Coming Out Together: Reflections on Dow Avenue

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Love Les is really excited to announce the start of Love Les Group Interviews. For group interviews, we’ll be hosting in-person interviews with groups of all kinds! This week, we’ll be featuring an interview with three besties reminiscing over their coming out journeys. Contact us if you know group of people who’d be interested in telling their stories together!

*  Names in italics have been changed to protect the privacy of those mentioned.

Name: Sean Morando 

Pronouns: He/him/his

Home: New York

Work: I am a division one track and field athlete and I am going for my PHD in organizational psychology. 

How do you identify? Gay

What is your favorite book? Perks of Being a Wall Flower

Queer resource? Drag culture. It’s moving away from just being a woman to being whatever you want to be. More than anything else it’s message is “Just be you.” I like that.

Name: Ronald Scott Cox

Pronouns: He/him/his

Home: New Jersey 

Work: I go to community college and I deliver pizza.

How do you identify? Gay

What is your favorite book? I want to say Slaughter House Five or the Alchemist. 

Queer resource? There’s one book that comes to mind, its called Confessions of a Mask. Its about a gay character. In the first part its about him growing up and its accurate in some circumstances. 

                                             Name: Liv Schmidt 

                                             Pronouns: She/her/hers

                                             Home: Boston

                                             Work: I am a student at BU studying international relationships and I make films. 

                                             How do you identify? Straight 

                                             What is your favorite book? Still Life with a Woodpecker 

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Tell me about your first same-sex crushes. 

Sean (rocking the red hoodie)- Fifth grade, his name was Mark! I was walking back from the bathroom and he was walking down the hallway and I kept thinking, “This guy is so fucking cute!” But then when I opened the door to my classroom I pushed that thought away from three years. Until the 8th grade, I had this Oh shit moment when I realized, “I like boys, I like boys a lot.”

Ronnie (sporting the gray hoodie) - Mine was 7th grade. It was my friend Grant.

S - I remember this. That was your goth phase.

R - That was a very long time!

Did you all ever have a crush on the same guy?

Liv (the cutie in plaid)  - Sean and I had this crush on the same guy.

R - We ALL had a crush on the same guy.

L - I remember Sean saying he was gay and I kept thinking, nah, “Sean is so delusional.”

Tell me about coming out.

S - I came out in the 8th grade.

R - And I came out the year after that. It was in gym class. It wasn’t for any reason. I was just thinking about it. Sean came out and I just started questioning it more. That was the time that Degrassi advertised, “Next time on Degrassi…”

S - Yes! That’s when Degrassi got BIG with the homos! That was a big year for Degrassi. We all lost our shit over that!

R - Yeah! That was the commercial when they showed two guys kissing. So that started me thinking “Yeah, I’m like, kind of gay. I’m bi-sexual. But then later I was like, “I’m fully gay.” And even now I’m like, “Maybe I’m not completely gay,” but then I’m like, “No, Ronnie, you’re completely gay.”

Were you able to question your sexuality together as friends?

S - I came out so early that I felt like I did it very much on my own. Ronnie was the first person I told, though. And it’s not like it was a secret. Everyone knew.

So I came out, then Ronnie came out. Ronnie, when you came out, you had a new sexuality like every month! I think we both just came out and didn’t really know what we were doing.

R - You definitely helped me though, Sean. You were a part of my life and in my same age group experiencing the same thing I was. Without you, it would have been so much harder.

S - I mean, I came out when I was 13. I wanted to come out early so that I could potentially help out other people who were struggling to come out.

R - You did have a lot of questionable friends. A lot of them have come out since. You were definitely the first though.

What was it like coming out in your early teen years?

S - I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. My dad recently told me he was mad at me for coming out so young. He said, “I knew you weren’t ready.  You didn’t even know what it meant to be gay then.” He’s right, I really didn’t. I came out way too early, but it’s not one of those things that you can take back.

R - I actually think it kind of makes it easier. You’re breaking down the expectations that other people built for you a lot earlier on.

S - That’s so true. Everyone kept trying to tell us that we were expected to date women, but that was just the normative. There was so much for us than their expectations.

L - Yeah. There are Degrassi commercials out there!

Liv, what role did you play in all this?

L - I was an accessory to the gayness.

S - Definitely, she watched her best friends come out.  I remember competing for Liv. We both wanted to be her best gay friend.

