In partnership… 

Before barbershops were cool and LGBTQ+ issues were being pushed forward, there was @rudysbarbershop. Since ‘93, this Seattle-based hub has been a proponent for inclusion, helping all people – straight, gay, bi and in between – express themselves through hair. 25 years, a product line, and many barbershops later, Rudy’s is still championing the cause of identity. True to their ‘For Everybody’ roots, Rudy’s supports partners like @itgetsbetterproject and @lalgbtcenter and donates shower products to shelters that serve LGBTQ+ youth.

Ironic puns aside, allow us to get straight to the point here: The LGBTQ experience in today’s America is more fraught than it has been in recent years.

This is thanks to an administration (*not-so-subtle cough* Donald Trump and Kool-Aid drinkers) that has alienated and targeted ethnic minority groups, disabled persons and members of the LBGTQ community, sadly among very many others.

SEE ALSO: This is why being called ‘queer’ is important to me. 

Since this site’s inception, Very Good Light has proudly existed as a digital safe haven for people of all identities to be open and express their truest selves through the lenses of beauty and style. However, in celebration of Coming Out day on October 11, we’re shaking things up a little by launching Coming Out Week. It’s a Week long celebration of important stories all about coming out as an LGBTQ individual.

To kick things off, we reached out to some of the most inspiring men across fashion, editorial, music, YouTube and beyond to share their own coming out stories as part of a week-long initiative of acceptance, love, and positivity – things that everyone could use a little more of in this period of uncertainty. But that’s part of why we’re doing all of this, right? We’re at a point in modern history where it’s more important than ever that we tell these stories and show up (preferably clad in H2T Thom Browne) to the table. Staying silent has never really been our style, anyway.

Below, are five of our friends and their very important, unique coming out stories. Coming out is never easy, but as you can see below, is totally worth it. Here are their stories in their own words …

Everett Williams, blogger, YouTuber and creative figure, @everettwilliams

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Photo Courtesy Everett Williams

“High school was the place I really came to terms with who I was as a person. I remember being confused for such a long time about who I was, especially when it came to my sexual orientation. I always knew I wasn’t like the rest of the straight boys at my school; I wasn’t attracted to women in the same way they were. I was, however attracted to men, but I didn’t think of it really in a very sexual way. I thought I was so interested in these guys because I wanted to be friends with them, or I wanted my body to look like theirs, or I wanted the same kind of haircut as them. I soon realized after those were not the only reasons I was thinking the way I was.

I grew up in not a very small town, but if we were measuring population off of the other gay men around me, then it was basically a ghost town. I fought hard to convince myself I wasn’t gay, and for a while that worked. But I wasn’t happy, and more importantly I wasn’t me. I went off to college in New York City to try to escape the ‘issue’ of being gay, and hopefully find new light in a city of complete opportunity. I struggled with being in the closet the first two years of college, and I kick myself for it everyday. Freshman year was a new start offered to me, and I still kept myself locked away in a persona that was not at all me. As junior year came, my life turned completely upside down.

I started [coming out] with my roommate who was basically my brother, so it was of no surprise to him. I told most of my really good friends and let the rest of them put the puzzle together on their own. I was flying home to visit my family for Christmas, and I decided early on that telling my family would have to be done in person – no over the phone sob story crap, so I decided this was the time to do it. The holidays can be a stressful time as well as a great time, but let’s say I was damn stressed. I was sure that my family would support me, but it was more the act of finally completing this overall mess that has drawn on throughout my life. I had so many opportunities planned to tell them, where I would sit them down and do the whole thing, but I still chickened out. Instead, I was actually in the car with my family on the way to dinner when my mother asked, “So are you seeing any girls in NYC?” It was like as if she set it up to be honest! I knew this was the time; I remember telling them, “Things have changed… A LOT. I in fact have been seeing someone…” Before I could even finish, my mother replied with, “So what’s HIS name?” I couldn’t believe it, really, I couldn’t.

