Gene, Conroe, Texas
From the time I was a little boy growing up in a rodeo family in south Texas I knew I was different than most kids. I always stood up for what I believed in, and I followed my heart when pursuing my dreams. If I wanted something, I went for it, even when someone said I couldn’t or shouldn’t. I grew up with all kinds of strange pets; as long as I took care of it, my parents let me have it. Today, I live on my ranch outside of Houston along with my horses, a menagerie of pets, fish, and birds, and a pair of white wolf hybrids. I was the subject of a documentary about my life as a rodeo cowboy who happened to be gay. It was a life-changing experience. Filming meant coming out and a lot of publicity, but it let me represent a segment of society that for many years has gone unnoticed. It let me represent gays and lesbians who want to be recognized for their God-given talents and not their sexual preference. And it let me represent all Americans, straight or gay, who believe in fulfilling their dreams when others say you can’t, or shouldn’t, do something. One thing I learned about being gay is that if you are always hiding with your hands over your face, then people are going to treat you as such. Since I have come out publicly, I no longer feel as if I have anything to hide. It’s like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. I love myself now like everyone should, openly and honestly.