I’m Patrick Tirino. I’m from Astoria, New York.
I always knew I was gay from a very, very small age. I could vividly remember a picture that’s still in my mother’s scrapbook where I’m posing like this. And everyone’s like, “Oh, were you making muscles?” I’m like, “No, I was carrying Wonder Woman’s lasso.”
When I went to grad school up in RPI, I kind of started to allow those feelings and thoughts to surface and start acting on them. Going out to gay clubs. And that also was my entry point to start making more connections with the gay community that was doing theater up in the capital region.
I graduated with my degree. I didn’t quite get on the path that I wanted to just yet in terms of landing a job to be independent, so I had to go back to my parents’ home in Long Island. And while I was there kind of had to shut everything down.
And then I got an opportunity and I decided to get a master’s in education. So I went to Hofstra and I became a hall director, which then allowed me to go outside the house and live at Hofstra.
While I was there pursuing that degree my dad got sick with cancer. He actually gets sick and passes. And in that moment as I’m preparing to graduate from Hofstra, I decided that I was going to tell my mother that I was gay. And in my mind I was thinking this was a good time because what could be any worse than losing daddy? She reacts… not good. She felt like it was another loss for her and she cut me out of her life.
Once I decided that I was going to be an out gay man, I wanted all the parts of my life to be equally represented.
So then I start working. I get a job as a teacher. Christmas approaches of that year and as most Italian families, the holidays are a big deal. I was like, how am I not spending a holiday with my mother?
So I called her up and I said, “Mom, this can’t be. The truth of the matter is I’m still gay and that’s still going to happen. And everything that comes along with it, but this can’t be.”
She kind of reluctantly agreed. And it was a little awkward at first. And then slowly as I dated people, I brought them for her to meet them. She was welcoming. She wasn’t overly welcoming, but she was welcoming and she was trying.
So I’m out to my mom. I’m going to Hofstra finishing my degree. And while I’m there, I’m still going out. And what I’m noticing is, yes, it’s fun and I’m having good time and I’m meeting people and I’m seeing what the community has to offer me. But I’m feeling that there’s … I’m just not completely connecting with just the nightlife part of it.
Where I teach I one day was in a copy room and this woman walked in. We were brand new teaching and we just started chatting and she happened to be the chorus teacher. And because of my love for theater we started talking about theater and music and she said, “Oh, are you doing any shows right now?” And I happened to be doing a show out on Long Island, which was pretty far out from where we were teaching.
And she’s like, “Oh, maybe we’ll come check it out.” That weekend I’m doing the show and lo and behold, they show up. Her and her husband show up and we started being incredibly tight. And then she has this knack till this day of always trying to recruit people to come to church, because not only is she the choir teacher at our school, she’s the minister of music at a church in Brooklyn.
And she was like, it’s a welcoming and affirming church. And I was reluctant at first and then skip ahead a couple years and they have twins and they very graciously honored me with the thought of being the godfather to their children. In that, I had to go to the church to christen them. And I started to meet some of the folks that were there. And I was like, Ohhhh. It’s not a completely gay church that you know that every couple or every person there is gay. It is completely mixed and heterogeneous. There are gay members, gay couples, gay families in the church, but not exclusively.
It was a black lesbian obviously giving the sermon. And she just had this way about her of bringing people in regardless. Not just gay folk, but just everyone. And I was kind of hooked then. And I decided to go start attending regularly. And I joined the choir at first. I decided to become a member of the church. I was a member for a little bit. And then someone asked me to become an elder of the church. And then I was asked to become the clerk of session, which is the body that governs the church.
This was that deeper level where your queerness resonates in a broader community. Once I decided that I was going to be an out gay man, I wanted all the parts of my life to be equally represented. I’m a son. I’m a gay man. I’m a teacher. I’m a Christian. In all of those things I’m a gay man. I don’t want to parcel out who I am at any one moment.
We’re a composite of many things and we are going to love your full self. We have to love each other for their full selves. And it’s just essential.