missouri, Bible Belt people. I recognized I was attracted to my own gender as early as six, I knew for sure I was homosexual by the time I was 13 and had my first boyfriend in secret at 14 until I was 16. My mother discovered my secret when I was a junior in high school on Sept. 25, 1970. I can never forget that day. … I came home from school to find her burning my journals and letters from my former boyfriend. I never suspected the viciousness of the attack my mother would do to me. I had endured many years of beatings, this one would top them all. By the time she was finished beating me, my clothes were in shreds and soaked in blood. My back is covered in scars and permanent nerve damage. She outed me to the entire family and I was rejected by them if I did not conform to their wishes. I married and have two kids and now six grandchildren. …. I openly came out after my wife’s death. She knew I was closeted gay and why I hid it. The family remembered and carried through with their threat to destroy me. … I not only was rejected by my remaining relatives, I was disowned by my son and excommunicated from my church for being gay. I have lived through a lot and survived.

William, 64, he/him
314 |

I spent years in the closet, even though I knew I was gay since I was in junior high. I’m an only child and my parents are older I always felt like that was a bad combination, one that would mean my mom and dad wouldn’t understand me. I stayed hidden from them for so long, to the point where it was negatively impacting me and my relationships. I was anxious all the time, barely able to sleep, because I knew I wanted to talk to my parents about being gay but I just couldn’t do it. When I finally did it, it was like I’d put down a 300-pound barbell I’d been carrying for over a decade. … Being an only child means your parents take a lot of interest in your life. I share so much with my mom and dad, and keeping a part of my life hidden from them felt like keeping a third hand secret: It was hard to do, and it was obvious I was hiding something. Letting my family into this enormous part of my life has felt so good.

Ryan, 28, he/his
315 |

In 2015, at the age of 25, I decided to make the decision to come out to my mom. For years, I knew that I was different and that my difference was dangerous to those who did not understand it. My decision to come out was and still is met with a harsh reality that being who you are and living your authentic self is not always supported, udnerstood, and loved. As a black gay man, I have to not only combat the homophobia within the black community, but the racism that exists amongst the gay community. All while trying to exist in a world dominated by what it means to be a man based on societal expectations. However, the rejection I have experienced from my family has strengthened me to continue to support and help others become the best versions of themselves. Its the light that shines within me that has enabled others to find their own light and ignite the fire of their being.

Justin, 28, He, him, his
316 |

Some rejection, but mostly acceptance, sometimes grudgingly. My father never liked that I was gay, so I let him know some of the things I didn’t like about him but had to accept. … We are social animals. We all need people to care for and people who will care for us. Sometime it’s family, sometimes it’s community. And sometimes it’s the family you have developed with important people in your life.

Jerry, 65, he/his, She/hers. Otherwise open as told
317 |

I work in higher education in a small community in [West Virginia]. It is safe to say that I know most of the faculty and staff on our campus. I just announced my gender transition knowing that, according to a recently released campus climate survey, approximately 75% of our staff are uncomfortable working with a transgender person. I want to make this transition an opportunity to humanize an individual who happens to be transgender … Family and community acceptance releases a weight from the shoulders that is not imaginable until it happens.

Chris, he/him/his
318 |

I lived in the closet in my adolescence and early adulthood. It wasn’t until I was hit and almost killed by a drunk driver that I realized life was too short to be unhappy. I eventually came out to my mom first; she blankly looked at me and said she knew for a long time and that she still loved me. While I was at work, my mom told my dad and brother, I was terrified of telling them. When I came home from work, I walked in, didn’t make eye contact and went straight into the kitchen, opened the fridge door and my Dad walked up, put his arm around me and said, “I don’t care if you are purple, I will always love you.” Then my brother walked in and said, “Oh crap, guess this means no more gay jokes.” And just like that, I had my family acceptance. I grew up Catholic. My mom was devout in her practice but she loved and accepted me. I was ecstatic. From that point on, I’ve lived my life free and in the open. I am an activist for my community. I am an educator of issues and how they impact us to my heterosexual peers, I am a parent and I am a happy me.

Katie, 46, She/her
319 |

I’ve spent years suffering from depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and low self-esteem. All due to gender dysphoria and now, finally, at age 60, have found the courage to come to terms with myself … So far as I know, I’ve had complete acceptance and that gives me hope for myself as well as for other people.

Lori, 60, she/her
320 |

I grew up when being gay was a psychiatric disorder and an abomination if you were southern baptist. My parents and I agreed at age 23 I should have conversion therapy. I was hospitalized in a Catholic hospital and [had] 40 treatments over six months. It did no good for me. I am me and more isolated than ever. My true ally, my dad (career Army) died. He’s my only hero. My point is to help the young people. I had no one. We cannot regress. Anyone who thinks conversion therapy transforms your sexuality is very wrong and it’s a cruel, long process. I am concerned for baby boomers like me. I have been told twice that I have an inappropriate driver’s license because it says “female” and I look male. It’s done in a way that makes you feel dirty. Now, at my age, it makes me tired.

Karen, 60, he/his
321 |

I’m grateful because I get to experience a life of acceptance, of happy normalcy. You realize it’s actually an incredible privilege when you’re faced with the prospect of losing everything, of losing love you can only hope really is unconditional, if you share yourself even once out loud… In my case, I didn’t tell a soul until after I graduated college and moved out to Seattle with a few of my best friends. Before that, I grew up in Maine and New Hampshire living mostly with my dad and visiting my mom in the summers who would move around a lot … Despite my dad’s assurances of acceptance for homosexuality, he never mentioned trans specifically. When I was a kid in the 90s, the only exposure I personally got to trans folks in the media was either disgusting images of clownish heavily masculine prostitutes in cop shows or demeaning sort of talk shows parading trans women like a sideshow … In spite of himself perhaps, my dad had very gender-normative expectations, especially fresh out of the Army in the mid-90s. The few times I even came close to hinting at my gender as a small child I let him misinterpret or shrug off … When I eventually started my transition, just prior to my 27th birthday, I came out privately to my family … I made it clear how much my love for them, and theirs for me, mattered in my life. I didn’t care what pronouns or name they used, I just wanted them to know and love me. Surprisingly, though maybe I shouldn’t have been, all of them fully accept me as I am. Even my Fox Newswatching memere (grandmother). She loved me as much as I hoped I knew she did. Everyone really important in my family loves and accepts me for who I am.

Laura, 30, she/her
322 |

I came out to my family and friends in 1975 when I was 21. I was living in Wisconsin in an all-white, Republican/conservative town. In 2016, my town hosted a rally for Donald Trump and he won the county vote, which did not surprise me. You can imagine how fearful I was back in 1975 when I decided after years of sadness and contemplation of suicide, that I had nothing to lose. I was fed up and angry with leading a false life. I came out to each of my siblings and my parents telling them that they had a choice: to accept me as I was, or they could not be in my life any longer. As it turned out, they all were immediately accepting, if not completely understanding of my sexuality. As the years passed, my family came to understand and support me. When I met my partner (now husband) in 1982, I introduced him to my family, and over time, they came to love him and a son and brother. My straight friends also were supportive, if not completely understanding when I came out to them but with time, they became educated allies in the fight for LGBTQ rights. However, as soon as I could leave Wisconsin, I moved to Los Angeles, where I knew I would find more gay people like myself. I wanted to fully realize my potential as a gay man.

