January 25, 2011

Steve

Steve, age 11
Mt. Vernon, Illinois (1979)

As a chubby gay kid growing up in the midwest, I learned how to perform - mostly because I couldn't run fast. In this picture I'm proudly displaying a cheerleading pose I'd recently learned at practice. Yes, I was a cheerleader for our grade school boys and girls basketball team.

"Ready? OK!  Roll call, sha-boom. Check, check sha-boom."
Not only was I a cheerleader, I was also the Captain of the squad - which was more of a popularity issue and less of a 'Can you do the splits?' issue. I couldn't do the splits, but I was freaking funny, and apparently that was enough.

I first knew I was attracted to men one summer at We Wo Se Je, a Christian based bible camp in the middle of the woods. I spent a whole week in a cabin with 8 other pre-teen boys and one very hunky counselor, who was all of 15 at the time. I remember faking like I was sick one night so I could sleep on the bottom bunk with him. Although all we did was sleep, it was shear heaven for me. Thank God for bible camp!

Sure, I was subjected to the usual barrage of name calling and such. However, I was lucky enough to grow up in a home where I was encouraged to be myself. A rare treasure in the economically depressed hills of Southern Illinois.

Without the love of my mother, I would have never made it through this initial step of going against the norm. She went on to make it possible for me to bear the burden of starring in school plays, speech and acting team tournaments, dying my hair purple. And, wearing vintage pajamas adorned with costume jewelry to high school. 

When I look back on this picture now, I realize I was just on the precipice of the path to true self discovery. I'm still on that path, and it's taken many directions in the years that have passed. However, I keep embracing each day and strive to make it better than the day before.

Because, it does get better and it starts with yourself.

Steve's first, famous-person same sex crushes:
Tom Wopat & John Schneider ("The Dukes of Hazzard")

Love me some "Duke Boys"!

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