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When did you meet an openly gay person for the first time?


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Since it's pride month...

I'm sure the answer will be different based on generation. 

I'm Gen X and I'm not sure when I first met an openly gay person but it was definitely in adulthood. Of course, now I know that I knew closeted gay people when I was a kid. 

I've tried to remember when I became aware of homosexuality and I think it might have been when I was about 12 or 13. Perhaps it was Steven on Dynasty? I remember when Rock Hudson was on Dynasty and it came out that he was gay and had AIDs. For you younger folk - we Gen Xers learned a lot about life from daytime and nighttime soap operas. 

When I was about 9, I called my little brother "queer" and my dad got so mad at me. I had no idea what "queer" meant (other than weird) but I knew it was the ultimate insult from hearing it at school. 

 

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Gen X


I was younger than my memory goes. One of my first memories of that person is around age 3. He is still one of the most lovely people I have ever met. He was a coworker and friend of my mom. He is a self described Cowboy Queen and the title fits him perfectly!

I also have openly gay extended family members, but I don’t have memories of them before age 5 or so because they lived far away.

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Posted (edited)

Borderline Gen X/Baby Boomer. I grew up in a very small town in the Midwest. The secretary at my middle school who processed everyone in middle school and high school through the lunch line was gay. One of my classmates came out in high school in the 1980s. Although I’m not sure when I understood they were a couple, two older gay men lived together a block from where I grew up and they were friendly neighbors like everyone else around us.

Edited by Frances
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Posted (edited)

My 7th grade math/German and PE teachers were openly gay and well loved by (almost) everyone.  What is notable is that I attended a catholic school in the late 70's and 80's. One parent had issues with that and tried to get them fired because it went against catholic doctrine.  Our principal's stand was that nobody is perfect and everyone deserves respect and acceptance.  Later, I realized just how many misfits we had as teachers but save two they were all wonderful people and really great educators in every way.

Edited by rdj2027
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Late Boomer.

College.

There were high school kids who were gay but tended not to be particularly open about it.  It just wasn’t considered public information in those days.  

I changed busses in the Castro in SF for 4 years before college so I saw a ton of gay people, but I didn’t know them personally.  

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23 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Always because family.

Same. 

One of my best friends growing up is also gay.  He didn't come out until after high school, but everyone knew.  

I'm 53.

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Posted (edited)

X/millennial. My next door neighbor’s mom in 1984-1985.  It went right over my head, but neighborhood Southern Baptists were incensed. I’m not entirely clear on what happened but I gather the women broke up and moved to a less rural area. 
 

ETA:  Apparently my mom was considered extremely liberal because she didn’t mind me spending plenty of time over there. 

Edited by Katy
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Late Boomer.

One of my mother's cousins is gay, and it was always known--but only spoken about in whispers way back then--in the family. I didn't spend a lot of time around him because as a young adult he moved to NYC, hundreds of miles away from where we lived. He called my mom often, so we talked about him a lot. Probably saw him every couple of years. He wasn't open with it when he visited home.

The first truly openly gay person I recall meeting was in my early 20's. One of the male hairdressers at the salon I got my hair cut was wide open. Like @Carol in Cal.just said, there were gay kids in my high school and even within my fairly close circle of friends. Everybody knew, but it wasn't something that anybody talked about back then.

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By the time I was six or seven, several lesbians. Friends of the family, mostly. Also a relative’s wife left him for another woman. When I was in late middle school, we moved to a neighborhood that is sort of known for being gay friendly. Several neighbors were gay male couples, including one who died of AIDS. 

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Gen X. In my upper teens and twenties, but I did not realize it. I think I was really dense about people with a gay affect. My high school Lit teacher was gay and later died of AIDS, but I didn’t pick up on it until years later. Same with a man I used to work with who had a strong gay affect. I think I just thought he was a regular guy who liked decorating and fine food. I never saw these people with their partners so I guess I just didn’t wonder or think about it until someone else remarked on it. 
 

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Our next door neighbours were gay when I was growing up in the Sixties. I knew but only vaguely - it was just normal life. One of my uncles is gay and I think I always knew that. My mum was very involved in the Women's Movement in the Seventies - I met a lot of lesbians then.

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(Gen X)

I had a neighbor who I grew up with who would now identify in the LGBTQ+ community, but I'm not sure how he identifies.  He used to put his makeup on while we were riding the bus to high school.

