Cory Allen Talks Debut Memoir ‘Breaking Free’

Cory Allen
Cory Allen (courtesy photo)

Cory Allen’s debut memoir, Breaking Free: A Saga of Self-Discovery by a Gay Secret Service Agent, is a deeply personal, candid, and vulnerable dive into the life of a gay man struggling with his own identity, marriage, discrimination, and balancing the demands that accompany being assigned to protect the most powerful people in the world.

Allen has served in law enforcement for many years, but eventually went federal after being hired by the United States Secret Service (USSS). Although he delivers an amusing view into his adventurous life of taking on high-level protective tasks around the world and helping to protect President Barack Obama and his family, Allen also touches on what it was like working in such a hyper-masculine field.


At the pinnacle of his career, Allen left the Secret Service to restart his life in California and begin the process of finally being his own person. Struggling to break free from societal norms, creating an identity apart from an all-consuming profession, and learning to listen to intuition are at the heart of Breaking Free.

Allen now works as a supervisory special agent in San Francisco, but he took some time to catch up with Instinct and talk more about the book, life with the Obamas, LGBTQ rights, and what’s next.

Let me begin by asking, how excited are you that your debut memoir, Breaking Free: A Saga of Self-Discovery by a Gay Secret Service Agent, is now available for the world to read?

I am very excited, but to be honest, it’s still a bit surreal. Adjusting to calling myself an author is weird (laughs). But it’s been amazing, and I’m always fascinated to hear how people heard about the book and what drew them to it because it hasn’t gained notoriety on a national level. There’s been a lot of pushing on social media, but when we were flying out of San Francisco to Boston the other month, we stopped by the bookstore and my book was sitting on the shelf right next to Pamela Anderson’s. I thought that was awesome!


What initially inspired you to write the book?

I had been on the go for 10-15 years and never allowed myself the chance to sit still. My work didn’t allow me to sit still, so I never had the chance to process a lot of things that had transpired in my life. I was traveling 60 percent of the time. So, when I left the Secret Service, all that came to an abrupt halt, and that’s when I relocated to California and did a reboot.

I had just traveled the world, witnessed a lot of history, been through a divorce, moved across the country, and I needed a way to process and document all of it. Then I started to realize that there was potentially other value in this. After seeing how Michelle Obama’s Becoming book tour affected so many people, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit to being inspired by her.


What do you ultimately hope readers take away from the book?

There’s a lot covered in the book, and I expose a lot of intimate details of my life and journey, and I want people to take away that they shouldn’t feel ashamed for who they really are, despite what society imposes on us. You can be your true self, and hopefully by putting my vulnerabilities out there, that will connect and resonate with people. Who knows, maybe it’ll inspire more LGBTQ members to enter the law enforcement profession.

Since this is your first book, what is something you learned about yourself throughout the writing process?


To trust myself and be more confident about being an author. I still deflect compliments and downplay it; despite the things I am achieving with the book. But I knew I needed to talk to a therapist when I started dating Johnny, my fiancé, to ensure I didn’t repeat past mistakes and present the truest and best version of myself. I’m a work in progress.

Which part of the book was the most challenging to write about?

I hesitated a lot when I wrote about my open marriage, for fear of professional blowback or a larger societal rebuke for discussing it but I didn’t know how else to write, other than being candidly honest. I didn’t want to present a shell of a story and avoid the hard work and truth. It was a risk I took and I’m happy I did.

Although you write about these difficult times in your life, how therapeutic and cathartic was it for you to let it all out?


It was way more cathartic than I ever imagined. I found myself weeping when I wrote about domestic violence in my childhood, my divorce, and my grandfather, who was my mentor and idol. It told me I had more work to do, and these could be underlying issues in the future if I didn’t address them. I’ve had multiple friends reach out and tell me they want to also share their story, and I think we all should. Our stories need to be told and accessible, but it is also very healthy for us to do.

Cory Allen

Can you tell us how you began working with the Secret Service?

Of course. Once I finished my bachelor’s degree, I knew I wanted to be a federal agent, so I could travel more and live in a supportive community. I was living outside Richmond, Virginia, which is very conservative, and I was working for a sheriff’s office that was deeply Republican. I applied to the FBI and USSS, and 18 months later, USSS offered me a position as a Special Agent.


Of the locations they offered, Miami made the most sense for my husband and I, both cost and location wise. It was a dream come true, and that allowed me to come out of my shell in my personal life. The diversity, and Miami’s gay scene was an amazing place to let my hair down. The boys of Miami did not disappoint!

What could have happened if the Secret Service found out you were gay after they hired you?

For the first three and a half years, I probably would’ve been fired for an unjustified reason. I had a lesbian classmate who was fired, so I was very cautious to present the most masculine and straight version of myself, especially after I was blatantly discriminated against shortly after getting to Miami. I had to present two identities. One for work and one for home. I had no resources, and this new job was our lifeline, so I had to keep my head down and work hard to stay off the radar.

