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April 3rd, 2021

The Heart Of A Coming Out Story…Not A Person, But A Time And Place

In October 2006 I put episode 6 of A Coming Out Story on my website. That would have been a month after I finally reconnected with the object of my affections in the story. I was probably working on it when that happened. It was over a year before I finished the next one. Before then I had no idea what had happened to him. I started doing the cartoon story in large part to try and process what had happened to me back in high school, and maybe make a statement about how it was to be a gay teenager in 1971. Fact is, I was beginning to believe I would never find him again, never know what happened to him.

He was a class behind mine. His family moved out of the country shortly after I graduated. It was very sudden, or so it seemed to me. I had no idea he was going. I was devastated. For decades I searched for him. I never stopped trying to find a boyfriend elsewhere, but that first love is something that strikes deep into you. I had to know what had become of him. Especially after the AIDS plague hit us. After that first viewing of the Names Project quilt on the Washington Mall, I had nightmares of walking among the panels and suddenly finding one with his name on it. Sometimes, oddly, I still have this nightmare.

So I kept looking. But after the years passed I figured that when I found him again he’d be happily settled down with a much more good looking guy…possibly some beautiful Brazilian guy and they’d be living in something like married bliss and I’d just have to accept it. He was a catch. Jaw droppingly beautiful, decent, good hearted, hard working, always a busy bee. I knew he would not have wanted for suiters. It’s what scared me about him. In the age of AIDS, he could easily  have been taken away by the virus. So many were. 

So I kept looking. When computers and modems and BBSs came about, I would occasionally toss little messages in a bottle out into the cyber void to see if he might reply…

Hello…are you out there…do you remember…

I heard nothing back. Later I learned he was on GeoCities but apparently not out in the larger net. So we never crossed paths that way.

I eventually found him again in a phone directory. He was here in this country, working at Disney World. Anxious, sweating profusely, I gave him a call. Thankfully what I got his answering machine instead of him or I might have just choked and hung up. And I heard his voice again for the first time in decades. It’s amazing how after all that time I knew instantly it was him, even before my brain processed the words on his answering machine, by the sound of his voice. It took me back decades. Suddenly I was that awkward geeky terrified teenage boy again.

I hung up on the answering machine. Then I wrote a script, practiced it several times, and called back. Thankfully I got the answering machine again and I spoke my lines and hung up. And waited. And waited. It was agonizing. On the walk home from work I noticed a call I’d missed on the iPhone and there was voice mail and OhMyGodIt’sHim!!!!  I waited until I got home to call back. He was glad to hear from me. We chatted for over an hour, catching up on this and that. It was the first of many calls in that first couple of years. I talked about my love for him back in high school and he remembered our times in the library and on the walk to his motorcycle. And he coaxed me into coming down to Disney World, a thing I’d had no interest in at all until then. I wanted to much to see him, but I wasn’t into theme parks of any sort. Come on man, it’s your heritage…baseball apple pie and Mickey Mouse…what’s wrong with you.  So I went the following spring. And we laid eyes on each other for the first time in decades, and it was like those high school days all over again. But that…that…turned out to be a two-edged sword.

For some of us, of a certain generation, it will always be a time before Stonewall. I know that a little better now.

It was October of 2006 that we reconnected. I published the episode of ACOS I’d been working on in November. It took nearly a year for me to wrest another one out of me. And it is still hard. The story doesn’t have a happy ending. But I’m still working on it. Because it needs to be told how that magical time of first love and awakening desire was stolen from so many of us, turned into a nightmare, so righteous people could make their stepping stones to heaven out of our hearts. Out of our lives.

I will never forget that first love. I tried afterward to find another. But what I was looking for, what I am always looking for, I would have probably found pretty quickly in a better world, at a church social, or a teen coffee house, or some social event organized by caring adults, where gay teens could meet and you didn’t have to worry about whether the one you were crushing on was straight and just not for you. Somewhere in some better world where I could have met a nice guy. But it was 1971, and all those nice guys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want God to hate them. They didn’t want to hate themselves more. And so it went.

I will never forget the awe and wonder and joy of that first love. And I will never forgive the ones who stole it from me…and from so many of us. You butchers. We were just kids. There was nothing wrong with us. There was never anything wrong with us. And you put knives into our hearts so you could be righteous. You monsters. I am an atheist now. It’s nothing to do with religious hatred against me and my kind. It was simply that belief just stopped making sense to me. But if there is a God Almighty, I would rather stand there at Judgement Day a proud homosexual, with every time I ever took another man into my arms laid out before me, than have to account for what you people did to so many innocent and pure hearts. You Monsters!

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