My name’s Jason Pesick. I’m from West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Growing up in West Bloomfield was – it was actually a pretty great place to grow up. It was comfortable, it was a pretty tolerant place. You know one thing I noticed is that I didn’t see a lot of LGBTQ people, I didn’t see a lot of gay people, a lot of queer people growing up in that area or really in the media on TV. So if you’d asked me when I was growing up if I was gay, I would have said no and that would have been an honest answer. I wouldn’t have been making that up. I wouldn’t have felt that I was closeted in any way.
I remember my sophomore year of high school, one of – my history teacher, who was a great teacher, was trying to actually teach tolerance and awareness. He said, “Someone in this room…” There’s 25 or whatever the number of people is in this history class. “Someone in this class is gay or is a lesbian.” I really remember thinking, Oh, it’s not me. Who is it? You know, it’s not me.
And then I went to college and it felt like at the same time, the world is changing or at least the country was changing in some important ways. For example, one thing that happened after my first summer of college – I remember it well – was the Supreme Court decided Lawrence V. Texas. It was acceptance from a central institution in American life. There was a lot more representation of gay people in the media. I remember Bravo came out with Queer Eye, which was maybe a little bit campy – the first version – but at least you just started to see more representation.
I went to college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and, you know, I met a lot of different people. I became, I think for the first time, friends – like close friends – with people who I knew were gay or who were coming – going through the process of coming out. I had some really close friends who I had heart-to-heart conversations with and one of the benefits of that was they pushed me to at least realize and admit to myself that I was gay.
After college, I moved to Southern California, where I worked as a newspaper reporter in San Bernardino, which is an hour, hour and a half east of Los Angeles. By being in California, which was kind of far from home, it gave me sort of like the separation I needed to figure stuff out.
I remember driving up to a gay bar in San Bernardino, California called The Lark, when I – not long after I moved out there. I went to this bar and I was sitting by myself and, I think, playing with my cellphone – which was not a smartphone at the time – and texting or trying to look occupied in some way. And then I remember a woman came up to me and she was there with her friends who were gay guys and she introduced me to them. That was sort of my first exposure to having a group of gay friends. We’d just hang out – we would go out in the area we lived in, in the San Bernadino area. Also we would go to West Hollywood in LA, which I guess is like a gay Mecca. It was sort of an important experience. I was there for almost three years and then I moved back to Michigan and then to Ann Arbor for law school.
When I came back, I got involved with Outlaws, which it was the, I guess, the LGBT law student association. And I started to have gay friends in law school. So it was a very – it was only three years apart from my college experience, but it was a very different experience when I came back.
So now, you know, as I guess an adult, like a young adult but an adult, I’m practicing law at a large law firm, a global law firm where I’m out. And I’m involved in pro-bono work on behalf of the LGBT community with Lambda Legal, and also advocating for people with HIV. I would say become an active member and the LGBT community both in my firm and in the Chicago area. I’ve made a lot of great connections and great friendships.
A few years ago, some friends that I grew up with came to visit me in Chicago and one of my friends in Chicago who I didn’t know when I was growing up said, “So what was Jason like growing up or when he was young or even in college?”
“And so he’s basically – is basically the same now as he was then, he’s just more comfortable with himself now.”
Looking back on my childhood if I just been exposed to it more, to more gay people, then I think it would have been easier to at least – not even to accept it but just to realize it was even possible that I could be gay. Because if you don’t like see people in the world who are gay, how do you know that it isn’t something that isn’t just in like a very narrow segment of society.
It’s a process and even understanding it before you can even start the process of coming out can be slow and it’s okay if it’s slow and it’s okay to question. And so I think, you know, one thing people can take from my story is that you can follow your own journey and that’s okay. But you should start on your journey because it is better when you start to get to where you’re going.