When I was 10 years old, I became obsessed with old movies. I’m not sure what the other kids were doing, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t having Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Joan Crawford movie marathons by themselves. At the time, I had no idea that my interests were in line with those of a larger gay community, and I’ve always been fascinated by how and why I sought out these gay icons before I had any comprehension of sex or sexuality. Honestly, the first time I remember really understanding the concept of a gay community was when I saw Madonna’s Truth or Dare. Watching her and her dancers at a gay Pride parade opened my eyes to a whole new world.
I came into my sexuality as men were dying of AIDS. As a result, I equated being gay with death. This seems to be a pretty common correlation in my generation of gay men. We were the generation that came too late to lose many (or any) friends to AIDS, but came too early to brush off the disease. We really internalized the safe sex messaging and frightening imagery in a way I don’t see in previous or subsequent generations. In college a friend of mine was doing a sociology study and asked classmates to envision their future. None of the gay men saw life past 40.