“I needed to learn what it was to be me.”

Over the years I’ve had this tendency to say, “Oh, growing up was all great.” The last few years I’m like, “Why did I do that? That just wasn’t the truth.” I would say it was not easy, obviously, growing up in Texas in the late ’80s, early ’90s. There weren’t gay people around that time who I knew or recognized, so I always felt like I was different. And I think that it’s something that I’ve always carried with me my whole life. 

Before I ever went to a birthday party or to school or to a friend’s house or anywhere, really, I always had that with me. That consumed my thoughts and my mind before ever going anywhere. It’s like, “I’m different, and this is going to be a different experience for me. I’m going to need to find ways for these people to see me and like me and value me.”

There were a lot of things that I went through at that age when I felt unsafe, and I had people saying things to me. So it wasn’t just walking into a room like, “Oh, I’m different.” It was like, “If I walk into this room, is someone going to say something to humiliate me? Are they going to do something where I’ll be physically unsafe?”

I remember so many times as a kid going to the library in junior high and high school and trying to find information. Of course, there were wonderful people on TV. You had Will & Grace, or you had Elton John and George Michael. And I knew designers like Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs. I remember it being so eye-opening coming to New York and realizing that there are so many kids like me all over the world.

When I got a car I would go to the library and I would try to look up books that had the word gay in them. But I grew up in a small town in East Texas. It’s certainly not something we learned about in school. Whereas now you can Google that, and you would know. I needed to go learn what it was to be me. I wanted to read about the stories of people who came before me and what their lives were like. When I would come home from those experiences, or when I would feel isolated, I always had the same girlfriends who would do creative things with me. I’m forever in love and grateful to the people who from day one always loved me and saw me. I’m really grateful to not only the people who did that for me, but also all the people everywhere who are doing that for young people right now because it’s really hard to explain how valuable that is.

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