Friday, August 8, 2014

How Gay Are We: Leaving to Find Himself

Jack Hilovsky
Jack Hilovsky is coming home. He is returning to Cleveland to participate in the 2014 Gay Games one-mile open water swim at Edgewater Beach with his team, the Orcas. When he grew up here decades ago, Hilovsky felt he had to hide his sexual orientation. It wasn't until he moved that he felt able to come out.

Childhood: The Hilovskys, a family headed by older parents, simply didn’t speak about sex. Even as Hilovsky realized he was attracted to the male body, he felt lost. “I didn’t feel like, in the 1970s and 1980s when I was growing up in Cleveland as an adolescent teenager and college student, that there were any role models that I could relate to,” he says.

Sporting Life: When Hilovsky was growing up in Fairview Park and attending St. Ignatius, sports from baseball to tennis were a huge part of his life. His love for individual sports drew him to swimming and lifeguarding. “I was a pretty well-rounded kid, but felt like I never fit in any one group,” he says. “Even as an adult, that’s been more of an interesting way to be in life because I’m not easily pigeon-holed.”

Hiding in plain sight: After a secret relationship with a boy from another school, Hilovsky tried to hide his sexual orientation. He couldn’t see a way forward as a gay man. “I realized that I was going to be 18 and I didn’t see any future for myself continuing down this path,” he says. “I decided that I needed to somehow be straight.”

At John Carroll University, Hilosky continued his charade. “I joined a fraternity and tried to be this big man on campus, which was a bit of a joke in the sense that I was sort of running away from my reality,” he says. “But it was the early to mid-1980s. People in Cleveland, and many other places, weren’t really talking about gay civil rights and that were a variety of ways for people to come out and be.”

Departure: Hilovsky left Cleveland for Seattle, to volunteer as a client advocate against the AIDS epidemic with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. He worked with LGBT folks on a daily basis and saw the possibility of a different life. “I couldn’t see a way to be in the world until I came to Seattle,” he says. “[It was] a much more tolerant city.”

Coming out: Even as he struck up a relationship with a motorcycle-riding male sex educator, Hilovsky feared coming out to his mother and father. “I felt like it would be a major disappointment,” Hilovsky says. “I was their only child, their only son, and we were close.” 

In 1987, Hilovsky took the plunge. His parents were receptive, but never fully came to terms with his sexual orientation. “I think my parents struggled with the messages that had been fed to them in the society of their younger years,” he says. “They loved me as their son. I accepted that that was the best that they could do.”

Homecoming: “This is an amazing milestone, that Cleveland is hosting the Gay Games," he says. “I never imagined my own hometown would be doing that.”


Julianna Gulden said...

Welcome home, Jack. -- Julianna Gulden, JCU '86

Shannon Dolan said...

Jack, It's as if you've never left! We loved you then, we love you now! Welcome home old friend! Best of Luck in your Swim!
Shannon Dolan, Foster Pool '76-84, JCU '84

MaryAnne Grady Kelly said...

Jack, lost contact with you. Doing Genealogy on Grady family since retiring & just found this CLEVELAND MAGAZINE article online. So proud of you & all your accomplishments.

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