Greg, 63, he/him/his
323 |

I sacrificed my authenticity for five decades, out of love and respect for family and the profession I loved. I transitioned, post military retirement, while a government contractor and lead instructor at U.S. Army Force Management School, Ft Belvoir, VA. When I did, I was promptly fired. A few months later I was hired, as my authentic self, at HQDA (Pentagon), and spent 2.5 years as a senior analyst for Asst Chief of StaffInstallation Management. I went on to serve three years as human resources director for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service in Denver, CO, before retiring and moving back to Wisconsin to be near my children and grandchildren.

Col (Ret) Sheri, 68, she/her
324 |

I came out to my family at the age of 32. I was living overseas and had my first same-sex lover who I wanted to share my life with. I could not see doing that without my family being part of it. There was no internet or email back then so I wrote them a letter explaining to them who I am and how happy I was. When I got home for my next visit all of my family expressed strong support for me and understanding. They welcomed my partner as a member of the family. My family is very religious and spiritual and each proved to me that their beliefs were as God meant “all inclusive.”

Randall, 60, He/his
325 |

My wife and I came out later in life. I was 60, and all of my children rejected me and my wife with abhorrence! I felt rejected and hated by them, and they broke off relationships with me for years! One of my sons wrote down all the clobber passages of scripture and put the verses on a paper by my pillow. Another one said he lost all faith in God and in me. One was so allergic to my wife’s presence that he ran away from home to avoid her. … All my sons (I have four) stopped celebrating all holidays and birthdays with me. It was a lonely and sad time for me and my wife. It was as if I got disowned. Eventually they came around to accepting us, and today we celebrate the holidays and birthdays together! They still don’t really interact with us in deep or meaningful conversation, but at least things are moving in a more positive direction. As a former pastor who was not in favor of LGBTQ at all, I imagine that my family considered my coming out of the closet to be a betrayal of who I was, and they couldn’t accept me for who I am. Actually I could hardly accept me for who I was becoming, and it took years for me to be okay with my lesbian self! … So I am very sympathetic when older adults are wary of coming out of the closet later in life. They could lose their family; they could be rejected by their friends; they could be ousted from their church. Well, all those things happened to me, and so I feel my story can help others who are in my situation. Because when all is said and done, I feel that my coming out was a process of becoming the true me, the whole me, and the me that I could love and accept, with no parts hidden.

Ellen, 67, she/her
326 |

I was born and raised in the Mormon Church, in a small town in California. I have very clear memories of being instructed by the church to canvas communities and encourage people to vote yes on Prop 8, to make marriage only legal between a man and a woman. I was a senior in high school at the time and I was just starting to come to terms with being gay, although Id never said it out loud to anyone. When I finally did attempt to come out to my parents they never even let me get a single sentence out, cutting me off and explaining to me that they could sense satans power influencing me. I went to bed that night and prayed that God would kill me in my sleep. … When I finally did come out to my parents it was when my father was on a roll talking about how San Francisco is the modern day Sodom and Gomorrah and he was waiting for the day when God would smite that evil city from the face of the earth. … I begged him to stop talking about the righteous death of gays and lesbians because he was talking about me. … after a moment my father quietly said, Then I will miss you. I will never forget that moment. It was the moment that my father decided being Mormon was more important than being my dad.

David, 27, he/his
327 |

I come from a family who since birth has always been accepting, so when I finally came to terms with opening up to myself and my network that I was a lesbian it was easy. As a young woman growing up, I fought for acceptance living life with a hidden disability, so I understand what it’s like to struggle with one’s own self identity. It did take me years of finally being ready to be true to my own self. I came out a month before I turned 29 back in 2016. I did not fear the rejection because I knew we are at a time when there are so many positive-minded folks in my community that would not turn on me and those people outweigh those that are negative. A label should not define you, it’s who you are on the inside that really matters the most. Back in March of 2017 is when my full picture was completed [of] who I really was all along… [It] took shaving most of my long hair off, wearing men’s clothing to really prove to myself that I really was this person since childhood, my level of confidence had burst in ways that had allowed me to heal. I did have one eye-opening hurdle that I have since rebounded and recovered from, I almost gave up due the struggle even after coming out in 2016, I did want to take my life but too many factors outweighed that choice. … I’m focusing on doing what I can to be that voice for those who need it. Living life as my true authentic self now has motivated me to even wake up with a smile knowing that life does work out for the best. I’m healed and the power of a supportive community has put me in the best possible direction.

Laura, 31, she/her
328 |

I came out as a lesbian at 22. My parents (father a Methodist minister) and mother initially were perplexed and at a loss. Two years later they engaged in PFLAG. Twenty-nine years later, I came out as a trans man. I am a single dad. My parents are still advocates and encouraged me to be my authentic self. They support the LGBTQ community by advocating through their work as a Reconciling church. My seven-year-old adopted [child] is my biggest advocate. I work as a consultant to the Childrens Bureau and federal partners have been very supportive. … Acceptance has allowed me to be a better person, parent, and advocate.

Traci, 51, he/his
329 |

I first acknowledged my sexual orientation when I was 19 years old and about to leave for boot camp. … This was in November of 2008. Barack Obama had just been elected president and I had just graduated from high school and almost my entire family is/was Evangelical Christians. I remember telling my aunt on that cool November night almost 10 years ago. We both cried. She accepted me, but we made a pact that it would be our secret because we knew that the family would not be accepting… at all. Fast forward to Thanksgiving, 2009. … I went on a walk with Mama around base and I told her my deep, dark secret. She cried and I cried. She told me to never tell Daddy, at least not then. She would do that when they got home. You see, she was afraid of what he might do or how he might react… Before my deployment to Afghanistan, I was home on leave. My parents had not said anything about it in nearly two years. Finally, as we sat on my parents’ front porch on that hot Georgia evening, my dad looked at me and said, “I’d rather have a gay and living son than I would a lying, dead son.” We all cried. It was amazing. … Today, my parents are my biggest allies. They have met my ex-fiance and they have enjoyed conversations about whomever my future husband will be and they have even talked about grandchildren! It does get better. Sometimes, in order to be free, we have to fight through the hard times to get to the best times of our lives.

Adam, 28, he/him
330 |

My coming out experience was long and strange. I grew up in a fairly conservative home and town, but knew from a young age that I was attracted to more than just men. In middle school I began to get real crushes on girls, sharing my first kiss with one. Once in high school I entered into a secret relationship with a girl, though the strain of keeping it from our families, her mother catching on, caused her to sever ties. Heartbroken, I swore off girls, letting the internalized homophobia around me convince me that my girlfriend, the first person I loved, had just been a “phase.” I spent the next 10 years unconsciously policing myself and my thoughts in regards to an same-sex attraction I had. It wasn’t until I was 26, after watching other good friends come out, that I finally came to terms with what I had known all along I was bisexual. Coming out was at once a relief, with half of my friends barely even reacting. They’d known all along, and were supportive as I finally came into my truth. My family and many people in my tight church community expressed disappointment at my “choice” and wanted to “talk it out with me.” My own parents, two years later, are still struggling with my sexuality. There’s a divide with half of the people in my life … and I don’t think it can ever be crossed again unless they realize their “compassionate tolerance” leads to voting in laws that threaten my community.

