My name is Eric Namaky and I’m from Chagrin Falls, Ohio.
My parents are originally from Tehran, Iran, where they were political activists in the late 70s. In 1979, the Shah shut down colleges and that created a vigor uproar of demonstrations. And both of my parents were heavily involved in that. The Shah was trying to control everybody and so he started killing students and my parents were on a list to be captured and killed where they would actually show up to my parents hometowns and go to their families trying to find them. So my parents had to go totally underground and leave the country, sneak into Turkey and they eventually snuck into Paris. And my sister was born in Paris and they lived there for two years. They came to the United States in 1985.
My parents and my sister moved from Paris to Cincinnati, Ohio, because my dad had an older brother who already lived in the States and my parents were looking for work just to get established. It was the only people they knew. And quickly after that, I was born and my parents moved to Cleveland because that’s where my dad got a job.
I was always involved in different kinds of artistic things, such as dance, theater, and piano. While I was in high school, I took classes at Cleveland State University where I was involved in some of their drama courses and it was there that I met this boy who really opened up this thing inside of me where for the first time I was realizing, wow, you really, you like boys. This is what you want. It wasn’t until a few months of us hanging out that he eventually told me that he liked me, but felt, but knew that I wasn’t out and told me that he couldn’t be friends with me anymore because it felt like it was difficult for him.
So not very long after he told me that he liked me, I came to my mom, who is my best friend, and told her that I had feelings for this boy. She took a minute and she kind of pushed it off a little bit and said that she didn’t know what to say. I could hear my dad pounding downstairs like he was pissed, and I just remember just like dealing with it head-on, running downstairs hoping my mom didn’t tell him but she did. And he was like, “This is not the way that you’re going to live your life, so you are going to change that or you can’t live here.”
So I said, “Okay, fine, I’m not going to live here.”
So I packed my bag and I moved in with my sister who lived an hour away in Kent, Ohio, and I lived with her for six months. And in that time, I was able to explore that relationship with the boy. Unfortunately it, at the time, wasn’t right, just like relationships are, not always right, and I felt like I didn’t actually connect with him on the level that I wanted to, and I was like, “Wait a minute…this isn’t right, maybe I’m not gay because this isn’t connecting, this isn’t working physically, emotionally.”
It wasn’t until actually about three years living in New York where just the feeling of wanting to be embraced by a man and not a woman. I just want to be with a boy, I want a man to hold me, I want to live that life. The next time I spoke to my parents about it was when I got into my first relationship with a boy.
At this point, they had had their little preliminary, “Eric’s out.” My siblings had, the buzz was there, my parents knew, it was kind of there, but it hadn’t been officially stated, and I told my mom on the phone, “There’s someone I want you to meet. He’s a boy and I really care about him.”
And both my parents were like, “Okay.”
My parents were visiting me in New York and I felt like that was a good time to introduce my ex-boyfriend at the time, my first boyfriend. So we went and grabbed burgers at this place in Crown Heights that I really love, and my dad is a real gentleman and always opens the door for people, and as he, as we were entering the restaurant, he opens the door and my ex-boyfriend was walking through the door, and my dad took his hand and put it on his back and led him into the restaurant. And I was behind my ex-boyfriend at the time and I saw that and I knew at that moment that my dad supported me 100%. He knew that that was important to me.
My parents made a journey because they needed to survive and believe that they deserved to live a life of freedom. And so I take that with me in everything that I do and every decision that I make, I think about what would my parents do in this situation. To close off is like not in our blood.