Drew Cortez and Danny Cortez

Danny Cortez was the founder and pastor of the New Heart Community Southern Baptist Church in La Mirada, California, in 2014 when his 16-year-old son, Drew, told him that he was gay. Up until that time, Danny’s church would either recommend celibacy or reparative therapy—a widely discredited form of treatment that identifies homosexuality as a mental disorder with the goal of converting people to heterosexuality—to congregants who identified themselves as gay or lesbian.

Even before Drew’s coming out, Danny had slowly begun to reevaluate his views on homosexuality and whether he was doing more harm than good. When his neighbor invited him to visit the HIV clinic where he worked, Danny was introduced to a community of people he had not previously known much about. This began, for him, a gradual change of heart.

Years later, as he was driving Drew to school, “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis came on the radio. Danny liked it a lot but didn’t understand that it was a celebration of LGBT love. Drew, encouraged by his father’s affection for the song, then revealed to him that he was gay.

Realizing that they could no longer keep this secret from those they love, Drew posted a video online, and a week later, Danny delivered a sermon to his congregation about his changing views on homosexuality. As a result of the sermon, the Southern Baptist Convention cut ties with Danny’s church and his congregation split leading he and other members to form a separate LGBT inclusive, non-denominational church.

Danny and Drew came to StoryCorps to remember the sermon that changed their lives.

Originally aired on August 28, 2016, on NPR’s Weekend Edition

Doug Neville and Ryan Johnson

Doug Neville (left) and Ryan Johnson (right) met in 1986, shortly before Doug was diagnosed as HIV-positive.

At StoryCorps, they talk about their three decades of friendship and how Doug’s diagnosis has shaped their perspectives on life.

Originally aired December 21, 2014 on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday.

Samuel Taylor and Connie Casey

When he was 15 years old, Samuel Taylor came out to his mother, Connie Casey.

In an attempt to “fix” her son, Connie sent Samuel to a series of ex-gay conversion therapy ministries affiliated with Exodus International. Samuel was in therapy for three years.

Samuel, 22, came to StoryCorps with Connie to talk about his experience—and to hear about the evolution of her beliefs.

Originally aired June 28, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

This story was originally broadcast a few days after Exodus International folded and apologized for promoting reparative therapies. At the time of this broadcast, subjecting minors to conversion therapy remains legal in 45 states. 

John Curtis and John Wikiera

Homecoming_Dec1998John Curtis and his husband, David Wikiera (pictured at left), have two sons. The couple adopted their first child, also named John, from Vietnam when he was a baby.

At StoryCorps, John and his son, 11-year-old John, talk about the boy’s hopes for the future, and the father’s desire to be a parent.

Originally aired April 12, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Above: John and David arrive home from Vietnam with baby John in 1998. Photo courtesy of John Curtis.

Tracy Johnson and Sandra Johnson

North Carolina National Guardsman Tracy Johnson (left) is an Iraq war veteran and an Army widow. She is also believed to be the first gay spouse to lose her partner at war since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Donna Johnson was killed on Oct. 1, 2012, while on patrol in Khost, Afghanistan. She was 29.Tracy married her long-time partner, Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson, on Valentine’s Day in 2012. Later that year, Donna was killed by a suicide bomber while serving in Khost, Afghanistan. She was 29 years old.

The Army did not consider Tracy to be Donna’s next of kin, but when Army representatives arrived to inform Donna’s family of her death, Tracy presented their marriage certificate and asked to be part of the military escort that would welcome her wife back to U.S. soil. This request was ultimately granted at the insistence of her mother-in-law, Sandra Johnson (right).

At StoryCorps, Tracy and Sandra talk about finding out that their wife and daughter wasn’t coming home.

Originally aired February 16, 2013, on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday.

Above: Staff Sergeant Donna Johnson. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Public Affairs Office.

Michael Wilmoth and Bryan Wilmoth

Bryan Wilmoth (right) and his seven younger siblings were raised in a strict, religious household. When Bryan’s father found a love letter from a man in his box of things, he drove him into the countryside and dropped him off in the middle of the night with a five dollar bill.

All of the siblings at Bryan and Michael's sister's wedding in June 2007. From left: Jude, Mike, Pam, Bryan, Amy, Curtis (groom), Chris, Luke-Henry and Josh.Over the years, all of Bryan’s siblings either ran away from or were kicked out of their family home. He made efforts to reconnect with them, but many were initially resistant, so it took a long time for their relationships to grow.

At StoryCorps, Bryan and his brother Michael (left) recall how their family grew close.

Click here to watch “A Good Man,” a StoryCorps animation of Bryan and Michael’s conversation.

Originally aired January 25, 2013, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Above: The Wilmoth siblings at Bryan and Michael’s sister’s wedding in June 2007. From left: Jude, Mike, Pam, Bryan, Amy, Curtis (groom), Chris, Luke-Henry, and Josh.

Denny Meyer

When Denny Meyer enlisted in the Navy in 1968, he had to hide the fact that he was gay.

At the time, homosexuality wasn’t tolerated in the Navy and anyone found to be gay would be discharged from service.

At StoryCorps, Meyer recalled what it was like to be gay and a sailor in those days.

Originally aired June 22, 2012, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Nathan Hoskins and Sally Evans

Nathan Hoskins knew from an early age that he was gay, but growing up in rural Kentucky in a family that did not tolerate homosexuality, he learned to keep it a secret.

At StoryCorps, he tells his friend Sally Evans a harrowing story of just how dangerous life was for him.

Originally aired January 13, 2012, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

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