Meg, 28, she/her
331 |

My parents struggle with my sexuality; my father is outwardly supportive but does not try to understand it, and has made worrisome comments in the past. My mother tries to pretend that it doesn’t exist. She makes no effort to acknowledge or accept it, and for her sake I must hide it from my extended family or risk shaming her. This means that I never feel comfortable with my parents, because there is always this underlying issue that I can’t talk about. It makes time with them stressful, and makes me less willing to see them. I’ve been lucky, though, to have a sister and many loving friends who accept me wholeheartedly as I am. Their support gives me the strength to face each day and be proud of the man I’ve grown into. I actively participate in LGBT groups that seek to educate, support, and advocate for our rights and humanity. I like who I am, even if I know others do not. There are good times and bad, but as long as I have some support network, I know that I will make it through to the next day.

Brent, 22, he/him
332 |

Coming out isn’t easy for anyone. Some have it harder than others but exposing yourself in a manner so vulnerable as to let all your protective walls down and let an often mean-spirited world do what it may to the person you know you have no power to change is hard. I am extremely privileged to have had a particularly accepting community around me when I came out at 19. I have, like many, experienced rejection or support that had conditions, but I have always known that I have had a support system a privilege many do not share. … Over the years, I have been able to talk people through their own coming out whether they be close friends or over the phone as a volunteer for the Trevor Project. Acceptance has given me the space to practice empathy for others in other situations in life. Acceptance has shown me that the side of you that conformity and the rest of world may make you think is wrong is actually what makes you right. It is what makes you unique. It is your strength rather than your weakness. In that struggle to live authentically is where I have found my own patriotism, one of a country that celebrates diversity, condemns forced conformity, and loves love in all its forms.

Jeffrey, 27, he/him
333 |

At age 54, I recently told my father, family, and friends that I will be having gender affirmation/FtM top surgery at the end of August. I expected mixed or negative responses, but have surprisingly found exactly the opposite. I am quite fortunate as so many transgender people I know, as well as other members of the LGBTQ community have experienced exactly the opposite. My experience was humbling and actually made me sad for those who haven’t been accepted by the people important to them. It made we want to work harder and better for our community,

Terry/Terri, 54, He/him
334 |

I was raised in a far-right conservative home with extremely religious parents. I realized I may be gay when I was 14. I struggled with denial and self-hatred because of how strongly it conflicted with my worldview. I attempted suicide multiple times, and battled depression for many years. I was heavily drugged and medicated for conditions which did not exist … I came out on April 16, 2004. I was not able to keep it a secret from my parents for very long, and our relationship deteriorated rapidly. My psychiatrist at the time confided that they wished to send me to a gay conversion camp, and I hit my breaking point… I was admitted to Holly Hill Psychiatric Hospital to treat the drug addictions I had developed from their over-medication of me, and to learn how to deal with the trauma I had experienced from my parents … [My grandmother] offered me a place to stay while I got back on my feet. Eventually my parents pressured her to kick me out in 2007, convincing her that I was a “Satanic influence.” Soon to be homeless, I was taken in by a close friend from high school, moving across state to avoid my parents. My old life with them had been all but destroyed by their religious bigotry and I had only just turned 19 … I know what it feels like to be rejected and hated for no good reason. I know how hard it is to build a new family from nothing, and how meaningful it is to feel welcomed and accepted by those around you. I feel accepted by my [current] community, and I want nothing more than for others to feel that same warmth and compassion.

Nathan, 32, hi/his
335 |

I came out to my dad through a text because I was too scared to say it to his face. I said, “Dad, what if I were dating someone. And what it it were a woman?” He said, “You’re my baby and I love you. Let’s all do dinner.” I cried for awhile after that. Being loved by your family, especially in a Hispanic family, is so important. And he didn’t even blink… I had a short bout with my father over my sexuality but he supports and loves myself and my partner. We have dinner and coffee and laugh together as a family which is so amazing and loving. I now work for a company that allows us all to bring our whole selves to work as we are, regardless of gender identity or orientation and I can’t even express how amazing this is. I wish large companies like this one would have been more vocal when I was a kid, maybe I wouldn’t have been so afraid to voice who I am.

DaNell, 30, She/her
336 |

I am an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and I came out at 52 years old as a well-educated mother of four. It was the hardest thing I have ever done and it changed everything in my life. I was fortunate to find a secret online support group of women coming out later in life. When I joined there were 150 women, now there are 1500… It provided support and love for me during this difficult time. I now provide both group and private support for individual women in this group. I received rejection from people I once considered family and friends … My partner was rejected by both her mother and father. At 55, she still doesn’t have a relationship with her father. I can see the sadness within her to this day. I mourn the fact that her father never got to know this amazing kind beautiful woman. It is such a loss for them both. Healthy family relationships builds healthy communities which promotes peace. Broken relationships with parents and families promotes poor self identify and esteem. When we have the ability to love ourselves we are able to love others with much more ease.

Anne-Marie, 54, She/her
337 |

It is very important for us knowing that when we go out in the house we sometimes felt unsafe. Some people could be violent, they can be humiliating or just full of hate. But when we have our family that will be there to push us and encourage us to say, “Hey, it’s okay. You are like us, you are a normal person. too.” I can still remember when I got engaged with my husband my first question right away was, “What about your family?” He said, “I assure you that no matter what happens, [if] they will or will not accept you, we will still be getting married.” [When his mom found outt] I am a trans, all she just did was give me a tight hug, no questions, no words, just a very warm hug. And I felt so loved and respected.

Kimberly, 31, her/she
338 |

When I was a junior in high school, I fell in love with a girl. We were in a relationship through high school but my parents caught us making out in their bedroom. They forbid me to see her again … I was an adopted kid who now faced losing my family, which I just couldn’t risk, so I tried to live the life they wanted for me a heterosexual woman. When I was 19, I was a lifeguard at our local pool and met another girl. We became best friends and fell in love BUT I wasn’t willing to admit that to anyone, including myself … Two marriages later, I recalled kissing with this girl and was SHOCKED! I sat in my counselor’s office crying because “I think I’m gay.” I had NO memories associated to the rejection of my parents or this relationship with the second girl … I had spent decades “proving” to myself that I was not worthy, not OK, not normal and not lovable … Two years ago, I reached out to the second girl from the pool and we just celebrated our one year anniversary! We are engaged to get married in 2019 and I have never been happier or healthier! She never stopped loving me. It was a lot of hard work but thank God for good counseling! My 13-year-old son completely accepts me and he loves my girlfriend. I was able to share with my parents that I am gay. Afterwards, my dad told me “agape” and when I asked what that meant, he said, “I love you unconditionally.” He died suddenly less than 90 days later. I am grateful for that moment with him.

