My name is Eric Thomas and I’m from the Bronx NY. I had a high school friend who was one of my best friends, his name was Felix. We came out to each other in high school so we were each other’s gay confidante. He lived on the northwest side of the Bronx and I lived on the northeast side of the Bronx so I would take my 5 train and he would take his D train. We would play these games on the train about who the cute boy was, we’d try to make eye contact. The late 1980s, early 90s, dancing, vogueing, hanging out, it was a really fun kind of period and a fun kind of time.
My mom started asking questions, who is this Felix person and why is he always calling, why are all these boys always calling the house? Well, I’m gay, and he’s my friend. What did I do as your mother that made you this way? Did I hug you too much, did I spend too much time with you? She kind of came around and we were able to kind of sort of start from there with this new understanding of Mom and her out gay son. Felix’s mom asked him who’s this guy Eric and why is he always calling here? No son of mine is gonna be a faggot, get out of my house. It began a series of Felix sort of hanging out all night long, he would ride the trains.
In the church I grew up in which was a Baptist church, there were definitely people in the congregation who were obviously gay and obviously lesbian but it was never talked about. When I visited Felix in his church there was a lot of this, “Faggots are going to hell” stuff. There were people that I could reach out to. Felix didn’t have anyone. So we developed two very different kinds of directions.
We always had that routine of, if we were going into the city we would intersect and then meet up. I was going back to college that next day so it was one of those I’ll see you in a couple weeks when I get back kind of things. He told me to be good, and I said YOU be good. Little did I know that was going to be the last time that I saw him.
Some of us were there in the park and the piers and the trains because we couldn’t go home. Many people upon being rejected or being kicked out of their family homes, they depend on the kindness of strangers, the people they pick up in bars, the people they might cruise on the piers, to actually give them a place to sleep, to actually provide them with the only meal, the first meal, the only meal they might have had that day. So if they’re into hustling, and prostitution or drugs, then you have to become a part of that.
In that life, he lost his life. The report came back that it was complications with both AIDS and with drug interactions that I guess exacerbated his situation. It’s experiences like Felix’s and the other people like Felix that made me want to go to Seminary and want to get a PhD in Biblical Studies. As I do my work I always think about Felix. I think he’s looking down on me now and I hope he’s proud. The more we tell our friend’s stories the more they’re with us. Hopefully we can live in a world where no parent will say “No son of mine is a faggot, get out.” Where that would be a message of, “You are mine and I love you and we’re all in this together.”