Me for The Gay Men Project. Alternatively titled “Why my house looks like a giant Tumblr.” Thanks a bunch, Kevin Truong. You’re a sweetheart.

“I don’t think being gay means you need to be political, but I do think it means you need to be brave. I believe that confidence—the way you daily conquer things—is an example and point of reference to friends, co-workers, lovers, friends, and kids that don’t otherwise have a resource to see that.

Junot Diaz has this great quote from a talk he gave in Jersey. “You guys know about vampires?” He asks. “You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, ‘Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?’ And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might seem themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.”

Growing up in white bread Chicago suburbia, I felt like a vampire. I never saw gay parents, or dudes wearing short shorts, or action TV series with queer protagonists. The greatest challenge was, and still is, finding everyday gay heroes to learn from or aspire to. And so I guess I’ve made it my mantra as a writer and as a person to seek out those heroes and to create the reflections I never saw when I was 10, sitting in my room peeling through Greek Mythology books, praying that I’d find a gay romance, a dude rescuing a dude in distress, any fleck of something that proved to me that one day I could save the day or conquer something. I wanted the gay guy to pick up the sword, I guess.

The day I came out to my parents (I was 18?) I had packed a bag. I’d brought my escape kit to the Art Institute where I would spend the day and thereafter, run away forever and live in my boyfriend’s ex-boyfriend’s guest bedroom for as long as possible until I figured out where to go from there. And I mean, yeah, wow, I was a manic and dumb kid in high school. But I think part of what I was feeling was unprepared and ill-equipped. I had no weapon.

The year I moved to New York was the best year of my life, and so much of that has to do with the gay companionship I’ve found here and will continue to find here. I’ve built some pretty terrible relationships in my day and escaping those ghosts had everything to do with knowing new gay men who scarcely accept less than they deserve. I work for a gay magazine called Hello Mr. that creates this kinda ineffable bond between gay men. It’s been a commonplace for key friendships, and I guess put up those mirrors I’d been aching for as a kid—the reflections of everyday heroes I could one day know or love or become.

Kinda wish I could send a tweet from the future into the past saying “@fransquishco! You’re going to be okay! You have gay friends! Parts of your heart are growing back!” But I guess since I can’t do that, the next best thing is writing for kids like me, little reassurances and mirrors. Or at least that’s the goal.

And I’m still looking for gay friends! Be friends with me! I’m big on picnics and any place where they serve you coffee in a ceramic mug.”

Follow Francisco on Twitter, @fransquishco, and Instagram, fransquishco.