Flight attendant AJ DeDiego opens up about the fear of coming out and the difficulties he has with the gay scene!
As most of you know, thumbing through Instagram is what gay guys love to do most of all. After all, its awash with eye-popping images of sexy guys who seem only too keen to show off what God gave them. And who are we to complain, eh? Not us! Cos we thirsty rascals are too busy bashing that ‘like’ symbol or desperately dreaming up a flirty quip to slip into their DMs before we chicken out.
Of course, some guys are so insanely ‘insta perfect’, complete with bulging muscles, pulsating veins and that braindead, blue-steel constipation look that there’s no way in hell we’d go anywhere near them.
Luckily, not all cute insta hunks are self obsessed exhibitionists. Some fellas are actually refreshingly humble guys who acknowledge that while they may have been blessed aesthetically they don’t actually view the world in superficial terms.
Meet the gorgeous AJ DeDiego, a 26 year old furloughed flight attendant from Georgia who has a much healthier outlook on life than his online peers. “Body image plays way too big a role in our community, because as much as people will deny the fact, fit bodies have always been the focus,” he tells GuysLikeU.com from his home in Atlanta. “It doesn’t matter how accepting or open minded a person claims to be, if you ask them what their type is, nine times out of ten, they’ll speak about physicality before they speak about emotions. I am definitely guilty of this, but have learned that I would never be satisfied if all I cared about was appearance, which is exactly why I stopped even considering it when I started dating again.”
Dating again, we hear you cry! Well, sorry, boys, don’t get too excited. You see, AJ is sadly no longer on the market as he’s currently paired up with a gorgeous ginger scrumster who goes by the name of Patrick. But never mind, you can still enjoy the dashing dandy as he whips up a storm in his lockdown kitchen on his Insta feed and brand new YouTube channel. You see, since he was grounded by Covid 19, the talented chap has been busy whipping up delicious delights for us all to feast on to keep his mind busy. And gays, girls and everyone else are loving it as he whips up a selection of tasty dishes wearing nothing but a pec-skimming apron. The rascal!
Here, AJ opens up about why it took him some time to finally come out, how his life was thrown into turmoil when his mother remarried and the difficulties he occasionally has with the gay community.
AJ, tell us about what family life was like when you were growing up…
I grew up in a close-knit family. I have three older sisters, so I’m the youngest and the only boy. My sisters always got into fights and I just sat and watched, which was always fun for me. We went to church every Sunday because my mom was pretty religious, however we were never strict or super committed to it. I was always a mama’s boy and remember getting so upset if she was even 10 minutes late picking me up from school. Once I was in middle school, my parents divorced which was very tough.
Wow. What kind of little boy were you?
As a child I had a very active imagination and loved building rollercoasters with K’nex sets. I took piano lessons in elementary school and had a lot of feminine influence since I grew up with three older sisters. I loved Britney Spears and the Spice Girls because that’s what my sisters listened to. I had tons of female friends growing up even though my dad put me through boy scouts, which I initially liked. However, I grew to hate it because – let’s face it – I just didn’t want to go camping. I was scared of bugs and anything that could hurt me in the woods, so much so that there was one night at summer camp that I was awake the entire night with a flashlight making sure no spiders were coming in my tent.
Awwww, bless you! So when did you realise you were gay?
I started to find guys attractive probably in junior year of high school, but I thought it was just a phase that I would grow out of, so I tried having girlfriends just to further prove to myself that I was “normal”.
What made you fight these feelings?
I was in denial but as time went on, I suspected that I might be different because aside from my hormones going crazy with my peak years of puberty, I found myself very sexually attracted to a number of guys I went to high school with.. Then when senior year came around, I knew it wasn’t a phase and told myself I was bisexual. This way there was the possibility of me still marrying a woman and not disappointing my family.
Why were you worried about your family?
I thought my family wouldn’t accept, it, especially my dad. They had made comments or remarks against LGBT people that had me very worried to ever tell them. I knew my dad wouldn’t be comfortable with it, and I was very unsure about how my mom would take it. I rely so heavily on my parents that I would do anything to keep them as a part of my life.
So who were you able to tell first?
I told most of my friends senior year of high school, but the first family member I told was my sister Christina. The only reason I told her was because I was at my dad’s house while he was out of town and she came over and saw hickies all over my neck. She kept asking me what ‘her’ name was, and I didn’t say anything. I eventually just muttered ‘it was a guy’. She then told me ‘it’s ok AJ I’ve known for a while’ and I was just shocked that she hadn’t said something before because I went to such great efforts to hide it.
So when did you brave it and tell your mum and dad?
When it comes to the family as a whole, it was a long work in progress. I didn’t tell my mom until I was 19 and was visiting her in the Outer Banks one summer. I told her I was bi and she wasn’t really upset, just shocked, and then had all these questions about what I had done with guys and if I still liked girls. Over time, my mom and sister Christina have become easily the most accepting and open-minded people I have ever known, and I have never since been afraid to just be myself around them.
And your dad?
