The context for this statement was the years since coming out. My life has not been unusual, so of course I’ve known joy and heartbreak. I won’t list or describe them here, as the themes of future posts directly touch on them; I just want to emphasize that being gay has, in fact, affected some of the joy and heartbreak I’ve experienced in significant ways. I doubt that I am rare in that.
In retrospect, there were signs much earlier in my life, but it wasn’t until I was in college, getting to know a much wider variety of people than I grew up with, that I even realized how many different ways of being there are.
I went off to college at the University of California at Davis in 1977 at the age of 18, and I lived in a close-knit dorm for my first year. In the fall of 1978, three things happened that opened me up to considering myself in a different light:
- my best friend came out (and many of our mutual friends were concerned that I would not take it well: a glimpse into where I came from and how it shaped me)
- the Briggs Initiative, which would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in public schools, was on the ballot, making gay and lesbian politics and sometimes identity very much part of the public discourse
- I had sex for the first time (with a woman, by the way)
By the winter of 1979 I had realized I was attracted to men, had told a number of my friends, and was becoming involved with the campus gay and lesbian group. I attended a showing of the documentary Word Is Out, and that night I went home, called my mother, and told her I was gay.
It’s worth noting that when I told my mother I was gay (which I mark as an inflection point), I had not yet been romantically or sexually involved with another man. Being gay is about identity and self-awareness as much as (or perhaps more than) behavior.
There are two implicit elements to the post title.
40 years is a *long* time. Not to mention 60. Experience may sometimes not be as important as courage, or creativity, or cleverness, but often it does still count for something. I’ve reached a point in my life where I both wish my experience were acknowledged and feel it is disregarded. I guess I can join the old man club.
And yet, those first 20 years of my life continue to shape or even define me. I wonder what it will be like for people who are growing up now, who are discovering who they are at a much earlier age.
Let us hereby be reminded, before sadness and frustration overwhelm once more: Proposition 8 and its ilk are merely the last, fitful gasps of a long-dying ideology, markers of a certain kind of sad, conservative desperation. They are the final clawings and scrapings of a reactionary worldview that attempts to outlaw and punish all it cannot, will not understand. Same as it ever was, really.
If you’d like to let Jim Douglas, governor of Vermont, know what you think of his act, he has a contact page on his website.
The Westboro Baptist Church brought their show to campus, leading the student body to a myriad of counter-protests and celebrations of pride and diversity. Whatever the WBC’s goals are, we’ll never know, but the students’ voice was heard loud and clear: “Many identities, one community.”
On my flights to and from California, the in-flight entertainment promoted two new TV shows with bearish leading men. Looks like we’re making the mainstream!
First, of course, there were Richard Karn in Home Improvement and Kevin James in King of Queens. But now we have two romantic leading men: Kyle Bornheimer in Worst Week and Jay Mohr in Gary Unmarried.
If you search around (even on the series websites I link to above), you’ll find several furry shirtless photos of each.
California Propostion 8 Election Results. (Edit 12pm: The link went to an interactive map that seems to have gone away. If I find another one, I’ll replace the link later.)