I didn’t really know what to say, and so she continued by expressing how she’s my mother and she knows me better than anyone and that she has always wanted to let me come to terms with it before ever putting any pressure on me. My father and sister followed up with letting me know that they would support me in anything, and that sexual preference is the least of any of their concerns. My family acceptance was so important to me in allowing myself to be the person I am; I no longer felt scared or worried, and a huge weight and stress was lifted from my life. I will always treasure that acceptance.

Coming out can be such a scary thing for a lot of people, but the reward of being able to hold your head high and be proud of who you are is a feeling so great that I can’t even begin to express. I’ve learned that people who truly love you will accept you, and if not right at the beginning, they will come around after seeing how beautiful life is now that you are the person you have always wanted to be.”

Noah Silverstein, editor at Marc Jacobs, @noahsilverstein

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Photo courtesy Noah Silverstein

“They always say, “it’s darkest before the dawn.” It’s so cliché, but it’s always darkest right before you come to a point of acceptance. It was the beginning of senior year in high school – I was either 16 or 17. [My decision to come out was inspired by] a lot of things. I had gone through basically a year of “what’s wrong with me?” I felt so depressed. I didn’t even feel like a living human being; I felt like an empty vessel, and I think a lot of gay people will say that right before you come to accept and share this part of yourself, you feel like you’re at your lowest point, and that’s what I felt.

A lot of things culminated at this point where I decided that I could talk about it. I remember exactly how it happened; I have a theatre background, I work in fashion, so I guess you could say I have a flair for the dramatic. My whole group of friends were going home from a friend’s house, and I asked my friend – who was and is still my oldest, closest friend – to come into my car with me because I had to tell her something. She definitely knew what I was about to say – I think everyone was waiting, honestly because for the most part, everyone knew what’s going on.
Anyway, I came out to her in the car and we had this whole moment and she was so happy for me. Then I told the rest of my friends. I’m very thankful that I was accepted and no one was surprised. After i came out, I was never physically or directly bullied, attacked or anything. I was thankful that I had a group of friends that were very accepting and supportive. So in that way, my coming out was very easy. At that point, my concept and reference for “coming out” was based only on my [personal] experience. But when I got to college, I realized that not everyone’s experience coming out was as easy as mine was. It concerned me in a way because that’s what made me realize just how gay people aren’t accepted, and how close-minded so much of country is, which unfortunately we’re still talking about today. But in terms of being a gay man, the fashion industry has been very good to us. I never felt like I was professionally ever being judged for my sexuality, and that’s why I think so many gay people join the fashion circus, because it’s such an accepting industry for many kinds of outsiders. It’s definitely a place of refuge for people who feel like they don’t fit in. In that way, fashion has given me, someone’s who’s gay, a place to feel like they belong and can make a contribution, which is the industry’s greatest asset.”

R.J. Hernandez, author, @r.j.hernandez

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Photo courtesy RJ Hernandez

“Growing up Roman Catholic in a Hispanic family, I struggled for years to suppress the thought that I might be gay, believing what many of my family members believed: Gays were sinners, and went to Hell. After struggling for self-acceptance throughout much of my childhood, I eventually understood that who I loved had nothing to do with whether I was a good person, and that other people’s prejudices stemmed from their own ignorance and fear. By the time I was sixteen, my mom and I had an unspoken understanding about my sexuality, but it was the fear of my dad’s reaction that always worried me.

Back then I had wanted to become a politician, and would talk to my dad about current events on the ride to school in the morning. He was a Democrat, but mild-mannered and generally apolitical, while I was brash and opinionated, always riling up conservative teachers and classmates to debate me.

Gay marriage was being hotly debated in the media, so the topic of gay rights sometimes came up between me and my Dad. As a blue-collar Cuban immigrant in a macho profession, the notion of genuine attraction between two men always seemed “off” to him. But he believed that what happened behind closed doors didn’t affect him, and he ultimately didn’t care enough to extend his outright support or condemnation of gay rights. His indifference always irked me, until one day a conversation between us escalated: “Well, what if I was gay?” I burst. “Wouldn’t you care then?”

