“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.
2004ish – I was staying in a friend’s apartment on 17th Street off Eighth Avenue in Chelsea, then Manhattan’s gayest neighborhood, while visiting NYC from Miami in 2004 or so. I returned from a day spent running around town to find the block cordoned off and a number of NYC firemen standing nearby preventing bystanders from getting too close.
At Lafitte’s, the bar was made of thick old bayou cypress planks polished by thousands of men leaning, cruising and drinking on it for over 45 years. Underneath these planks was a cheap burlap skirt and not much else hiding the jockey boxes and equipment. The bar was a large and amorphous island, open on three sides. In the center of the bar was a tree shelf of liquor—a rough triangle attached to 3 poles. Each bartender, working their stations, on each side this tree of liquor used it. This was the call liquor.
1978—Werner Seelig and I met in the South of France. He was twenty-one and from Indiana. I was twenty, a hippy from California. We were both staying in a commune up in the mountains of the Languedoc. I was immediately attracted to him and over the course of a couple weeks of exploring the wilds of the countryside together, we became inseparable buddies.