South Bend, IN (1954)
I was a very imaginative kid. I enjoyed role playing, but was not a born thespian. It was the single image/pose that captured a moment/attitude that I employed - as shown here. In this photo, I think I was channeling Rita Hayworth and other glamor girls I'd seen in magazines. At that age, no one in my family minded my "dress up" or "pretending".
But, in high school, attitudes toward my "ambivalence" had changed, and my parents made me join the swim-team, and play football. Having endured those episodes with great pain (mostly psychological), I decided to start dating girls to escape the family "sports requirement."
And that worked quite well, freeing me of parental pressure, and I viewed it as a path to "normalcy" and acceptance.
This, in spite of the fact that I'd been sexually attracted to men since I was 9. And I remember those moments in the swim-team showers to this day!
Many years - and many heartaches - later, I separated from my wife of 10 years and "came out". Fortunately, she was very understanding, and aside from a few years of nearly unendurable self-guilt, there was no exterior punishment. It was something I got past - and thank God for my art!
I often wonder how much more open and comfortable my life would have been without these experiences. But, I also feel that my life experiences made me the artist I am today. And, the whole person who had a 26-year gay relationship (ending in his death), and now a new, 5-year-and-counting wonderful gay relationship.
Self acceptance can be a long hard path. But the earlier you start down that path, the more pleasant and rewarding your journey is likely to be.