April 19, 2011

Paul, blogmaster

Paul, age 10
N. Quincy, Massachusetts (1972)

I chose this picture, because it includes the women in my life who I love so dearly: My sister Linda, my amazing mom (RIP), and my sister Andrea. Plus, who can resist my red velour shirt, the plastic grape tree, and Linda's insanely florescent eye-makeup? Gotta love the 70's, right?

I'm the baby of our Italian family, and my mom raised me herself after divorcing my dad when I was 7. It was pretty much mom and me on our own for much of my childhood. I'm forever indebted to my mom, for her strength, her support, and teaching me the value of hard work. But the home haircuts? Not so much…

I was a pretty happy kid who loved art, drawing and anything on color TV - a luxury back then! But I was also pegged and relentlessly taunted as the "fag" and "pussy" and "queer" pretty much from 1st grade through high school.

It always amazes me how other kids know we're gay or different, even before we know it ourselves - or at least what to call it. I knew from around age 6 that I felt attractions to boys and men, but the topic of gay or homosexual simply wasn't discussed. Besides Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson-Reilly, I was flying blind.

But I distinctly remember an older male friend of my mom's who used to cut my hair. He was a handsome married man, and I remember liking it when he'd stand right up against the barber chair, and my elbow brushed against his crotch.
But that wasn't sexual at all - it was about a connection to a male.

I seriously loathed sports and gym classes. And it's never fun getting a dodgeball across the face as many times as I did. But the silver lining was my 8th grade gym teacher - a rock of manly muscles, curly blond hair, and a dimpled chin. When we all had to do sit-ups, I purposely positioned myself directly in front of him on the floor, so I could blatantly look up inside his gym shorts!

I was a choir geek in junior high, tried to play the tuba for a month, and played "Macbeth" in a school play. But mainly only so I could paint the castle we used as the set piece. Had I not become a DJ, I'd definitely be a graphic artist now.

My kid obsessions included: MUSIC on the AM radio, Farrah Fawcett, playing Slug in our backyard, "Wacky Packages," "Willy Wonka," banana seat Schwinn bikes with clothes-pinned cards in the wheel spokes, wearing my sisters' black "fall" wigs pretending to be Cher, "Match Game," and mounting yearly Carnivals and Haunted Houses to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

My best friends were the girls, who I definitely related to much more than boys. After "dating" girls through high school (and barely getting to 2nd base with any of 'em), the lightbulb finally went off and I admitted I was gay to myself at 17.

I came out to both my sisters around 19, and they were both completely supportive. And kind of non-plussed, actually. It really was no surprise.

In my first year of college, while still living at home with my mom, she found some gay porn magazines under my mattress. She went to my sisters, and I'll never forget how amazing their cover for me was. They just said to her: "Oh ma, he probably just has those for his art classes, to practice drawing the male form."

I came out to my friends shortly thereafter, and my bestest BFF Pam was practically giddy about it, if not pissed I didn't tell her sooner. Again, no surprise...

I didn't officially come out to my mom until I was 30. Crazy, right? I always felt if I told her, she would just worry about me twice as hard. But on that trip to Boston during breakfast, and mustering up the dreaded 'Mom, I have something to tell you' – she didn't blink, and said "Are you gonna tell me you’re gay?"
I don't think I ever hugged her harder than I did that day.

And I have to say: Moms always know we're gay. They really do. So I encourage those who are afraid to come out, to trust your instinct – and theirs – and be honest with them. Living the closeted lie is like a 10-ton weight on our backs.

In closing, I have to say this to the LGBTQ youth of today:

Stand tall, walk proud, and believe in yourself! And never, ever let those who bully you or taunt you make you stop being exactly who you are. And understand that their homophobia is ugly and ignorant, while you are beautiful and unique!

When we're kids in school, we feel like it's the most important time of our life.
But I gotta tell you: Those years are a mere nanosecond, compared to the lifetime of happiness, joy, and love that will come in to your life as a proud, gay adult.

I was able to turn all my obsessions and passions as a kid, into a career that I adore. I feel blessed to be part of the invaluable contributions that gay people bring to society and to the world. That YOU will bring to this world, too.

But yikes! I think I went way over the 350 word-count rule here.
I'm gonna have to have a word with the blogmaster about that, eh? :)

Paul's first, famous-person same sex crush:
David Cassidy
Obsession is more like it! I saw him in concert, had every poster and teen magazine he was in, and a huge scrapbook! Yeah, Paul - not obvious at all...

Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
Click to follow my blog with Bloglovin'


Armineh said...

Beautiful story, darling. Love you

Unknown said...

30? Really?! Thanks for sharing!

DJ Paul V. said...

Well, the thing about waiting till 30 to tell my mom: I moved to LA when I was 26 - and by then was out to pretty much the entire world, except her!

I knew deep down she already knew. But this was during the height of AIDS, and I knew she would worry even more about me, if I came out then. So being able to be home and come out, but also assure her I wasn't HIV positive, was the deciding factor I guess.

Jay Six said...

Thank you for sharing this with us all and for giving us all the chance to share our stories. It's done a world of good and will continue to!

Unknown said...

Great story, Paul. Kudos again on your site and all your successes.

moonlitlake said...

Liked the way you became you....

Unknown said...

I remember it like it was yesterday, and I think my giddiness came from my thinking "Thank God HE finally knows". You are the most beautiful, loving, caring, FUNNY, intelligent, compassionate, talented person I have ever known and I am so lucky to have you for my BFF. I love you!!! xoxo

Piglet's Buddy said...

Thanks for finally posting this, after making us wait the extra days!!!
It was so very well worth the wait. I think you exceeded the character count, as you mentioned on Sunday night, but it's definitely ok.
I TOTALLY identified with the clothes-pinned cards. I got a big smile remembering that, although my bike days were in the50's.
Keep up the great work. I love checking the blog EVERY day.

tina FCD said...

I'm not gay but,I like reading the funny stories the most and about the very understanding and accepting parents of most of you guys.I love the blog.

One Woman's Thoughts said...

A really wonderful story about your growing up. Sounds like you had some wonderful memories and a loving family.

B said...

LOL @ Charles Nelson-Reilly/Paul Lynde! You would love the novel I'm writing. It is packed full of '70s trivia, including the Schwinn banana seats. Love your site!

Unknown said...

I've been reading your blog every day since Dan Savage wrote about it. I hope that someday you'll be able to compile the stories into a book that will be placed in every school library next to It Gets Better. Thanks for creating this blog -- I'd like to think it's changed some minds.

dys·func·tion said...


I've been looking forward to reading your story. It was amazingly well written, and I'm glad you went over the word count.

Here's to another 500!

Susan Beccio said...

thanks for sharing and thanks for this blog, you rock. and so does david cassidy.

Andrea said...

To my wonderful brother Paul who I have loved from the day he was born. He was the cutest baby and we would fight over who would walk him in the carriage or even change his diapers! He probably felt at times that he had 3 women mothering him, but it was all from a place of love. I am so proud of him and all that he has accomplished in his life. Thank you for bringing so much love, joy and happiness to my life. Your sister, Andrea

Randuwa said...

Paul, Great post. You are the right man at the right time for this project. Everyday more people know that we are just other people, not "those" people, or people to be afraid of. And this blog provides one more resource to show just how fabulous and innocuously normal we are. You are my McArthur Genius--no award forthcoming! But if I could..... Cheers!

James Greenlee said...

Wow. We share a lot in common in our growing up and coming out stories. In fact, it's amazing when you start reading some of the stories, all of the common elements we go through. I've had about enough of the "chose to be gay" stuff we've been hearing for years (and is now having a resurgence).

Haters want to have it both ways, pointing and laughing at the more obvious amongst us, and then trying to say we had some sort of choice. I guess cognitive dissonance hasn't been a problem with them in other areas either.

Thanks for being a voice from our side!

American Toycoon said...

Ha ha! I thought I was the only kid that put on a Backyard Carnivals for Muscular Dystrophy. They had commerical with those two wierd puppets.

Love your blog! Epic! Thanks for sharing your experience and allowing other to do so, too.

Ksjeffrey said...

One of the things that I love about being gay are the things that we all have in common. For instance, I also HATED sports and gym class (except for the showers).

Born This Way gives us the chance to remind each other that being gay makes us SPECIAL! Thank you so much for this GREAT blog!

David Zellaby said...

Excellent story, Paul. From a fellow Quincy survivor. I have two years on you, so I remember the same time and place. And so many similarities to your experiences. I'm anonymous for now, so I'll call myself Jeremy. Well done on the blog.

gaurav said...

Thank you for sharing this with us all and for giving us all the chance to share our stories. It's done a world of good and will continue to! Treadmills India