07 December 2009

When I Knew

Last week I bought a book called "When I Knew." Yeah, you can figure out what it's about. It's a compilation and some of the stories are poignant, a few tug at your heartstrings, but some are hysterically funny. So I wanted to pass a few on here, tell my own "when I knew" moment, and invite readers to post their own memories of when they "knew."

Me first. One day after school when I was 13 years old I was packing for my first Boy Scout campout. At the last troop meeting a couple of the older Scouts had been trying to scare some of the younger ones with talk of compulsory skinnydipping during the trip. It scared me, yes, but suddenly I found myself pausing to imagine what it would be like, what I would see, how I would feel if I actually did that with the other boys. And that's when it hit, like a ton of bricks. I knew. I wouldn't honestly admit it to myself for a while yet, but that's when I knew.

Okay, quotes from the book.

"I knew fairly early on. In fact, right after the doctor slapped me on the butt in the delivery room. I looked up at him and said 'Don't you think it's a little soon for that? I mean, you're totally hot, but let's at least have drinks first.'"

"My father was watching the evening news. The announcer said that Judy Garland had died. I fainted. I was nine."

"I knew I was gay when the most exciting part of my Bar Mitzvah was meeting with the party planner."

"I grew up in Meriden, Connecticut. On my twelfth birthday [1963] my parents took me into Manhattan. We went to Macy's. They gave me five dollars and told me I could buy any toy I wanted. I took the money, went to housewares, and bought a Fornasetti dinner plate."

"I was lying on the floor of the living room, watching an episode of the Tarzan series. I kept sliding closer to the TV, sort of looking under it, trying to see under Tarzan's loincloth. Seven years old. Go figure."

"Although it's very sweet that my mother always gave me a present on Valentine's Day, it does seem odd that two years in a row she gave me albums by the Village People."

"On summer trips to Brookside Pool, my brother, sister and friends usually went with us. One time, for some reason, I went with only my mother. At the doors to the men's and women's changing rooms she asked if I needed help, and said I should change in the women's room since I was only six years old. At that moment, two sun-bronzed lifeguards passed, laughing and peeling their shirts off, on their way to the door with the MEN sign over it. I waved to mom, followed the lifeguards, and said "I'll be okay!"

"I went to Choate Prep School. All the boys in my hall got Sports Illustrated. I seemed to be the only one with a subscription to Women's Wear Daily."

"I knew at seven. My favorite pastime was shutting my eyes during The Dating Game and listening to the guys' voices to see if my pick would match that of the female contestant. I couldn't wait to grow up and be on the show myself, picking my own bachelor number one, two or three."

"When I was ten I would put on my mother's leather evening gloves--they came all the way up to my elbows. I would sing "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" into the mirror. One day my mother walked in and caught me mid-song. I tried to cover, screaming out "To the Bat Cave, Robin!"

"My mother had me tailed. She did. She called her best friend Sheila, who was known for carrying a full flask of Kahlua, her loud opinions, and her seemingly endless supply of Leroy Neiman paintings, to have her son Tom tail me in the West Village.

My mother had 'found' a love letter written to me on the back of a math test with a very high score (which is what caught my mother's eye in the first place since math was not my strong suit).

Anyhow, I was visiting my high school flame Michael at his family's apartment when we stopped into the infamous corner store, Optimo Cigars on Seventh Avenue and Christopher Street, to buy some gum, and wouldn't you know it, we were spotted by Tom as we innocently stepped out of the store and onto Christopher, 'that gay street.'

It was confirmed. My mother's best friend's son 'outted' me and all because of a pack of Trident sugarless gum. There was nothing else she could do but sit me down that evening with my dad and ask me if I was 'engaging in any homosexual activity.' That was the most terrifyingly liberating question I had ever been asked.

Of course I said yes. I was free."

So, when and how did you know?


Anonymous said...

I knew when I was 6 years old. I was watching "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and he was always making out with some beautiful woman. I was VERY taken with the beautiful woman and knew that was what I "wanted".