My dad was the person I feared the most because I relied on him financially for a very long time and was scared he may not support me. My uncle on my dad’s side is also gay, and one night he and I had a long chat about the family dynamic and how my dad’s side felt about this sort of situation. My uncle married a woman purely to cover up the fact that he was gay, and the wife even knew about it. She agreed to help him because at the time, and given his family and place, being gay wasn’t openly accepted. He told me that on his wedding day, my grandfather put his hand on his shoulder and whispered in his ear, “just do what you need to do”. He knew the whole time, without ever having a formal conversation about it. My uncle told me that dad is a like a clone of my grandfather in the sense that I will never need to sit down and have the conversation with my dad.
Wow, that must have felt good to know.
To this day, I have never said the words I’m gay to my dad, because since that conversation with my uncle, I knew I never had to.
Has your relationship changed over the years?
In recent years, I’ve acted more and more like my true self around, and my relationship has only gotten stronger. My dad turns out to be a very understanding person who has his points of view, just as we all do, and sometimes I consider his comfort and happiness so that I can feel happy too.
Has he met guys who have come into your life?
I have brought two boyfriends of mine to my dad’s house before and was surprised that he treated us so well. I know he’ll never treat me poorly because he doesn’t have it in him to treat one of his own children disrespectfully, which is something I admire to very much about him. My other sister’s took time to eventually become comfortable, but now, they treat it like normal life, and even told me I could bring dates to their weddings. Now, I could not be happier to say that I am extremely close with everyone my family just being me and knowing they accept it.
That’s great! All’s well that ends well, eh? What was school like?
Life at school really wasn’t bad. I had friends, not tons of them, but I liked hanging out with the friends I had because we always had a good time. I was in band in both middle and high school so most of my friends were band people. We were like a family and it was very comforting because many of them were in the closet too, so we went through this together. I luckily was never bullied which to this day I am still very grateful for, knowing how much it occurs and how powerless it can leave you feeling.
So you kept your sexuality quiet then?
I hid my sexuality at school around the people I feared would judge me, but with my friends, I didn’t have to hide anything. They all supported it, and like I said, many of them were going through the same thing. The town I lived in was religious but not extremely so, but I do recall many of my friends saying their parents would have been very upset if their child turned out gay.
You mentioned during school, your mum divorced your father.
Yes, my mom remarried a closet alcoholic who tore my family apart and I quickly had to rely on myself for emotional support and strength. This is when I started becoming passionate about food and cooking because it provided comfort in a dark time in my life.
When I was in high school my sisters stopped talking to mum because of who she married. I suffered from depression, mainly because I felt like I didn’t have one family anymore. Everyone was split up and not talking, so I felt very alone. This is when I started keeping a journal, and baking, to give myself something to look forward and be proud of so that I could forget about what was going on every day. This is how I dealt with it for many years until my family eventually started growing back together.
So when did you finally let the world now that you were gay?
I was in college when I came out properly, however I did not feel like I was part of the community and scene until I turned 21 and started going out to clubs and bars. The gay community was certainly fun, but over the years, I feel like it’s a total mess as so many people have different opinions and smaller groups of people who define community in their own way. I at least felt like I belonged, because there were so many others I could talk to.
When you were happy and out did you go on the hunt for love?
I would definitely say looking for love was always a priority for me. Even in my reckless days of partying until 6am and hooking up with people, the one thing I always wanted was to be with someone. I just found myself constantly disappointed by the people I tried dating. Sadly, their idea of dating or their priorities just didn’t match up with the type of person, I saw myself with. So for a while, I would jump from one person to the next and find myself over them within a couple weeks, because I just wasn’t drawn to them or I didn’t feel anything keeping me there.
So you were finding it hard to pin down Mr Right.
For a while, I stopped dating altogether after my first significant relationship ended. This is when I would say I was part of the ‘in crowd’ partying every weekend with the same large group of people who valued a gym more than they valued a relationship. The superficial nature of so many people in our community disappoints me to this day, but like I say, everyone has their own idea of how they can be happy, and if that’s their way. I will say nothing bad about it.
You’re dating a super cute guy called Patrick. Do you consider yourself to be a good boyfriend?
I am the kind of boyfriend who cares very deeply about the happiness and well-being of whoever I am with. I really am not happy unless my boyfriend is, because to me, you can’t expect to last a long time if you don’t know how to make each other happy, even on your worst days.
And what do you look for in a guy?
I have always looked for someone who not only knows how to commit to me and his own life, but I also really want him to be himself and not feel like he needs to put on a show around his friends to seem cool. I have never valued looks or anything physical over the emotional aspects of a person, because in the long run, happiness comes first, and happiness is definitely more complex than just a set of muscles.
Good to hear!
In my opinion, being with someone isn’t just about sex, or only about commitment, or companionship, it’s about all of them combined and balancing all of it. I do think sex is important in a relationship, especially considering I am a monogamy-oriented person. I know many couples who are open or polygamous and while I don’t look down on that, I do feel a little sad when people say that sex is just sex and shouldn’t matter that much, justifying them to play around with other people.
That’s an interesting view of it. Do you know many guys who live like that?
