March 07, 2018 at 10:07 AM EST


In the moving comedy-drama Love, Simon (in theaters March 16) Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel star as the parents of Simon, a high schooler played by Nick Robinson who struggles to tell loved ones that he’s gay. Acceptance in America has increased dramatically in recent years, but coming out as LGBTQ is still a profound and often traumatic experience.

PEOPLE and ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, along with GLSEN, the non-profit that fights to make schools safe for all kids, invited individuals from all walks of life to share real-life coming out stories. COMING OUT STORIES (produced by Ryan Buxton) can be seen at and on PeopleTV (download the app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device).

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Like many a plot twist on his show Modern Family, Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s real-life coming out story is equal parts embarrassing and hilarious.

The actor, 42, remembers that as a freshman in high school, he got caught by security at a bookstore in his hometown of Albuquerque, N.M. attempting to shoplift gay porn.

“My mom and dad saw the nature of the material I was stealing, and that’s how I came out,” he says. “I find it funny now, but at the time it was incredibly traumatizing. Ironically, my father still had a hard time catching up. I snuck some straight porn in there too, so that threw him off just enough.”

His father eventually caught on. “I’m now married [to Justin Mikita], and my father, who had such a hard time accepting my sexuality, danced at my wedding very happily,” says Ferguson.


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