Sue, 55, she/her
339 |

I came out last year with the help of a colleague of mine. Slowly, I’ve shared my sexuality with family, friends and the business world. Earlier this year, I was featured in Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Top 25 LGBTQ Businesses. Sharing my story in such a public way has emboldened me to have pride in being a multiracial, LGBTQ woman. So far, I have received a lot of love ad support and I’m thankful that we live in a time where our community is being accepted with open arms … The person whose opinion matters most to me is my son. He’s a toddler and doesn’t understand what it means to be LGBTQ, but I hope when he gets older that he will still love me as his mother. I also hope, if he comes out as LGBTQ, this will give him the confidence to be proud of who he is!

Allison, 36, she/ her
340 |

I felt supported by my community and administration in my first four years of teaching art. In my fifth year of teaching in the same district, I started using the pronouns they/them, the gender-neutral honorific, Mx., and got engaged to my now wife … As an “out” queer, non-binary teacher, many parent complaints arose regarding my gender and sexuality in my fifth year of teaching … they were listed off to me during a 2 1/2 hour meeting with human resources and my principal. In a separate meeting about whether or not I met the requirements to go up a pay level, negative relationships with family/community (never a problem before my identity was revealed) was a reason for staying at my current level … I was unable to focus on teaching and ended up leaving that district after my fifth year without another position lined up. I was scooped up almost immediately and am now happily teaching for [another district] with full administrative and community support. I am also a facilitator for the HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools Program, which provides professional development, training, and resources to elementary school educators about welcoming diverse families, creating LGBTQ and gender inclusive schools, preventing bias-based bullying and supporting transgender and non-binary students.

SJ, 31, them/ they
341 |

I was raised in a Christian home and sent to public school. I did not know there was such a thing as being gay. It wasn’t until I hit puberty and discovered for myself what it meant to be gay. Once I came out as a young adult when I realized that my gayness wasn’t going to go away on its own, I was subjected to extensive conversion therapy. I was a willing participant because I thought it was the right thing. But it didn’t help. In fact, it hurt me. With time, I realized that I didn’t have to change, and that the way I was raised wasn’t right … I know what it’s like to go through conversion therapy. I know what it’s like to hate myself and to want to change more than anything in the world. I know what it’s like to accept myself and to find happiness, which I never thought I’d find. I want the youth out there to know that things can and do get better. So don’t give up.

Elizabeth, 33, she/ her/ hers
342 |

Well 2013 and 2014 were tough years for me in general. I lost my stepdad then I lost my mother. At this point I was still playing professional basketball overseas. I struggled to find purpose in life … I started to struggle more and more with my sexuality. I always wanted a girlfriend but that never happened for me. I wasnt 100% real with myself. I started to think about my sexuality more and more. When I did finally come out in 2016 to family privately and 2017 publicly, I didnt really face opposition. Support came from near and far… Where I found the rejection was within the gay community. Being told I wasnt gay enough practically or being told I should be into this or that solely because I was gay. That bothered me so much and till this day I speak about it. Being black and gay is a whole different experience I didnt expect to deal with. The fetishizing I have experienced definitely made me feel less of person. Attempting to date interracialy has shown me so much. These things have made me coming out and finding myself so much harder. I do believe there are good people within the gay community I have met plenty. I just wish the same love we want from everyone outside the community we would show within.

AJ, 31, he
343 |

I came out after my divorce at 29 years old. I’ve lost many friends and family members due to my coming out as gay. I have two biological daughters, one is a lesbian, one is straight. It has impacted my life in a positive way because I no longer had to carry the burden of hiding what society called a dark secret. I am able to enjoy life without always having to look over my shoulder in fear of people finding out that I am gay. I no longer care what people think of me and it has helped me to help other gay youth and adults with similar situations.

Heath, 50, He/ his
344 |

When I was outed (yes, I didnt get the chance to come out myself to my parents), my parents were shocked. I was a 30-year-old woman who had been married to a man for years. But where I was from, gay was not OK. I never even knew anyone who was gay until I was an adult. I just did what I was supposed to do. Now, my dad is so supportive and my mom still struggles with my truth. It does get better … I have two sons and they are always looking for portrayals in media of a family like theirs and its rare. I know when I was questioning it would have made such a difference to know someone to talk to or had someone to reach out to. Visibility is so essential.

Heather, 33, she/ her
345 |

My parents preferred the idea of me being a drug addict or alcoholic rather than gay… I was abandoned on the streets of Waterloo on the black side of town (Waterloo was still segregated) where I learned what times the fast food places put outdated food in the dumpster.Some kind of love for your children.

Graeson, 52,
346 |

My parents accepted and educated themselves about my transition. My community has embraced me and made me feel welcomed. The job I had during the start of my transition was not accepting, I lost friends in the beginning of my transition

Erick, 41, he/his
347 |

My name is Rosario but everyone calls me Aria. I’m a 50-years-young transgender woman who’s recently lost my 95-year-old old mother who I dearly miss each passing day. For eight years I’ve been with her 24 hours seven days a week. Solely devoted to be her companion, care taker, best friend, and of course the greatest mother one could ever have.I’ve chosen to care for her til the very end. She was constantly telling me (as she made me promised) that she’s not going to leave until I meet the man who will love me for me and everything about me.

Rosario Aria, 50, her/ hers
348 |

In the summer of 2010 my parents sent me to conversion therapy, and lack of knowledge of where I group up outside of Dallas, TX didn’t teach sexual education. In December of 2010, during my first relationship, I acquired HIV. That relationship was my first time having sex since I grew up with a belief that sex before marriage is a sin, and homosexuality was a death sentence just like HIV was. In June of 2018 I was diagnosed with PTSD after I put down the alcohol and began remembering my dreams. As of today, with my lack of sleep and HIV I have a low quality of life and unable to maintain a job.

Brock, 30, he/his
349 |

Because I came out late in life age 36 I had a wife, daughters, in-laws, a solid circle of friends, work colleagues, who all knew me as that straight guy Rick. For 36 years I hid that truth, pretending to be someone that I wasn’t, doing what society, my parents, my faith, expected of me until the pressure became to great. I was on the verge of calling it quits on life, was 100 pounds overweight, drinking heavily but not addicted, and then I discovered, I had to be me or quit life. My own community family and friends reaction was a mixed bag, supportive and almost at times hatefully unsupportive. … In the gay community, I was also rejected as not being fully gay since I had created a heterosexual life wife and kids. I actually had a guy call me a “breeder” and say he could never date anyone like me. What I learned all of this is to preserve, and the greatest thing that can do is to be yourself. [I am] a life coach… my mantra is “The truth of who you are is far more important than the false truth of who you are pretending to be.” It is because of this coming out experience that I felt empowered to become a life coach, speaker, podcast host to help others make their bold moves and live their life uncloseted.