Many of my friends currently do this and I will always support what my friends do and how they want to define their own relationships, because I believe that there isn’t one definition of a relationship. There are many types that everyone defines in their own ways, catering to their own personal lives and making them happy. Everyone deserves to be happy, so I will always believe that each relationship is different and can be defined however the person sees fit.
Do you think a lot of people view relationships as a way of completing themselves?
I think a lot of us search for that person who brings out the best in us. We all have insecurities and things we’d change, but when you find that person, those things go away, because that person tells you on a daily basis how special you are.I think if you can’t embrace yourself, you can’t expect to be happy in a relationship. You need to know yourself and what you want and what makes you happy before you can expect to make someone else happy. If you don’t know what you want, how do you expect to even find the right person for you?
You’re a good looking guy – do you think they have opened doors for you?
I will admit that they have, because as much as I hate to admit it, especially with social media, people pay attention to things they enjoy looking at. This can really go to people’s head and create a false sense of reality, making them feel like you have to look a certain way to be accepted or to get attention. Let’s face it, we all want attention in some way or another, but when you see a guy with killer abs getting thousands of likes on a picture, and you post a picture of only your face because you’re insecure about your body, you feel like you’ll never be ‘one of them’.
Tell us about it!
I felt this way for quite a while. I noticed that once I started working out, I not only felt more confident, but I wanted to share it with everyone because I never felt comfortable with my appearance.
But do you think gay guys focus too much on taut perfect bods?
Body image plays way too big a role in our community, because as much as people will deny the fact, fit bodies have always been the focus. It doesn’t matter how accepting or open minded a person claims to be, nine times out of ten, if you ask them what their type is, they’ll speak physically before they speak emotionally. I am definitely guilty of this but have learned that I would never be satisfied if all I cared about was appearance, which is exactly why I stopped even considering it when I started dating again.
Well, it’s good to be aware of that.
This is when I found myself happier than ever. People always look for the next best thing, or the prettiest thing that comes across their screen, and they go after it because they want to look a certain way. So many of us use social media in this way to try and become a “somebody”, even if we aren’t showcasing any form of talent. Bodies became our talent, and now more than ever, we need to realize that posting thirst trap selfies on Instagram does in no way make you a public figure.
Amen! Well, you have a fabulous and rather tasty talent… Baking…
I am a flight attendant who is currently furloughed from work. I have had strong interest and passion for baking since I was a child, and in recent years have launched a YouTube channel, a website displaying all of my own personal written recipes, amongst other forms of social media showing what I love doing. The thing that got me started with the YouTube was the fact that I was in a period my life where I felt like I had no idea what I was doing with myself.
In what way?
I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree knowing I had no interest in the field. I tried finding a job purely to have an income, but never felt excited about any of the applications I submitted. This is when it clicked my head that even though I was young had a whole life ahead of me, I would never waste even a day doping something I didn’t enjoy. To me, starting young is the best way to ensure a happy and successful life in the long run, which is exactly why I started my channel.
Well you appear to be a whiz in the kitchen. Whats the dream now?
The dream with baking is to eventually publish a cookbook not only with my recipes, but my story of how someone can feel so lost and clueless as to what they’re doing with their life, but they eventually remember what they love and just go with it, not matter how big the risk.
That idea is great!
I hope someday my YouTube becomes successful enough for me to earn income on it, because all I want to is to make someone’s day better by teaching them something they didn’t know before, making them laugh with a dumb joke, or helping discover their own path in life, because it doesn’t matter how old you are or where you come from, everyone has the chance to do what they love.
You sound like a good guy! How has this period time been for you?
During this time of isolation and pandemic, I not only have been out of work, I have learned so much about myself and others. True colors have definitely shown, and our priorities have definitely changed. I luckily do not get bothered by being alone or having extended amounts of alone time, because I find that I am most productive during those times. I will say though that I have learned what I actually need to just be happy. There are so many little things we took for granted before that we never even thought about, but now, we realize a lot of those things, we don’t even need, we just want. Life is full of wants, but once you realize what out of those wants are actually needs, you almost redefine yourself, and can have a better understanding on what your life actually needs to be a good one. I am proud to say now more than ever, I know exactly what I both want and need, and have all of it, fundamentally at least. We will all come out of this differently.
You live in Atlanta… There have been a little unrest since the murder of George Flynn. How is it there?
Atlanta has definitely been in turmoil for a couple weeks regarding the black lives matter movement, which I also strongly support. I remember the first couple days of protests. It was frightening to see news images of cars being set on fire and windows of stores being broken and realizing this was my city. I understood the outrage of the situation but it was surreal to see all of this taking place. My boyfriend and I took part in a protest as well as donated to charities and signed a variety of petitions to try and do what we could. Things have started to calm down again and there are still peaceful protests happening to this day, which is encouraging to see and be a part of.
Finally, what would you say to your twelve year old self?
Life can be brutal at times, but that’s when you have to grab it, run with it, and just be yourself, and let the world know who you are and what love, and never apologize for it.
Check out AJ’s yummy recipes HERE