February 22, 2011


Jeff, age 4
Emmaus, PA (1966)

Here we are in Trexlertown, PA when my grandparents came to visit, and brought my cousin Rhonda along. We lived 4 hours apart, but saw each other often enough to feel really close. We always knew we shared a special bond, but we wouldn't know why until much later. Yup, my cousin Rhonda is gay, too.

That day, we all got to pick a hat from the gift shop. I'm 2nd left, wearing the red felt cap with a white feather - a Swiss Yodeler style, I believe - and I'm holding a daffodil. Rhonda chose the rebel soldier hat with the cross-guns emblem on the front. She was a few months older than me and was always my protector, amid the rough and tumble moments when all the cousins got together.

Our family is ultra-conservative and has never accepted that we're both gay.
To their credit, they've accepted us within the context of their rules, although they judge us and look down on us. Those "rules" were never pleasant for me and Rhonda, and over time, I realized those rules primarily ended up hurting them. My partner of 11 years is not welcome in my family's home, and that is their loss.

Our family views our being gay through the caricature of their beliefs, so they don’t really know us: the queer cousins. But Rhonda and I have made the best of it, and we were lucky because we always had each other, and still do.

Jeff's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Tom Selleck
I saved the Salem cigarette ads he did, which was a bit hard to explain. Rhonda crushed on Olivia Newton-John, setting the course for her life and loves.

1 comment:

Em said...

Ah, this is wonderful. I'm one of a pair of gay cousins myself.

I lost my wonderful cousin, Peter, to AIDS in 1991. He & I were close growing up & when it came time to help me out of the closet, Peter was the one who did it. (Over an amazing dinner - good food, good wine, lots of laughter- that I still remember to this day.) He had opened the door to the closet first and I followed him.