My whole life I’ve had dear friends and family that have associated as a part of the LGBT community and honestly I never fully understood the struggle that many of them had gone through. Then one day it all became clear to me. One of the most influential moments in my life was watching my younger brother go through the struggle of coming out. It’s odd because I’d always known something from the time we were little kids. Anyone who has a sibling can understand that they are an actual extension of your mind, body, and soul. It wasn’t that I knew he was gay, I didn’t even understand what that meant until I got older, I just knew he was different.  And what a beautiful different he is (swipe right for a peak of us as kiddos).

We’ve never really argued and luckily have always been close.  But when we were in our twenties I started to see a change in his demeanor. He was distant and angry. I knew deep down he was struggling to come out, I could see he was working through his emotions and journey and I had to be patient.  Even when he was distant, cold, sad, angry and a slew of other confused emotions I knew I needed to respect his timeline and truth.  I never asked him or told him what I thought but just waited as I knew someday when he knew and was ready he would come to me…because as one of my best friends for life I knew he couldn’t keep it a secret forever.  I couldn’t tell him what he was he needed to find out who he was.

It wasn’t until we sat down one day for dinner while he was in California for Navy training that he finally looked me in the eye and said, “I have something to tell you… I’m gay.”  In that moment I felt such an intense flood of emotions for him and the most important was pride.  Naturally I laughed and said “Duh, your cats are named Lauren & Ralph…you think I didn’t put that together…Ralph Lauren” (let’s be real no straight man would do that and if you have and are I’m sorry!).  We laughed and cried and shared a special moment, for the first time in a long time I saw hope in his eyes.  I never knew how severe his fear of loosing our family or acceptance was until that conversation, how he had been living two separate lives throughout medical school and how his biggest fear was if our father and family would disown him.

I felt a new found desire to protect him, much like when we were little and there were bullies at school telling us to go back to our own country and I would yell and threaten to fight them as they threw hot tar from a recently paved street at us, or when a kid slapped him and told him to get his black hands away from him and I only found out because of a friends sister going home crying about it as the teacher said and did nothing to protect him, I sat him down and made him talk to me about it and made him promise to tell our parents.  I protected him then and would again and always.  We come from a devout Catholic family and honestly even I didn’t think that strong foundation would hold through the coming months and years like it has.

From him graduating medical school, to being an active member of the US Navy, to then being able to officiate his wedding, to my amazing brother-in-law our family foundation grew stronger.  To say “I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through to get to here,” doesn’t seem like enough, I don’t think anything is.  But what I will say is…My Jimbo – I’m sorry you had to inherit my clarinet, for writing kiss my butt on your back, for making you dance with me at the school talent show in a sombrero, laughing at you when you puked on the continental divide (pic RIGHT after next to the telescope) and making you clean up after a rager I threw in high school.  Jimmy never complained and as these pics prove he always had a smile on his face…a smile that cannot only light up a room but my heart.

If you or someone you know is going through a struggle to come out know you are strong and you deserve to live the life you want to live, not behind a curtain, not as someone you are not but rather as your true self.  So during Pride month I always have a moment of reflection and smile as there really isn’t a word that could describe my feelings for my brothers’ journey any better than Pride.  Jimmy Hynes I am so proud of you!

Many brands and stores ​released exclusive pride collections in celebration of Pride month and some with proceeds to benefit the LGBT community and youth. Here are some of ​my favorites from this year:

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