I don’t remember what age I was when it occurred to me that some men like other men instead of liking women. I’m sure it must have been the movie Victor/Victoria that introduced me to the concept; it was (and is) a favorite of my Mom’s, and it was released in 1982. I don’t remember ever being creeped out by the idea, though, even when AIDS became widely known in the eighties, and everyone associated the condition with gay men.
I didn’t actually *know* an openly gay person until I was in high school. (At least, not that I was aware of.) Tim was a co-worker of my Mom’s, and I got to meet him and hang out with him quite a bit during high school. Tim was freaking cool: he had a few cats, he listened to Peter Gabriel and Ravi Shankar, he had an awesome huge five-foot-tall cactus that wore sunglasses and a hat, and I just remember him being generally fun to be around. Some of his friends called him “Timberly,” although I’m afraid that, for awhile, I knew him mainly as “my gay friend Tim.”
Now, Tim didn’t think he was flamboyant, but everyone else did. (No one broke the news to him, though. Mom convinced him that she had “gaydar,” and that’s how she’d figured him out.) There was another gay man who worked in a shop down the street, though—I forget how Mom met him—and I wouldn’t have known he was gay if Mom hadn’t told me. I can’t believe I don’t remember his name now, but I remember his story.
He used to be a hairdresser back in the eighties, when the AIDS scare hit. And, wouldn’t you know, he tested HIV-positive. At that time, he was basically blackballed from hairdressing—can’t have you poking yourself with the scissors, now—so he threw all his expensive hairdressing gear away, as I remember the story, and found himself another profession. He also purchased a cemetery plot, and made it an annual birthday ritual to go out and piss on his own grave.
I didn’t spend a lot of quality time with him, but he helped Mom find a prom dress for me, on the cheap, and he did my hair for free. What I remember the most about him, though, was the contrast of his pleasant manner and his humor against his caustic cynicism. He was bitter about being HIV-positive, and having to start over, but he was still alive and still living.
So, I’ve always been pretty tolerant of other people’s sexual preferences. Truth be told, I really like gay people, especially gay men—the ones I’ve met are quite congenial, and have a great sense of humor, and are very accepting. For some reason, though, I’m really *intrigued* by the gay community. Not intrigued in that I-wish-I-were-gay sort of way, but more intrigued by… the culture, I guess, and the guts it must take to stand up and admit something that could get you kicked in the teeth by a stranger.
I try to show my support to gay (and I-wonder-if-they’re-gay) friends and co-workers by being tolerant and making sure it’s known that it’s really no big thing to me. I tried to join Vision at BGSU as a Straight Supporter, but I really didn’t fit in.
Vision said they were GLBTQIQSS (gay / lesbian / bisexual / transgender / queer / intersex / questioning / straight supportive), but I honestly didn’t feel like I was really welcome. I could feel—or maybe I was imagining it—that the members were kind of holding back because I was there. Maybe it was just because I was new, and not because I was straight. I don’t know. But I went to two meetings, and I didn’t go back.
I guess the point of this whole diatribe is that I am *so* supportive of all my gay friends. (I’d name you, but some of you wouldn’t like to be “outed” to the entire internet.) I may not talk to you all the time, or ask how your partner or roommate is doing, or make an issue of your orientation to prove that I’m cool with it… but I am. I think it’s fucking awesome that you have the stones to admit your preferences to yourself and to your community, knowing full well that everyone will NOT be cool with it. I applaud you and your challenges, and I appreciate how hard it must be, overall, to be gay (openly or not) in modern American society.
I applaud your new earrings. I applaud your hormone therapy. I salute you.