Also, I knew two girls in high school who were quietly dating each other.  Everyone knew, but it was talked about in whispers.

There are probably more, but these are the people I knew personally.

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Church, when I was in middle-high school.   They didn't advertise it, but they lived together and we knew.   There were several gay people at my church, but I think these 2 were the only ones living together.  I was actually baptized in their swimming pool. 
 

3 of my best friends from high school are gay.  One I always thought was LBTQ, but didn't know quite which one.   The other was definitely gay, but he didn't know it at the time.  I did.  😉   The other was a complete shock.   

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The first one I remember was when I was in college, and a woman grabbed my earlobe.  It is possible that there were classmates in middle / high school that I just don't remember.  There were always some kids who were accused of being gay (may or may not have been), so it's not like kids didn't know there was this thing called gay.  But that's not what you asked.

There were gay people in my acquaintance since I was a young kid, but they weren't "openly gay," or I didn't know they were.

Actually, depending on how you define "openly gay," I still can't think of any close person who is completely "out."  People tend to be more or less discreet about it where I live.

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Gen X 

I was young because he was a family friend, and then about two years after high school one of my school besties came out. In the years since hs, several friends have come out. It was small town Texas so I don’t blame them at all for waiting until they could leave to do so. 

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Late Boomer.

In college, there were exactly 2 people who were truly & wholly open (ie, identified in seminar discussions, made references about it in rallies and valedictory remarks, etc).  This took a LOT of bravery; they got a LOT of backlash/ defacing of their dorm room dorms / etc.

A handful more who were more or less "open secret."  Also brave and also got sh!t for it.  Many, many more who have come out since, but were definitely not out at the time.

Interestingly to me, I attended a small liberal arts understood-then-and-now-to-be-"progressive" college in MA. My closest cousin attended its rival school, also small liberal arts understood-then-and-now-to-be-"progressive" college in MA at the same time; and for all the vast similarities and shared history between two schools, the climate there was vastly more accepting than at mine. Like, a totally difference scene, much more like the environment of my kids' schools a full generation later. My alma mater has since caught up, but at the time the difference was vast.

It was before Tipping Point  came out, but it's one of my life experiences that enables me to understand the tipping point phenomenon.

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I’m Gen X, too. I forgot to say I too had a HS teacher who died of AIDS. I think he was running some sort of sketchy rooming house for single men on the side. He was pretty old. We had a gay teacher who was young; we suspected he was gay, and a classmate saw him outside a gay bar, but he never said anything at the time. A lot of girls thought he was hot though.
A couple guys in my HS acted in what’s seen as a stereotypically gay way including how they spoke. One young kid on my bus did the whole snapping thing, calling people “girlfriend,” and and it seemed really….over the top. One classmate is now openly gay (now meaning it became clear a few years after HS), which was not a surprise as people thought he was at the time.

 

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Posted (edited)

I will happily out my clueless, GenX self. I grew up in a violent urban center. I did not, to my knowledge, know any ‘gay/lesbian’ people as a kid. Turns out, I was SURROUNDED by them. Our closest family friends, right across the street, had an older DD that they urgently married off to a physically abusive man. They divorced. She was/is lesbian. My good friends in college...of eight in my inner circle, one is bisexual and two are married to other women. My bestie even dated a guy (gay) who wanted to use her as his beard. This was my collegiate awakening. So, it’s hard to say when I ‘met’ someone. That was when I was less than 10 years old. When I became aware...college.

Edited by Sneezyone
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There were some kids in my elementary school who lived with their dad and their dad's "roommate", and while they might not have been officially out there wasn't an effort to hide it. For example, I can remember that they told me they went to a parade on the weekend, and I asked my parents why I didn't get to go to a parade, and my parents explained to me that it was called pride and it was for people who were advocating for gay rights and that it had met during my soccer game.  I can remember hearing my parents talking about how people were upset that when one of the kids brought "Dad's roommate" as a chaperone on the cubscout camping trip, and my parents saying that it was an overreaction, and should be treated the same way as when another child brought his uncle because his Dad was on a business trip.  

There may have been other people I knew who were gay, and maybe were out to adults, but I just didn't notice as a kid.  