Once SCOTUS overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 2013 and then the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, I felt more empowered to slowly begin to reveal more about my “hidden” home life. I happened to be the first gay USSS agent to demand federal benefits for my spouse and they literally didn’t have a policy for it yet. The same thing occurred when we relocated to Washington D.C., when I was again the first gay agent to demand relocation benefits for my husband.


You were assigned to the Obamas from 2016-2019. What did that entail?

It was a whirlwind! I helped form the division in late 2016, and after we got the division up and running, and then Trump took office, I went out with the Obamas. I was then assigned to Michelle Obama for the first two and a half years, as one of her agents that is always with/around her, before transferring into the Operations section – which is the epicenter of information and assets for the division, keeping the machine running. I worked all three shifts, nights, holidays, weekends, 16–20-hour shifts, you name it.

With a zero-fail mission, we understood the gravity and sacrifice that was required. We traveled the world to crazy locations, met all kinds of powerful and influential people, and I witnessed Michelle’s Becoming book tour up close and personal. It was quite an amazing experience and I loved it, but it came at a high toll as an individual, as I wasn’t really living my own life and missing a lot of important moments at home.

L-R Former First Lady Michelle Obama, Cory Allen (courtesy photo)

So, you didn’t have much time to do anything else like see family and friends or pursue other interests?

No, not really. I had a couple of failed attempts at having my own personal life, but I made the error of allowing my professional identity to become intertwined with my personal identity. Visits to see family and friends was always a rushed affair and filled with stories from my job. I attempted grad school and trained for a 545-mile charity bike ride, but neither worked out during that time. The only way to rectify that and find a new path forward was to leave the agency I loved and put myself first for a change.

What is one of your most memorable interactions with Barack and Michelle Obama?

That’s tough, as they’re such genuine, kind, intelligent, and amazing human beings. They knew our names, their staff was amazing, and they radiate warmth. She still knew who I was six months after I left the agency when I saw them in San Francisco. President Obama had a great sense of humor, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much of a dream it was to attend the Grammy Awards in 2019 and be backstage surrounded by music’s biggest icons.


From hanging out in the British Virgin Islands on Richard Branson’s islands to being in the presence of Bruce Springsteen or Tom Hanks making a joke at my expense, a lot of it was surreal. Beyonce and Jay-Z’s concert right after France won the World Cup in Paris was also epic and unforgettable.

Could you talk more about leaving the Secret Service to restart your life in California and begin the process of finally being your own person?

Absolutely. Much like writing the book, it signaled things I needed to focus on as an individual and figure out who I was or who I wanted to be. I have always wanted to settle down, have a family, and be an amazing husband and father. Those were paramount and still are. I was in a new state by myself and didn’t know anybody, so it was a great opportunity to just be my true goofy, bubbly, and easy going self.

The six months I spent in San Francisco alone was a helpful time for me to readjust and start to figure out a path forward. It was two weeks after I moved there that I met my now fiancé on a gay cruise. The last place on earth I ever thought I’d find my favorite person (laughs).

Cory Allen (provided)

What are your thoughts about the future of LGBTQ rights in this country?

Yeah, it’s not looking great when there are loud factions of our society who think we aren’t entitled to equal rights and choose to be gay. That fearmongering and insane rhetoric then gets repeated to us by loved ones. Books like mine are being removed from shelves in far too many states, and our community is under attack, despite most Americans being supportive and not caring who we love.

We must stand up for all members of our community and ensure those who don’t have a voice are heard and have access to the things they need most. If that means getting more involved, then so be it. We have quite a way to go with LGBTQ family building as well, as we are still discriminated against when it comes to many aspects of how we have to build our families.


Do you have any desire to write another book? Possibly one that will dive into fiction?

I do! I plan to write a follow up to Breaking Free, which will pick up at the end of 2019 and forward. A lot has happened since then, especially with our surrogacy journey. There’s a lack of info out there, and I’d like to bring the same honesty to that story as I did with my current book. I’d also like to do a children’s book for our future kids, so they know how they came to be and see representation, as part of a biracial family. I’m open to fiction once I get the second book into editing. It could be fun!

What’s next for you, and what are some other future goals you hope to accomplish?

Continue to lead my team of agents, but then retire in six and a half years. Maybe shuttle our kids to and from school activities, make lunches, raise good humans, be a present and an amazing dad, write more, and just go with the flow. I’m excited to see what the future holds.


Before we wrap up, are there any other upcoming projects or anything else you’d like to mention or plug?

There are a few book events coming up in the Bay Area, and if you know of someone who’d want to make my book into a movie, let me know! I own all the rights and that would be an amazing adventure.

L-R CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, Cory Allen (provided)

Stay up-to-date and connect with Allen by following him on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, or visit Breaking Free: A Saga of Self-Discovery by a Gay Secret Service Agent is available wherever books are sold, as well as, a nonprofit educating law enforcement on the needs of their LGBTQ citizenry and empowering LGBTQ officers.

1 thought on “Cory Allen Talks Debut Memoir ‘Breaking Free’”

  1. Breaking Free: A Saga of Self-Discovery by a Gay Secret Service Agent.
    Awesome, thank u for the book recommendation. Gonna order a copy right now. Sounds very interesting.


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