Tucker Gaccione photo overlay on rainbow background
Design by Jess Murphy; photography courtesy of Tucker Gaccione

“I didn’t feel a connection to the community in my day-to-day life when I was growing up in Whitehouse Station.”

“I began to wonder if I was the same person as my straight male friends when I was in middle school. I didn’t equate my feelings with being gay because of the environment I grew up in.”

Being gay requires a certain accent and way of dressing. I didn\’t fit the image of “gayness” that was being presented in the media in the early 2000s.

I began to accept that what I was feeling was not the experience of my straight male friends, even though I was still in the closet. I was not the same as much as I tried.

I got involved in school politics but there was still an obvious barrier that remained.

My best friend came to me with a crisis after he found out his dad was gay.

The media has only previously represented gay people from sources where they were rejected by society. This representation was becoming a reality in my life. My friend told me that his father had left his mother for another man.

“I felt bad for my friend’s father in those months and that reinforced my feelings for myself. I needed to be straight in order to keep my friend and live the life I knew.”

I kept my true feelings to myself for a while. I felt isolated from the people I was closest to.

After high school, I went to Northeastern University and studied in Australia for 6 months.

I was able to understand my sexuality better. I was raised with a belief in the Heteronormativity and meeting people who did not conform to it encouraged me to come out of my shell.

I realized my preconceived notions about the community were incorrect when I interacted with people who were in the community. I fit in.

Spending time in Australia was not the reason to come out of the closet. I returned to the United States and went to college, where I became comfortable with myself.

I came out to my family and friends. I was my authentic self in every aspect of my life. My mental health changed, the previous waves of isolation and uncertainty no longer affected me.

I realized that I was no longer interested in pursuing a career in politics after I reached this level of honesty with myself and my loved ones. I wanted to embrace my creative side, which had flourished through hours of perfect cooking, making drinks and arranging flowers and plants.

After graduating college, I started selling my wares at a local craft show in Pennsylvania. Happy Cactus Gifts was formed by me.

Happy Cactus Gifts is the same business I run, but operations have grown.

I have plans to expand even further after I expanded to multiple venues in New York City, Boston, and Rhode Island. I work in some of the largest markets on the East Coast.

Regardless of any capital gains, I am a happier and healthier person now that I’m living my life in a way that I can be proud of.

I feel more like myself now than I ever did before, because I have been struggling with my identity.

I became the person I wanted to be, rather than the person I wanted to be.

I want to make sure that young people in the community are represented in a way that is not one size fits all. We exist in all neighborhoods.

Tucker Gaccione is the owner of Happy Cactus Gifts, a small business based in Boston, Massachusetts. He focuses on offering unique gifts, tropical plants, mouthwatering bites, and decadent drinks at seasonal pop-up markets. Tucker prioritizes creating an inclusive environment for his employees and customers alike. You can follow him on Instagram.