Someone asked me recently when I first “came out.” I started to rattle off a date, but decided to consider my answer more seriously. For me coming out was a process. I had a pretty good idea I liked guys by my first year in high school, but at that time, 1964, there was little support for someone like me.
I first realized there were others who might share my desires in a very strange circumstance. I was on a jet, bound for London, with my parents. The flight attendant was passing around magazines and I ended up with the June 1964 issue of LIFE magazine. That issue had a bombshell article in it called “Homosexuality in America,” and though it was supposed to be an expose of a sordid world, the double-page photograph of the Tool Box Bar spoke to me only of desire. It was a shadowy, black and white photo of dozens of men, most wearing leather jackets and caps, crowded into what was one of the early San Francisco leather bars.
To a 14-year-old boy who had never quite been able to put his finger on what he wanted sexually, it was all I could do to not scream out, “YES, that’s what I want!”
It took another three years before I finally spoke with my mother about my sexuality, and then only in the most general terms. My father died when I was 18 and our household was pretty much in upheaval, so I don’t think my mom really got what I was telling her. My friends already knew, and in fact I had already had sexual experiences with a few of the guys I hung out with. To them it wasn’t important to “come out”; we were just exploring sexual possibilities and by the time I entered college, there were plenty of opportunities to explore.