In my teens, I “came out,” and it was a truly liberating experience. I soon got to know other gay people, and I saw many of them struggle, especially those dealing with a religious background. Many of them were consumed with worry about what “society” or their parents—or “God”—would think of them.

I avoided this struggle almost entirely. In many ways, I was lucky. My parents were indifferent to religion and never tried to push it on me. When I announced in the fourth grade that I was an atheist, they were not horrified. They gave me the option to attend Hebrew school and have a bar mitzvah, and I opted out. My parents also were unusually forward thinking in sexual matters. I’m the only person of my generation I know whose “sex talk” started off with “when you grow up and fall in love with a woman or a man . . .” In retrospect, my parents obviously had more than an inkling about my sexuality. In any case, the fact that they presented same-sex love as just another option in the 1970s is pretty remarkable.

In addition to their understanding and support, my parents armed me (perhaps inadvertently) with a powerful tool that helped me to defuse the kinds of worries that often torment young gay people.

When I was twelve, my mother gave me Anthem, a dystopian novella by Ayn Rand, set in a society where the word “I” had been banished and was no longer used or even known. Although I didn’t entirely understand the message of the book, I was intrigued. I liked what it had to say about the importance of individualism enough to pick up, at age thirteen, the longest book I had ever read: Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. . . .


1. Ayn Rand, “About the Author,” in Atlas Shrugged (New York: Signet, 1957), 1090.

2. Ayn Rand, “Of Living Death,” in The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought (New York: Meridian, 1990), 54.

3. Ayn Rand, “Racism,” in The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1961), 150.

4. Ayn Rand, “The Moratorium on Brains Q&A,” Ford Hall Forum, 1971,

5. “Intersectionality,” Wikipedia, (accessed July 25, 2019).

6. Until recently, cisgender was a little-used scientific term for those whose gender identity is congruent with their sex (i.e., the vast majority of humanity) as opposed to people who are transgender.

7. “#WalkAway Campaign,” (accessed July 22, 2019).

8. “Our Mission,” (accessed July 22, 2019).

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