I remember the silence in the car made the air thick, unbreathable. Dad must have already had his suspicions about me, but neither of us had ever brought up my sexuality overtly. He started, “Does that mean that you’re…?” But he couldn’t finish, and for the first time, I couldn’t speak either. I was afraid I had made a huge mistake—now everything would change. The unbearable silence continued through the next week, during which I was perpetually red-faced, skittish, and on the verge of tears. Finally both my parents cornered me in the kitchen—told me it was okay, that they loved me and would make the effort to understand me. I knew even then that I was lucky—other people had it much worse. My parents promised to support me regardless of who I loved; now, over a decade later, they’ve still kept their promise.”

Timo Weiland, creative director, entrepreneur and DJ, @mr.timoweiland

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Photo courtesy Timo Weiland

“In college, I had a couple of amazing long term girlfriends who were phenomenal and supportive and open-minded. But towards the end of my senior year, one relationship was ending and I came out as bi. I was in college at Vanderbilt at the time, and when I moved up to New York, continued to explore myself, I guess you could say. I was working at a very stressful job – I was an investment banker on Wall Street – and I was single.

I had a phenomenal group of roommates, but I guess I wasn’t really ‘out’ to them. It wasn’t quite a double life, but it was definitely complicated. One of them in particular asked me, “Why don’t you ever bring anyone home? or “Why do you always go out super late and spend the night out or come home alone?” And then I just came out to him. We were just sitting on the couch. I didn’t know what he was going to say, but he was actually so phenomenally supportive. It was great. We really didn’t miss a beat in the friendship and became even closer [as a result]. [Our relationship] was based on honesty and vulnerability, which were two key factors [for me] in that period, and continue to be in my life. I just felt that if I continued to shy away from it and lie about it, then I just wouldn’t feel good about it.

I met my first boyfriend, I guess you could say, at a Misshapes party – they were doing parties next to my apartment. I had actually met him before when he was a sales associate at Barneys, and it was a really wonderful interaction. He had helped me when I was trying on suits and sweaters; we didn’t exchange information and I didn’t even know his name, and then he happened to be at that party that night. From there, it was multiple years of a not-really-definable relationship, but we were definitely in love.

I came out to my mom in my apartment in the West Village after being with this first guy. At first, she was just a bit scared for my safety and wellbeing. We were coming off of a dark period in the ‘80s and ‘90s for the gay community, so she was scared, and rightfully so. I told my sister that same time. I guess I was most scared to tell my dad, but my sister accidentally told him, and he confronted me about it. Since he had already known from her, I guess it made it easier [for me] since she had kind of ripped the bandaid off. But it was purely an accident!

From there, it was more of an acceptance [of myself], and having the confidence to propel forward to who I am now, and bridging between the creative and finance worlds, and also my love of music, which has fueled my career as a DJ. [It’s important to me to be] multifaceted and not have my sexuality not be the sole aspect of my identity that people acknowledge; it should be a piece of you, but not the only thing people see.

It’s really incredible to see how the world has evolved, and I really admire the people that put up with much more than we put up with decades ago. There’s still a long way to go and the work is never done by any means, but currently now more than ever there’s a threat to that advancement being taken back. We have to all stand together and fight for what’s already been achieved. We can’t get too comfortable. We have to stay woke.”

Eventually, we’ll look at people of all genders who identify as bisexual or queer the same, and they’ll have an easier time coming out. Until then, there are many strides we as a culture need to make.

As a long-time supporter of the LGBTQ community and the It Gets Better Project, Rudy’s has partnered with world-renown artist, public speaker, and author Dallas Clayton to create a line of custom tote bags and stickers supporting Coming Out Day and the LGBTQ community. With every purchase of the custom Baggu tote, sticker sheet and Think About Someone You Love booklet (total cost: $21), Rudy’s will donate $5 to the It Gets Better Project. Our collective hope is to inspire people young and old to celebrate their individuality and this special moment.