June 19, 2022


Al, age 2

North East, Pennsylvania (1972)

I am the youngest of four siblings. I have two older brothers, and you've heard about the "gay theory" right? The more older brothers you have, the more likely you could be gay.

I'm not sure exactly what age I knew I was gay, but I knew I always liked looking at male bodies at summer camp, in gym class, at swim practice, and on TV. And I just thought all guys were feeling that, too. So as long as I wasn't blatantly obvious, no one ever said anything to me.

I knew of two pretty "out" guys (well, as out as you could be back then) who were obviously gay. I don't know if they ever announced this, but they never seemed to have any problems with it in school.

I was always interested in other things besides sports. I played with Barbie dolls with my three close "girl friends" from the neighborhood. So that might have been a clue. Plus I was always taking Ken's clothes off as often as I could! 

As a pre-teen, I used to dance to my 45 records alone in our basement. It was very "Solid Gold" type dancing. And I wonder if any of my family members ever saw me? Surely, they would have known.

I was also fascinated with "celebrity" culture.
Wanting to be a celebrity, and wanting to meet one. 

Because I thought if I became famous, I would finally feel loved.

See, my parents were from the generation where verbal "I love you's" never happened. And as a gay child who already felt different and alienated from my whole family, I needed and wanted that extra assurance and care from my parents.

One family moment that stays in my memory was a New Year's Eve party at our house, and I was told that you kiss everyone at midnight. I was around age 9, and I went and kissed my brother on the lips. And I remember him reacting strongly against that. I don't remember my parents reaction exactly, but I'm sure somehow that moment seeped into my subconscious: it isn't OK to kiss another man.

Another strong memory was getting my International Male magazine subscription around age 15, the closest thing we had to male erotica at the time. I used to pretend I was one of the models, and would "hump" the bed. But I was imagining it was a woman, not a man. Certainly kind of odd, right?

I also used to rent those soft-core straight movies like "Red Shoe Diaries" in the 80's, and I knew I was only renting it for the men, because they were all usually very hot, and there was always a lot of nudity! But I never watched any gay porn until after I came out after college.

But speaking of college: I repressed my sexuality all throughout it, tried to go the whole "straight route," and I even turned my back on my closeted friend from high school when he came out to me later in college. I thought he might be trying to get me to come out, too.

So I lived in a frat house, "dated" girls, and even had sex with two women. But not very successfully. And that just turned me into a raging alcoholic. I would get super drunk at our parties, and that's how I would get out of sleeping with girls. Which is pretty sad to think about. My frat brothers even called me "Too drunk to f*ck!" But it never stopped me from getting drunk again!

Eventually I moved to Orlando, FL because I knew I couldn't come out in my small hometown. And there I started going to a straight club on Thursday nights, their "Bad Disco" -- aka gay -- night. And once I started going alone, I remember being cruised and cruising men for the first time, and it started to feel validating

When I got that attention, it was the first time I actually had another man look at me, as if they liked me. Which most straight peers get to experience in high school. So because I had no male sexual contact with anyone in high school or college, I was like a kid in a candy shop!

Then in the 90's, I remember racking up big bills on pay phone-sex lines that were big back then. I had a bit of a sexual addiction and was having phone sex with random strangers from all over the country. One of my phone sex regulars even met me in person, but I turned him down. His reality just didn't match my fantasy.

Because I was playing so much those first few years of coming out, I did some pretty reckless things. A cop even caught me making out with a guy in a car. That was scary, but thankfully he was cool about it.

After awhile, I started feeling kind of angry about being gay and coming out. I felt like I was wasting so much time trying to find sex, which was never even that great.

And I blamed all my energy trying to get laid as even more internalized homophobia. 
But, all of that did kind of inspire my creative genes as an artist.

So I took all that angst and used it for inspiration, and sculpted of some of my most powerful art pieces. Which is another story, for another day.


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