Mark, age 8
Houston, TX (1967)
I grew up with a conservative, though not religious, Texas family. When I was 7, my mother caught me with a neighbor boy in my pup tent in our backyard one afternoon. We were unclothed and in full glory. Awkward!
My mother never told my dad about that incident.
As far as I was concerned, what I was doing was totally natural. But I realized that I had to hide my activities.
I experimented with a string of neighbor boys until I was 14.
At that point, I realized I might get caught by the wrong person.
I had no idea I was gay yet. In my environment there was simply no word for it.
I wasn't effeminate, but was always small for my age. Perhaps the only reason I was never beaten up was because I loved masculine energy.
I played Army, built forts, often played in the mud, went skinny-dipping with friends, was an avid Cub and Boy Scout, and even a US Marine.
On the outside I was the quintessential boy, and enjoyed regular boy activities. Yet inside, something was always missing. What was missing, was coming out and acknowledging I was gay.
When my blond, attractive girlfriend failed to "make the gay go away" when I was 23, I dropped the pretense (and her), and went to a gay bar. I discovered it quite by accident, and it was located only a few blocks from where I lived at the time. I was out with a vengeance and rapidly made up for lost time.
After a couple of failed attempts at relationship building, I found my man.
We've been together since 1988, and got married in California 20 years later.
I opened up to my creative self and I'm a published novelist now, too.
And I love our gay life together here in Chicago.
Mark's first, famous-person same sex crush:Lance Kerwin (in "James At 15")
We're the same age, and I devoured everything I could find with him in it.