I’m From Morton Grove, IL.

by Karlis Streips

State Satellite overhead image from Google Earth 2022

Sometimes it’s not only going to get better, sometimes it’s okay right from the start. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in the 1960s, and I knew from a very young age that mine was same-sex attraction. When I was 11 or 12, I read the dreadful “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask,” which suggested that gay men are pathetic creatures who spend all of their time in public bathrooms. I knew that was not me, but I knew that I was what I learned was described with the word “gay.”

When I came out to my parents at age 16, they did not dance a jig, but they also did not weep. My father had a PhD in chemistry, and my mother had an MA in the fine arts. They were both highly educated, I think that was important in their acceptance, and in my mother’s case, I was certainly not the first gay she had ever met in her life. I never thought I was sick. I never thought I was the only one (even though all through high school I never did find another one, though I know they were there). I was enormously fortunate. I know that.

There is one concrete aspect to my coming out, though. I was the first openly gay American Latvian. There was some muttering in Latvian newspapers when this fact came to light (one church newsletter headlined a story about me with the words “Falling Out of the Latvian Cradle”). Then I moved to Latvia, which is my family’s Old Country, and for quite awhile I was the only well known (I’m a radio and television person) openly gay person here. In other words, to cite “Little Britain,” I was the only gay in the village … twice. But it’s never been bad, it’s never ever been bad, not even when people write nasty things about me on the Internet. I don’t care, rank bigotry is their problem and not mine. And so I say: If it needs to get better for you, then I hope (and am sure) that it will get better. Escaping teenhood helps. But if you’re like me, and it’s never been bad in the first place — kudos! That happens, too.

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