Thank you for joining me for the first #RocOut article! National Coming Out Day (October 11th) is just around the corner, and I want to feature some Rochester-area LGBTQ residents.
This first interview features Richie and Kosal Gelser, a gay couple who have been together for 11 years, and got married about one year ago.
SG: Thank you for joining me for this project! With National Coming Out Day coming up, I think it is important to celebrate coming out, and encourage those who are thinking about coming out to take the next step, if they can!
To get started, I’d love to talk about each of your coming out experiences.
KG: It was a little hard, because I wasn’t sure of how my parents would accept it. We were all at the GAP and we saw two guys laughing and touching and my mom said “That’s kind of disgusting.” And she said it was unnatural for two guys to be acting like that, and from then I knew it was going to be hard to come out to them.
SG: So, when you came out, how did you do it?
KG: It took me a long time to come out; I didn’t come to them until I was getting married. My husband asked me how was I going to tell my parents, and I said, well, I’m telling my mom that we are getting married and that’s how I’m coming out. And when I told my mom, she was relieved that I finally said something. It is a little different coming out when your entire family is Muslim- they believe in wife and husband. I came out to my cousin and sister before my parents when we were driving to McDonalds. I told them that I was an alcoholic. And my cousin asked me if I was sure, and I said no, I’m gay. They were very accepting and glad I wasn’t an alcoholic.
SG: Richie, how was your coming out experience?
RG: I first knew I was different in middle school. It wasn’t until junior year of high school that I thought I might be gay. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of college that I felt confident enough to come out. There was a point in college that I was excelling in my freshman year, and then in my sophomore year, I was struggling with my grades. That was the point I kind of thought to myself “I don’t care anymore.” I was struggling with how I thought people would react to me coming out. One of my professors had a conversation with me- her brother was gay, and she figured out that I was. She said to me, “People are going to accept you for who you are, and the people that don’t, don’t need to be in your life.” That was around the same time I met Kosal. A few months after I met Kosal, I told my mom first. I told her that I have something to tell her- “I think I’m gay.” Mom said to me “No, you are confused.” A few months later, I told her again, and Mom didn’t really say anything. And that’s when I said that I was bringing my boyfriend home. Mom was silent. A few weeks later, I brought Kosal home. That first night was the biggest shock for all of us- none of us really knew what would happen. There was never a conversation in my family that being gay was bad. The first few years of being with Kosal, it wasn’t really discussed by my family. After a few years, it was just accepted that we were together. One of the things that impressed me was after growing up in a conservative household, was that my father would accept me. Shortly after Kosal being around, my parents were at a benefit, and someone said something negative about a couple being gay, and my dad looked at him and said, “Do you have a problem with that? My son is gay.” Before that, I felt like there was a wall between my dad and I, and now, I think our relationship has gotten a lot better- coming out as made our relationship ten times better.
SG: How did you two meet?
KG: We met through a mutual friend! We were going out one night, and she called me and told me that she wanted me to meet a guy. I asked where he was from, and she said he is from Angelica. And I asked if he was a country boy? The whole night, I expected this cowboy-looking guy to walk in. Instead, I got this innocent looking kid, who was super-nice, and well-mannered who didn’t drink- because he was 19. I felt like we had a connection. I didn’t know what it was. I took him to his first gay bar- Tilt.
RG: What I remember from that night, was being terrified. That was the first night I came out to anyone. And going to the first gay bar, was overwhelming.
SG: How long have you been together?
RG: 11 years this month.
SG: You two got married about a year ago, right? What prompted you both to take the next step?
KG: We always wanted to get married, but same-sex marriage wasn’t legalized in NY.
SG: My next question is for both of you: What advice do you both have for someone who isn’t out, but wants to come out?
KG: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Don’t be scared, hiding doesn’t do you any good.
RG: In order to be true and healthy to yourself, accept yourself. And then, find and surround yourself with people who support you and accept you. Because if you don’t, and if you come out in the wrong environment, it can be harmful.
SG: Thank you both for joining me, and telling your stories.
(photography by Surreal Photography)