Rick, 55, he/ him
350 |

Although I didnt understand what the word “marginalization” truly meant until high school, my first experience with it was as a child. I belonged to a strict Mennonite family where I was isolated from American pop culture, politics, and fashion. I was 12 years old when my mother decided to no longer wear a head covering. Our nuclear family was abruptly shunned by our extended family and close friends. … My first day attending a school outside of our home was at the age of sixteen. Although I found it incredibly difficult to adapt to the social norms, I also found advantages of being different by learning how to accept myself and others. Acceptance took time, even when I was able to admit to myself that I was gay. It took one gap year, two years of college, and a revaluation of my faith for me to finally come out to my family and friends. My family reacted to this by withholding financial support and by distancing themselves from me. When I married a beautiful woman from Mexico this past summer, my parents refused to attend the wedding. A handful of my closest friends have not spoken to me since. Despite the rejection and struggle, I am hopeful that one day my family will be open to my marriage and welcome my wife into the family.

Lena, 23, she/her/ hers
351 |

Sexuality was not something I learned directly in my childhood up bringing in that I did not know about homosexuality. In junior high school there were no openly gay students, maybe there was the casual joke being told. It wasn’t until I relocated with my employer to the San Francisco Bay area that I encountered gay men, after being ogled I realized being uncomfortable and likened it to what most women endure in daily living from men. After a time, I examined this and also found myself in fear because I had never asked myself about being gay, and having never questioned this, I wondered could I be in self denial? Today I am who I am and I am fine with the man I have grown into, my sexuality is intact. Having been through this experience and being a community aware citizen I worry for those whose minds are closed and afraid because they can be the tools of hatred.

Bill, 55, he/ him / his
352 |

While growing up in the Wyoming foster care system, I found a church that quickly became family for me. It was non-denominational Christian and the people were as welcoming as I could have dreamed as a vulnerable teen desperate to find love and acceptance. Unfortunately, having not come out at that time as a lesbian, and later on as a transgender person, I found that acceptance did not extend to my entire identity. For 6 months I experienced the harmful practice of conversion therapy as I was easily convinced that love from my church family meant them putting me through conversion therapy as an act of caring for me. By the end of those six months I knew I had to leave my church as my depression worsened and thoughts of ending of my life grew daily… Today I work with LGBTQ foster youth in Portland, Oregon and my lived experience informs my work to insure youth are accepted, affirmed and safe to be who they are and access all the care they need… I now live openly as a trans masculine non-binary person knowing that my visibility has helped others learn and also given encouragement to be themselves as well. Please, save lives and support all LGBTQ youth. Being able to be my most authentic self has kept me alive and brought some of the most meaningful relationships in my life.

Elliott, 25, They/ Them
353 |

I joined under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I’ve never been in a unit without three or more LGBT soldiers in it. It was hard forming bonds with people and getting them to trust you and who you are. … I was in Afghanistan when the repeal came out and I couldn’t bring myself to say it. When I came home I joined a new unit for a promotion. The first formation I had with them I was promoted to Sergeant. My new first Sergeant patted my shoulder and said, “You’re gonna make a great leader.” I fell back into formation and he proceeded to talk about our upcoming military ball. It was an all-male unit. He said, “Bring your wives and your girlfriends, but the Army may be down with gay stuff now but don’t embarrass our unit by bringing a so-called boyfriend.” The unit broke out in laughter. I’ve been in the same unit since, and I’m still not out. … It’s a crushing experience that’s taken me down dark roads. One day I received an award, and when it was pinned to my chest my commander told me I was a good man. It was a unit event and everyone had family. I didn’t bring any. My partner had to miss out on a great day in my career and it all hit me very hard. I was depressed. And felt alone surrounded by hundreds of smiling and happy people. That with other issues like PTSD I decided I was going to take my life. Luckily, my best friend intervened just by calling at the right time. He didn’t fix my depression but he got me through that day. And I’ve found my way through the days since, not always easily. Acceptance of my authenticity would mean the world.

Anonymous, 28, he/him
354 |

I am grateful for my experience with my family and community acceptance. I have been privileged to grow up in a loving, supportive, and inclusive family and community and continue to reside in, participate in, and cultivate an environment that accepts me for who I am. My parents, my brother, and my extended family accepted me, not tolerated me, but fully accepted and embraced my identify as a gay man. This was allowed me to feel comfortable in who I am, in who I am attracted to, and who I love. Because of this, I love who I am. I wish that everyone could have this same experience, but I am aware that this is not the case. For those of you whose experience is not the same as mine, that is okay. You are still okay; you are just right; you are beautiful. It may be scary, but I urge you to seek someone, even one person who accepts you for who you are. That one person will make a world of difference.

Louis, 31, He, him, his
355 |

When I was 12 my parents got divorced. My dad was transitioning, in the custody hearing my father was told to not look like a woman in order to see us. My father went into a depression and disappeared. … When I was 17, I … began a long horrible “relationship.” For 11 years I stayed with [my boyfriend], thinking that’s what my mother needed and it’s what I was “supposed to do.” … The entire 11 years I was on mental health meds and eventually ended up self-medicating. It didn’t take long for me to become an addict… When I was 28, with the help of both my parents (found my father when I was 18) I… got drug and alcohol treatment. When I was back at my mom’s I mentioned something about an attractive woman. Her response was “Is that what you’re into now?” I panicked and said, “I don’t really know, I might like both”. To which she replied “I guess that’s better than just women.” Fast forward a year. I had managed to stay sober and get out of …my mothers house. I met the love of my life one night at work … We’ve been together almost 5 years now and will be getting married in June of 2019. While my mother accepts Sammy in my life, she is not thrilled about us getting married… When I bring it up she wont talk about it. My father, now Margot, is like my best friend. And is also a minister who will be performing our ceremony, because of this my mother and brothers may not attend. I still struggle on a daily basis with the way I’m treated by the people who are supposed to be supportive in my life. Theres no escaping the pain of feeling like you’ve let your mother down simply for being who you are.

Andromeda, 35, her
356 |

My mother is the most accepting person that I know. This experience has impacted my life in more ways that I can say. I am the co-host of a lesbian podcast and recently became far more vocal online about my sexuality. Some parents might shy away from that part of their daughter’s identity, but my mother is shouting is loud and proud. She shares all of our episodes on Facebook. Donates monthly to our Patreon and just yesterday she watched But I’m A Cheerleader, a movie about gay conversion therapy, with me. Being a lesbian is not always easy. Recently, Twitter denied a promoted post from our podcast because of “inappropriate language” being the use of the word lesbian and I was reminded that the LGBTQ community is still seen as depraved and inappropriate even when we are just living our lives. When this happened, my mom called me and asked what she could do. “I’ll call news outlets, post all over my Facebook, what can I do to right this injustice?” The support from her is more important than what the rest of the world thinks and that’s all I need to hear to reassure me that my existence is not inappropriate.

