Harma Hartouni, who has been out for about 20 years and just released his new memoir, Getting Back Up: A Story of Resilience, Self-Acceptance & Success.
Hartouni grew up in Iran, where being gay was illegal and can be punishable by up to death. He rose up after abuse, bullying, and a near-death accident that left him unable to walk. As a young adult, he moved to America as an outcast- gay Middle Eastern man who didn’t speak English-and lived off of food stamps while also supporting his mother and siblings who later came. Today, Hartouni—based in Los Angeles—is a successful real estate entrepreneurs. He is happily married and one half of a power-couple, and he and his husband have three children via surrogate and a home filled with pets.
“No matter where you are in life, if you’re dealing with something deeply personal—a secret—and you think the answer is to change your persona and become someone else, I can tell you it is a fool’s errand,” says Hartouni. “It is always better to be who you are and to live in acceptance. Even if the environment you are a part of doesn’t support who you feel you are in your heart, you still have to follow it. Family will express love and concern because they want what’s best for you. That doesn’t mean they are right. Find relationships, environments, and jobs that fit who you are.”