Coming Out – Twice Survival (Edited 11-18-07)
I don’t think I’ve told these stories in any specific order that made any sense, but I have written about certain events in my “life-time line.” So let’s talk about being gay, coming out and my entrance into all things gay, since Pride is a topic as of late.
I’ve told you that I knew that I was different the first day of junior high school, the first day that I walked into the locker room. The boys, the smell of sweat, there was an immediate reaction to what I was experiencing. I’ve never changed in front of boys before, and I had not hit puberty as of that time. But I would.
I was freaked about my body image, and I surely was not prepared to shower in front of a stranger, let alone other boys. That fear remained for a while, until I got into sports and that fear was slowly abated.
I knew, and in hindsight, my parents new. But only my step mother did anything about it, as indirectly as she could. Bringing like minded people into my world was her way of educating me and my parents. My parents had serious issues with gay. (That’s not for here!)
I was attracted to the boys I was friends with. I had both male and female friends in good numbers so there wasn’t a disparity between the sexes in my world. I did not sexually identify until I was well into high school, and that was by force and heterosexual peer pressure. I had never heard about boys coming out where we lived or in the school that I attended. But when I was in High school, one of my friends came out in the Youth Group at church and he got a lot of persecution and abuse. So I did not say anything to anyone.
I was into wrestling, soccer and the swim team. I eventually lettered in swimming my senior year of high school. That was a big deal for me. Looking back at high school, there were many of us flirting with the ‘fence’ because later in life many of us found ourselves in the same location night after night. I went to the Prom. You want to hear a great story?
Iris Toro was my date for the prom. It was an “All nighter Prom.” We had the party at the Eden Roc hotel with dinner and dancing on the beach, and then we were invited to cruise on a boat on the intra coastal waterway overnight, so that we wouldn’t be on the streets overnight. Her mother – up until a few days before the prom, would not give her permission, for her daughter to spend an entire night with me. I guess she was worried about my carnal desire… That was farther from the real truth. I was a Catholic boy bred on the theology of no premarital sex. So she was afraid of me? She should have looked closer to home. Because her little virgin daughter was all over me like white on rice – on the cruise and I spurned her advances. She broke up with me the next morning.
HA HA HA
I carried my secret for a long time. In youth group we were not coached either way, as far as I remember. Nobody spurned anyone, unless of course you identified. I had close relationships with a few friends and that was great growing up, because my parents were being verbally and physically abusive so the less time I spent at home the better.
Live to Tell…I’m watching the Madonna Concert as I write this…
I’ve shared that my mother had a love / hate relationship with her siblings the latter portion of our teen years. I always believed that keeping lines of family communication were important. I was idealistic. I believed in family, because it was the extended family that kept my father from killing me as a child. So I did my best to ride the middle line and always keep those I loved close to me. That summer I was 19, I went to visit my aunt and cousins in Connecticut. My mother was beside herself. She was so angry that I’d do something that she didn’t agree with.
During that trip, I had my “first” sexual experience. I had never slept with anyone up till that point in my life. But years of home study, reading material, listening to the sexcapades of my parents and even late night call in shows, I was hooked on men. I was hooked on all things profane. It was right in front of me for decades, and if my parents and others could do it, then why couldn’t I? I mean, if they thought it was normal and they didn’t have a problem with profane sex then I guess it was ok for me, right? There is a nugget of truth for you: I wanted to be just like my father. I knew him better than I think he knew himself. Hindsight is 20-20 so what I know today is based on a lifetime of experience, to know that there was a secret that laid in that closet and that my father will take to his grave.
We all got drunk on Yukkafutz… what? You’ve never heard of Yukkafutz?
Picture: 2 gallon Mason jar with clasp. Add ½ the jar of fresh fruit, one cup of sugar, fill the rest of the jar with ice. Add VODKA, until you cover the ice. Close lid, shake with a towel until jar is iced over… 15 people with straws… drinking from the jug. When you reach the fruit, a second cup of sugar, more fruit, more ice, and more VODKA… Close lid and shake until jar ices over. 15 people with straws, drink from the jug. Finish VODKA – eat the fruit.
Massive drunkenness ensues…
We were too drunk to function and surely not drive. During that afternoon I had set my eyes on a particular guest. I made sure he stayed the night. It was the most amazing night of my life, in a sacred and profane kind of way. I had dreamed about this, read about it, fantasized about it and finally I had arrived…
We had a few days to live the honeymoon. I kept that secret for two years. I made a lot of women jealous after that. Even envious I imagine. I returned home and work, but I was unhappy.
