Thousands of coming-out stories in the naked city
Interviews and photos by Cathy Jedruczek
Theyre out and theyre happy. Theyre gay and theyre proud. But how did they come out? They all have stories, but theyre not always willing to talk about them maybe because some are too painful to retell. Most, however, have colorful, interesting and shocking tales to share: They were at a breaking point in their lives, and then there was relief, and, finally, a secret no more. Last week, The Villager headed out to The Strip, Eighth Ave., to hear about some coming-out experiences in peoples own words.
Joner Hall, 24; came out at 19; dancer; from North Carolina
V: Joner, describe you coming-out story.
J.H.: I had left North Carolina when I was 18 to go to University of Hawaii for dance. When I came back, I went to Virginia to visit my friends. I got dressed up in drag and I was running around P St. and I saw this Puerto Rican/ Italian boy, his name was Antonio. We wound up putting off good and I told him, Im here for Christmas break and I am going to my parents house in N.C. Do you want to come with me? So he was like, Sure, I hate my family! So I told my mom, Im bringing one of my friends. She didnt know
(laughing). My family is crazy, like the Jacksons. I was laying in the room with my friend, we were hanging out. My mom was like, Do you want something do drink? She left, we started making out and my mom cam back in and she saw that we were making out. She said O.K.! And I was like, Yeah mom, and this is my boyfriend. So my mom was like Merry Christmas! She was cool with that and my dad came out two years ago! Hes flamboyant now, big queen in N.C.
V: What was your moms reaction to that?
J.H.: Theyre soul mates. Theyre still together, they live together. They share an apartment. My mom doesnt care. She said he has men coming in and out of his room (laughing).
V: Is your mom still dating?
J.H.: No, I think shes over men now.
V: Maybe shes a lesbian.
J.H.: I know, right! The whole family is freaking gay! My brother might be gay, and two of my sisters are strippers. Its a crazy family.
Raven Arancibia, 17; came out last year; student at Fashion Industries High School; lives in Spanish Harlem
V: What is your coming-out story?
R.A.: Nobody really knew I was gay, but I knew since I was about 13. So, I was in school one day, and I was hanging out with bunch of my friends. We were sitting at a lunch table and I told my friend in her ear that I was bi, but it was noisy in the cafeteria so she didnt hear me. I said, Im bi, but she still didnt hear me. For some reason everybody got quiet just at the time when I screamed at the top of my lungs, Im bi!!! Everybody was just like, O.K., you didnt have to say it that loud
V: Nobody was surprised?
R.A.: No, everybody clapped. It was kind of like she finally said it! They suspected it
Jeffrey Adamski, 31; came out at 19, was an actor for 11 years, now does insurance factoring; lives in Sunnyside, Queens
V: How did you come out?
J.A.: I think the way it happened was my mother had asked me a question and I said, Yes mother, Im gay, what do you want me to say to you? She goes, Are you fg kidding me? First you have a learning disability, and now
because I made you listen to The Wiz soundtrack and I took you to see Broadway shows and because I made you suffer through all this st, youre telling me youre gay?! What else do I have to do? And when she calmed down I said, Mom, would you like a valium?
David Bonnetti, 18; came out six months ago; attends Farmingdale University; lives in New Jersey
V: What made you come out?
D.B.: I already came out to my friends. Coming from an Italian family, Catholic, its pretty hard on the parents. They always said things
. My grandfather was always like, Oh, these fags
. You know, it was intimidating, and my dad is a big guy. So one night, I decided that I am not going to hide it anymore. I am who I am. I dont like to keep things a secret.
V: Since when did you know that you were gay?
D.B.: I have known for a while; its just I didnt exactly know how to say it
. But I went up to my parents when they were about to go to bed, and I told them, I cant go to sleep, something has been eating at me for a while. If it goes on one more day, I dont think I can deal with it anymore. So I said, I need both of you to sit down. I told them and I talked to them for about an hour. My mom was in tears. My dad was like, Im proud of you. But, later that night I was just lying in my room and I heard my mom. She was still worked up about it. She was walking down the hallway, kind of gasping for breath. And she already has heart problems. She had had heart surgery and she has a defibrillator. She was complaining about her heart. She collapsed on her bed. I had to call 911, but when I picked up the phone I just went silent, nothing came out, I couldnt talk. I handed the phone to my dad.
V: Hows your mom doing?
D.B.: She was in the hospital for about five days. Shes O.K. The defibrillator got recalled, so she had to get a new one. It was a defect of the battery.
V: Did you tell your grandpa and the rest of the family?
D.B.: He doesnt know yet. My parents told me to wait till he dies, then I can tell the family.
Rebecca Walton, 23; medical assistant student; came out at 15; lives in Brooklyn
V: Describe how you came out.
R.W.: Ive been living as a woman at work and when I got home I would take it all off. One time my mother picked me up from work and she said, Im missing a lipstick and an eyeliner. You wouldnt happen to know what happened to it, do you? I was like, No mom, I have no clue. When I got home I put the stuff I took back in her makeup bag. The next day she came to pick me up again and she gave me, Where is my lipstick, where is my eyeliner, where is my mascara and where is my eye shadow? I know you have them. I know you know where they are! I said, O.K. mom, here you go! She was like, Its what everybody thought all along, right?; I was like, Yes ma, yes
V: Does the whole family accept you?
R.W.: Yes, but its crazy
. They expect me to be this perfect suburban girl. Im a rebel. I moved out of Connecticut. Im the only one who lives in the city out of the whole family.
Tiffany Washington, 23; came out at 13; makes money pleasing men; from Baltimore, lives in Bronx
V: What is your coming-out story?
T.W.: Ive been a tranny since 1995. My mother and my stepfather caught me in my room with a so-called homothug. I had him in my closet, I tried to hide him, and I was pretending I was sick. I guess my mother sort of knew what was going on. And then it was just other things, finding me wearing other clothes my parents didnt agree with, makeup and hair
. I used to go and change in my school. I used to change and put my clothes in my book bag and get suspended, because you are not supposed to dress like a girl in Baltimore, Maryland.
V: When did you come to New York?
T.W.: I came to New York June 5, 2003, and I have my own apartment and I made it. My family said, Youll never make it! New York is hard. Youll come back and youll have to be a boy. I am on hormones now and I am developing breasts and hips and Im getting softer by the minute. All I have to say is
I think everybody should just express themselves, how they want to express themselves.
Jeanini (left), 34; came out at 22; graphic designer; lives in Astoria, Queens
V: Whats your coming-out story?
J: There is really no coming out, because you are just gay and theres really no reason to tell anybody that you are gay because straight people dont come out and say they are straight. People know and who you want to tell, you tell and other people, I guess
you take your time.
V: Do your parents know?
J: I think its pretty obvious
V: If they see this interview in the newspaper, what will they think?
J: That this is who I am. If you had to see it in the paper, then you had to see it in the paper. But just for them to know being gay is the biggest privilege in the world because you see life from this tremendous perspective. You appreciate things more, life is more intense. Im proud of being gay!
Monica M. (right), 26; officially came out in this article; store manager; lives on the Upper West Side
V: Why did you wait until now to come out?
M.M.: Its the first time since Ive been dating people for who they are. Ive always dated guys. Now I am open to whomever I like.
V: Your parents dont know. Theyll open the paper and there you are out on a date with a girl. What do you want to say to them?
M.M.: That Im happy