R - Liv, did you ever have this feeling of “Am I gay too?”

L - No. I never have. Only in the way that everyone sort of questions it. Never in like the context of you or Ronnie questioning your sexuality.

What do you think my role was?

S - You were definitely supportive. We could tell you anything and your response would be, “Cool. Do you want cheese or seltzer?”

L - I was pretty chill.

R - Yes! She always offered seltzer.

S- Right! Seltzer made me gay!

How did your families engage with your coming out?

S - Dad didn’t talk to me for a week. Mom kept asking questions. They pushed it aside for three years and ignored it until my junior year of high school. That was when I was doing well academically and athletically, so they kind of just accepted it. But they also didn’t tell the rest of my family until sometime in the next few years.

R - Overall my family was accepting. I told my mom first. She asked “Do you want me to tell your dad?” And I was like, “Yeah. This has already been awful.” I wasn’t ready to come out. I was still trying to deny it all. Eventually, I talked to my dad a month later. He was wondering when I would actually bring it up to him. He gave me really good words of support that I still use today.

Later my parents told my extended family. The best was my grandpa. He would ask me, “When are you going to get a girlfriend?” My mom got sick of my dad not telling my grandpa so one year in a Christmas card she wrote, “P.S. Stop asking Ronnie about a girlfriend. He’s gay.”

What was it like coming out in a small town?

S - So, we have generational families here. This is the type of town where you can get trapped really quickly. Like no one leaves and everyone really knows everybody here. It’s weird. And while there was a gay group, I didn’t make the cut. It was our town’s generational kids and they exclusively dated one another.  Basically, they were the stereotypical white gays who are a little racist and into the “arts.”

L - I feel like there were some other gays.

R - I mean, we had like a couple gay boys who weren’t in that group. But only a couple. A lot of our gays really were the white gays. Like Nick, my first boyfriend, sophomore year.

L - I remember that! It was such a drama club romance. He and Sean were in Grease together and Ronnie was the backstage hand.

S - Oh God. He came from a conservative family though.

R - Yeah. That was a bad break up. After we dated he refused to comment on his sexuality and his parents blamed me for making their son gay.

S - I hate that so much. Like can you please not be so invested in your son’s love life? It’s gross.

Did everyone kind of assume or know about your sexuality?

S - Yes! I was eccentric. Everyone knew but my brother and I still don’t know how my brother didn’t know until my high school graduation. I was like, “Kevin, I literally walked around in booty shorts. How did you not notice? I even changed my Facebook status!”

L - I remember that. Someone came up to you and said, “Hey man, I think someone changed your Facebook status and you were like, “No, that was all me!” And he was like “Ahhhh. Congratulations?”

R - Meanwhile, no one knows I’m gay unless I tell them. I got so annoyed with it that I made my Instagram name Gay Ronnie. I was known as Gay Ronnie for a while after that.

S - Sometimes I’m straight-passing with my current boyfriend and we look nothing alike. We’ll be walking holding hands and we’ll run into someone I know from school and they’ll ask, “Oh, is this your brother?” And I’m like, “Uhhh. We’re holding hands and we just kissed in front of you.”

L - Ha! “Um, we’ll I don’t know what your family is like, but he’s my boyfriend!”

R - I’ve never gotten that.

Where was a place you felt safe to be yourselves?

S - I want to say once we stepped on Dow Avenue we never had a worry. This block was our home. Liv and I were next door neighbors and Ronnie would always come over.  Here, no one cared that we were different. I would play dress up and parade around the house with nails and makeup and it was just a safe place. School was the place where I felt like I was walking on eggshells.

R - I mean, I didn’t dress up like you, but yeah, Dow Avenue was a safe place.

Do you have any coming out advice?

S - Take a lot of time. Don’t rush yourself.

R - Yeah. Take more time than we did.

S - And be really comfortable with being alone. Sometimes you will be alone. Like you will have friends, but at the end of the night, you’re going to be sleeping alone and you need to be ok with that.

R - And just accept your differences.

S - Oh yeah. Don’t worry about fitting into the stereotypes.  And finally, don't go on Instagram. You’ll just feel bad about yourself.

R - Gay Instagram is a horrible place.

S - Masculinity is so fragile in the gay community. Gay Instagram just brings out the worst of that and there's no body positivity. I scroll it through and think, “Oh God, show me either some color or some real problems!”



 

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Leslie Cox