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Randy Turner

Life and love goes on...

Randy TurnerNew York, NY

I moved to New York City from rural Iowa in December 1979, soon after I admitted to myself that I was Gay. On April 25, 1980 I met Peter at a work related going-away party. He called me the following Monday and asked me to attend a Broadway show. He bought us TDF tickets to CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD for the following Friday night, May 2, 1980. We had a lite meal before the show and a regular meal after the play. Well, we walked around Lincoln Center and the Upper West Side for hours. I finally got home to Queens around 5:00 a.m.! We counted that date as our anniversary for the next 27 years. On Monday, July 2, 2007 Peter passed away of a sudden heart attack while running on his lunch hour. As an avid runner he ran races from 5K to marathons. Peter is the person who impacted my life by helping me understand who I truly am. The loss was and is tremendous. However, on January 4, 2009 I met Charlie following our connection on MATCH.COM. That is our anniversary date. Life and love goes on.

Bronco Castro

For me, it wasn't just a person...

Bronco CastroMontclair, NJ

For me, it wasn’t just a person, but a street full of fabulous — queens of all backgrounds and ages: bitch butch and in between, you know. Miss Tina Street was truly Oz in the late 70s and early 80s for me—for us—but then—as you already know—the queens started to disappear —or move northward— till just a few of us remained, sharing our stories, again, with those learning how to read.

Anthony Colon

The number one person I will mention is my uncle...

Anthony ColonNew York, NY

The number one person I will mention is my uncle, Joseph Lombardi, who is 75 years old and has been openly gay since he was in his teens. He wasn’t a big part of my life growing up, because he was afraid of how his family would react, so he personally isolated himself. But when I came out at 15, my mom was like, ‘We’re going to find him now and you’re going to talk to him so that you know that you’re not alone.’ Now we talk and it’s wonderful to have him in my life. He told me about his experiences growing up. He was at Stonewall 50 years ago, and he told me about the crazy things that he had to experience to get where he is today. He actually works in a gay bar in Albany, and he’s wonderful. He gives me hope for my own future.

Lauren Cheung

I have a friend I just met this year...

Lauren CheungNew York, NY

I came out as bi in October of 2018, and I have a friend I just met this year, after I came out. His name is Winston Lin, and I met him at the bar across the street from me. When I first came out I was feeling a little bit lost about finding queer Asian spaces, and he encouraged me to look around New York. I was able to, luckily, find a couple of friends around my age who were also able to help me find things he recommended, like the Asian Femmes of New York. So it’s just been a crazy coincidence that I met this wonderful person who now plays … I’m sorry. I’m getting a little emotional talking about him because he just so serendipitously came into my life. I think for a long time I was afraid to come to terms with my own sexual identity because of the fact that I’m Asian. It was so encouraging to see Winston, someone who’s much farther along in his life, already established in his career. He’s a teacher, and the way he teaches people even is something I admire. Seeing someone I admire so much emotionally and morally, and then finding out that he also just shares a lot of these really integral traits to my identity has been so encouraging. It kind of keeps me going.

Adam Stevens

I immediately think of J. William Bordeau...

Adam StevensNew York, NY

I immediately think of J. William Bordeau. Bill Bordeau as we called him. He was a professor of mine at Marymount Manhattan College. One of the things that drew me to him was his identity as a gay man. I was very drawn to that, and it wasn’t a sexual thing. He was someone who I could see as a mentor or a father figure. Like a gay dad, right? Being able to witness Bill as a role model was very rich for me. Sometimes we’d go out after class and have dinner and we’d just talk about things. And he’d ask about who I was dating or things I was interested in, and it was uninhibited. There was an unconditional love in that, and to feel that love in such a magnificent way is powerful. Especially for young gay men — young gay boys, really — who don’t often know that love and then turn to other outlets to feel wanted and to feel needed. Bill became my chosen family, and in many ways he took care of me and guided through that aspect of my life. And now that I think about it, it’s almost 20 years ago that Bill and I met. Isn’t that something? He has since passed, and I miss him dearly. And I often think of him when I’m doing my work. I work as a psychotherapist who uses theater and drama as my means to foster healing and growth in other people. His work and his voice often come through if I’m doing an exercise, or if I’m involved in an intervention. I’ll hear myself, and I’m like, ‘Oh! That came from Bill.’

Hannah Simpson & Shep Wahnon

He is an elder statesman of the community at my queer synagogue...

Hannah Simpson & Shep WahnonNew York, NY

“I’ve got to say Shep.”—
“Well, thank you!”—
“He is an elder statesman of the community at my queer synagogue, and he’s been there probably since it started in the ‘70s. He really can tell me what it was like back in the day through his stories, when it was just a couple of paper bags’ worth of materials that they’d bring to a church on a Friday night to hold a service. He remembers when they were losing people left and right to AIDS and how they mourned them. Having a connection to people like that is really profound, because so many things happened to get me to this place, to give me the vocabulary to express myself, to give me the synagogue to go to where I can talk to God with the chutzpah to say, “I need to make some edits on this. The job isn’t done.” — “See, Hannah is an old soul. She’s got more wisdom than her age. I don’t think we think of each other as being from different generations. She’s just very genuine. She’s a transgender woman who’s very Jewish, very funny, and very gay. She just is who she is.”

Emily Ringel

I've been really inspired by my friend Jacob Shanbrom...

Emily RingelNew York, NY

I’ve been really inspired by my friend Jacob Shanbrom. I’ve known him since we were 13 or 14, and watching him evolve into this established artist with an incredible point of view has been really exciting. He’s worked with his friend to design this clothing line that’s size-less and gender-less, and I’ve loved watching him learn what he wants to say with his work. Just seeing his dedication has been inspiring because I’m also trying to build my career. And he has been so out and so proud for such a long time. Like, he just doesn’t give a s**t what people think about him. I’m not a queer person, but for me as an ally, he reminds me that if you believe everybody should be treated equally, you have to really put yourself out there. You can’t just stand by and watch politicians attack people’s rights.

Peter Brown

This is my college professor, Earl Genzel...

Peter BrownNew York, NY

This is my college professor, Earl Genzel. When I was in college, he was married, had a family and had a lovely, lovely wife. We never talked about my coming out as it related to him, but I always wondered if he was gay. Mind you, I went to a Christian university called Messiah College. Later, I helped him get a job at another university, and when his wife passed away maybe ten or twelve years ago, he decided to say to the world that he was gay, as an older man. I think about that generation and how it was very hard to make these acknowledgments of who you were. We praise the brave people who come out, but there is also this whole generation of people who weren’t able, for whatever reason, to make those same decisions. And their stories are just as valid. There’s more than one way to be brave.

Luis Jiminez

I met Flor Bermudez when I was 16 years old in East Harlem...

Luis JiminezNew York, NY

I met Flor Bermudez when I was 16 years old in East Harlem, where I grew up. The thing that struck me the most about her was how passionate she was about what she was doing in the community. She was helping the local vendors. And eventually a lot of the children of the vendors ended up being queer, so she created a group for queer teenagers that really opened a lot of doors. She’s queer herself, and her husband at the time was also queer, so we ended up going to a lot of events with them and seeing so much. It really helped me accept myself. I didn’t have the easiest time coming out to myself, as a teenager, and it was really hard in school as well, and just through meeting her by happenstance, it helped me become a much stronger person. She helped me find people living their truth, and living freely, and really doing what they wanted to be doing, achieving their goals and striving to get even further.

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