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Gen X. One of my childhood hairstylist is transgender and another is gay. My mom had neighbors who are transgender. My husband has a middle school classmate who is transgender and bullied in his all boys school. The people we know who are transgender went through sex change. My hairstylist was talking about costs and procedures for the sex change. 

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13 minutes ago, SKL said:

The first one I remember was when I was in college, and a woman grabbed my earlobe.  It is possible that there were classmates in middle / high school that I just don't remember.  There were always some kids who were accused of being gay (may or may not have been), so it's not like kids didn't know there was this thing called gay.  But that's not what you asked.

There were gay people in my acquaintance since I was a young kid, but they weren't "openly gay," or I didn't know they were.

Actually, depending on how you define "openly gay," I still can't think of any close person who is completely "out."  People tend to be more or less discreet about it where I live.

I’m not sure how the OP would define “openly gay”, but for me it would be treating their sexuality and relationships no differently than any heterosexual would. There would not need to be any formal declaration or coming out. Just someone living there life like everyone else and naturally talking about and introducing their partner, husband, wife like everyone else and potentially living together just like many heterosexual couples do. So for example, we used to have a lesbian couple living next door. They never declared to me they were lesbians or anything like that. They were just obviously a couple like all of the other couples in our neighborhood.

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4 minutes ago, Pam in CT said:

Late Boomer.

In college, there were exactly 2 people who were truly & wholly open (ie, identified in seminar discussions, made references about it in rallies and valedictory remarks, etc).  This took a LOT of bravery; they got a LOT of backlash/ defacing of their dorm room dorms / etc.

A handful more who were more or less "open secret."  Also brave and also got sh!t for it.  Many, many more who have come out since, but were definitely not out at the time.

Interestingly to me, I attended a small liberal arts understood-then-and-now-to-be-"progressive" college in MA. My closest cousin attended its rival school, also small liberal arts understood-then-and-now-to-be-"progressive" college in MA at the same time; and for all the vast similarities and shared history between two schools, the climate there was vastly more accepting than at mine. Like, a totally difference scene, much more like the environment of my kids' schools a full generation later. My alma mater has since caught up, but at the time the difference was vast.

It was before Tipping Point  came out, but it's one of my life experiences that enables me to understand the tipping point phenomenon.

The tipping point phenomenon is interesting. What was the tipping point for the acceptance of homosexuality in the general culture? It was obviously at different stages in different parts of the country and within different sub-cultures. 

What fascinates me is how homosexuality went from being something completely shameful and only whispered about in my parents' generation (silent gen) to almost complete acceptance within a relatively short period of time. 

I think gay characters on TV shows and movies played a big part in this. The AIDs epidemic was also important. I probably learned about the existence of AIDs from Rock Hudson as well. 

Something changed in our culture within my lifetime. My mother says she didn't know homosexuality existed until she was an adult and it was completely shameful, only whispered about. But now my mother has several friends with openly gay children. She's been to baby showers for gay couples. This happened when they lived in Bible belt Oklahoma. My parents have friends from their church (Catholic) who have gay children. My mother just recently discussed this and she said it felt like her friends became accepting of homosexuality almost overnight. My parents are good friends with a couple from church whose son came about 15 years ago. They were super Catholic, "the Church is always right!" and then their son came out and it was like, "well, maybe the Church isn't right about homosexuality." 

One of my cousins and an aunt came out in the late 1990s. My good Catholic father was distressed about it at the time. They don't care now. My parents have always been liberals. I don't think either one of them voted for a Republican in their lives. So it was probably an easier transition for them than it was for some of their friends. 

I just watched this video. This channel does videos on the portrayal of homosexual characters in old TV shows. They are very interesting. 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Frances said:

I’m not sure how the OP would define “openly gay”, but for me it would be treating their sexuality and relationships no differently than any heterosexual would. There would not need to be any formal declaration or coming out. Just someone living there life like everyone else and naturally talking about and introducing their partner, husband, wife like everyone else and potentially living together just like many heterosexual couples do. So for example, we used to have a lesbian couple living next door. They never declared to me they were lesbians or anything like that. They were just obviously a couple like all of the other couples in our neighborhood.

My question was a bit vague. I think I meant someone that you knew was gay and that person was open about that in general society. Maybe not a formal coming out. Not speculating but everyone knows it, if you know what I mean. 

