I knew I was gay at 14. I’d told most everyone I cared about at the age of 16. Now, I was 17 and hadn’t yet even met another gay kid (knowingly). I can analyze to the point of doing nothing :-).
I finally felt I was ready, and so I think I actually looked in the phone book under “gay”, of all things. I found the Stonewall Center, a GLBT community center in downtown Salt Lake City. They had a meeting for gay youth to socialize and talk through their problems each Wednesday.
I’ve never been more anxious for a Wednesday.
When it finally came, I found the place a half-hour early, walked in, and sat down in an empty room filled with tacky pro-gay posters. As I sat fidgeting, kids began trickling in. Then a group of kids from my own high school wandered in and sat opposite me in our circle of chairs.
I didn’t really know them; we traveled in very different circles. Still, I had visions of them outing me to everyone. Of course, they had the same fear registering on their faces.
I could relax. In this case, if we were both afraid, we both had nothing to fear.
After whispering for about 5 minutes, one of them came over and nervously asked if I knew what this place was. Wasn’t it obvious? (I’ve got some gaydar stealth coating or something.) I wasn’t ready to say “I’m gay” to strangers, and so joked I was there for a hiking club, I think. Anyway, they were visibly troubled by my answer; began stammering :-). They were trying to think of how to get this wayward student body officer, who oddly couldn’t read the pro-gay posters around him, to leave before the meeting began.
Definitely not my best attempt at jocular breaking of ice, but it worked; they laughed after I came clean, and suddenly I had more friends in my life. I’d soon become comfortable around these folks, though they were as queer as Cher’s duvet cover, just as I’d become comfortable with being gay myself, which can be two very different things.
That group was a great help in my life. Just to sit in that room each week was a blessing. Just to talk to others like me and have others understand exactly where I was coming from was invaluable.
I now knew gay people, and things were going great, but I was soon to be violently blindsided by gay politics, and sociology, about which I knew next to nothing.