Walking Right Into It

I've been reading recently about an incident at the place I went to college, a small incident, a homophobic slur, writing on the wall,  there's been some upset, some trouble about it.  I've been reading about it, and about the reactions it has elicited, and the discussions of free speech and was it just drunken behavior and why is everyone so sensitive anyway and that sort of thing.  It troubles me to read about this, it was my college and all, but it troubles me not only because it was an unpleasant incident.  It troubles me also because it makes me start thinking, thinking about back then, when I was in college, and how it was different.  And how things might have turned out differently.

You see, it was World Aids day recently, and on that day I didn't just think about the aids epidemic and people in Africa.  You see, I am of a certain age.  And so I started thinking about the young men, boys they were really, just graduating with me back then, and heading for the big city.  It was different back then, and it was a small college, and the gay boys didn't really come out there, they waited, they waited until they were in the big city.  And then they came out.  But they didn't just come out, you see, they came out and they walked right into it.  Completely unaware.  It was the late seventies and the early eighties and they moved to New York and they moved to San Francisco and they came out and they walked right into the unknown disease.

But I didn't.

Because I didn't come out.  Oh, I moved to the big city, but I didn't come out, and that's another one of those long stories, but the point is, the point is right now that I didn't come out and I didn't walk right into it.  And that fact, that little story of my life, that I was there but I wasn't involved, that is one of the strangest things of my life.  That I didn't come out, and I didn't walk right into it.

Now, I know a lot of gay men my age, and they came out, and they walked right into it, and they didn't get sick.  And I am enormously grateful that I have them with me today.  But I remember the ones that aren't still with me, some of them I remember as lost friends, but more I remember as colleagues in a community I had not yet reached.  And my feelings, my thoughts, my emotions, about being there, but not being there, are very confused.

I'm troubled by that incident at my alma mater but I'm heartened by the open dialogue and the thoughtful discussion.  They will figure their way through this one.  It won't keep me up at night.  No, if anything keeps me up at night, it will be the thought of those young men, boys they were really, just graduating back then with me, and heading for the big city.

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Tom said...

Many of us who have survived that era have lived our own "Longtime Companion".
Happy Holidays Paul,

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