I came out as a gay man slightly over 40 years ago (that’s 2/3 of my life).

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.

Taking a quick look back at 2017

Well. There was all the regular cultural stuff that everyone was dealing with. But here’s a list of some of what stands out in my life, in no particular order.

  • My father died. That leaves practical things to deal with, but also more emotional stuff than I expected. Somehow the death of my mother just made her absent from my childhood family of four, but my father’s death breaks it.
  • My place of employment went through a protracted (and ongoing) time of struggle and uncertainty around racism and leadership. It was a very, very difficult spring. And then at our annual conference in June, two coworkers were attacked on the street, and one was critically injured.
  • I returned to internet radio with a monthly show on Radio Riel, second Sundays, 12:30–2:00 pm Pacific (or Second Life) time: The Musical Magpie.
  • I sold my estate in Second Life (the second time I have done so)
  • Two trips to Brooklyn to visit Jim Ford. We returned to the Metropolitan Opera to see Norma in December (having seen Aida a year ago).
  • An annual September weekend in Provincetown (near the anniversary of my mother’s death) felt like it made the transition to an event all the participants “own.”
  • I scattered  my portion of my mother’s ashes in an old burial ground in Provincetown.
  • I became a staff chaplain, and while overall quite ambivalent about work (see above!) I felt an increased sense of being a longtime staff member with a particular contribution.
  • I rented a BMW convertible (long a pipe dream). It was worth every penny, although it would have made more sense in a slightly warmer season.
  • I lost 40 pounds (and still losing, after a holiday plateau).
  • By going to happy hour at a local bar nearly every Friday, I’ve made a new group of friends/acquaintances.
  • I went to a LOT of music events.