NOTE: Sylvia’s Place is an emergency night shelter and daytime community space for homeless LGBTQ youth, 16-24, in New York City. Every story this week will by someone from Sylvia’s Place. Read my previous “Sylvia’s Place Week” post for more information about the program and stories.
Growing up, boys are told that we need to be strong. We are taught that emotions are to be felt and controlled, and not to let them control you. We are taught the things that people believe make a “real” man. Men are supposed to be strong–physically, mentally, spiritually–supportive, dominant, dependable and secure. The one thing you can’t be when you’re a man is gay. If you are a boy who likes boys, it’s considered an automatic sin. The Christians (not all) say that you’re going to hell in a hand-basket with gasoline drawers on because “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.”
I always knew that I liked boys. I remember all of the games of football, where I used to tackle the boy I liked harder than the rest. The games of basketball, where I chose to watch as opposed to play and would get extra excited when they shot jump shots so I could see “it” bounce in those all too revealing basketball shorts. And all of the wrestling matches (my fave) where we would get sweaty trying to prove we were the stronger of the two. Those were the good old days, before puberty hit and a boy could fantasize about all of the things he would do if he was grown enough to, which seems like 16 when you’re 9.
Everything during puberty was a clusterfuck of, “He’s cute, let’s fuck”, “Fuck you”, “You’re gay anyway so who cares.” Some would say I was flirtatious (true), promiscuous (very true–more like “ho”), vindictive (only to those who hurt my feelings), and defensive (only when I knew I was wrong).
I pride myself on being intelligent. Intelligence, I have found, can be very tricky, especially when you’re trying to find out if the “straight” boy in class likes boys, too. If you show them that you’re too stupid, they try to take advantage. If you show them that you’re too smart, they get intimidated. I thought I was slick by playing the role of the smartass-diddy-diddy-dumb-shit. All of this came to an end with Tony.
Tony was the sexiest 17-year-old boy I had ever seen. He was tall, light, built, with the cutest smile and sexy green eyes. One day when we were juniors in Poughkeepsie High, I asked him to come over to my house to “study.” He was cool with it because he knew I was good at Biology. For the record, he wasn’t. Anyway, he comes over and I get all “Susie Homemaker” with cookies and milk, slippers and the most comfy seat in the house. We start studying and I start with my shit.
“Do you want a foot rub?” That was the reason for the slippers.
“Sure, why not.”
I thought I had it made as I started rubbing and gradually made my way up his legs while he acts oblivious and asks me questions about some bitch in the book that I didn’t care about. While answering his questions I fucked up and said “he” instead of “she.”
Tony got a look on his face and said, “Can I ask you a serious question?”
“Sure, I have nothing to hide.”
“Do you like boys?”
“Sure, they’re fun to hang out with.”
He replies, “No, I mean, are you gay?”
I acted all offended and replied with a few choice comments that I’m not proud of, but it was the move when you’re 16, gay and confused, living in a community that would lynch you if you stared at a boy too long. Long story short, he wound up leaving my house crying. Tony didn’t come to school for a few days. When he did come back I acted like I didn’t even know he existed. I would act like I was the straightest guy in the world when he came around. After about a week, he pulled me off to the side and asked me why I was treating him like shit. I said, “Because I don’t like fairies, you homo.”
“What’s sad?” I asked.
“The fact that you’re so afraid to be yourself,” he explained, “that you just lost the potential love of your life.”
I was shocked because I really liked him but I was too afraid to show it. Ever since then, I gave up on trying to please everyone and worrying about what people think of me and decided to simply be me. A young man from a small town called Poughkeepsie, New York, and proud to be gay.