I would be considered a late bloomer coming out. It was my first year in college, in 2008. I was a musical theater major in Hartford, Connecticut, and there was a saying that when you walked into the theater school, everyone would know if you were or weren’t gay. There’s this stereotypical phrase: “Oh, that one is going to be gay by May.” I was actually gay by April, thank you. One month early.
I will remember the day I came out to my mom for the rest of my life. It was my last day of finals of freshman year. It was 24 hours of hell, and I crammed through all of it. I had to deconstruct a set, finish a 15-page English paper, wake up early, present a final scene in front of all the theater faculty, and talk to my teachers. But everything went very smoothly. I picked up my mom from the train station and we packed up my car, then started driving. We were talking about my freshman year, and she asked, “Mark, did you drink or smoke?” I said, “No Mom. I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, I don’t drink…but I am gay.”
My parents are immigrants from Italy (I’m the first generation born here), so I was really nervous, because my family is very, very Roman Catholic. My grandmother prays on her rosary beads every day. It’s one of those things where you’re either going to heaven or hell. My parents, however, are the liberals out of all of my conservative family, so I didn’t know what to expect. She turned a little red, smiled, and then said, “I kind of figured.” She was totally fine with it. She was very, very loving. She said, “Mark, it’s okay. Who you are is who you are. That’s fine.”
Her main concern was for my safety. Literally, the second statement she made was, “I want you to do is be safe. There are diseases and AIDS everywhere, and there are hate groups and everything. I just want you to be safe and I want you to surround yourself in safe areas.” My parents were prepared to talk to me about sex. They said, “You have to be safe. Man or woman, you have to be safe. This is a world where anything is contracted quickly. Just wrap it. It’s so simple. Put a condom on it. Jesus.” They weren’t against premarital sex. They told me as long as you love the person, it’s great.
I really listened to what my parents had to say about sex—but that was the case even before I had come out to them. I have always viewed their love in a way that made me take my own decisions very seriously. I waited until I was 21 and I was with my first boyfriend. That’s considered late blooming. It was my senior year of college, and I finally had found someone, and we waited, and it was that much more special because I felt close to the one I loved.
Click through to read about our contributors!