Lack of a Gay Identity
Augusten Burroughs was born Christopher Richter Robison in Pittsburgh, PA on October 23, 1965 and raised in Western Massachusetts. Augusten's parents struggled with alcoholism and mental illness and they separated when he was twelve. Augusten stopped attending school and his parents' longtime psychiatrist became his legal guardian. At seventeen, he moved to the Boston area and graduated from Control Data Institute with a diploma in Computer Programming and System's Analysis and Design but never worked in the technology industry. Instead he moved to San Francisco and at 19 became the youngest copywriter in the city. His work attracted national acclaim and in 1989 he was invited by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, to work on their flagship American Express account. Augusten found great success in the Manhattan advertising community, eventually working for many of the top agencies where he created global ad campaigns for worldwide brands. Almost eighteen years after accepting his first advertising job, Augusten left the industry to pursue a career as an author. Two years later, his 2002 memoir, Running with Scissors, became a publishing phenomenon, spending over three consecutive years on the NYT bestseller list. It was made into a movie starring Annette Bening and Alec Baldwin. All of Augusten's subsequent books — Dry, Magical Thinking, Possible Side Effects, A Wolf at the Table, You Better Not Cry & This is How — were instant NYT bestsellers. In 2013, Augusten married his literary agent and best friend, Christopher Schelling, received a Lambda Literary Award, and was honored with a Doctorate of Letters from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Augusten is also a self-taught gemologist with a special interest in jade. He collects and sells vintage and estate jewelry, photographs people, and recently directed his first music video. Augusten and his husband Christopher live in a 200 year old house in rural Connecticut with their three dogs.
Augusten Burroughs: I’ve always known that I was attracted to guys, to people of the same sex, since I was a little kid and I was raised without any religion. As a matter of fact, I used to get Jesus and Santa confused when I was a child. So I was raised without religion and I didn’t go to school. I didn’t go to high school. I didn’t go to junior high school for any length of time. And then at a very early age I was plunged in to this extraordinary living situation when I was- when my mother gave me to her psychiatrist and his family to live. So my sexual orientation was nothing I ever questioned or struggled with or thought about; I’m right handed and it’s just a fact so being gay was exactly the same thing; it was just a fact.
And it’s always been like that for me in my career and all my life. It’s never been something I struggled with. I’ve been asked and I’ve actually been criticized by some people in the- who have misinterpreted.
When asked by the gay press, “Are you proud to be gay?”, I have often replied, “I’m not proud because I haven’t accomplished anything. If I had been the child of evangelical Christian parents, I’d be damn proud. If I had worked for my identity, I would be proud but I never--What did I do? I’m proud of the gay and lesbian people who came before me and made it possible for me to take it for granted but I myself haven’t really- haven’t struggled and overcome anything.” I’m not proud of being right handed. Now at the same time would I change and be straight if I could? Never. Never.
No interest and would never do it, never do it, so I’m really happy this way but it’s not like I accomplished something; I took a driver’s test and passed. I was just born knowing how to drive.
Recorded on: April 30, 2008.
The writer gives thanks to those who have made it easier to be gay today.
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