I had done a year in community college and a year in seminary before my 21st birthday, and I had failed at both, so it was into the workforce I went. While my peers in Seminary were beginning to self identify, I had not. And HAD I stayed in Seminary, I can’t say which way I would have turned, given the structure or the discipline. But I did not get that chance now did I?
I went to Europe in the summer of 1987 to see the Pope and the Vatican. Something was up during that trip that I was totally clueless over.
I had seen a shrink, before I turned 21, a man my step mom invited to her table many, many times. He had told me that if I was going to become gay that I had to cross the threshold. That was the inevitable visit to my first gay bar. That was Uncle Charlie’s in Miami. I had to ‘investigate’ the scene. I remember the angst driving up and parking the car outside, the butterflies in my stomach walking up to the front door. He told me to go inside sit at the bar and order a drink.
Ah! Alcohol was going to make it easier to assimilate.
I made several visits to that bar prior to my move, but I could never commit to being gay in the city I grew up in, hence the reason that I moved away. But I would eventually return to that scene some years later.
On my 21st birthday in 1988 I celebrated with my best friend by drinking my way around Miami. That was incredible. That Christmas my best friend and I went to the Bahamas on a cruise, and I got knackered and professed my undying love to my best friend.
After that cruise I had moved away to be gay. And where do gay boys come out in Florida? At the Parliament House on the Orange Blossom Trail. I had uprooted myself and moved with no argument from my folks. My friends I had met months earlier on the cruise lived in the very apartment complex I moved into. They were going to indoctrinate me.
I was a raging alcoholic. It was the fuel of life, the elixir to make it all better, to bring men to you and really, it made for great times, as long as responsibility wasn’t something that was necessary.
The Big Night came on a Saturday night. I was dressed for the kill and we drove to the P-House. We paid our cover and walked through the piano bar and into the Foot Light Theatre. Carmella Marcella Garcia was Host and MC. I had never seen a drag show before, but I was quickly hooked. Jimmie, Dana, Rusty and Carmella, Rene and Cheena, and the list of many others graced that stage over those years.
Patrick walked me into the disco in the back of the bar; The Communards were starting up on the turntable. Jimmy Somerville was singing “Never can say Goodbye!” I danced with Patrick – my first gay dance, and then he kissed me. I wouldn’t have been mean to anyone, on this particular night, it being the first night I was ever in the Parliament House. Patrick’s BF was a flight attendant, Patrick was much better behaved than his mate at the time. Patrick and I would visit the Parliament house again and again. But those days were far and few between. My memory of this time is sketchy today.
I was formally a gay boy.
My time in Orlando was amazing, incredible, sexual and profane. I made a list of mistakes as long as my arm. I knew how to clean a house, grocery shop and DRINK. I did not know how to pay bills, keep a checkbook, or be responsible, and I know that sounds stupid but I was stupid. I left the nest before I learned about street smarts. Nobody warned me about the fragility of life and the fact that of you don’t pay certain bills or maintain a house there were consequences.
Out of all the men I dated while I was away, only one was the most important, and that was Charlie, maybe because we weren’t boyfriends. But we relied on each other and we had really great sex, whenever we wanted. He was a season employee at the Tragic Queendom, so our love life was doomed from the start.
EDIT ADDED 11-18-07
Much can be said about this time of our lives, when we were young and beautiful. Carmella was doing “Under the Boardwalk” and Rusty was doing “Fancy” by Reba. Boys were a plenty, and beauty was the order of the day. I was a virgin in the clouds of heaven. I lived in that apartment complex across the street from what was then (Seasonal housing) for employees. That’s where Dustin, John and Charlie lived… We used to go to Southern Nights, which is now closed.
If YOU say you are who you are, you had an apartment in that apartment complex (where I lived) too. There is a huge hotel that sits on that space in front of the complex, where we used to have a birds eye view of EPCOT fireworks at night. Damn they built that hotel on the land in front. Patrick and his BF (Mark??) was it lived there too, that’s why I moved there. To be near them and to be gay.