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Gen X. After high school, a few classmates, my first cousin, and a family friend all came out, but I had known them for years and in the case of my cousin and the family friend, my whole life. No one that I knew of ever pre-identified (whispered or otherwise) any of them as gay prior to them coming out, but in retrospect none of them were a surprise.

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Posted (edited)

The first time...don't know.

My close friend in highschool was openly gay. Through her, I met quite a few others at parties that were gay-friendly. Some were still in the closet to the outside world and some were openly out. I had a few friends in high school who were heterosexual to their family/general public, but behind closed doors were bi (or gay and hiding it by dating heterosexually). Since I was good friends with the person I mentioned above (who was openly gay in high school), I think other friends were more willing to talk openly to me. I really didn't care who people were sleeping with. I just like my friends to be friendly and non-judgemental. 🙂

Edited by Tap
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Posted (edited)

Late Gen X.  (My sister is a Millennial.)  I grew up in a smallish town in West Tennessee and then moved to an even smaller town in rural South Dakota.  I didn't know anyone who was openly gay until I went to college, where there were a LOT of LGBT folks.  In retrospect, there were a lot of high school kids who later came out, and a lot of adult relationships that MIGHT have been couples but could also have been just roommates.  For instance, my grandmother left my grandfather and lived with her best friend, my Aunt Kitty, for decades.  I don't THINK they were a couple.  I THINK they were just friends, but they were treated as a family unit by everyone.  They had separate rooms though.  

Also, the sum total of my dating experience before I started dating my now husband (a picnic in high school and a dance in college), both people came out as gay or trans, the latter one at the end of the school dance.  

When I was around 12, my beloved elderly neighbor down the street, whom I visited often and if I was there when it was 3 pm, she stopped what she was doing and had her prayer time, told me that gay rights were going to be the next major civil rights issue.  That would have been 1988 or so, and was pretty much unheard of in west TN.  

Edited by Terabith
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In middle school when I was about 12 early 80's.  I volunteered at a summer stock theatre and most people that worked there were gay.  I started officially working there in high school and continued to work there on and off seasons through college.  there were times that I was one of the few straight people working there.  I didn't know any peers that were gay until high school.  There were a few that came out during that time and others that didn't some out until years later. 

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Posted (edited)

The social approbation is so weird to me b/c I befriended anyone who showed genuine interest in me as a kid. As a black kid in urban gifted classes I couldn’t afford to be choosy. lol. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned my best childhood friend identified as a lesbian, or that the pesky, skinny kid who showed interest in me was gay. They were everywhere in my friend/family/social group and I had no idea until much later. They were kind, caring, open, and forgiving and that’s all that mattered. My final high school was a hell-hole so it wouldn’t surprise me in the least that there were kids hiding it until they left and moved away.

Edited by Sneezyone
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I have no idea. I'm a millennial, born in '86. Right off the top of my head I'd say junior year of highschool I had a friend that was out, so 2002. But I really think I must have known adults who were out but I can't think of any at the moment. 

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Gen X, one of the kids we ran around with is gay. I think we were probably about 11 or 12 at that point. He wasn't publically out, but we all knew. In my high school, there were a few people publically out (students, not teachers) and a few who came out later. 

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Gen X - my whole life. Our closest (both in proximity and in friendship) neighbors were a gay man and his mother. He was out and proud and his mother fully accepted him for who he was. One of my teachers in elementary school was an out lesbian. One of my high school best friends is gay, but didn't come out until college. 

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Posted (edited)

College for someone already out. A side effect of a Southern, religious community in the Reagan years. Going from there to a performing arts college at a state U was a 180 degree turn. A lot of people I know have come out since. It’s totally different from the world now, and I can definitely see the difference. 

Edited by Dmmetler
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Posted (edited)

Off the top of my head, my high school best friend and one of my high school math teachers. 
 

ETA ~ Born in ‘79, I identify as a Xennial, so this would have been around 1995-1997ish.  

Edited by *Jessica*
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Gen X.

High school for first really knowing people who were completely out, openly, in my age group.

Throughout childhood, I knew several artists who were living with their partners, growing up, but didn’t really think about it until high school.  These would have been artist friends of my mom’s.


 

 

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Late Boomer.

In Jr High, there was a male teacher who was rumored to invite male students home- so a homosexual pedophile, I guess.  But that was a rumor and so I have no idea if it was really true.