(Now that I have told, I will never again be able to show my face in public!)

Abelard Enigma said...

I was 9 years old when the movie "The Sound of Music" came out - I went to see it 6 times.

Twinky Chink said...

Whenever we drove to Disneyland, we passed by Las Vegas. This was my favorite part of the drive, as I always looked for the billboard of "The Thunder from Down Under."

A Gay Mormon Boy said...

Until the age of 23, I sincerely thought I was asexual. I had no desire to date, kiss, or have sex with women, and the thought of any of those activities with men seemed out of the question.

Then, the first time a cute guy started to flirt with me, I knew. And I accepted it as the answer I'd been looking for because everything else started to make sense.

Andy Foree said...

I knew when I was five years old. My parents had bought be a Beauty and the Beast Barbie doll...it was a Ken doll with a beast mask. So, I would take that beautiful male dole (well, beautiful to a five year old) and hide it under my pillow at night. When I was all alone, I would take that Ken barbie out from under my pillow and imagine what it would be like to see a real man in all his glory...if you catch my drift. Wow. I was five and I already knew.
Also, I remember dressing up with a white sheet, gleefully wearing a pair of the famed Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz and, while waving the wand of Glinda, I would prance about the sun room shouting, "There's no place like home". I was six. Holy crap. I'm gay!

J G-W said...

I guess I knew the night after a sleepover with my best friend at the age of 14. We slept in our underwear on the living room sofa bed together. Or I should say, he slept and I spent all night awake agonizing about how beautiful he was, and wishing I could hold him naked.

I'd been aware of these kinds of feelings since I was about 10 or 11, but that was the first night when I get up the next day and finally admitted to myself I must be homosexual.

Joe Conflict said...

I probably should have known when my biggest reason for enjoying Boy Scout Campouts was for the naughtiness that always occurred in the tents at night. That would have been at age 13 or so.

Gay LDS Actor said...

I know when I should have known: when I was 9 or 10 I loved watching the TV series "BJ and the Bear," not because it was necessarily any good but because its lead actor, Greg Evigan, was attractive to me. At the time, I did not really understand my feelings; I just knew I liked watching him, even more so when he had his shirt off.

But when I "knew" was probably three years later when I was reading Ann Landers' column. The person asking for advice said that she'd been at a party where a lot of ignorant comments were being thrown around about homosexuality, and the person wanted Ann to define it, talk about the causes, and clear up any misconceptions. By this time in my life I was much more aware of the feelings I was having, but this was the first time someone defined it for me; and to see my life defined there in black-and white at a time when I just didn't understand that I was gay was quite shocking, and it, admittedly, scared me a lot.

After all, I didn't want to be gay, and here was Ann Landers telling me that who I seemed to be was exactly what I wasn't supposed to be according to society, my religion, and my family. After I read that column, I taped it in my journal and wrote about my homosexuality for the first time. I guess that's when I really accepted that I might be gay (although at the time I was adamant that I would overcome it), but looking back at experiences prior to that, I realize I had been gay since at least early childhood. Ann Landers only helped me understand what the feelings and attractions that were already mine were.

J G-W said...

GLDS Actor: funny you mention Ann Landers as part of your story... "Dear Abby" played an important part in mine.

Even after I had come to accept that I was gay, I still wrestled with what to do about it. I was aware of Church leaders' advice that those with same-sex attraction could be cured if they would just get married, and I wondered if I needed to find a wife.

One day I was hanging out with some friends, and someone was reading letters to Dear Abby. One of them was from a gay man, self-described as a "pillar" of his church and community, who was married and had kids. His marriage was in a shambles; he and his wife hadn't shared intimacy in years, etc.

That letter was a wake-up call for me, and prompted me to fast and pray more seriously about my options, especially weighing the fact that at that point I'd been wrestling to overcome my homosexuality for over ten years without the least bit of success...