June is Pride month, a chance to celebrate self respect, love and the assertion that, as a gay man or woman, you have the right to exist as you are without justifying your happiness to anyone else. It’s a month, a weekend, a parade of freedom and celebration. These coming-out stories offer a glimpse at what it can mean to come out of the closet as an African American, before the nation elected its first black president, when Oval Office support for marriage equality was a mirage on the horizon. Here is 33-year-old Don Henderson’s story.

Don Henderson (Jabin Botsford/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

I said, “You can ask me anything.”

He said, “Are you sure?”

I said, “Yes, I’m sure.”

He said, “Well, the family’s been talking,” and I just cut him off. He’s like, “I didn’t finish.”

And I said, “I know the question that you want to ask me. You want to know if I like men or I like women. And I like them both, and currently, I’m in a relationship with a guy. We’ve been dating for a year. We live together and we’re in love.”

I just went on and on and on.

He said, “Well, okay. Thank you, son, you’ve told me more than enough.” When I told him we’re in love and we’ve been together for a year and I feel like it’s going to last for a while. And then he told me he would not be ashamed to walk down the street with the two of us holding hands and I told him I didn’t care if he was ashamed because this is my life.

I felt that way because I take care of myself. I’m independent. I’ve never been one to care what others thought, because I’m going to do what I want to do regardless.

That was me coming out to him, and basically coming out to my whole family because when I talked to my grandmother a couple of days later, she said, “You know your father told the entire family you’re gay?” and I was like, “I don’t care.”

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