After reading the responses from the other black gay men who participated in Bernie’s series on black gay men at mid-life, I talked with Bernie and decided to complete my questionnaire and post my answers here as Bernie posts the rest of the series.
In the first post, Bernie asks:
When and how did you acknowledge to yourself an attraction towards men? How did you first begin to seek out others with whom you could explore these feelings?
Terrance, 38, Washington
It’s something I think I always knew. Going back to my earliest memories, around the age of four, there was always at least one boy I was fascinated with. In kindergarten it was Thomas, with his big brown eyes and huge fluffy afro. I remember always wanting to be near him, and maneuvering to put my mat near his at naptime. In first grade, it was a strawberry blonde boy named David, then a round-faced boy named Sean. In each case they were boys my age and I’d find ways to become friends with them, or at least interact with them.
But there was never anyone with whom I could explore those feelings. I couldn’t name them myself, and sometimes I think the other boys sensed more than I did and started to back off. I would invent ways to be near them, excuses to touch, etc., but couldn’t say where those feelings came from. And it wasn’t just the boys around me. I remember during that time that pictures of male celebrities would cause me to have certain feelings; like butterflies in my stomach. I remember around that time having pictures of celebrities like Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson from The Hardy Boys on my wall. Scott Baio was another one.
By fourth grade, I’d heard the word “faggot” enough to know what it was, and been harassed enough to know what my peers thought of it. That was also when I had my first full fledged crush, on a tall, handsome Latino boy named Alex, who defended me on the playground when the others picked on me, and made them stop. He became my hero, and I always wanted to be around him the same way I’d wanted to be around other boys before.
I think that’s when I realized it was physical. I realized I wanted to stand in line behind Alex when we went inside after recess. I wanted to feel the heat coming off his body, after I’d watched him playing ball with the other boys. I wanted to see the sweat beading up on his forehead, and dampening the hair at the nape of his neck. I wanted to reach out and touch it. But by then I knew I couldn’t. Or at least I knew that it wouldn’t be accepted by anyone around me. I never got the sense that Alex would have done anything to me.
It was shortly after that when I acknowledged to myself that I liked other boys, a year later that I acknowledged it to my classmates. That was around the 6th grade.