When I Knew: A Sampling
|Feature Editor's note: Right now, one of the most popular books in gay bookstores is a gorgeous, funny and beautifully designed coffee table book called When I Knew, a collection of stories about gay folks' first inklings that they might be gay or different, as the word gay didn't even belong to most people's vocabularies. Here at Letters we thought it would be fun to ask some of our readers the same question: When did you suspect you were gay? We got some wonderful answers and hope this will be the beginning of a regular feature for us. F.J.
Oh, you mean stuff like kissing George Reeves as "Clark Kent" (not Superman) on the lips through the TV screen before the series started airing in color?
Ray Hatch Columbia, MD
My 5th birthday party. I clearly remember all my friends being there, outside in the backyard, when they served my birthday cake with all these hunky cowboys (little plastic ones like toy soldiers) on top. I have a distinct memory that the sight of those studly cowboys was curiously fascinating.
Rob Ramoy Bethesda, MD & Rehoboth Beach
When I was in college, I worked at an art and framing store (clue #1), and was able to get posters mounted for next to nothing. The two posters on my wall sophomore year were enormous black and white posters of Oscar Wilde (clue # 2) although I didn't even know he was gay; I just knew that he was a playwright and that's what I wanted to be) and...Judy Garland (clues #3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 right there).
Eric Peterson Washington, D.C.
When I was five, my parents bought me a doll manufactured by a make-up company and I was supposed to spend time doing her hair and make-up. I used the make-up in my coloring book and the doll as catcher when I practiced pitching like my hero Whitey Ford of the Yankees. She got pretty beat up."
Ilene G. New Jersey
I was 13 years old and it was the summer that Patty Hearst was kidnapped and robbing banks. "Kung Fu Fighting" was my favorite song and my family was spending a week on Cape Cod. One night we drove into Provincetown for dinner at the Lobster Pot. After dinner, just outside, I overheard a group of people snickering about the homo. Suddenly I came face to face with this muscular guy completely painted in goldeven his hair and wearing nothing but a gold speedo. Even the bulldog he was walking looked like it had been dipped in gold. Everyone on the street was gawking and making comments and all I could think about was how I wanted to live in Provincetown and be like him.
Rich Barnett D.C. & Rehoboth Beach
At age 6 I wanted to be in my cowBOY outfit complete with six-shooter rather than in my tutu from the ever-dreaded ballet class. I loved playing Tarzan and Jane and insisted on being you-know-who. I remember insisting to my mother that I was a better third baseman than the boys and asked how come I couldn't join Little League.
Jill Stokes Lewes
The first time I thought I liked boys was at an Indian Guides weekend, a second grade program where boys shared time with their fathers. The thought of an overnight camp at age eight, just made me tingle. Might I get to see Mr. Brown (our next door neighbor) naked? I always admired him as he mowed his yard without a shirt on. He was different than the other fathers...He was in shape. He had a beautiful hair pattern on his chest. I knew what I wanted. And that was at age eight.
As long ago as I can remember, my parents referred to me as being different and artistic. I had no idea that those words were euphemisms for gay and I'm sure they didn't either. I grew up in a large, Polish, Roman Catholic family which removed any possibility of my homosexuality. One day, I decided to take advantage of my artistic label, and told my parents I wanted to study dance.
After much discussion, they decided that a safe way to handle my request was to put me in a Polish folk dance company. I guess they thought that if I had to dance (and I did have to dance) folk dancing was at least a manly kind of dancing. Have you ever seen Polish costumes for men? Hats made of peacock feathers, long, swirling coats lined with red satin and more brocade and fur than any drag show. I was in heaven!!! I stayed with the company for many years and when I was about 18, I danced with a particularly handsome man.
His musky scent, and the strength of his arms as we moved across the stage, knocked me off my feetliterally. He would give me that look that said, I know who you are. We are the same. Even though I was years away from living as a gay man, once I allowed myself to feel the feelings of being different and artistic, retreating from them was not an option."
Ken Rehoboth Beach
Please send us your own stories to email@example.com. We'll run them with or without names. We can't wait to hear some of your fabulous memories!
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 15, No. 15 November 23, 2005