I'm from Alaska: True LGBT Stories

The "I'm From Driftwood" project collects and shares true LGBT stories from all over the world, based on the towns where people were raised, and they're starting a 50 state tour this year. They only have two stories from Alaska, both by gay men, one from Eagle River (posted below) and one from Juneau. The guy who wrote "I'm From Juneau, AK" now lives in Texas, but he came out in Alaska:
I had my first [coming out] conversation twenty-nine years ago, driving my friend, Trent, back from a high school dance in downtown Juneau to his house near mine in the Valley:

"I want to tell you something, but I'm afraid it could hurt our friendship, and I don't want it to. It's hard to talk about, and I've been avoiding telling you, but I want to."


"I'm gay."

"Okay. It's no big deal. Just slow down!" Apparently, my nervousness had caused me to tense up and clamp down, including clamping my foot down on the gas pedal.

"Well," I thought afterward, "that went a lot better than I feared."
The Driftwood team is still planning and fundraising for the 50-State Story Tour. They expect to fly to Alaska in November 2010.
There are gay stories from every corner of the Earth and I think they should be told. But why? What does it mean??

To the gay teens struggling to come out and deal with their sexuality, who to this day still attempt suicide 4 times more than straight kids, it says "you are not alone." Other people have dealt with similar situations, families, communities and churches, and have overcome and are now living happy lives. It can happen for you, too. It gets soooo much better, I promise. Hang in there, kiddo.

And to the people who don't support equal rights, it says we're not all that different after all. We all have stories and problems and loves and lives just like everyone else. So maybe we should all be treated like everyone else, too.
The other Alaska story, "I'm From Eagle River, AK" by John Ashton, is about the anti-gay hostility he feels and the importance of coming out:
"Mom, I have something I need to tell you." I said, trying to find the words. "I don't know how to tell you this, so I will just put it out there. I am gay."

There are some things in my life that I never considered that I would be sharing with my mother, or any of my family for that matter. I never saw my preference in a love partner as anyone's business but mine. The climate of hostility that still surrounds the issue of gay and lesbian people only secured the thought in my mind. All of that changed last year.

In January of 2009 a good friend of mine, Chris, passed away from complications with the HIV virus. I took his death hard, but in a way it helped me more than I knew at the time. The whole time that I knew Chris he pushed me to talk with my family about being gay. He told me that the closet put so much stress on me that I wasn't even able to see yet. When he passed away I was finally able to see what he meant.

For over a month I was not able to discuss with anyone that a close friend of mine had just died. I was not able to cry about it. I was not able to deal with the feelings that his death brought up in me. Instead these feelings were only allowed to fester and grow inside of me until I could not bear it anymore.

I called my mom one morning. "Mom, we need to talk. Would it be alright if I came over tonight?"

"I would love to talk with you, John." She said. "Come over when I get home from work."

Even with the now obvious stress that keeping quiet was putting on me, I almost backed down. I almost chose to remain silent. The level of hostility that still remains in society around the issue of gay and lesbian people scared me enough that I was not sure how my own mother would take this news.

"Mom, I have something I need to tell you. I don't know how to tell you this, so I will just put it out there. I am gay."

"I am not shocked." my mother said.

"Is that all?" I asked, ready for any response.

"John, I still love you. I am not shocked by this. If you are going to choose to explore this path, I will support you. There may come a time when things change for you. You don't really know who you are until you are a bit older." she said.

I had a mixture of feelings. Mostly overwhelming joy, though. There was a subtle hint of annoyance, but joy overpowered this. She still loved me. These were the words I was hoping to hear for longer than I realized.

"What made you want to tell me this now?" She asked me.

I explained to her that I had a friend that had died recently, and that having to hide this part of me meant having to hide my pain in relation to him.

The conversation went long into the night. There were a lot of happy tears mixed with some sad ones. When the conversation drew to a close my mom offered these last words.

"John, I want you to be happy. If this is what will make you happy I will support you. If you bring someone home, though, be sure it is someone I would approve of, male or female."

In the months since this I have had similar conversations with the other members of my family. I look back on the last 9 years that I spent hiding with a lot of regret. I somehow allowed other people's fear and misunderstanding of gay and lesbian people to damage and restrain my relationships with my family. I spent nearly a decade hiding from myself. Now I will spend the next decade, and longer, working to ensure that the next generation will not have to hide from themselves, or anyone else.

I leave you with the words of the author Dr. Seuss. "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
According to the guidelines, the "I'm From Driftwood" stories are based on the town and state you were raised in (not the town you live in now). 300-word stories are best, and make it a story, not an essay, a social commentary, or a rant. Try to write about something other than your coming out story. Keep it clean, this is a for-all-ages site.

Contribute a written story (guidelines and submission form HERE), set up a video interview (examples), or be a featured artist with IFD.

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