John A. Pérez delivered a candid Thanksgiving Day video message today in which he describes coming out to his parents as a gay young man around one Thanksgiving Day and repeats the message that "it gets better" for gays and lesbians dealing with discrimination over their sexual orientation.
Pérez's video was part of a national effort sparked by sex columnist Dan Savage in which thousands of people have recorded videos describing their experiences of being gay, including the discrimination they suffered because of their sexual orientation and how they came out. The videos usually include the phrase "It gets better." The campaign follows news that several young people committed suicides after being harassed over their sexual orientation.
Pérez, California's first openly gay legislative leader, says in his video that he came out in college when he fell in love with a fellow student.
"Thanksgiving is a special holiday for me, because that's when I decided to come out to my family," Pérez says. "I was in college and coming home for the Thanksgiving break. I'd known for a while that I was gay. But growing up in a very traditional community on the east side of L.A. meant that coming out would make my life difficult and possibly dangerous."
Pérez says his parents at first cried when he told them the news but then accepted him.
"They showed me that I could be free to love and be loved by whomever I chose," Pérez says. "Not all of us are that lucky."
He ends his message with encouragement for young people struggling to cope with their sexual identities.
"When I was a teenager, I never thought I'd be able to live a successful and happy life as an openly gay man," Pérez says. "And now I have the privilege of serving in one of the top positions in California government. It got better for me, and I know with absolute certainty that it will get better for you too."