|Not Cookie. But, oh, what fun we had in your youth|
On January 21, 1983, I came out to myself. And over the next many months, to every one else.
It was a long process. Oh, I had long been having sex with men, lusting after them, and dreaming about men. Why, when I was five, watching the original Batman on TV, I kept hoping that Adam West's costume would rip open. I had no idea, but it made me feel all warm inside.
But on that night in 1983, I understood that gay men really were humans and not just people driven by sex.
That was the night that the light (Disco Ball, if you will) went off in my head and I realized that they had lived like everyone else, had hobbies and interests like everyone else, played cards, laughed at movies, and were concerned about their futures. And at the climax of the night, they could hold each other after sex, sex that was good, satisfying, and felt natural.
I know that may sound odd but back then, society still treated you like a joke, as something less than, nothing more than a punch line on a TV, or doomed to a life of fulfillment, and worse still, someone people really rejected.
And I also came to understand that the older generation in 1983 had had it far worse than what I thought was our current situation. Those who came before us had it much worse when it came to law and to relationships with their families.
In 1983, I never thought that I could one day marry a man and be happy. In 1983 I thought we had to be content with calling our other half my lover, a term that connoted only sex.
One by one, the people who knew me told me they knew all about it, and for a long time. My mother kicked me out of the house but came around once I showed some backbone. My father never came around, which is no surprise, because he was unable to admit he was ever wrong about anything. His loss, not mine.
What a difference 40 years makes in many ways. I am now happily married to a man I have been with for decades, someone who is my very best friend and someone I thought would have rejected me in 1983. On the contrary, he was in his own closet trying to keep his head down, and not be identified.
We all make different journeys.
Now Cookie is the older generation. And sometimes it feels damn lonely here. If the joke is Gay Life ends at thirty, try sixty. I always deferred to my gay elders, but I really feel that younger gay men have become so callous as to see us as their brethren.
I have been called "Troll" "dead man walking" and "Boomer". I have always found safety in the company of men who are older, but here I am with at best maybe 20 years left. My friends are varied, but younger gay men forget that people like me pushed and pushed hard to be able to be out at work, that we pushed and pushed hard to open up housing, employment, and yes, minds. Just as the older generation did, and grateful I have always been, for the guys of my era.
To those who mock me, my answer is always the same: "If you are lucky, you'll make it to my age. And that's a big "If"
And I think of all the men stuck down by AIDS when there were no cures, just death.
Still, I worry about the next ten, twenty, and thirty years.
Will my marriage be invalidated? Will our health insurance be cut off because we aren't a straight family? Will we be hunted down, and forced to separate for our own safety?
I hope not. I hope we grow old into our dotage. And before taking that final step into an afterlife, if one exists, there isn't much of a wait for the other to join the first to go.
But the one thing that remains constant is that we will remain at war with society until they give up trying to make us into something less than they are. We have to keep pushing, keep making our voices heard and our rights guarded, and we need to keep pushing.
Nothing won is ever safe. Life is full of struggle. My Ancestors taught me that.
Still, what an amazing forty years it's been.