For nearly 15 years of my life, I was a gamer. From the time I turned 11 until I turned 25 on the road to Portland, I played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and loved it! Seriously, I loved it.
The group of guys that I played with was in it for storytelling and adventure. One of my greatest concerns about being gay and hiding it (aside from my parents finding out) was the fear of losing my gaming friends. We played two- to three-year-long campaigns. The cast of players were my close friends: Tim, Mike, Brian, and the Daves. We spent 10 to 20 hours a week co-creating a story through role-playing. In one game, I played a Brownie who lost his arms and legs, thus becoming a Brownie lump. During another game, I watched my friend Mike carve his character Angus' name into our gaming table, only to have us discover that he misspelled it "Angs." I was the Dungeon Master who would play music to set a mood for whatever scene we were encountering. We built our own gaming table because we got so into the gaming experience. That's like a level-six gaming geek thing to do, "name level" as they say. It was geektastic! To lose this group of wonderfully funny and ingenious characters would have crippled my heart.
One by one, over the course of a year, I told them I was gay. One by one, they were totally fine with it. I just about peed myself with each one: Mike, then Dave #1, Tim, then Dave #2, and Brian (who bitched at me for not telling him and having to hear it through the grapevine). The awesome thing was that these guys didn't miss a beat. It was accepted without question, and the games just got better from there. This is what gave me the confidence to DM. Our adventures covered four continents and three planes of existence in the Forgotten Realms. We killed a host of creatures and baddies while collecting some amazing treasure—like an impregnable magic cube that housed the characters in an enchanted mansion with unseen servants. To this day, I am still in touch and friends with all of them. To this day, I measure many a person against this heroic band of miscreants whose sincerity, humor, and kindness saw me through a time that could have been very sour.