Ellie, 26, she/her
357 |

Hola, soy Ben tengo 35 años y vivo en Guatemala. Durante gran parte de mi vida oculte mi orientación sexual. Mi país es conservador y muy religioso por lo que no es un ambiente amigable para la gente LGBTIQ. Tengo 10 años de ejercer el periodismo y durante ese tiempo las preguntas sobre mi sexualidad eran ataques comunes de parte de las personas que se sentían señaladas por el trabajo que hago. Salir del clóset siempre fue una decisión difícil por las consecuencias que eso puede tener en la familia. En junio los ataques desde redes sociales por mi orientación se hicieron más fuertes y no tuve otra opción más que contarle a mi familia lo que pasaba. Mi madre lloró, se sintió muy mal por lo que estaba pasando pero me apoyo en todo momento. Mi papá y hermana me dieron todo su apoyo, incluso si esto incluía dejar fuera a otros familiares y amigos que rechazaran mi condición. Me di cuenta que si hay ataques desde afuera por ser una persona LGTBIQ pero si tienes a tu familia de tu lado no hay nada que te puede derrumbar. Amo a mi familia solo lamento no haber salido antes del clóset frente a mis padres y ahorrarme todo ese temor que tenía por su posible rechazo. La unidad de mi familia me demostró que el amor siempre gana .

Ben, 35, he/him
358 |

At the age of 16, I came out to friends as gay and faced harassment and horrendous bullying and had nobody to turn to out of fear from being exiled from my family. I regretted the decision and “went back into the closet” and lived the next six years of my life as a “straight man.” I came out at 22 and faced my worst nightmare. Being asked to keep my identity a secret from friends, coworkers and family by my father. I was told that it was a phase and I’d get over it. The silver lining to this situation is I was far away from my family. I was stationed overseas in the United States Air Force and received nothing but open arms and acceptance from my peers. The rejection I faced from my father was something Ill never forget. The impact this has had on my adult life is anxiety, depression, feeling lesser, and a fear of opening up to people.

Nicholas, n/a, He/his
359 |

When I was in my early 20s, I watched my very good friend Erik, and his partner Mark, have a daughte with a surrogate who went on to carry their second daughter. The girls grew up with a close relationship to their surrogate, whom they know as mommy. I was a young lesbian at the time, and was very touched to see the first gay couple I knew have a family. Their story was captured in the HBO documentary, “Paternal Instinct.” Several years later, I met my partner, Julia …Our relationship was embraced by our families and we had a beautiful commitment ceremony in 2007. Soon after, we decided we wanted to start a family. We reached out to Erik and Mark, knowing their family had been created through a gift from their surrogate, to see if they would donate sperm to help us start a family of our own. They agreed, and a few years later our son, then his sister, were born. They know Mark and Erik as Daddy and Papa. … This chain of helping each other grow our families has been one of the most beautiful collections of relationships I’ve had in my life. Our family is bigger, the love our kids experience is greater, because of the ways we have been accepted — and accepted and supported each other.

Liv, 43, she/hers
360 |

I grew up as the older child of two immigrants from rural China. To onlookers, they are simple, private people. They left behind all the family they had on the other side of the world, and they had two children from whom was expected deep commitment to and respect for family. … the realization that I wasn’t straight was naturally terrifying, as it is to most children uncertain of the conditions of their parents’ affection. … I had abandoned them in a community where they had no family and in a nation where they had no home.What followed this first coming-out was a period of awkwardness, pain, and misunderstanding. My mother was especially desperate. She went through each stage of grief for the death of the dream of a daughter. But, frugal immigrant that she is, she stayed longest in the stage of bargaining. “Promise me just one thing,” she implored. “Promise me that you won’t ever love a girl.” Fourteen years later “Mom wants you to come to San Francisco for Thanksgiving. You and Hayli. Come stay in my apartment.” My brother had called to deliver my mother’s message for her. It seemed too good to be true: our first time all together. My brother (a San Fran techie), my father (a quiet, stoic family-man), my mother, my wife, and me. … And so, last Thanksgiving, we made the trip to San Francisco. My parents, Zora, and I spent several days driving along the California coast – Big Sur, Monterey, and back up to San Francisco in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Just going. Just seeing. Just taking photographs to remember that we were there … Remember this, I told myself, as the very best moment of your life. …

Ophelia, na, she/her/hers
361 |

I came out to my parents, a minister and a nurse, when I was 19 years old in 1982. While my parents loved me, accepting my gayness was very difficult. I went to seminary in my late 40’s and was ordained as a minister in the United Church of Christ. I serve a church in Monson, Massachusetts.

Peter, 55, he/him/his
362 |

As an adoptee, I always struggled to make sense of my identity and to seek belonging. I grew up constantly feeling like I didn’t belong amongst my white family, white neighborhood, and white community. I never felt fully Asian enough when I was within Asian communities and I certainly didn’t blend in when I was in white spaces. After realizing I was queer it became even harder to fit in and find acceptance. My queer identifying just compounded my Asian Adoptee identity and it seemed they were at odds with each other. I floated through my life searching constantly for a place where I felt like I could be myself. I didn’t know other queer Asians when I was younger and I was so sick of people being surprised when they found out I was queer, as if I didn’t look the part because of my femininity or Asian heritage. Family and community is so important to me because sometimes it doesn’t happen as organically as we would like. Sometimes we have to seek it out and make it our own. Then and only then can we feel like we truly belong.

Dana, 32, She/her
363 |

My family is incredible, as is my fiancé’s. There was no “coming out” moment for either of us. I had previously had boyfriends, and Jamie didn’t really date. I wasn’t really nervous to tell my parents, more curious of how they would react. I called my dad first, because he lives locally, and told him I was dating someone and that he had already met them. I was about to tell him when he asked me “Is it Jamie?” His response was “I knew it!” My moms? “Well, it’s about time you two got together. We’ve all been waiting for it.” I had no idea I was gay until college, but apparently my parents did. Jamie had a similar experience with her family. We thought we were in the clear and that as long as our families accepted us we would be fine. Once we started planning our wedding, we found that a lot of vendors wouldn’t work with us because our wedding was same-sex. We were rejected by two photographers, four caterers, and one venue before we decided not to use any vendors. We will be catering ourselves, using family land for the venue and having our guests be photographers. It is very discouraging to be told “we will not work your wedding because we don’t believe you should be allowed to get married” by multiple people who are supposed to be professionals. We could have easily been derailed by this experience. However, our families made it known that they there here to help and they loved us no matter what. If it hadn’t been for them, we may not be getting married next year.

Bre, n/a, She/her
364 |

In 2005, I was introduced to James… We instantly had this connection and quickly fell for each other… Gay marriage had just passed in MA in 2004, and after just a short time together, I knew that James was the person I wanted to experience life with, and so I proposed to him in July 2005. We decided to get married that December, and made plans to go to the Worcester Justice of the Peace. However, once our families got wind of our plan, they wouldn’t have it — they wanted MORE to celebrate us, because in those initial six months together they saw the love that we shared and the happiness it brought to two young gay men who often felt like they didn’t have a place in the world. My grandparents insisted on hosting a large reception and James’s parents were keen to participate as well, offering to cover an open bar for the evening’s festivities. About 40 family members & friends arrived with smiles, hugs, gifts, and most importantly, support. My grandfather, in his 70s at the time, stood up to deliver a toast.. And here we are 13+ years later, and our hearts are full. We’ve experienced life — the birth of four awesome boys born to our sisters, marriages of family & friends, deaths of loved ones, and so much more.

