No matter where you grew up, it wasn’t easy being out in the 1950s or ‘60s. Back then, being gay was still classified as a mental illness, and that wouldn’t change until 1973.

Kids who identified as LGBTQ were often isolated and afraid to come out — and many still are. But in this episode of the StoryCorps podcast, we’ll hear about role models who helped two kids feel comfortable in their own skin.

Our first story comes from Alexei Romanoff, who grew up in New York City. Alexei sat down for StoryCorps with his husband, David Farah, to remember someone who made a big difference in his life: an older gay man he called “Mother Bryant.”


Like Alexei, for years, Dee Westenhauser also felt like she couldn’t be herself. As a transgender woman growing up in El Paso, Texas, Dee felt misunderstood by almost everyone around her, except for one person: Dee’s beloved Aunt Yaya.


Top photo: Artwork by Michael Caines.
Middle photo: David Farah and Alexei Romanoff at their StoryCorps interview in Los Angeles, CA. By Jill Glaser.
Bottom photo: Dee Westenhauser and Martha Gonzalez at their StoryCorps interview in El Paso, TX. By Nicolas Cadena. 

Released on May 28, 2019.

Like the music in this episode? Support the artists:
“Overture” by Patrick Wolf from the album Sundark and Riverlight
“City Limits” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Albany, NY
“Filing Away” by Blue Dot Sessions from the album Crab Shack
“Paloma” by Fabian Almazan and Linda Oh