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13 Emotional And Inspiring Coming-Out Stories

"I put a Lady Gaga playlist in the background for encouragement."

Posted on June 1, 2017, at 10:51 a.m. ET

Photographer Alejandro Ibarra's portrait series Coming Out Stories shares the emotional stories of how people came out to their loved ones. During studio sessions, Ibarra photographs his subjects, then asks them to write about their experiences right on the photos.

1. Leo, now 25, came out at 18.

Alejandro Ibarra

"I never planned on coming out. But after my friend kissed me, I knew I wanted to feel that passion again."

BuzzFeed News spoke with Ibarra about what this project means to him and why he started it:

"I was out drinking one night with some friends and a friend was telling me about how he had recently come out to his family. Then I told him my story, and I noticed that even though we had completely different experiences, they were somehow very relatable.

"I really wanted to make a project in which I could give the members of the community a platform on which they could express themselves. It's my hope this project can do that for people the same way shows like Glee helped me come out. For people who don’t identify as LGBTQ+, my hope is that they can sympathize with the stories, and become allies of the community if they aren’t already.

"I think most people, if not everyone, desire to feel accepted, respected, loved, and have the freedom to love and express who they are, no matter what they identify as. I think the stories in this project touch on all of these things. Unfortunately, there are many people who are struggling to come out because of the consequences that can have on their environment (work, family, etc.) — who need to feel heard and to feel some kind of support and empowerment."

2. Cole, now 24, came out at 17.

Alejandro Ibarra

"Two weeks after I came out to my dad, he set me up with my first girlfriend."

3. Jose Jorge, now 27, came out at 17.

Alejandro Ibarra

"My mom jokingly asked me if I liked girls. I said no."

4. Alex, age 30, came out at 21.

Alejandro Ibarra

"My brother outed me to my family after going through my phone and reading the messages between my 'best friend' and I."

5. Diego, now 25, came out at 16.

Alejandro Ibarra

"I put a Lady Gaga playlist in the background for encouragement."

6. Diana, now 31, came out at age 22.

Alejandro Ibarra

"The first person I told was my closest friend and she walked away."

7. Gerardo, now 26, came out at 22.

Alejandro Ibarra

"One morning, my mom overheard me playing 'Reflection' from Mulan on the piano. As soon as I finished, she started crying and said, 'You know I love you, whether you like boys or girls, right?'"

8. Moises Omar, now 28, came out at 17.

Alejandro Ibarra

"I never officially came out. I was always just me."

9. Aaron, now 32, came out at 31.

Alejandro Ibarra

"My parents' first concern: What about red-headed grandchildren?"

10. Jaimie, now 40, came out at 20.

Alejandro Ibarra

"The last night I lived at home, my mother gave me a going away gift: a gay travel guide."

11. Michael, now 31, came out at 15.

Alejandro Ibarra

"My grandmother offered me every penny she had to get me 'help.' I told her to keep her money. I'm not broken. I don't need to be fixed."

12. Assaad, now 26, came out at 20.

Alejandro Ibarra

"I never got to tell people. They told me."

13. Bart, now 45 — came out at 21.

Alejandro Ibarra

"I felt rejected by my own parents, but I remember my Aunt Natalie making me feel safe."

See more of Alejandro Ibarra's work by checking out his website at

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.