When I was coming out in the late ‘70s, I was part of a large community that included men of different ages, races, ethnicities and sexual proclivities, along with lesbians and others of varying sexual and gender identities. The unifying force was that we all considered ourselves societal outsiders.
Stories about my adventures bartending in New Orleans in the late ’70s and early ’80s. To read them all, click here.
Working in the bars in New Orleans, I learned one thing very quickly about myself—my type of man was Cajun. Cajuns typically were dark-haired, with pale skin and green eyes. They came from an area outside of New Orleans and spoke an archaic version of French. Cajun Country started along the Mississippi River around Baton Rouge and went west along Interstate 10 across the whole southern part of Louisiana. I’d heard stories about the Cajuns—Cajuns who, during the Mardi Gras Season, would hold parties around a bonfire somewhere near Ville Platte and bring their horses. They could hold their liquor. As they partied, a few of them would usually end up stripped naked on horseback, standing on top of their horses, racing around the bonfire. I always wanted to go to one of those parties.
“Ya know, I can see it all. You and that girly little voice…You’re gonna’ grow up to be a faggot.”
I was 12, on the verge of 13, on a camping trip with my best friend, Patrick, his family, and a few other families, where it seemed that faggots were not welcome. I wasn’t exactly sure what a faggot was, but I had been called that before, so I knew it was related to why I had always felt different from the other boys. Something about the way they all behaved made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t like to rough house and they hated me for it. I was ashamed of my pubescent body and I didn’t feel comfortable going into the river and showing it to them. It seemed that everything I felt here was wrong. I didn’t match with these boyish boys who liked to boy it up.
It was once the epicenter of the gayest neighborhood in New York City. Today, any traces of the infamous Chelsea Gym are nearly impossible to find.
From the mid-‘80s to the late ‘90s, the Gym at 17th Street and Eighth Avenue was a big part of my gay youth (late gay youth anyway). As one of a few all-male gyms in town, Chelsea was a required stop for the party circuit and even what passed for the muscle glitterati. There were photos of semi-famous actors and would-be porn stars in mid-pump. Even Schwarzenegger himself worked out once, or so legend and an autographed picture attested. Some weekends, the place was overrun with beautiful, built, burly out-of-towners, leaving us locals either delighted or intimidated. And tucked away downstairs, the steam, sauna and shower areas saw enough action to fill volumes of erotic memoirs if anyone ever has the balls write them.
I had looked into those blue eyes many times before. When he would jump on me to wake me up whilst still in just his briefs, laughing and pushing his face into mine. Wrestling me to the point that I was unable to move, my eyes would make quick glances over his half naked body. I could feel all of my senses coming to life, but I had no idea what this meant.
1977—I hated my first job. I was spending long hours in a rigorous bank training program in Manhattan and, besides infrequent and random pick-ups in gay bars, I had little social life except with a few college fraternity brothers and their girlfriends and my fellow trainees. Frustrated with my situation, I decided one day to place an ad in the personals section of the Advocate national gay magazine:
“ALL-AMERICAN AND GAY – Honest, good-looking, athletic, educated, and very muscular ‘normal’ American male wishes to meet same. Object: friendship. Just coming out; at ease with being gay, but uncomfortable in the gay world. Send informative letter with photo to…”
August 2012-September 8, 2013—For a lot of closeted gay men, the Internet, social media and smartphone apps offer an excellent opportunity to explore sexuality in a space where your identity remains hidden. Unfortunately, the Internet also allows vulnerable populations to be ridiculed, harassed and “outed.” Stories of 13-year-olds hanging themselves after being bullied online have become a common trend.