Remembering a Different Life...
I was bouncing around the web a couple of weeks back and stumbled on zabasearch.com. It is a site than helps you locate addresses of people. So out of curiosity I typed in the name of my best friend from High School. Sure enough a result for his name came up. Not sure if it was the right person rather than call, I sent a note with my business card attached saying, if this was who I thought it was, to please write back.
A couple of weeks went by... and I forgot about it. I honestly didn't expect to hear anything back. Then the other day I got an email and it was indeed from him. It is an interesting experience in a way. I really have not heard from him since I attended his wedding. At the time I really envied him. He was marrying a wonderful gal and starting to build a life. They now have a five year old son with a daughter on the way due in December. He said it was amazing to hear from me couldn't wait to hear all about what I have been doing over the past few years.
I will confess, I have mixed feelings about that.
For the most part, I have not kept in touch with anyone from my High School days. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed High School, had great friends and good memories. Yet it really was a whole different life. Like many LGBT kids in the mid to late 80's I was closeted and terrified of coming out. On some level every day had some undercurrent of fear of my "secret" being discovered. The ultimate put-down was to say something was "gay" or to be called a "fag". You saw the kids who were even slightly effeminate or "different" getting tormented on a daily basis.
So you kept your mouth shut and your eyes closed. When you watched those 80's brat-pack movies, while your friends oggled Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, you didnt admit to anyone, not even to yourself that you thought Rob Lowe and Emilo Estavez were really hot.
Add to that, the media was full of stories of this new "gay disease" called AIDS, and the Reagan and first Bush Administrations were not interested in getting any information about it out to the public. So like a lot of gay kids I didn't know what to think. Could I get AIDS by coming out? By even holding hands or kissing a guy? Was it really God's way of getting rid of homosexuals? The fear you felt was this huge cloud that hung over you every day. You really did wonder if you were destined to be miserable and alone for your entire life.
And of course at time I thought I was the ONLY gay kid on earth. Now I know that there were in fact more than a few. Even at my own school. But at the time, the sense of isolation was overwhelming. But then, time moved on. I left and in many ways never looked back.
I moved to Europe, studied there, came back to WI and went to college, after graduation worked, traveled back to Europe, then even moved to Asia. Eventually, I came back to the US and settled in Chicago, and then I came out.
Like many people, for me coming out was a frightening and painful process of self-discovery and acceptance. I think back on the fear I felt in those days and it seems like I am watching a movie of someone else's life. A life that I would not ever want to revisit. Yet in truth it was MY issue, not my friends. They had no way of knowing what I felt. The whole traditional High School experience of the first date, first dance , first kiss, first umm... "whatever", while a given for everyone else, was just not possible for a lesbian or Gay kid in South Central Wisconsin in the 1980's. Or at least not for me.
Many Gays and Lesbians who should be my age never lived to see today. The statistics on suicide for LGBT youth in the 1980's and 90's will give you nightmares. I am so amazingly fortunate to have the family that I do. My parents are the two most incredible, supportive and amazing people in the whole world. Coming out to them while scary as hell, was truly the end of an old life and the beginning of a new much brighter and happier one.
( Just in case I haven't told you - Thanks Mom & Dad.)
I marvel at many of today's LGBT kids with "Gay Straight Alliances" and alternative proms. When I read about kids taking their same sex partner to a high school dance, I can only smile and be amazed at how, at least in some places how far we have come. Though certainly for thousands of LGBT youth in America the reality has not changed from the one I knew .
Over the years I didn't stay in touch with people back from "back home". One wedding, an occasional Christmas Card was pretty much the limit of my contact , and even that soon stopped. Someone recently asked me why I didn't keep in touch with people from those days, and honestly I didn't really have a good answer. Hence my card to my friend.
I know what you are wondering. Will I tell my old friend (s) that I am gay? Will I open up my life now to those people from my life "then"? Does it even matter?
Honestly? I don't know. I'll keep you posted...