I am old enough that I grew up with no gay role models. There was no Ellen, no Greg Louganis. There were no gay folks in my family, at least not ones living an open and truthful life. There was a gay couple that I delivered newspapers to when I helped a friend with his route. My friend ‘warned’ me about the house, as if I should be scared. Secretly, I wished I had seen them. Instead, they were never around and I just tossed the paper on their porch and continued on my route.
There were classmates whom I sensed were different from the other boys. I’m not sure I knew exactly what it meant to be gay, but I felt like some of them were. Actually, I was correct in every case. In the 7th grade, there was Michael, who had somewhat long, and well combed hair and feminine mannerisms and voice, that made me wonder what his gender was at first. Today, he’s openly gay and in a LTR.
Then there’s Fred (not his real name). Perhaps as early as the 4th grade, I had a feeling this Catholic boy was gay. It was almost 40 years later when I found out that he was, but that he was not out except to a handful of people, none of whom were close. Such a lonely life he must lead.
Then there’s Harry (also not his real name). We were close friends in 7th grade. I know he’s gay. But he fights it. Based on my cyberstalking his Facebook feed, I can tell. He is praying and praising all the time, trying to show he’s a good Christian. I think he has it worse than Fred.
A couple of childhood friends whom I’m pretty certain are gay, are both married to women, raising families. In both cases, they were the kids who most wanted to please their parents. One was the teacher’s pet (his mom was a teacher too) and the other was the academic overachiever (his mom was also a teacher, and his dad was blatantly anti-gay). At least they have children to bring some happiness and meaning to their lives, even if romantic love is missing.
I had my own struggles before coming out, so I’m not judging any of my friends, though I wish, for their own mental health, they would come out. Each must choose his own path though.
Recently, I was chatting with a gay 18 year old. I asked him about his coming out experience. He came out to his family at age 11. It helped that his family has many out LGBT (well, they have LGT, not sure about B). It’s a different world now than when I was a kid. It has new challenges, but it’s a much better place to be gay than when I was young.