Richard, age 6
Long Island, New York (1955)
This photo was shot in the enclosed back porch of my parents' house. Check all the kitschy '50's furniture, fabric patterns, and light shade. And there's me, posing with the vase of flowers, picked freshly from our yard. Look at that toothy smile and long eyelashes. I always wanted to be posing with flowers, or dressed in colorful clothes.
"See my beautiful flowers?"
And I just wasn't like the other boys, plain and simple. I hated sports, was never any good at them, always picked last to play on a team at forced physical education baseball in school.
And, constantly made fun of in the schoolyard. The bullies chased me around, called me names, and occasionally beat me up.
My real first friends were the girls in the suburban neighborhood where we grew up.
Playing with dolls together? THAT was fun, and much to my parents chagrin and disappointment.
I'm sure all the kids knew I was different, though gay was not a word in our vocabulary back then in the 1950's. I think the verb to describe my activity back then was prancing. I pranced around a lot from place to place, room to room.
When I came home from school and would absolutely not go out to play ball with the boys, I usually stayed inside and hung out with my Russian-born, non-English speaking Jewish grandmother. She taught me how to cook and not be fearful of the kitchen and its utensils and stove. When my mom had friends over for card games, which was regularly, I served the little sandwiches she'd made and also the drinks.
Without a doubt, I always knew I was gay. But without ever knowing that word. From about age 5, I remember feeling this attraction to some of my older brother's male friends and my older male cousins. I think my first real 'crush' was on Peter Pan, though little did I know it was the actress Mary Martin playing a boy - talk about gender confusion?!
Watching that historic live telecast of the musical in black & white in 1955, I was mesmerized. And I remember feeling something like love and lust for that 'boy in tights' flying around on TV and singing his heart out, who would 'never grow up'.
Richard's first, famous-person same sex crush:
George Reeves (TV's "Superman")
I think there's a tights theme here? A few years later my first real heartthrob was Richard Chamberlain as "Dr. Kildare"