Thursday, February 10, 2011

Finding a place

I'm from a very, very small town in a cold, cloudy part of Western New York State. The only gay person I knew of, growing up in the 60s, was the developmentally disabled gentleman who hung out downtown and carried a purse. And Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly, and maybe Rose Marie on the Dick Van Dyke show.

People didn't leave our town. They grew up and moved down the street from their parent's house. I was different, I spent my whole childhood fantasizing that I would become a world traveler, and live in different places every year. I wanted to be someplace else. When I started dating, one boy after the other turned out to be gay. I went away to college and got involved in feminist activism. I met women in the consciousness raising groups who had short hair and wore plaid shirts. I had never seen anyone like that before. They were not at all like Rose Marie. They were much, much better.

I brought my first serious girlfriend home during a school break. My mother cried and cried, and my father told me that I had to change what he called "my lifestyle", because my mother was having a nervous breakdown. My mother had told me once that gay people are born that way. But she didn't believe that I had been born "that way". They believed I had made a choice, probably because I had become a feminist.

I escaped that place and moved to Japan. I continued my world travelling, for several years, until I came to San Francisco, in 1979. The town was filled with women wearing short hair and plaid shirts, and trim handsome men in moustaches and boots. Every week, there were feminist meetings and marches. The sky was blue and the world was beautiful. There, I met a woman who spoke my language, and we fell in love. This year, she and I will celebrate 28 years together. My place is by her side, and we travel the world together.

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