Many LGBTQ people have hilariously scary first crushes. This pop star is one of them.

I remember when I first realized, in straight-up gay horror, that I was different. Sitting by myself in a barber shop lounge, bored and fidgety, I'd reached for a Sports Illustrated (because Vogue and Vanity Fair were for girls, duh) and started flipping through while dad finished getting his hair trimmed.

Then, I landed on a spread that changed my life: an advertisement for underwear. Men’s underwear.

And I felt … lots of things.



Now, as an openly gay 29-year-old, that memory is pretty damn funny. Little gay me, feeling little gay stuff for the first time staring at a Sports Illustrated — in a barber shop lounge, of all places. The sit-com storyline writes itself.


But at the time, it was terrifying! I felt confused, worried — even a little disgusted with myself. Why was I feeling these weird, awful feelings? And how in the world can I make them stop?

Many LGBTQ people can relate to the confusing horrors of those first crushes — when you first discover you're different. Pop star Troye Sivan is one of them.

Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Spotify.

The 22-year-old Australian recently opened up to Attitude about the traumatic experience he'd had fawning over a celebrity of the same gender.

"I remember I cried when I realized that I thought Zac Efron was really hot," Sivan explained. "I cried and felt really sick."

"It wasn't, 'This is just a little crush on a boy,' or something like that," he continued. "'I'm not just interested in this boy, I think that he's hot.' And that was weird for me."

Photo by Caroline McCredie/Getty Images.

Sivan and I aren't alone: Petrifying puppy love can definitely be a thing for queer kids.

I texted a few of my gay friends to see if any of them had their own "barber shop" moment growing up, and most of them immediately shared an equally vivid memory.

For one of them, it was a famous actor's ... assets that did the trick.

"Pierce Brosnan's butt in 'The Thomas Crown Affair,'" read my friend's suspiciously fast reply. He'd really enjoyed the sight, apparently, and remembers thinking afterward that "that wasn't right."

Another friend also had the glossy, retouched pages of a magazine to blame for their disorienting "aha" moment.

Oh, boy. Image via the author.

Another was mortified to learn he wasn't envious of the taller guys at his all-boys high school — he wanted to date them. "I started realizing I'm not jealous, I'm attracted," he wrote back, adding "lol" and a shrugging emoji.

Even my editor, who approved my writing this story, had her own scary first-crush experience: "No lie, mine was Miss Honey," she said. "I crushed on Miss Honey from the movie 'Matilda.'"

These first-crush experiences are hilarious to revisit as more confident LGBTQ adults. But it's worth remembering how scared we were first feeling them all those years ago.

Living in a world still unwelcoming to LGBTQ people in many ways, closeted queer kids are more prone to a handful of serious mental health concerns, like depression and anxiety disorders.

Tragically, young LGBTQ people are far more likely to attempt suicide than their straight, cisgender peers too. They also make up a disproportionate number of homeless youth, with parental rejection being a driving force behind the discrepancy.

Adults need to get better at creating a world where every LGBTQ kid can have their first queer crushes — guilt-free and shamelessly.

Fortunately for Sivan, it all worked out pretty well.

"I ... started doing my research; that was when I started to become a lot more comfortable [with being queer]," the pop star explained to Attitude. "I watched coming out videos on YouTube and heard people speaking about their experiences and realized that I wasn’t a freak."

I wish I could tell little gay me in that barber shop that I wasn't either.

If you're a young LGBTQ person struggling with your sexuality or gender identity, friends at The Trevor Project can help.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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This article originally appeared on 03.19.15


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