February 07, 2011


Jeremy, age 6
Harrisonburg, VA (1977)

I was a helplessly creative kid. My mother remembers before I could even speak I was humming TV themes. From "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" to "That Girl"
I could out hum any toddler in the mid-Atlantic! I loved to sing, play pretend, and emulate my childhood hero - Wonder Woman! No other boy I knew could do the Diana Prince twirl like me - but then again, I don't recall many trying.

"Make your own kind of music, sing your own special song..."
Most of you are probably uttering a collective 'Well, duh!' right now. But as a child I didn't know I was gay. I just knew that in some way, I was special.

My parents didn't restrict my expression in any way. I owned a Barbie doll, played with Ken, and inherently - but indescribably - I knew I preferred to date Ken.

The once nonjudgmental and free social realm of preschool, changed for me in kindergarten.

The room had two plays areas - one for girls, one for boys. The girls' side had all the fun stuff like Raggedy Ann, baby dolls, and tea sets. While the boys' side had the less than thrilling array of dump trucks, airplanes and Lincoln Logs.

I remember walking directly to the girls side to pick up Raggedy Ann. One of the girls reprimanded me and said 'You go to that side. That's where the boys play!'
I remember my little heart sinking in a way that I couldn't describe for many many years. Needless to say, at least publicly, I followed suit. Privately, I was caught up in Wonder Woman, Marlo Thomas, Helen Reddy, & Barbra Streisand.

My real life male crushes continued through childhood and early adulthood. Being completely in the closet, I relegated these romances as creative short-stories written in my notebook. And kept far from the eyes of my sisters and family. All I knew back then was that I was alone. I knew I wasn't a "freak" but didn't know how to explain it. And if anyone ever discovered my secret, I would somehow die.

Being a teen in the mid-80's was not fun for me. Kids would joke that gays "had AIDS" and were going to hell. If I were to come out, would I have AIDS too?  Would I die? I didn't necessarily believe in Hell, but it sounded pretty scary too.
I know this sounds irrational now, but in my quiet secret world these seemed like real and terrifying realities. Also, my family had fractured back then when my father came out of the closet. Suddenly we seemed like a family of talk-show guests full of anger and pain.

I came out of the closet in my early 20's soon after graduating college. It seemed then my other friends, who'd been on the same journey with me the whole time, were coming out as well. It was like we'd all been through the same periods of fear and denial, but didn't have the voice to help each other until we grew up.

When I came out to my mother, she said, 'Well, I've known since you were a child. I just wanted you to feel comfortable telling me yourself' - and it was like the weight on my shoulders sprouted in to wings! I knew I would never have to go back to hiding. 

Now at 40 and in a 13-year relationship with a wonderful man, I look at this pic and think of Mama Cass' song, "Make Your Own Kind Of Music". It's a humbling reminder I did exactly that back then, 'Even if nobody else sings along'.

To the generation of young GLBT kids today:

I suggest they always follow that advice. To parents today, I ask you to allow your kids to make the best music you've ever heard in your life!

Jeremy's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Rick Springfield (on "General Hospital")
Robert Reed ("The Brady Bunch")
Plus Ricky Schroeder, Tom Selleck, and the ever-untouchable David Hasselhoff.
Dream A Little Dream: The Cass Elliot Collection Late, Late at Night Wonder Woman: The Complete Collection Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt [VHS]


Fowl Ideas said...

Remember that the basic social structure of our species requires someone on the bottom to assume the role of scapegoat for those at the top. Those in the middle feel safe as long as there is someone different for the self appointed elite to abuse. If this sounds a lot like high school...

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T-Dogg said...

It's not silly at all. That's exactly what I encountered as a kid and how I first linked myself to a gay identity!

I remember walking int he lunch room in 2nd grade to throw my trash out. As I passed by some boys in my class, they were saying to one another "Did you know that gay guys get AIDS?"

As I was throwing my trash away, I remember distinctly being frightened and thinking "Am I going to get AIDS?"

Man...Totally legit.