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  • 1.

    I was nineteen years old when I saw the Gay Parade for the first time.

    Standing on the corner of 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, near the Empire State building, amid thousands and thousands of people, the swirling rainbow flags, the crowd cheering, the sparkled drag queens in stiletto and feather boas, the leather daddies in their raven costumes, the muscle boys in bikinis pumping their arms in the air and gyrating with the music, the shrill aria of a disco diva, and the rain of confetti floating from the sky. Like fairy dust.

    For so long I had been in hiding, afraid, ashamed, alone, and now I was surrounded by a multitude of people, people who were just like me, who understood, who knew that feeling well, the sawdust in the mouth, the fumbling in the dark, the odor of mothballs, the suffocation of being locked in a room without windows, of wanting to hide, to die.


    One of the small perks of being gay is that you can always find a home away from home, a community of men no matter where you travel in the world even if you cannot speak the language, there is a way that gay men can locate each other, a certain radar that happens through body language, through the eyes, a glance.

    I have encountered gay men not only in the obvious places, the ghettos of London, Paris, Sydney, but also on a remote island in Thailand, a small town in the north of Brazil, near a hillside temple in Laos.

    Somehow, without having to speak, to declare our allegiance to the same sex, there is a way that gay men mark each other. And the stories we tell transcend our national borders, our different religions, our various shades of skin color.

    In Rome. Near the Coliseum I once met a handsome dark hair Italian, olive skin, from Naples, who took me back to his place on a motorbike, swirling through the raucous traffic.

    His flat was small a studio, immaculate and impeccable, minimalist and modern. After the glasses of wine, some pot, after the sex, a hazy, sepertine coiling. He was the youngest of five sons from Naples, and as a boy he always knew that he was gay, and that it troubled him so much that he once tried to kill himself as a teenager by slicing his wrist, the scars, he showed them to me, I could trace them, a feint, spidery line.

    In Amsterdam. Near the Central Station, I once met a long-legged, blond Dutchmen with a red beard. He took me home on a bicycle zig-zagging through the canals and he too shared his story, the mute years in a small town in Holland, with stern parents and the art of deception that he learned to master, the art of surveillance.

    Like many gay men, he learn how to spy, to mime, to pretend so convincingly that for a brief period he fooled himself becoming engaged to a young woman. As we were cuddling in bed, he shared with me how when his fiancé learned the truth, full of tears and rage at his betrayal, she struck his forehead with a wooden spoon, leaving a purple bruise.


    For some of us our wounds, may be invisible and yet we too carry them, like a tattoo, beneath the surface of our skin, they exist inside all of us, and remind us not only of the dark places we once inhabited, but also our victory, how despite our galloping fears, we were able to summon our courage, to put our hands, our sweaty palms, on the door knob, and walk into the unknown, one step at a time, the story of how we each emerged, from darkness into light, from fear into love, is a story I have heard many times around the world and though I know the predictable ending, each time, I still feel moved.

    Looking back, it seems astonishing how something so simple as two men or women taking pleasure in each other could cause so much grief, so much pain. I mourn for the ones who did not survive, the children who killed themselves, slicing their wrists, bleeding in bathtubs, drowned in rivers, with a gunshot to their head, or the ones that died slowly, through the poison of alcohol and drugs, through the suicide of the closet.

    I weep for those who were vanquished by a coarse, vulgar world that told them that their love was ugly, shameful, and sinful. I would like to live in a world where children are not murdered for loving the wrong gender, bullied into suicide. I believe it will happen. It must happen.

    Someday, it will not matter that much, like being left-handed. No one will care. No child will ever have to hide, to die.

    (public mural near Noe and 17th in SF)
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