Rafa, age 5
Madrid, Spain (1974)
I chose this pic of me at a beach near Valencia (where my family vacationed), because I can look into my eyes and feel the huge barrier I built up in my inner world, and one I thought I was supposed to show to everyone else. It’s not a very natural expression, and one that no small child should be showing on his face.
I remember the ever-present idea of loneliness that seemed to have no end in sight. Knowing I was different - and aware that nobody would approve of what I was feeling - always made me feel alone. And I felt a false certainty that things would remain that way forever.
I can’t claim to have been only incredibly unhappy, because my family loved me and I had a few friends. But as my birthdays went by, the burden of hiding what I felt lead me to feel constantly misunderstood. As a result, I often sought out my own personal place, where I could just be alone and not have to pretend in front of anybody. That’s why I always read or drew or played by myself.
When I was 4 or 5, I was already aware of the fact that I was attracted to men, something "very bad" that I couldn't talk about. I remember watching TV shows like Little House On The Prairie and feeling drawn to the actors, but not to the actresses. And I remember suffering, because I would force myself to not look at other boys. I never tried to do anything with girls at all, but I did force myself to be basically sexless and never give in to my impulses. That turned me into quite an introverted person, as well as a rather unhappy one.
For the gay kids of today feeling different, I say - don’t hide it, no matter how old you are. I know it’s hard and you’ll go through some rough times. But none of that compares to having your childhood and teenage years taken away from you.
Don’t let those years just go up into smoke. Live them for yourself, because the people who truly love you will stay by your side. And though they may have a hard time at first, they will support you in the end.
Love yourself above all else.
PS: I'm married and happy, and out of the closet for 20 years now
Rafa's first, famous-person same sex crushes:
Marc Singer ("The Beastmaster") & Maxwell Caulfield ("Grease 2")