Aaron, 34, he/his
365 |

I was walking around the university campus when a stranger called out, “What is that?” in a disparaging manner. A close relative told me I was “hotter” before transition and I needed to cut my hair and buff up. I was not technically rejected by family but deal often with hurtful or ignorant comments. Some family members refuse to recognize my transition and will not use my preferred name.

Anonymous, 47, he/him
366 |

As a registered nurse and health care writer and editor for more than 25 years, I routinely wrote or assigned stories to other writers about the health of LGBT individuals… I followed LGBT issues even more closely when my son told my husband and I that he was gay about four years ago… I quickly realized to my dismay and disappointment that there are far too many homophobic health care providers. It never occurred to me that some physicians and nurses might discriminate against [LGBTQ] individuals… A quick internet search of LGBT and health found recent article about health care’s lack of knowledge and appropriate treatment of LGBT individuals. The stories confirmed what I had experienced since my son came out… When I hear a homophobic comment or statement, I don’t stand idly by, whether people like it or not. I risked fracturing a work relationship with an OB/GYN when she made a derogatory statement about lesbians. I told her my son was gay and that I did not appreciate her misguided beliefs. Another time I had a heated discussion with a colleague about homosexuality in the middle of the clinic. The other nurses stood around stunned, not sure what to do. I was not about to back down to the other nurse’s statements implying my son was a sinner because he is gay. … I hope that if my son should one day be your patient, you would treat him with the same degree of medical knowledge, respect, and caring that you provide to your straight patients.

Janet, 64, doesn't matter
367 |

When my daughter told me she identified as queer, my only concerns were her health and her safety. Honestly, I think I love her more because of this. She is a strong, giving, incredible young woman who is currently the Director of Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention at a Boston college. She has sheltered, hidden and advocated in court for abused women, she is a Certified Rape Crisis Counselor in Massachusetts, she is on the Massachusetts Governor’s Council for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, she educates all genders on sexual health and safety, she educates faculty on Title IX protocol, she programs for multi-cultural diversity at her school, as well as volunteering in events sponsored by other Boston colleges.

Kim, n/a, n/a
368 |

My child came out 3 years ago. So far we have only experienced acceptance and understanding, at least to our faces. I love my child for what he is, he will never be rejected in our home. I hope to educate others, I hope to be an advocate for those with no voice. I hope to tell the story of our journey and let people know it’s okay, it’ll be okay.

Lori, 49, She/her
369 |

When [my son] was socially transitioning, he didn’t know what his friends would think. He was afraid he would lose them. We worked closely with his elementary school to plan a way to tell the children and educate their families. Our family felt strongly that, as he transitioned, the community needed to transition with him. We educated the staff and administration in my son’s school and district, we held community meetings at the school and in our home. We sent letters to the families of his school mates, his sports teammates and to our friends and family at large. And the support we received was overwhelming. My son’s classmates welcomed him as [his chosen name] was open hearts and open arms. The families in our community expressed to us how much they learned, how they changed. The school navigates gender in a whole different way. So, the effort we put in work with our community has come back to us in love and acceptance. My son has never been bullied. He has been able to use the bathroom and locker room that aligns with his gender. He is held up by the support of his family, friends, teachers, coaches, and neighbors.

Grace, 52, she/her
370 |

My child came out to us this year, at 17, as transgender. My husband (dad) and I welcomed him with open arms, did, and are still doing, all we can to support him and to be an ally to all LGBTQ people to make sure that their rights not just as Americans, but as humans, are upheld. We haven’t come across family members who have rejected him, and hopefully that will continue. We want our child to be who he was meant to be, if that means not having the daughter we thought we had then so be it. I would rather have a living son than mourning at the grave of a daughter… Family and community acceptance is important because that’s where you’re going to find your support system, those are the people who are supposed to lift you up.

Leah, 46, she/her
371 |

My daughter came out to me 3 years ago, at the age of 17. We were in the car on the way to visit her college of choice. She was very nervous, but finally spit it out: “I’m a lesbian.” I replied, “OK,” in the same manner I would have if she told me “I’m going to wear a green shirt tomorrow.” She is who she is, and she is my daughter. I love her no matter what. I spent the next 20 minutes asking questions, which she was very good about answering. I believe we have a very honest and open relationship with regards to her sexuality. When questions come up, for either of us, we talk them out. I know that as a country, we’ve made a lot of progress, but I still fear for her well being. I’m grateful we live in Massachusetts, for its progressive attitude towards LGBTQ community and civil rights record. But I don’t know where her future will take her. I want her to be safe and happy no matter where she ends up.

Christa, 47, She/her
372 |

I have three beautiful children. My oldest son came out to us when he was 15. I said to him okay, that’s great, now you don’t have to hide anything. It was as natural as him saying the sky is blue. And he hasn’t hidden anything since then. Our family is a proud supporter of the LGBTQ community. I am heartbroken when I hear stories of children who are not supported by their family.

Sharon, 53, she/her
373 |

Our family is supporting our transgender son, and I don’t know how any parent could do otherwise. There was never a question in our minds. Your child is your child.

Leanne, 53, n/a
374 |

My son wrote me a letter on Mother’s Day 2016. In this letter he told me that he wanted to let me know that he was gay. He hoped that I would accept him, and support him for who he had come to be. As a mom, I had “mother’s intuition” from his very young age. I knew that this day would come and I have been ready and waiting to shower him in support and love. We attended our first Pride Parade in Philadelphia in June of 2018. In that moment sharing his day with his close friends and sister, I was overwhelmed with love for him, as well as every person there. I truly felt love, joy, and peace.

Ann Marie, 50, she/her
375 |
Lonnie, 63, she/her
376 |

I am the director at a national all trans youth org. There is trans specific research on this issue of acceptance/ rejection. My son came out as trans, we are an example of family acceptance and how beautiful it can be. For over a decade our foundation Trans Youth Equality Foundation has helped many families move toward acceptance. We have tough stories and beautiful stories. Last year we served over 1600 children and youth!

Susan, n/a, she
377 |

When I was 15, I came out as bisexual to my best friend. I come from a religious family and I’m a woman of colour as well. Coming out to my best friend was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. She too is religious and I had no idea what her reaction would be. So I wrote her a very long letter, explaining who I am. Surprisingly, she was very accepting. Over the last two years, I’ve managed to come out to all of my friends. They’ve all been incredibly supportive and I’m truly grateful. I don’t think I’ll be ready to let my family know any time soon, but I hope i will get the chance to be 100% myself one day.

