For the fourth year in a row, AE is proud to support the It Gets Better Project by donating 100% of sales of our annual Pride collection to the nonprofit, which uplifts, empowers, and connects LGBTQ+ youth around the world. But inclusivity starts from the inside out, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to reflect on what equality, individuality, and a better future mean to us.
In the coming weeks and months, look for guest posts right here from AE associates across the country about love, acceptance, and how it really DOES get better. Kicking us off is AE’s Global Brand President, Chad Kessler.
AIDS. Homophobia. Difference. A life alone. These were all things I feared growing up gay. I thought it would get better because I might outgrow my attraction to men and their bodies. I am so glad that I didn’t change. Coming out was a humbling experience. I found many friends who in some ways knew me better that I knew myself. No one was surprised by my revelation. My friends had already realized, come to terms with, and accepted my truth. The best thing I heard was from a close friend. He told me that being honest with myself and accepting, living, and embracing my personal truth would lead to an honest life – one without fear of being caught, without hiding, with personal acceptance. All of that has been true.
I am lucky to have a family that has accepted and loves me. I still am close with so many of my childhood friends who knew all along. But in addition to that, I have also found and cherish our empowered gay community. There are so many people of all ages, races, backgrounds who have come through the same journey of self-discovery and acceptance and love. We share a common bond that should rise above other differences.
I had two periods of coming out. First, I told family and friends but still tried to pass at work and in public. My second and equally powerful coming out was when I decided that, in all aspects of my life, I would be openly and proudly gay. This was especially moving for me when I married my husband seven years ago in New York City. To have the justice of the peace proclaim the State of New York’s support for and legal affirmation of our love was so powerful. Today, my husband and I are the parents of twins. Parenthood is hard and exhausting, but rewarding and brings so much love to our lives. It also fosters another community and common experience across the lines of sexual orientation.
If I could talk to my younger self, I would like to say don’t worry. Be yourself. Live your truth. You are lucky to be you. Your happiness will be as full as anyone else’s. Live a life that is honest and true to yourself. When you accept who you are, you will find support. You will deepen the right friendships. You will find community and support and love. And, boy does it get better.
Everyone has a story to tell. What’s yours? Share it with #ItGetsBetter @americaneagle to show your support and inspire LGBTQ+ youth around the world!