In high school, there was one boy who was stereoptically gay and there was a friend of mine who became very close to another girl- so that I thought they were a couple.  In college, there were many open gays and less lesbians, but some.  No one harassed them.

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Gen X, High school.  My boyfriend's uncle was gay and had a long time partner. The family was very supportive and protective of the uncle because he'd been harassed in the past.  

I probably met lots of gay people before then, but never really thought about who they were or were not partnered with. 🤷‍♀️

 

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Posted (edited)

Around age 35 I think. So around 2000. Two guys moved onto our street. One of them was a friends brother.....so I already knew.  Xh did not realize it until we were at their house and they were affectionate with each other. 
I can’t think of another person I know who is openly gay. 

Edited by Scarlett
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When I was somewhere between 4th and 6th grade, AIDS had just/was just hitting the news. At the time, all that was known was that it was a disease that was killing gay people, and no one really knew yet how it was spread, etc. Just that if you got it, it was a death sentence. 

So my dad sat us down and let us know that my favorite uncle was gay. He explained a little of what that meant, and explained about this scary disease, and said since we were going to see our uncle, but there was this disease, not to hug him. Because we could maybe get sick and die. 

So of course I said I didn't care about some dumb disease, but I loved my uncle and was going to hug him anyway, and my dad couldn't stop me. He cried, I think (he said later) because he knew I was right, but he was so afraid. Which I understand a lot more now, as a parent, then I did then as a kid. 

So the outing with the family went off as normal, my uncle remained my favorite uncle, and it wasn't until much later (freshman year of college) that he did, in fact, succumb to AIDS. The "kids" were not told of his AIDS status until just a few weeks before his death (various family members had known sooner). 

Anyway, that was the first person I knew who was gay.  In high school I had a few friends who were gay, though only one or two who were even remotely open about it -- at that time, this was still a thing kept more or less hidden-ish. And then of course at my uncle's memorial, I met a lot of his friends, and saw a lot of photo albums from that side of his life, and realized how I only really knew the family side of him (he was still my favorite uncle, and I miss him still so much, though it's been almost 30 years).  

But even when he died....I was at college, at a small Baptist college which likely impacts this story greatly, and I came home for the ceremony to dedicate his panel to the AIDS memorial quilt. The girl who drove me home couldn't believe I was going to attend something honoring "those people."  Another friend in college very passionately believed that AIDS was a disease people deserved, and death was a fair outcome, since they arrived at the disease through such horrible sins. 

Now, in contrast....when we took my boys to their college orientation things, one of the schools had a whole speech/seminar thing on the diversity of the school, importance of asking people their correct pronouns, etc. It's a vastly different world, but for the sake of people like my uncle and various other friends (too many to name, actually), I'm so glad it's less a thing to hide and feel shame over than it was. Even though I know there's still a long way to go. 

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I am GenX and the hairdresser I went to as as a 16-18 year old was openly gay. I don't remember thinking a thing about it (other than he was the only one who could cut my hair right) despite the fact the the general school culture during my teenage years was somewhat homophobic (mostly using the word "gay" as an insult). 

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I had a relative that was openly living with his partner starting in the 1950s.  They were also business partners, which made the word "partner" nicely ambiguous, but they owned a home and business together and attended family gatherings together.  I never heard anyone say out loud that  they were gay, but within the family they were treated like a married couple and after one died the other was treated as a widower.   They lived in another state, so I don't know if they were "out" in life outside their extended families. 

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We had a guy from our church, married with a beautiful family. Now when I look back, he was rather flamboyant.  I used to babysit his kids and he was the one who decorated the house for Christmas in full detail and loved to show it off. He was also great in our parish plays, total goof, great voice, full of energy. I knew of him when I was a teen, but it wasn't until I was in college that I found out he divorced and came out as gay. Before then, no one really knew because that sort of thing no one talked about.  We ran into him once at an art fair. He was with 2 women. I felt sad for his family because the way they came across, they were like high school girls acting immaturely and loud (he would have been late 30 ish). I am sure the whole thing had been hard on his family. (I am not being judgmental on anyone, it was just my observation at the time. Here I was coming into adulthood, and seeing this man I had known as a dad,  not acting as expected for his age.)  Sadly, he died a few years later of AIDS.

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