I’m From South Bend, IN.

by bob r.

It was the fifties, I was in my 20’s and gay bars were scary. You always had to worry that the guy you were trying to pick up might be a cop.

But there were other places to pick up men. Downtown at one such place I was sitting in my parked car watching and waiting. My patience paid off. The car that was stopped at the intersection had already circled twice. I started up my car and when the other car passed I followed. The other driver drove out of the city and into the country finally pulling off to the side of the road. I drove past him and pulled up a little further ahead.

That’s when the waiting game started. It was the ’50s and nobody wanted to be queer. The unspoken rule was that the first guy out of his car was the queer and the other guy the real man. It was a mental tug-of-war until someone gave in or drove off. Usually I was the first to give in and this time was no exception.

Afterwards, I got ready to leave. In the three years doing this I hadn’t exchanged more than a half dozen words with the men I tricked with, so when he asked if I wanted to talk I was wary but I heard myself say, “Yeah.” He was my first gay friend.


  1. Wow. What an absolutely different world we live in now. I think now’s a good time to pay my gratitude, respect and admiration to the older generation of gay people who paved the road to the world we’re in today. I wish I could go back in time, Bob, and tell you that I’m from 2009 and fighting for gay marriage, openly and proudly.

    Thank you.

  2. Bob’s story really shows that we’ve come a long, long way. With June and the start of Gay Pride celebrations around the world just a few short weeks away, we all need to remember those that paved that long, long road and acknowledge their sacrifices. Thanks to each and every one of them for doing they part, no matter how small, to bring us where we are today.

  3. Thank you. I’m sure you’ve heard it enough times by now, but the first one out of the car is just as much man as the one in the car.

    I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to be even that out in the 50’s. Thanks for your courage.

  4. the first one out of the closet durring those times is also a real man.

  5. Maybe the first one out of the car is more of a man. He’s not letting someone else be the fall guy.

  6. Pingback: First Person Arts Blog » Liveblogging the Salon

  7. Pingback: American Goulash » Blog Archive » First Person Arts Event Coverage

  8. this story gave me chills.

  9. I’m also from South Bend, although I have now relocated to Indianapolis.

  10. Well stories like this and lives filled with supression are what we are all working to avoid for the younger people coming up.

    Working for a chance and a better day for today’s kids is an awesome way to recover a sense of justice.

    If these stories move you, send $25 to one of the many cool organizations fighting for us.


Comments are closed