Hi, my name is Matt Beierschmitt, I’m from Collinswood, New Jersey. When I was 15 years old, I was on my family computer talking on AOL chatrooms and just to meet people and the other guys and, you know, unbeknownst to the rest of my family.
I’m in the male-for-male chat room and I’m talking to this guy and he’s – you know, back in the day, you maybe got one picture from somebody, like it took like 5 minutes for one picture to upload so you had to take what you can get.
I’m 15. He’s probably in his thirties and no one knows my age – I’m telling them I’m older. This guy is very eager to meet me and very – just kinda gave me negative vibes but I’m desperate to meet somebody. I wanted to just have a connection with somebody. So I just have a really weird feeling about him, so before I go to meet him, I literally have to like sneak out of my parents’ house. I take a kitchen knife with me just to be safe. I thought I would like – it was one of the like 80s wood-handled kitchen knives that wouldn’t cut a carrot but I thought it would kill somebody.
So I took the kitchen knife, go back to my room and I sneak out my first-story window, hop to the ground, and I walk about a half mile to this river near my parents’ house. Told the guy what I was wearing and he – we agreed on a time to meet and no cellphones, so you have to tell them, “I’ll meet you at this time,” and you just go down there and wait.
So he picks me up and we drive to this, I think one of the parking lots on the river. And it’s dark and, you know, I’m not really into him. He’s not hideous, but just not really into him and, you know, he’s into me, and I’ve already come all this way. So I feel obligated to do something so I end up fooling around with the guy. I was a little nervous but we end up fooling around maybe 10 minutes, and afterwards I like get out the car immediately and I just start heading home.
I don’t know if it was that night or the next night but I’m online again and I get an email from him saying, “It was nice to meet you. You seem like a nice guy. And you forgot your knife in my car.”
I was mortified but I didn’t really care because I was petrified at the time and glad I brought it.
So flash forward to a few months later, I am back in South Jersey male-for-male chatting with people. I’ve been chatting with this one guy for a while, one kid for awhile. I remember his name, screenname was “KegKiller” and I was “BlueSwoosh81”, that’s my birthday and Nike was swoosh. I ended up – we chatted a while and I had a feeling he was legit and real. The way we chat about stuff, I knew he was my age, lived nearby, and I really wanted to meet him but he did not want to meet me. He was very skeptical about it, very scared about it. He actually dropped where he worked, randomly, in conversation one time. It was a movie theater, so I asked my friend Liz to go to the movies with me. It was to go see “Good Will Hunting” and I think it was in ‘96, ‘97 at this time point. And I knew it was at his movie theater, so I just randomly went there one night to go see it. And when I got there, the guy taking my ticket resembled him, he resembled his stats, resembled his, and I was like okay, that’s him, that’s him.
So we went to the movie, got inside the movie, and like half-way through the movie I come back out and I make sure I buy some candy, I make sure I make eye-contact with him, and make sure that we have some sort of interaction. Not only talking, but I made sure he saw me.
The next night or the night after, I’m online again, hoping he’ll sign on so I can tell him I went to his work. He ends up signing on and I end up chatting with him, and I’m like, “Hey, you know, I went to your work. I think I saw you. I was wearing this. I said hi to you.”
And he remembered me and was willing to meet me now. So we end up meeting like that night or the night after – I can’t exactly remember, but I’m, you know, from then on, we were like instant friends and we had this like, it was my first gay friend ever I made. And we had so much in common, he lived right near me, he was in high school, too. And I had my first gay friend that I could do anything with and we ended up just like being, going to the city, experiencing everything together for the next 10 years and it was like something that I didn’t know I needed until I had it.
When I found Jeff, I was able to be myself, be honest, just be me. When I was 15, I had to find people online because in 1996, there wasn’t anything else. I think today, I think it’s important to have safe spaces where young queer youth can go meet other people like them, so they’re not putting themselves in these weird predicaments like I was, meeting a complete stranger, down by the river with a knife. It’s funny now to think about it, but it’s also really scary. I don’t want anybody to be in that position.
I think anybody that’s young, in the closet, not even in the closet but still needs allies, they need to find safe spaces near them. You need people like you, going through the same thing as you so you can make mistakes with them, learn from their mistakes, and help each other out. It’s important.