Paul, age 10
N. Quincy, Massachusetts (1972)
I chose this picture, because it includes the women in my life who I love so dearly: My sister Linda, my amazing mom (RIP), and my sister Andrea. Plus, who can resist my red velour shirt, the plastic grape tree, and Linda's insanely florescent eye-makeup? Gotta love the 70's, right?
I'm the baby of our Italian family, and my mom raised me herself after divorcing my dad when I was 7. It was pretty much mom and me on our own for much of my childhood. I'm forever indebted to my mom, for her strength, her support, and teaching me the value of hard work. But the home haircuts? Not so much…
I was a pretty happy kid who loved art, drawing and anything on color TV - a luxury back then! But I was also pegged and relentlessly taunted as the "fag" and "pussy" and "queer" pretty much from 1st grade through high school.
It always amazes me how other kids know we're gay or different, even before we know it ourselves - or at least what to call it. I knew from around age 6 that I felt attractions to boys and men, but the topic of gay or homosexual simply wasn't discussed. Besides Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson-Reilly, I was flying blind.
But I distinctly remember an older male friend of my mom's who used to cut my hair. He was a handsome married man, and I remember liking it when he'd stand right up against the barber chair, and my elbow brushed against his crotch.
But that wasn't sexual at all - it was about a connection to a male.
I seriously loathed sports and gym classes. And it's never fun getting a dodgeball across the face as many times as I did. But the silver lining was my 8th grade gym teacher - a rock of manly muscles, curly blond hair, and a dimpled chin. When we all had to do sit-ups, I purposely positioned myself directly in front of him on the floor, so I could blatantly look up inside his gym shorts!
I was a choir geek in junior high, tried to play the tuba for a month, and played "Macbeth" in a school play. But mainly only so I could paint the castle we used as the set piece. Had I not become a DJ, I'd definitely be a graphic artist now.
My kid obsessions included: MUSIC on the AM radio, Farrah Fawcett, playing Slug in our backyard, "Wacky Packages," "Willy Wonka," banana seat Schwinn bikes with clothes-pinned cards in the wheel spokes, wearing my sisters' black "fall" wigs pretending to be Cher, "Match Game," and mounting yearly Carnivals and Haunted Houses to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
My best friends were the girls, who I definitely related to much more than boys. After "dating" girls through high school (and barely getting to 2nd base with any of 'em), the lightbulb finally went off and I admitted I was gay to myself at 17.
I came out to both my sisters around 19, and they were both completely supportive. And kind of non-plussed, actually. It really was no surprise.
In my first year of college, while still living at home with my mom, she found some gay porn magazines under my mattress. She went to my sisters, and I'll never forget how amazing their cover for me was. They just said to her: "Oh ma, he probably just has those for his art classes, to practice drawing the male form."
I came out to my friends shortly thereafter, and my bestest BFF Pam was practically giddy about it, if not pissed I didn't tell her sooner. Again, no surprise...
I didn't officially come out to my mom until I was 30. Crazy, right? I always felt if I told her, she would just worry about me twice as hard. But on that trip to Boston during breakfast, and mustering up the dreaded 'Mom, I have something to tell you' – she didn't blink, and said "Are you gonna tell me you’re gay?"
I don't think I ever hugged her harder than I did that day.
And I have to say: Moms always know we're gay. They really do. So I encourage those who are afraid to come out, to trust your instinct – and theirs – and be honest with them. Living the closeted lie is like a 10-ton weight on our backs.
In closing, I have to say this to the LGBTQ youth of today:
Stand tall, walk proud, and believe in yourself! And never, ever let those who bully you or taunt you make you stop being exactly who you are. And understand that their homophobia is ugly and ignorant, while you are beautiful and unique!
When we're kids in school, we feel like it's the most important time of our life.
But I gotta tell you: Those years are a mere nanosecond, compared to the lifetime of happiness, joy, and love that will come in to your life as a proud, gay adult.
I was able to turn all my obsessions and passions as a kid, into a career that I adore. I feel blessed to be part of the invaluable contributions that gay people bring to society and to the world. That YOU will bring to this world, too.
But yikes! I think I went way over the 350 word-count rule here.
I'm gonna have to have a word with the blogmaster about that, eh? :)
Paul's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Obsession is more like it! I saw him in concert, had every poster and teen magazine he was in, and a huge scrapbook! Yeah, Paul - not obvious at all...