January 18, 2011


Don, age 12
Livonia, Michigan (1979)

Here's me on vacation in Florida with my brother Joe feeding the seals at SeaWorld. I am wearing two essential pieces of every outfit I wore that summer: my Christian Dior rose-tinted, tortoise shell glasses and my floppy suede leather hat that I had personalized with more than 20 googly-eyed puff balls - popular then like Pet Rocks or Garbage Pail Kids. I wore them both everywhere!

"Express Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself"
I had begged the optometry technician to continue to tint my glasses more pink until she finally said, 'Honey, if I tint them anymore, they'll become sunglasses.' And I knew the hat was better than any other I saw because mine was one of a kind, and it was made by me.

Later that year, I spent all winter break in my room continually listening to Bette Midler's soundtrack for "The Rose." 30 years later, I still can recite her entire concert monologue from that time in my life.

While my brothers listened to KISS, Van Halen and Journey, I listened to Donna Summer, Captain and Tennile, The Carpenters, Diana Ross and especially, Bette Midler. I had no idea why I identified so much with these women, and was amazed (when I later came out) about the concept of a Gay Diva and my shared love of a soulful (usually black) woman singing to me.

As I look back at this picture I am reminded of the strange mix of creativity, confidence, determination and sadness I felt about never feeling like I fit in, but also feeling compelled to express myself. Adults use to tell me things like:

"Boy, you're really different.'" And I would respond, 'Thank you.'

Things changed the next summer when I went to Junior High - where everything from my clothes to my music needed to change if I was to survive the school taunts and harassment. I ended up spending tremendous energy repressing and denying myself (and my feelings) until I accepted being gay and came out at 28.

Now I have a love of both a great diva and a great guitar solo, which is why I absolutely love Judas Priest! Rob Halford kicks ass!

Don's first, famous-person same sex crushes:
Mark Goddard (Major Don West on "Lost In Space")
Racer-X (from TV's "Speed Racer")
Erik Estrada (from "CHiPs")
My first full-fledged real crush was definitely Ponch from "CHiPs"!
OMG. That smile and those pants!

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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1 comment:

CJ on Isabella said...

Hi Don, looking at this wonderful story I see so much of myself here. Your hat and glasses were fabulous, no doubt about it. I had older sisters and I was forever playing thier Bette Midler, Supremes, Carol King, etc. records and singing along, loud and proud. I too loved all the other female singers you mention. My story that I posted also echos yours with the need to repress my true self when I got to Jr. High.
This site rocks and I am glad for all the happy endings that I am reading.
Cheers, Charles