Thursday, June 19, 2003

I first kissed another boy thanks to church.

In high school, I was very involved in my youth group. I grew up in the North Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, and we had (they likely still have) a group named the Conference Council on Youth Ministries, CCYM. I was part of CCYM for two years; we planned conference-wide activities for church youth. It was through that body that I met Goiter-Head.

That wasn’t his real name, of course; it was Greg. Even though he was two years behind me in school, we quickly became running buddies, getting into as much (largely) innocent mischief as possible. I spent Spring Break both my junior and senior years with him. His father was a minister, so my parents couldn’t complain much. We mostly listened to music and talked about stupid shit, occasionally hanging out with his friends.

Spring Break 1988, my senior year. Greg had moved to a new school due to a transfer his father received, and didn’t know many people. I don’t think he was very happy. We’d graduated to petty shoplifting, our best find a fireman’s coat left outside the stationhouse to dry. [I occasionally think that if I still had that, I’d do a lot better at the bars.] One day, we either saw or met (the memory’s cloudy) someone he knew from school, a fellow freak. I was drawn in immediately.

“Who’s that?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s Vince,” Greg replied. “He’s in the show choir,” he added, leaning on the words for emphasis, not realizing that that emphasis was exactly what I hoped to hear. This, of course, from a skinny kid with a shocking shock of (naturally) red hair who favored vaguely punkish fashion and listened to the Human League and anything on Wax Trax! [Unsurprisingly, he was later very into techno. To the best of my knowledge, he never turned out gay. He did, however, spend two years in a Texas prison for selling LSD.]

When allowed (it usually involved him calling, as my parents wouldn’t let me make long-distance calls), Greg and I burned up the phonelines. During one call soon after my week in Bremen, I asked ol’ Goiter-Head if he could ask Vince if I could have his address.

“He seems, um, interesting.” I was sweating bullets.

So Greg got me Vince’s address, and I wrote him what I’m sure was a very awkward penpal-ish letter, full of “Hi! You seem really cool”s and the like. To my shock and awe, he wrote back. Suddenly, Vince and I had gone from not even being aware of each other to sending 3 letters each way per week. I think we cautiously outed ourselves in our letters – I’m sure that was the case with me, at any speed. Vince was pretty gay (not faggy, just gay – he was in the show choir), and didn’t try to hide it. I became enraptured. He’d seen me that Spring Break week, and thought I was “cute”! Oh, my gay stars.

We made plans for me to spend a weekend with him, the first weekend in May. I think I somehow convinced Mom to drive me the 50 miles to his house. We were both into goth music, and British techno-pop like New Order; I still have the dub I made of his friend George’s copy of New Order’s Substance. George was also gay, and a good bit more flaming than Vince, but also sexy – beefy where Vince was thin. But Vince, already staking a claim, told me that if I tried anything with George, he’d be very displeased. I didn’t.

I was amazed by these two, openly gay in a town roughly the size of my own, less than 10,000 people. Their bravery honestly inspired awe in me. Sitting around George’s bedroom, trying not to look when he changed clothes, I asked them if they had problems.

“Not really,” George said.
“Sure, we get called some names, but what’s the big deal? They’re just names. Fuck ‘em if they can’t handle us.”

Vince was my hero. I was practically ready to deify him there and then. Later that evening, the three of us went out to the highway bypass to spray-paint the columns of the underpass with things like “69,” which seemed racy.

I shyly undressed, knowing that I was sharing a bed with Vince in his Mom’s trailer, but not knowing what we’d do. And not really knowing what there even was to do. We touched each other, probably still wearing our underwear. I was shocked by the heat of his cock through the fabric. He kissed me, and it felt like everything you’ve ever been taught by movies. We were hugging and kissing, and I thought that was it, the best, unstoppable. I couldn’t imagine more, really. [Have I mentioned that I knew absolutely nothing of gay sex at the age of 17?] I didn’t need to; we didn’t do much more than kiss and fondle and kinda roll around in Vince’s bed. His cock, however – the first one I’d ever touched other than my own – was startlingly long and thin, at least 8”.

But Vince did something that I didn’t realize until much later – too much later, in fact. He gave me a hickey. Roughly the size of Montana.

Unfortunately, I didn’t notice said discoloration until Monday. At school. In the cafeteria. When Mike Brown stood on his chair and loudly declaimed, “hey, everyone! Tom’s got a hickey!” This as I was desperately trying to stay in the closet for just a couple for weeks, until I graduated. And this as all of my friends knew I had spent the weekend with a gay guy. The color, I’m certain, completely drained from my face and neck, bringing the hickey into a kind of bas relief. I’m not proud of what I did next, in the interest of self-preservation.

“Oh my gosh, I must be a really sound sleeper.”

I went with the tried-and-true gays-as-sexual-predators bit. I didn’t know what else to do; I knew I was neither brave nor confident enough to spend my last three weeks of high school uncloseted, fearful of the recriminations I was sure I’d suffer. So I panicked, and ran, mentally. I told all of my friends that, and then retold and retold it to classmates throughout the rest of the day (how I made it to lunch with no one saying anything about the giant red blotch on my neck, I’ve no idea).

And they all bought it, with the proverbial hook, line, and sinker.

You believe what you want to believe, and what’s in your worldview. For whatever reason, even amongst my closest friends, the mere idea of me as gay was unbelievable. So they didn’t believe it; they instead believed what I told them, which was easier.

I wish I’d been honest then.

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