Indianapolis, Indiana (1957)
Here I am in one of my frequent sassy moods, chastising the photographer for taking my picture. I was always very outspoken, but at the same time, I was painfully shy and introverted. Both sides of my personality existed and sometimes one dominated, sometimes the other.
My grade school teacher once sent home a note telling my Mother that:
"Michael likes to entertain his friends in class."
A big neighborhood bully stopped me on the street and asked me if I knew I was queer?
I told him: Yes, I knew that!
That stopped him dead in his tracks and he left me alone!
At that time growing up in the 50's and early 60's, and wanting to avoid trouble, I never forced the issue and never came out to anybody.
I grew up in a home where things like being gay weren't discussed, so I was very ignorant of the fact that we are everywhere and we are just as good as anybody else! I was just me, and most kids and even grownups just accepted me as I was.
I had my first crush on another boy when I was 11 while in the Boy Scouts.
He was an older man: 12 years old! I worshipped him from afar, but never had the courage to go up and speak to him. And I'm sure he never even noticed I existed. But he was gorgeous, like a very young and hot Elvis Presley.
It wasn't until I was 14 and in high school that I started to realize I had actual physical attractions to other boys and romantic feelings for some. And I soon met some other gay boys at school. I went to a very large high school with 4,000 students, so there were several boys there who clearly stood out as gay because they were so very obvious. They couldn't hide it even if they wanted to.
Those other gay boys I met were my first introduction to what other kids similar to me must be like. I was glad to know I wasn't the only one! They instinctively knew I was "one of them" and would talk to me as we walked to classes.
However, I noticed that all of them were mercilessly bullied every day in school. And that made me feel terrible and very bad for them. But I knew if I spoke up in their defense, that I'd get beaten up too. And that made me feel worse. So I kept a low profile and tried to just fade into the background so I didn't stand out.
I tried to deny to myself that I might be gay for many years, but I knew it was true. And I finally decided to accept myself as I am in my early 20's.
To all the gay kids and young people of today, all I can say is be true to yourself. You may encounter people who will be mean and hateful toward you and who will try to make you feel bad about yourselves - but do not let them.
They are the bad people -- not you! Just have the courage to be yourself.
Not everyone will like you, but the right people will!
Click here - "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book
Click here - "My First Gay Crush Blog"
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