There were many gay boys in that Wyndham complex, if memory serves??? We used to gather at the hot tub at night after work. Then they built Pleasure Island next to the, now revamped downtown Disney. We used to dance at Mannequins and drink and get drunk at the Adventurers Club and there was the skate rink that hosted happy hour and you got a ticket to any other club on the island afterwards. Mannequins was great with the light show, the dancers, who lived next door to me, David and Robert. The spinning dance floor where the boys would start off dancing off sides moving towards each other as the night progressed.
The Parliament House was a haven for us boys, I remember LEE the bar back. He was a stud. I had “HAD”him one Valentines night, when John and I were there togethe, we weren’t a couple, but friends, Lee came over and said something to me and we ended up disappearing for a couple of hours to have sex in the electrical room while he was on shift that night, and didn’t we get caught coming in separate entrances into the Footlight Theatre by Ms.P that night…. Look who just had sex, aren’t we the lucky ones – aren’t we??
Many memories exist inside that disco at the Parliament house. The Night to end all nights was New Years Eve, when we deposited on a table for eight, and in the disco was where I caught my boyfriend ROCKY sucking off his ex on New Years night, after we had rented the limo, bought champagne and shit, and he ditched me in the theatre to be with his ex, and that night I didn’t go home, I went home with a friend because I was upset and wasted.
And when I did get home the next day (MY EX Rocky) moved out everything from the apartment – he up and left me high and dry with an empty apartment that we had just moved into – the complex wasn’t even finished, behind the grocery store down the street from Hotel Plaza Boulevard… Those were the days…
You know who you are – of you say you are who you say you are, that you and I were close friends, we spent a great many nights together talking and touching, but you would never have sex with me, which was a bummer… I raise the faith question because that set you apart from all the other boys I knew then. I had never known a Mormon boy before. Since I study religion these days, I remember you very well…
There was another boy I was in love with, his name escapes me but he was a MORMON boy who went on to be one of the Great ‘Voices of America’ at E.P.C.O.T after I moved away. He took care of me when I was sick and when I had surgery on my foot.
(I was NOT HIV + then) and he had beautiful eyes and a smile that lit up a room. We had a very chaste relationship and that was ok with me.
I flirted with conversion of virgin boys. I had two roommates in a 3 bedroom apartment at one time, David, Robert and myself. We had three friends who lived across the way from us in another cast complex; Dustin, John and my “buddy” Charlie. John was the odd man out. And he loved to tease me.
He wore Obsession by Calvin Klein. He would spray it on my pillows and on my towels in my bathroom. He taunted me with sex, and I was not one to say no to a challenge. We went out one night, we got drunk and he got in my bed. He crossed the field, jumped the fence and dug right in from the first moment. I have a bottle of Obsession in my bathroom today.
We had a seven day courtship. On the eighth day I come home from work early and I walked in my front door, and I had to pass David’s room in the front of the apartment. My room was in the back. I look out of the corner of my eye and I see someone bouncing on David’s bed. David was having sex with John. You see gay boys who work at the Tragic Queendom, during those years had no scruples.
Needless to say I was angry, so angry that John became an obsession. I followed him around for months with a stack of numbered index cards. I would wait outside his conquests apartments and I would later knock on the door and hand them a numbered index card, and I would leave. I stopped at number 60.
That was a truly hard time in my life. I made a lot of mistakes, lost apartments and cars, pissed off my parents and wound up in a few jackpots that nearly ended me. But that program of repetitious mistakes would be a running theme in my life until my mid thirties.
I moved back to Miami in 1991 and returned to my work roots in travel. I was dating – drinking and taking advantage of people. I moved back to my parents, and I have said before, never bring a man home to sleep with while under your parents roof, at least mine. I moved from there into a friend’s mansion, by middle class standards. I had drunken my last rent check and screwed my friend for the last time. She locked me out and that ended a truly special relationship.
I was an active, sick alcoholic living in the same house with another alcoholic who was in recovery, which I would not know this truth for four years later. I had to make amends years later for what I did in hurting such a wonderful woman in my life.
I was a travel agent for a while, until I got a job at Royal Caribbean in the spring of 1992. If you know anything about Miami – 1992 was the year that all hell broke loose. I had moved “again” to Ft. Lauderdale in the summer of 1992, just months prior to Hurricane Andrew.
James and I were living together and I’ve written about that story already. My parent’s were in Connecticut. My mother had been on the love side of the family pendulum at that point. The storm was coming and Miami was evacuating. We spent three days preparing for the worst. We were alright, my parents lost the house.
