SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders. This week: This week we celebrate National Coming Out Day. Please share with us your coming out story.
I came out this year two weeks before marriage equality was upheld by the Supreme Court. There was really no backlash for me. For that I am blessed. While I now have found my life partner Ross, I know there is a lot more work to do in our community and plan on making sure others feel as loved as I did when they make a conscious and for some scary decision to be proud of themselves and who they are.
– Daniel H. Sohn, Chair of Democracy for America of Broward and candidate for Dania Beach Mayor
Sorry Jason, but don’t have a good story for this one. I came out on the Maria Laria Show Univision internationally syndicated TV, I should have known the show would air in Puerto Rico, but didn’t think about it. When I heard they had a Pastor/Phycologist who was going to cure 6 gay teen on the show, I knew someone had to be there to defend them and speak up for their right to be whomever they want to be. So, I was not there to witness the reactions when I came out as bisexual on international TV.
– Luigi Ferrer, Director of Health Services at Pridelines in Miami
I was 16 when I had to come out to my family. Had to because my ex boyfriend's mom spilled the beans to my parents. They told me they still love me. Recently, now at 23, I found out my father had a really hard time with it. He seemed so cool with it then.
— Anthony Cedeno, marketing and communications professional
Coming out was far more complicated in previous generations than it is now. But my first public step came in 1970, when I attempted to write a big research paper on the emerging "gay liberation movement" for my junior English class at Eisenhower H.S. in suburban Chicago. The nervous teacher asked the principal, who flatly refused to allow it. So instead, I wrote on the also-emerging "women's liberation movement." At the time I was already out to myself, but I knew no other lesbians or gay guys, and I had no external support. I'm amazed now that I attempted this at such a young age, with no support.
— Toni Armstrong Jr., Founder/Director of BLAST Women of WPB.
I came out of the closet in 1997, when sponsors were still pulling support from Ellen’s show. Unfortunately, I lost my family through the process, but gained levels of self-respect and ties with friends who have been lifelines. I am so grateful that some family members came around and I was able to reconcile with them at poignant times in their lives. There is no way I would give up being my authentic self for acceptance by others. I have everything I need.
— Meredith L Ockman, community activist and a director of NOW
I watched the movie “Making Love” before I returned to my senior year of college in 1984 and came out the first day of the school year at the age of 21 at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, which was just ranked #1 most LGBT unfriendly school by Princeton Review! There was a very small group of out students at the hyper-Christian college and, because I had a car, I was the official driver of a carload of gay men on weekly outings to the Troubadour Lounge in Youngstown, OH. My car never didn’t wreak of Calvin Klein’s Calvin for Men.
— David Jobin, executive director of The Stonewall National Museum & Archives
I was in sixth grade and 11 or 12 years old when I first told my mother and stepfather that I thought I was gay because I felt attracted to other boys. The news was devastating to them, and because I was becoming a man faster than my peers, I chalked it up to that. Well, my feelings only intensified and by the end of high school at age 17, I sat my parents down and told them (again) that I was gay. Because of my conservative upbringing, I voluntarily went through Christian reparative therapy. It wasn't until a year and a half later that I came to understand that God made me gay as much as I was made a blonde-haired, blue-eyed man.
With the spiritual epiphany of God's affirmation of who I am, I found a weight lifted off my chest and the freedom to be me. I found support with youth groups at the then GLCC (now the Pride Center) and became involved at the MCC-affiliated Sunshine Cathedral and FAU student groups including Lambda United, Hillel, and the university's student government where I found my passion for public service ultimately becoming Florida's first openly-gay student body president.
Coming out was challenging because I came from a religiously and politically conservative family. But, my journey helped many of my family and friends to reconsider their views about homosexuality, and I am happy to say they are all more accepting, less fundamentalist, and nearly all are Democrats now!
Mom and Dad have joined me many times for the Stonewall Street Festival marching with me in the Pride Parade. My story is a fortunate one, which I know not everyone has been blessed to experience. However, that is why I am engaged in politics and local government - to follow my passion of public service and to fight for equality with allies and against adversaries to make our society and community the most accepting it can be, allowing others to live with greater freedom.
— Justin S. Flippen, J.D., Wilton Manors City Commissioner
Officially it was fall 1981, I had returned home to my parents for a weekend visit from my first year at collage. My mom found a hidden Advocate magazine in my bedroom. Our resulting conversation went well however she didn't tell my father. He never knew to his dying day – my only regret
— R. J. Hadley, community activist and blogger
My coming out in 1974 turned into a nationally-publicized event. I was 26, a columnist and a reporter for the Catholic Church in Detroit. When I consented to be quoted in a daily paper about starting the local Dignity chapter, my column was dropped. When I went on a 24-day hunger fast, I was fired. It was awful at the time but the best thing that could have happened to me.
— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist