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COVER STORY

It gets better

A local take on the national project to save gay youth

Photo: Photos by Carlos Amoedo, License: N/A

Photos by Carlos Amoedo



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I came home for Christmas for the first time and they were speaking to me a little better because it was Christmas and the holidays. But I hadn’t talked to them much before that. I had called them on the phone and chatted briefly. That was 30-some years ago, and it does get better. It gets better and better. As we grew older together, they accepted a lot more.

I actually learned to do this [drag performance] in New York doing theatrical shows, Broadway shows; I actually do it now. It turns heads. Back then, 30 years ago, you wouldn’t do this out in public really. But now when I leave work I can actually go to Publix like this and nobody says anything. They might say hi or wave or tell me it looks good, but that’s a great thing.

If you just wait it out and be yourself and treat others with respect – you know, you have to treat everyone with respect and be tolerant. It’s gotten a lot better, so far, and I think it’s getting a lot better. My parents, I took care of my mom, she’s passed. And now I take care of my 80-year-old dad. I still have to say everything twice to him, but he knows I do this and he’s OK with it, he’s pretty OK with it. I don’t do it in front of him too much, because I still respect him, he’s still a football coach.

Anyway, trust me, it gets better. Then you get older and you can tell everybody to just go and … be themselves!

Patty Sheehan, 49

Orlando City Commissioner, first openly gay politician elected in Central Florida

I was raised middle class; my father was a salesman. He was kind of your typical Irish drunk. Very abusive. He would beat my mother up ever since I can remember, and when I got old enough, I got between them, and then I became the family punching bag.

As I got older, I started having feelings for women and I was kind of confused by it because my family was very Catholic and very traditional. At home there were drills, and if I ever stepped out of line I got beaten. And once I got old enough, started maturing, the abuse started becoming sexual. It was difficult because I already knew I was different. I used to get beat up at school, too, because I was a nerdy kid. To have these feelings, as well, was very confusing to me. Then to have all these very confusing feelings sexually, about inappropriate advances from my father, I just felt there was no way out.

I remember I used to count down the number of years until I could get out of it. My mom did what she could to try to stop it, but she didn’t believe that, as a woman, she could support her kids, that she was trapped … She didn’t believe there was a way out. I didn’t believe there was a way out. This was life.

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