Guest Blogger

I Did Not Grow Up Gay

Guest Blogger Ethan Avanzino

I did not grow up “gay”.  
My attraction to men hasn’t changed; only the terminology used to describe my attraction. For the first twenty-something years of my life, that word was “straight”; however, post-transition, that word is “gay”.  
For those not following – The first twenty-something years of my life, I presented myself to the world as the gender the doctor told my parents I was – “female”. I transitioned to male six years ago.

I did not grow up with the mindset to be afraid of who I loved.

I did not grow up conscious that who I love could potentially cause someone to harm me or a partner.  
I did not grow up knowing that when I wish to hold my husband’s hand, I need to be aware of my environment.  
I did not grow up thinking that one day my love would be considered “political” or even “a choice” by some.  
I transitioned into it. And am still transitioning into it.  

Ethan and David Avanzino

I have cried imagining the pain and bigotry those who came before me and those I walk beside have experienced. I have cried thinking about my great Uncle, born in 1929, who would bring a “friend” to family get togethers and fled to San Francisco for his own safety. I have cried thinking about how far we’ve come… and how far we have to go.

But I refuse to transition my mindset.

I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to hide my husband under the guise of “my friend”. I refuse to withhold signs of affection for the sake of others comfort. I refuse to be anything but who I am. I’ll be aware – but I won’t be afraid…
Because I hope that one day young LGBTQ+ people will grow up not needing to be conscious of the things I’m now having to be because of my transition. I hope they’ll grow up innocent and fearless of who they are and who they love – and ‘coming out’ will be just as eventful as telling someone their favorite color. I hope that gender identity and sexual orientation will not be up for debate on whether or not they should be protected classes.

Wedding Day

And the only way to continue the change is to be visible, to set an example, to hold his hand in public, to tell the world – Yes, I am gay. This is who I love. Yes, I am trans. This is who I am. I am human.

I came into the world the same way you did, my blood is the same color as yours, and I will leave this world the same way you will.  

I’m incredibly fortunate to be with a man that believes in being visible too. Who isn’t afraid to hold my hand in the heart of Texas (where we met) or Arkansas (where we live now). Who believes in bringing awareness, educating, and sharing knowledge. Who has his own story of bravery, courage, and strength that is now woven into mine.

March 31st is Transgender Day of Visibility.  

The only way to bring visibility is to step out of the closet, away from the shadows, and to be a light.
#transdayofvisibility #transgenderdayofvisibility #tdov #transisbeautiful

Owners Ethan and David Avanzino at Wanderoo Lodge

We, at Free Mom Hugs, are grateful for Ethan sharing his journey to help bring about understanding regarding our transgender family we hold so dear. Representation and visibility make a tremendous difference in how far and fast we can make progress in restoring dignity and respect for all human beings.

Ethan and his husband David, recently purchased the former historic Joy Motel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and now run the inclusive outdoor adventure lodge, Wanderoo and Gravel Bar. They continue to make the world a kinder, safer place for all.

For a list of resources and organizations that support and serve the transgender community and their families, head to our website:

Free Mom Hugs: “We empower the world to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community through visibility, education and conversation. And yes, we still give hugs.”

Get our stories delivered

From us to your inbox monthly.