I always knew. I never thought I would be a cliché, but dare I say it…yes, I knew from an early age that I was different. It was not going to happen to me! Along the way I experienced what I thought were normal sexually curious experiences. Whether it was playing doctor with Zach or watching porn naked with Dan, all of these were common things that boys did. None of this proved anything. Right? I was certainly not gay. Quite the contrary. I was the guy who had girlfriends starting in 5th grade. I was the guy who played sports out of a family who were athletically challenged. I was the guy who joined the largest fraternity on campus hooking up with a new sorority girl each week. I couldn’t be gay. I didn’t like Broadway or Madonna (okay, maybe a little). Maybe that small voice in the back of my head talking to me through college was just me questioning things, but questioning did not mean gay.
Once college ended I moved to DC and then came the opportunity to work in New York City. It was exciting. In the back of my mind I thought that with such a vast place I could check some things out and put to rest any lingering “questions” I had. I had concerns of course. I was concerned that I would let my mom down since she insisted since I was 5 that I bring home a nice Jewish girl! Would I be able to do that? Was I actually gay or maybe bisexual? I would need some help. I wasn’t sure if what I was thinking or feeling was normal. First big problem, how does one seek advice about questioning ones sexuality? For some, seeking advice from a therapist would make sense but for me I turned to the next best thing…Gay.com.
Typical chats would start out as;
them: hi, stats?
me: oh well I am 5’9, 150 lbs, dark hair, dark eyes, very discreet. Not out.
them: cute….want to meet up?
me: Well, I’m flattered, but I am more interested in asking you some questions
Some conversations would end abruptly after I asked questions like “when did you know you were gay?” But some would last for hours. At the end of some conversations, “them” who were initially looking for sex would thank me, say that it was a great conversation and appreciated that I listened. What I learned from those conversations helped me immensely. I tell people that Gay.com, as cheesy as it sounds, was my therapist. It helped me sort through my questions. It was with those conversations that gave me enough courage to move to the next step, my first gay club.
I didn’t really want to go to a gay club, I was more into bars but I had heard of only one place in the city that was gay. I wasn’t going to ask around as I was sure someone would figure out why I was asking. So after several attempts of walking by the dark street and looking as I crossed, I finally gathered enough strength to get in line. Of course any time a cab or car drove by I hid my face or turned my body. It made perfect sense in my mind that with 8 million people in the city, the chances were very high that my sister or parents or friends would be driving by and see me in line at a gay club. I didn’t know what to expect as I paid my 20 dollars.
The Roxy was everything America thinks a gay club is. I was looking for a taste of gay life. I got a truck load. Now, I am not saying that negatively, but for me, the muscle boys in underwear on the bars and the shirtless men dancing to drum and bass were intimidating. It was gay sensation overload. I wanted to run out the door immediately, but I told myself one hour and you go. In that first hour I had several strange interactions. There was the guy who convinced me we had met before (I didn’t realize we hadn’t and he was just hitting on me), or the guy who offered me E/coke/pot. I obviously looked like a deer caught in headlights as I sipped my ginger ale covering it with my hand since I had read about being drugged in gay clubs. Then there was Adam, the nice guy who came up and called me out. He said to me, this is obviously your first time, come with me. So I went with him to the bar and we chatted for an hour. He eased my concerns and told me how and when he came out. At the end he gave me his number. I wish I saved it, because he was the first gay friend I made in New York.
After my first gay club experience I decided I wasn’t going back. I got a share in the Hamptons and met a great girl. We dated for 3 months and I loved hanging out with her. On occasion I would give into what I thought was “temptation” and hang out with a guy I met on Gay.com who was in a similar position. I convinced myself it was harmless and didn’t mean anything. First we would meet once every few months, but like a drug, I needed more. One night I decided to test how I felt once and for all. My girlfriend came over and we hooked up. She spent the night sleeping next to me. Two nights later, “temptation” came over. We hooked up and then he slept next to me as well. At the end of the two sleepovers I checked myself. That is when I knew it. That is when I came out to myself. I knew that sleeping next to “temptation” felt more natural to me then sleeping next to her. I knew that all my efforts would never change that feeling. It would no longer be a temptation.
After coming out to myself, I waited a while before coming out to my parents. Now, we aren’t religious Jews, but we celebrated the big holidays. So, I chose the 2nd night of Rosh Hashanah as the day. I rarely went to Long Island except for family gatherings and holidays. It just seemed like the right time to finally come out. I knew my siblings were not planning on staying for the second night. It was just me and my parents, and sitting around the kitchen table I let them corner me. My mom circled around the big white elephant with conversation about work. Then she finally went in for the kill and asked the question she had been thinking about for over a year. I said yes, I was gay. Of course they said they loved me and that they care about me and that none of this changes how they feel. Still though, the questions were exhausting. When did I know? Am I seeing anyone? Do your siblings know? My mom worried out loud if I would be alone for the rest of my life. That is when, for only the second time in my life, I saw my mom cry. She wanted to be sure that her youngest child would be safe. She wanted to make sure I would have someone to care for me when they left this earth. My dad took the denial approach. He said that I didn’t seem gay. I wasn’t flamboyant. I liked sports, was in a fraternity. He suggested that maybe I was bisexual. Maybe I was on the fence. After 2 hours of the back and forth I told them it was time for me to go back to the city. I headed home with a voicemail waiting for me from my parents. “It’s Mom calling. We love you, and we want you to be happy. We have done some research online and Dad sent you an email. Check it out and let us know what you think.” As I opened my email, I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was the website of a doctor who helped “fix” questioning kids.
Things have changed a lot with the family since I came out. We never talk about “the email.” My dad has become very angry and defensive of anyone who speaks negatively about gay people. I joke around with my brother and sister about Madonna and Britney. With Mom it’s about when I will bring home someone they can meet. I have been trying to follow her stipulation she demanded of me after we made up over “the email.” She said, “I understand you’re gay, but this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You still need to bring someone home. And it better be a nice Jewish boy.”