Whether or not they loved me or accepted me during that time was neither here or there. They were 1500 miles away and my brother was across the state so it was me or nothing. The day after the storm it took us four hours to drive to my parent’s home, which usually took all of 40 minutes.
The destruction was incredible. Everything had been flattened. The atomic bomb had been set off because the land was leveled. I don’t know if all of you can understand what it feels like to stand in the middle of ruins after a storm, where houses are gone, buildings are destroyed; trees that had stood for more than 50 years were uprooted and thrown over long distances. AND in Coconut Grove, there were boats and ships on the streets that had been floated up out of the water – it was like hurricane Katrina. They got flooded and destroyed. Miami is flat so storm surge comes and goes and carries everything away with it.
James and I secured the house and the neighborhood. We did daily trips to Boa Raton for supplies. The company supplied food, water and ice for our families. I had to call my parents and tell them not to come home. Can you imagine what that feels like? I gave my parent’s the news 1500 miles away, a list of things they needed if the expected to survive, and to bring a lot of cash. Because the banks had been destroyed and there was no electricity and there wouldn’t be for some time.
Four days later my parent’s flew to Miami, with what they had purchased, and we drove down to be there before they got there, because from the airport on the highway there wasn’t very much damage to that section of highway. The farther south you drove the worse it got. (I’ve got a lump in my throat just writing this)
It took them over an hour to make the trip. They had to find their way through fallen trees and downed power lines. My father got out of the car, and fell to his knees and wept. My mother was in pieces. At least one room of the house was in tact, (read: with roofing over it), that they lived in until FEMA got there.
That was truly one of the most difficult things I had to do as an adult, was to take care of my parent’s in their time of need but I did it. I was victorious. My father never thanked me, once my brother got there, I became sight unseen.
James and I were on the skids after that. He was keeping a secret and he was sick and suicidal. And on April the 17th 1993, I found his body in his apartment, he had committed suicide. The rest is history…
Fancy for some of us gays is the “Coming Out” a second time.
Once for being Gay – the Second time was to tell your friends and family that you had AIDS and that you were going to die. I don’t know which one was worse, probably the second, because I came out on my own term and on my own time and place. I really didn’t tell anyone. So I didn’t care what people thought or knew.
But when you were gay in 1994, and AIDS was wreaking havoc on the social landscape, if you told anyone, that usually ended whatever relationship you were in, could cost you your job, your home, your lovers, your family and in the end Your Life.
I stayed alive and I got sober the first time for four years.
The one gift I was given out of all that carnage and horror was this: I learned how to observe for a time. This gift has paid off in my present life. Hi, I’m Jeremy and I am HIV positive. The other person takes a step back and their faces glaze over with that “oh, pity you look” they stop hugging you and or shaking your hand. Your family and friends begin to walk away. Your work associates are so scared to work with you or use the same bathroom, that you get fired because of utter abject fear.
I don’t know if many of you can identify with the observation of rational human beings move from rational and compassionate to irrational and heartless, IN a heartbeat. All that was needed was a few choice words… “I have AIDS.” And the crowd looses their heads and all hell breaks loose.
It was stunning just how heartless humanity became. The things I witnessed and felt were just incredible. It is a really blessed miracle that Todd and Roy and my certain friends who took care of me were there, because my parent’s went crazy.
I think what we did NOT know was worse than what we DID know.
And can you blame them? Yes, I can. There was plenty of information about passing the disease and communicability. The way straight and GAY people treated the sick and dying was inexcusable and unforgivable. I had a number of failed relationships, almost died, slipped into drugs and alcohol , survived and got sober again!! 5 years and 6 months now.
I moved to Canada, met a man, became the most responsible and accountable man that I could be, I fell in love, I got married, and went back to school. AND I graduated with a bachelors degree in Religion just last week!! Who Knew!!
Next week is my HIV anniversary on July the 8th.
We step into the 14th year living with AIDS for me. Sadly, all of my friends are still dead, and I am still here. I still ask God why? Are we any closer to answering that spiritual question?
No, I don’t think so.
You can read all my AIDS writings over there in Pages.
I confess to almighty God
and to you my brothers and sisters
that I have sinned through my own fault
in my thoughts and in my words
in what I have done and what I have failed to do
and I ask blessed Mary
all the angels and saints
my brothers and sisters
to pray for me to the Lord our God.