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How I Got Here: From gay rights activists to family men

Gary Spino and Tony Brown
Gary Spino and Tony Brown

"How I Got Here" is a series of stories looking at newsmakers, places or events and the path taken to reach the present. Gary Spino and Tony Brown are featured in the CNN In America documentary "Gary and Tony Have a Baby." Gary and Tony talk about what's led them from the front lines of gay rights activism to the journey to build a traditional family.

Q: Who are you? How do you define yourself?

Gary: I am happy, hopeful, questioning ... awe-inspired at life, a participant, a pacifist, appreciative, often tired (because I don't want to miss out on anything), always grateful and anxious a lot, too.

Tony: I am a husband with a husband and I work toward equality in my own way. I define myself by my family.

Q: What is something that no one knows about you?

Gary: I had a brother named Mark who died when he was an infant. I have always felt he was my guardian angel. I covered a lot of ground in this world and nothing bad has happened to me. Thank you, Markie.

Tony: I have had three full careers; actor, licensed massage therapist and lawyer and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.

Q: How did you get here?

Gary: A combination of growing up as a gay, middle child in a large Italian extended family in the hippie/disco 70s, my Catholic/Christian education, therapy, traveling the world for 10 years as a flight attendant, meeting and learning from people of every walk of life, self-help books, journaling and expanding my spirituality.

Tony: On my own two feet, with a lot of guidance from the people whom I love and who love me.

Q: What prepared you for where you are now?

Gary: Friends, family, therapy, a college religion class called "personal transformations through new religions," and the Universalist Unitarian community we are a part of in NYC. Every experience I have had and everyone I have been blessed to meet have led me exactly to where I am right this moment.

Tony: My parent's love and support gave me the foundation to conquer my own fear of being gay. My husband's love and support gave me the courage to trust myself.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle you ever had to overcome? How did you get there?

Gary: The hardest thing I have had to do was to understand that I am gay. And then to share that with the people I love and the world. Coming out after being raised in a small town and 12 years of Catholic education was and continues to be, a process both, painful and healing; scary and freeing.

Tony: The fear of just being myself is the greatest obstacle I have overcome. It took a lot of patience and a lot of mistakes along the way but it is the best thing I have ever done.

Q: What would you tell your younger self about who you are now? How would you advise your younger self about how to get to where you are now?

Gary: Love yourself right now, exactly how you are. You are perfect exactly the way God made you. Do not care nor depend on what others think of you. Eat less sugar. Don't watch so much TV.

Tony: I would tell myself to be patient and to trust my instincts about people. My youth was difficult and I didn't trust what I was feeling. Intuition is grossly underrated and mine has been uncannily correct the majority of the time.