VideoOut: Danny Coeyman, Thriving Not Surviving

When I first heard about VideoOut, I immediately thought: "I wish I had this growing up." I am 33 and grew up in Florida, was kicked out at age 20 by religious parents for being gay, and even still feel that fear of abandonment in my relationships today.

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My generation of gays exists on a cusp, a wave of acceptance that has taken root in American culture. Today, Ellen is America's sweetheart, but I also remember seeing her ABC television show cancelled after her coming out. I grew up fearing HIV and perpetuating the stigmas of the disease, and now live in a world where it is no longer a death sentence, and PrEP alleviates fears of contracting the virus. I've watched gay couples fight for Civil Unions and then lurch forward into gaining the right to marry in a single Supreme Court decision. In this past decade, gayness seems to have shifted from a shameful subculture to a celebrated identity, and I have experienced both.

Growing up in shame, stories like those on VideoOut would have helped me feel less alone. Having a LGBT Community was nice, but I longed for the real words and stories of real people back then, which is what Video Out offers and makes it so special. The archive has stories that range from sad to awkward to hilarious. It takes a gay milestone and makes it human. Accessible not only to us who live the experience, but anyone who wants to better understand the dignity, courage and sacrifice that coming out entails. Beyond that, the archive is an oral history of my generation, those who came before me, and those who are now coming out in an age of increased acceptance. It is an exciting and important moment in gay history.

But the increased acceptance we experience as a culture shouldn't make us feel like the fight is over. VideoOut will hopefully collect more and more stories that end up positively for the next generation. But there are still those who live far from the haven of cities, have unsupportive families, and don't have the resources to come out. Like me, half of all gay children today are still rejected by their parents. Half of those are kicked out.

My VideoOut story is for them. I shared my story in the hopes that no one would ever have to live it, and in the knowledge that many will. If one young gay kid can hear my story and know that there is hope even for us who lost our families simply by telling our truth, then the archive becomes more than oral history or storytelling. It becomes a lifesaver.

In a way, it has already saved my life. Telling my story for VideoOut made me reflect on my own narrative. How even now I settle for survival instead of living. Sharing it was cathartic and powerful. I deposited it in a safe place and now I get to let it go. I realized I can stop living as a victim.

VideoOut has been so healing and connecting for me. To the others who shared their stories. And to those out there whom it may help and comfort. VideoOut is a gift. It took my trauma and gave me a way to make it meaningful. In that spirit of generosity, I hope it continues to grow and transform the people that it brings together.