Anonymous, n/a, she/her
378 |

I didn’t say nothing about my sexuality to my family, I think they wouldn’t agree with me. I keep secretely now. I told some of my good friends that will understand

Anonymous, 13, She/her, he/his
379 |

I was 13 when I came out. I had know for a long time that I didn’t fit the definition of a “girl” and what I thought was a girl, but I also didn’t feel like a boy. I had a feeling that when I came out, my family would not be supportive, but I hoped for the best. Once I came out, my family’s reaction made me very depressed and anxious. I felt jumpy and shaky whenever someone would bring up anything having to do with transgender issues, worried that my family would lash out at me. Their rejection made it hard for me to accept myself, and I struggled with my identity for a long time, and still do. My friends were and are a great support system, and helped me realize that I should not be ashamed for who I am. I have more confident(ce) since I came out, but knowing that my family will always remain transphobic and panphobic is a weight that will always weigh my shoulders down.

Anonymous, 14, he/his
380 |

Over the course of the past four years I have been working to build acceptance. Not only from those in my life, but of myself. When I entered my sophomore year of college I finally was prepared to accept that I was gay. I was ready to love myself. I was ready to stop living my life with pressure to be someone I wasn’t. I was ready to find true love, and not pretend to love someone I was expected to. In my life, I was not surrounded by many LGBT+ individuals, nor were those that mattered to me. Understanding this component of my identity was difficult enough for myself, and I was terrified for how my family and loved ones would respond to the news. … I knew my family loved me, but how would they respond to this? How would they respond to me going against everything I had once believed was wrong. I built up such terrible expectations because of all of the heart breaking stories I had heard about LGBT+ people facing hate from those that were supposed to love them. What I needed to remember was that my family loved me, and that’s what got us through it. That’s what caused my family to respond with “I Love You” instead of anger… It doesn’t matter if those in our lives are different from what we expected them to be, because by them loving themselves and us accepting them, they are being what we want them to be… happy.

Brandon, 22, he/him
381 |

When I was 11, I came out to my stepfather in a car. When I was 12, I came out to my sister on FaceTime, my mother at a restaurant, and my brother on my kitchen counter. … I don’t know my father’s views and there is a pit in my stomach when I think about the man who raised me hating me because of something like this. My brother still doesn’t know because he has very complicated views on the matter and my worst nightmare is to be called a “d*ke” by the boy who has been by my side since I was a day old. My sister is as accepting as they come, my mother and stepfather too. … I don’t think you understand the nausea and shaking hands and almost-panic attacks that come with coming out of the closet. You don’t understand the nights I’ve spent crying over who I am …Coming out is terrifying, because once you come out to your family, it’s like you have your sexuality stamped on your forehead. … It’s being terrified to go to a Pride Parade because you are so scared that you’ll get mugged on the way home. …It is acceptance and love and happiness because you aren’t hiding anymore, but it’s also terrifying and horrible and so negative. …There will always be someone who wants me to burn in hell for my “choices.”

Anonymous, 12, she/her
382 |

After coming out it wasn’t easily accepted by my one sister and both parents and thankfully my 2nd sister accepted me and I wasn’t kicked out of my parents house. But I’m still hiding most of my life from my parents.

Freddie, 18, he/his
383 |

As the author of stories about LGBTQ+ teens, I have received countless messages of personal tragedy and of hope from readers and family members. One young woman told me my novel about a teen in religious “reparative therapy” allowed her gay brother to reclaim his religion and his family. Another reader, a man who read my stories as he was coming out is now a therapist specializing in LGBTQ+ issues, tells me how much my stories inspired and supported him in is own journey. I am straight and cisgender, and I believe allies in the battle against gender-based phobias have a massive and critical role to play.

Robin, 65, She/her
384 |

Growing up very religious I had a very hard time coming to terms with my gay identity. At 18 years old I returned home early from college because I was suicidal. My parents told me I could talk to a local priest but would not let me see a therapist despite my begging to do so. My grandparents told me I was going to burn in hell. My parents then kicked me out for being gay. I was homeless and slept under the boardwalk near their home until I found a friend I could stay with. I spent the next decade of my life finding the courage to be the best me I could be. I earned three degrees and am currently pursuing a PhD. I married a wonderful man, who has a mother who is unconditionally loving and knows what it means to be a parent. I made many incredible friends who have become my chosen, but real, family. My husband and I purchased a home and are looking forward to adopting a child in the future – who we will love unconditionally. We are open and proud, and use our voices to raise up our community and any who are marginalized. Despite my attempts to bridge the divide, my parents, particularly my mother, have remained hateful and bigoted over these many years. …

Mike, n/a, he/his
385 |

I came out as FTM when I was 12 years old to my family. My father did not accept me and decided to try to ruin my life as much as humanly possible. He sued every doctor and therapist I went to regarding my transition. He also frequently sends my mother hate messages saying she ruined my life by fighting for my right to transition and live a happy life. Along the way, I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation three times. However, now I am happy and healthy and recovering from top surgery.

Trevor, 18, he/his
386 |

When I was 15, I came out as bisexual to my best friend. I come from a religious family and I’m a woman of colour as well. Coming out to my best friend was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. She too is religious and I had no idea what her reaction would be. So I wrote her a very long letter, explaining who I am. Surprisingly, she was very accepting. Over the last two years, I’ve managed to come out to all of my friends. They’ve all been incredibly supportive and I’m truly grateful. I don’t think I’ll be ready to let my family know any time soon, but I hope i will get the chance to be 100% myself one day.

Anonymous, n/a, she/her
387 |
Anonymous, 13, She/her, he/his
388 |

I was 13 when I came out. I had know for a long time that I didn’t fit the definition of a “girl” and what I thought was a girl, but I also didn’t feel like a boy. I had a feeling that when I came out, my family would not be supportive, but I hoped for the best. Once I came out, my family’s reaction made me very depressed and anxious. I felt jumpy and shaky whenever someone would bring up anything having to do with transgender issues, worried that my family would lash out at me. Their rejection made it hard for me to accept myself, and I struggled with my identity for a long time, and still do. My friends were and are a great support system, and helped me realize that I should not be ashamed for who I am. I have more confident(ce) since I came out, but knowing that my family will always remain transphobic and panphobic is a weight that will always weigh my shoulders down.

Anonymous, 14, he/his
389 |

Over the course of the past four years I have been working to build acceptance. Not only from those in my life, but of myself. When I entered my sophomore year of college I finally was prepared to accept that I was gay. I was ready to love myself. I was ready to stop living my life with pressure to be someone I wasn’t. I was ready to find true love, and not pretend to love someone I was expected to. In my life, I was not surrounded by many LGBT+ individuals, nor were those that mattered to me. Understanding this component of my identity was difficult enough for myself, and I was terrified for how my family and loved ones would respond to the news. … I knew my family loved me, but how would they respond to this? How would they respond to me going against everything I had once believed was wrong. I built up such terrible expectations because of all of the heart breaking stories I had heard about LGBT+ people facing hate from those that were supposed to love them. What I needed to remember was that my family loved me, and that’s what got us through it. That’s what caused my family to respond with “I Love You” instead of anger… It doesn’t matter if those in our lives are different from what we expected them to be, because by them loving themselves and us accepting them, they are being what we want them to be… happy.

Brandon, 22, he/him

Explore the As You Are resource library for more information related to family and community acceptance for LGBTQ people.

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