There was always something I loved about striking a pose that always felt glamorous. I always liked being presentable, and I was feeling so sporty in my sneakers, cuffed pants, and shiny windbreaker. I always felt different, but "gay" didn't resonate until I was about 10, when we moved to El Sobrante, CA.
or come to our house to swim. I was always drawn to hair on guys, especially longish straight hair.
My best friend had blondish-white hair, and our other friend had jet-black hair with Dippity Do pomade.
My friend Veronica had an older brother, who I met at 9.
Her brother was cool - and hot! - and I was smitten with his straight, shoulder length, dirty-brown hair. And he wore a PUKA SHELL necklace. Needless to say, I put a great amount of mileage on my bike riding past his house!
I didn't mind the boy stereotype of playing and getting dirty, but I much preferred listening to my Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Doors, and Credence Clearwater Revival records with my best friend. Or climbing the evergreen tree in the back hill, to see San Francisco and feel the breeze in the hopes of hearing the news of gay liberation emanating from the streets.
From this age on, I discovered that what I had was a gift, and I learned the necessity to give it to those without it. Unfortunately, as in many Shakespearean themes, my good nature became manipulated by my brothers, who taught me the Machiavellian principles. Which meant "boys only" swim dates that opened my eyes to my peers, and the wonder and beauty of the male form.
This picture brings me joy and peace, and keeps me grounded in the belief that I'm still clearly that boy, and I give him a voice often. No shame then, no shame now. Luckily, it was ingrained in our upbringing to understand a person's content - and not their skin color, clothes, or hair, etc.
As someone who has worked in NYC with young gay kids for over 25 years, the only advice I can offer is to build that foundation of who and what you are. And gather the company of friends and family who can relish in - and openly celebrate - the other little Jim's this may be happening to everyday.