I grew up in a small town, in a devout Catholic home, and I had no clue there was more than one kind of sexuality. I had thoughts and feelings I didn't know what to do with, but I don't think I'd ever heard the word "gay," much less knew what it meant.
I'd had sex with girls, but I didn't have my first experience with another guy until I was 18. I was at an ex-girlfriend's party, and it wasn't pretty; everyone was bombed or high. Except for this older guy: late-20s, maybe 30, somebody's brother. I knew he was looking at me in a way that men weren't supposed to look at other men. We got talking, realized we both hated the party, and agreed to go for a walk in what by then had to be the wee hours. We were in a big deserted park, grass, bushes, streetlights, when he turned to me and I thought, "He's going to kiss me and I'm going to throw up." He did; I didn't.
I was so awkward. I had no idea how to do the things my feelings were prompting me to do. I knew I wanted to top him, but didn't know that word or how exactly to get there. He was so patient and gentle and understanding. This is not a story of a teenage kid being preyed on. I took the lead; he guided. He never pushed anything. He helped introduce me to myself.
He lived halfway down the East Coast, but he kept in regular touch with calls and long affectionate letters, checking in on me, listening to me, reassuring me that whatever I felt was okay.
Not everyone felt that way. This was almost 40 years ago. When I got comfortable enough to tell my parents I thought I was gay, they had me committed to a mental hospital. That's another story, and not a very nice one. I was there till I was 21 and could legally insist on being released. Shock treatments, megadoses of Thorazine. I don't know why I didn't go truly nuts. I think a big part of it was the memory of that kindness and that closeness, and the rightness of it, for me. I lost a lot during those years locked up. I lost track of that wonderful guy who'd been just what I needed when nobody else understood.
I never had a chance to thank him, so I'd like to do that now, and maybe imagine he's reading this and remembering too.
Thursday, May 08, 2008
From Dan Savage's article this week. This letter is so sad: