When Jason was 14 years old, he was a foreign exchange student in Ecuador. After befriending a native, they quickly developed a bond with each other. Before long, that bond lead to an unexpected, romantic, and incredibly meaningful kiss. Jason remembers:
[H]e just grabbed me and grabbed the back of my head and full on kissed me on the mouth and I think that may have been one of my very first kisses too. And so my head was just awash I didn’t know what to do. That might have been one of the moments that changed my life and made me decide that it was okay for me to be gay, because I wasn’t going to be anything else.
Continue Reading for to watch Jason’s story and for the transcript.
y name is Jason, I’m originally from Burlington, Wisconson and I live in Louisville, Kentucky now.
When I was 14 I was a foreign exchange student. I went to South America, to Ecuador and I made a very good friend there. He was going to be the exchange student to the United States and so the coordinator in the town that I was in introduced the two of us. He ended up being a pseudo-romantic relationship, but not really pseudo. It was a romantic relationship, probably the first in my life. He knew a little English, and he knew a little Spanish so it was kinda playing off of each other, learning language, and that’s kinda how the bond was built. I had no idea about their culture or what to do, or how to go into a store and order something, so for quite some time I pretty much had to have him on my arm.
In South America there is this concept of machismo, you can be gay, you just don’t talk about it. If you’re gay, you need to keep it to yourself or it can get you killed, that’s pretty much how they worded it. You know, at 14… it scared me. It just kinda happened very naturally, it’s very accepted for guys to be best friends and walk arm in arm and hand in hand. So nobody picked up on the fact that once we got to his house we would go up on the roof and kiss and you know, hold each other.
I remember specifically the very first time that we kissed. He was walking me home and we were walking down this hill, arm in arm. He like stopped me and grabbed me by my shoulders and looked me in the eyes, and at that point I didn’t realize that he was attracted to me… I was attracted to him but I wasn’t going to act on it because I didn’t want him to beat me up, you know? And he just grabbed me and grabbed the back of my head and full on kissed me on the mouth and I think that may have been one of my very first kisses too. And so my head was just awash I didn’t know what to do. That might have been one of the moments that changed my life and made me decide that it was okay for me to be gay, because I wasn’t going to be anything else. I could pretend but what’s the point of that. He would talk to me about what it’s like in the United States, you know because there he had to hide himself and I think through talking to him it made me realize the gift that I have growing up in a country where I can be whoever I want to be. I don’t have to hide. It’s not outside of our culture for me to be an openly gay man. Because from the point when I came back from South America, I’ve been out most of my life as an openly gay man. I think if it wasn’t for that experience and experiencing the semi-repressive culture, I don’t think that I would have ever had that shift in my mentality to know that it was okay.