Profiles in Courage

Kevin, 22, of Raleigh, NC

By Jeff Walsh

On Oct. 10, a group of North Carolina State University students were painting notices supportive of National Coming Out Day in the university's Free Expression Tunnel. "It's a great day to come out" and similar messages being painted by gay student group members were meant to encourage people to disclose their sexual orientation in a friendly, supportive manner.

About 10 students came through the tunnel as the group was painting, according to Kevin, the co-chair of the gay student group. The group of seemingly-drunk students was quick to disclose both their sexual orientation - heterosexual -- and their dislike of anyone who didn't share that orientation.

Scott Silverman, 29, of San Francisco

By Jeff Walsh

Scott Silverman is gay, despite his unkempt hair, T-shirt and jeans (which runs contrary to his living near San Francisco's Castro district for five years), and despite references in his stand-up comedy act about how much he wishes he were a smart, hot woman like Shirley Manson from the band Garbage.

Andrew Huesman, 21, of St. Paul, Minnesota

By Jeff Walsh

Many gay teens have crushes on their best friends. Some insist that if they could just manage to tell their friend "I'm gay" at the right moment, things might combust into kissing, sex and an amazing relationship. But the words rarely come, and if they do, it rarely ends up being a mutual feeling -- although we've all heard tales of such teenaged best friends-turned-lovers that make us all feel a slight tinge of envy. But they are truly the exception.

Robert Perez, 25, of San Francisco

By Jeff Walsh

"The Radical Right Has Blood On Its Hands" screams a yellow flyer emblazoned with a bloody red palm print. "They're killing us," the flyer continues on the flip side, "The Radical Right tells us that we're abnormal and forces us to live our lives locked in the closet of fear and shame."

The flyer is promoting SQUIRM! a coalition of queer youth planning to protest this month at the GOP National Convention in San Diego. The youth will speak out at a special time from the protest area outside the convention. Queer youth "action teams" will also be posted near events around town that will be attended by the GOP delegates.

Gina Gutierrez, 22, of Arecibo, Puerto Rico

By Jeff Walsh

Gina Gutierrez was born in San Francisco, and lived only an hour away from it throughout her teen years. In 1990, while a senior in high school, she was prominently featured in the educational film "Gay Youth." She then attended Hampshire College, in the queer-friendly Amherst, Mass. But now, Gutierrez is living in a small town in Puerto Rico. Her close-cropped or shaved head seen in the video, is now waist-length. Her "little boy body" in the video, as she calls it, is now more filled out.

Brent Calderwood, 20, of San Leandro, California

By Jeff Walsh

In a recent phone interview, Brent Calderwood reflected back on his years of being openly gay and politically active. From the time his picture appeared on the front pages of area newspapers, to his stint as senior editor at insideOUT magazine, and then his freelance writing career. Of course, there was also his run as a media mogul, speaking on gay issues on radio shows and on the nationally-syndicated Gabrielle Carteris talk show.

Kelli Peterson, 17, of Salt Lake City

By Jeff Walsh

No one will have to remind Kelli Peterson that high school is a time she won't forget. And even if this 17-year-old did forget her senior year, she can just look back on the newspaper and local television clippings, and -- of course -- there was also that MTV News segment.

Peterson, who has been an out lesbian at East High School in Salt Lake City, UT for two years, decided to work on starting a club for gay students last winter.

Elizabeth Katz, 18, of Boston, Massachusetts

By Jeff Walsh

When Elizabeth Katz was 14, she had an experience that forever changed her life. "I had an experience I don't think very many people have," she says, now 18 and a first-year student at Vassar College.

"It was some sort of voice in the back of my head," she says. "I was sitting on my bed, alone in my room and the little voice said: 'Hey, know what? You're gay.' And it was just boom, everything made sense.

Jamie Nabozny, 20, of Minneapolis, Minnesota

By Jeff Walsh

As a teenager, Jamie Nabozny tried to kill himself just so he wouldn't have to go to school.

From seventh to eleventh grade at Ashland Middle and Ashland High Schools in Wisconsin, Nabozny was: harassed, spit on, mock-raped while other students laughed, urinated on, called a "fag" by a teacher and kicked repeatedly in the stomach by his fellow students. He eventually dropped out of school.

Michelle Klucsor, 19, of San Jose, California

By Jeff Walsh

Michelle Klucsor didn't have any stress going to her first gay youth group meeting -- at the time, she thought she was straight.

The now 19-year-old college sophomore says she first went to a San Jose, CA youth group when her friend asked her to go with her for support.

But it was more difficult when Michelle finally decided to go for herself. "The first time I went on my own, it was still pretty scary," she said. "I got there early and I was nervous, but the people there were really friendly.

Justin Clouse, 19, of Boston, Massachusetts

By Jeff Walsh

Justin Clouse was never beat up because he's gay. He wasn't threatened, harassed or even suicidal. He began telling people he was gay in the tenth grade, and no one freaked out or called him names.

"I realize that doesn't make for interesting copy," Justin says apologetically. "I think that's a lot of people's misperception -- If I'm going to come out, a lot of people are going to beat me up and harass me."

Sara Webb, 17, of Atlanta, Georgia

By Jeff Walsh

The thought of having sex with a guy turns Sara Webb's stomach.

"The first serious boyfriend I had wanted to have intercourse," the 17-year-old Atlanta resident recalls. "I threw up on him. I was repulsed by it."

Webb doesn't have a problem with guys, though, just sex with guys. "To this day, guys, I find, are my best friends," she says. "I love them to death as friends and I'm emotionally attracted to guys, but if anything physical ever happens, I'm just repulsed."

Matt Marco, 22, of Washington, D.C.

By Jeff Walsh

Matt Marco was everything a student should be.

In his Edwardsville, Ill., high school, he was a chairperson on the student council and a member of the National Honor Society, drama club, chess club and French club.

"I had the basic overachiever resume," Marco says. "I was very well-known, very well-liked and I was going to be a foreign exchange student to France my senior year."

Dan Martin, 17, of Fresno, California

By Jeff Walsh

Unlike many teens, Dan Martin never felt he was the only gay teen in his town or high school. "My logic told me there's got to be others," he says. "I'm not that unique."

He just didn't know how to find others, and was afraid of them finding him. So, he spent hours alone in his bedroom talking to people through his computer.

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