“I wasn’t out as a gay youth growing up in Orange County. I struggled with my identity in the context of my Evangelical upbringing at the same time I faced hostility by some peers in my public school because of my perceived orientation. There was little visibility of LGBTQ people in the community, especially adults whom I could look up to and aspire to be like. My future seemed bleak because I didn’t know what a happy, fulfilled life could look like for someone like me.

As an adult, it’s been healing to live as proud gay man in the very context I grew up but with various supportive communities that value diversity. From my work with the LGBT Center OC, to singing with Men Alive – The OC Gay Men’s Chorus to progressive political advocacy, I’ve gotten to know so many incredible people fighting for inclusion and representing the beautiful diversity that exists here in Orange County. We may not have as centralized of an LGBTQ community as some urban areas, but we are making progress and we are strong together.

Being authentic is critical to living your best possible life. It also is essential to forming strong, connected communities and paving the way for LGBTQ youth who hopefully will have it even a little better than we do now. We have the power to constantly progress and constantly make our world better. That starts with being honest and authentic.

We must be visible, and we must be counted. The more we are seen and our stories are heard, the more comfortable future generations will be in sharing their truths. Furthermore, our stories impact policies and decision-making that affect us now and for years to come. The needs of our LGBTQ community must be considered and the number of lives impacted by disparities in health and well-being must be understood.”

Justin Massey
Aliso Viejo, CA