“What does it mean to be gay?” A seemingly simple question, but one that's not often asked. With Los Angeles Gay Pride starting today, various gay folks have been giving us their answers in a weeklong series

Noel Alumit is a novelist who wrote the critically acclaimed Letters to Montgomery Clift. He also works for Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team Health Center and serves on the Asians and Pacific Islanders Equality-LA steering committee and the California Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. Alumit shares his story and his thoughts:

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, I'd resolved to lie. There was no way I was going to tell anyone that I was gay. Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, there was no evidence that life as a gay man would ever lead to happiness. Indeed, it seemed to get worse. AIDS came along during my coming-of-age years, which did not help in my coming out years. The message I got at the time was AIDS was God's judgment on gay men…

Being gay was so isolating that I couldn't recognize another gay boy in my household, my brother John. Even though we shared the same bedroom, we could never speak of our orientation. It was that shameful.

We were raised in a Filipino American home. Our parents knew how to teach pride in our ethnic heritage. Most parents can do that, talk about a common history. Then it is reinforced with family gatherings and traditions. However, most parents are straight and don't know how to teach their child how to be okay with being gay.

Thank god for Pride. I remember my first Pride festival. I was twenty-two and sat outside the gates of the festival, wondering what it was like inside. There was no way I was going in, but it was okay just being near it. The following year I entered the gates. It was going in that helped me come out, not just reveal to some close friends (in a hushed whisper), but to state it proudly to the world.

Coming out was a bold move, I believe. My whole family knows it. When I came out, it was okay for my brother to come out as well. I believe that if another child is born gay in our family, the process for him or her will be a lot easier.

What does it mean to be gay? It means helping others to become comfortable with being gay. I am grateful to the generations before me who gave me the opportunity to live the life as an openly gay man. Now, we should do the same for those behind us.

Recently, I attended a gay “garden party” at Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's residence. A decade ago, that would have been unheard of. The mayor of Los Angeles throwing a gay celebration?

I chose to invite my brother. I introduced him saying, “This is my gay brother. There are two of us.” I was proud of this. As children, we could never have ever thought that two gay Filipino kids — who couldn't even utter the words gay — would be partying it up with the mayor of L.A.

I looked around the lawn of this amazing house. It was filled gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgenders. It seemed so… normal. And I felt normal. That's the way it should be.

Read essays by actor James Brandon, actor-writer Doug Spearman, and author Toby Johnson.

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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