Me (to the far right) with my brothers John and Isaac - 1947 (when I was four years old - I knew then)
This morning while I was watching "The Joy Behar Show", she was interviewing Bishop James Swilley. Bishop Swilley is a pastor of a mega church in Georgia who recently came out as a gay man. He said he was inspired to come out and be honest with himself, is family and his congregation in response to the recent suicides of young gay men. Joy asked the Swilley when he knew he was gay. Swilley said he knew when he was four years old. Joy gave the automatic response of most straight people, "How would you know at that young age? You wouldn't of even had a sexual awareness?" The Reverend Swilley gave the answer I have always given when confronted with same question. Swilley said he didn't know what gay was but he did know he was different. He knew he had an attraction to men even though it wasn't a sexual attraction at that age.
This is the same answer I have always given. At four years old I didn't have a sexual awareness. But I knew I was different. I knew I had a "special feeling" towards men. I began going to school at five years old and I knew I had this feeling before I began going to school.
My attraction was towards adult men. I felt good being around them. I remember how special I felt when my Uncle John would give greet me with a wink. By the way, does anybody anymore wink besides Sarah Palin? Just asking.
Whenever an adult man, usually a friend of the family or relative, was kind to me I would get a special thrill. Of course I had aunts and other women who were also friendly to me but I didn't have that special feeling when they were kind to me. Whenever one of my uncles would say "Ronnie" and wink at me, I would just melt. I didn't feel the same way when one of my aunts would greet me the same way. I felt a special tingle in my bones. Oh boy.
Now I know what some of you may be thinking now. That I was sexually abused by an adult male and that led me down this path. That did not happen. No one ever sexually abused me. Not even close. I hear all these stories of sexual abuse of children by adult members of the family but that never happen to me. I've often wondered how I would have turned out if did have a sexual experience at that young age. But to repeat myself, that never happened. All I know is that I always felt special when an adult male was nice to me.
I guess the closest I came to a sexual feeling was when my Uncle Bruce's friend Earl would play "horsey" with us kids. Earl was about ten years older than we kids. He was probably about sixteen years old. The kids in our group ranged in age from five to eight years old. There was me, my brothers John and Isaac, Pee Wee, Chubby and Patty. When Earl would visit us on Washington Avenue with my uncle Bruce, he would get on all fours and we would "ride" him. All very innocent, except perhaps for me. That was the first time I got a faint feeling of a sexual experience. I knew I was enjoying those horsey rides perhaps a little bit too much. I knew I was different.
Many years later at my uncle Bruce's funeral, I saw his friend Earl again. The year was 1998. I had not seen him since the early Fifties. I remember looking at him as her gave a eulogy for his friend, my Uncle Bruce. I kept looking at him trying to place his face. He looked back at me then averted his glance. I wasn't quite sure, but I think I detected a bit of embarrassment in his response. Then I remembered, this was the man who we kids used to play horsey with.
I wanted to talk to him and tried to catch up with him after the service but he avoided me. I was curious about him and my uncle Bruce. Uncle Bruce was the only one of my father's ten brothers who never had children. He was married for a short time and spent the rest of his life single. I was also curious if Earl had ever married. But that's a subject for another blog posting.
The point I wanted to make in this blog posting that I was born gay. I didn't choose to be gay somewhere along the path. From a very young age I knew I was "different." I just didn't know what I was at that time.
It is so heartening these days to hear people like Bishop Swilley come out and tell the same story as I have often told. It is interesting to hear straight people's reaction "But how did you know at such a young age?" My answer is always "How did you know you were straight at such a young age?"
The answer is always the same, "I didn't chose, that is the way I was born."