One of the items in my bucket list, now that I am (semi)retired, is to write my life’s story. Though this might sound vain, I believe that I have had a life worth writing about; and that I am the best one to write it.
After all, I lived through four of the most eventful decades in South Florida’s LGBT history. I have written about segments of my life in essays that appeared in various anthologies and in publications like this one. I have also been interviewed by eminent historians like James T. Sears and Lillian Faderman.
Forty-five years ago, when I came out as a gay man, LGBT life was deep in the shadows. In 1973, most lesbians and gay men lived in the closet; we used code words to communicate with one another; and our gathering places were out of the way dives.
Most published accounts of lesbian and gay life were written by “experts” who used their writings to confirm their prejudices. As for bisexual or transgender people, they were hardly recognized or written about. One of the first things that activists did when they came out and created liberationist groups was to tell their own stories, from their own points of view and free from homophobic or heterosexist prejudice. Some of the best queer writing from the seventies or early eighties consisted of coming out stories that were literary breaths of fresh air after dismal decades of psychiatric case studies. For newly-out gays like me, works by Dennis Altman, Daniel Curzon, Pete Fisher. John Murphy, Donn Teal, Larry Townsend, Carl Wittman, Allen Young, Jack Nichols and Lige Clarke were more than good reads. They literally showed me the way.
I came of age as part of the first great generation of out and proud gay men. We did not share the gay shame experienced by our ancestors and exemplified by Mart Crowley’s classic play “The Boys in the Band.”
Some of us were active in the newly-formed liberationist organizations while others just wanted to have a good time. We created new ways of living, thinking, playing and loving; and hoped to carry those new ways into our old age.
Unfortunately, our generation was struck down by AIDS; an epidemic that was largely sexually-transmitted and which gave our enemies another arrow in their arsenal of hate. Those of us who were fortunate enough to survive this tragic era owe it to our fallen brothers to tell their stories; and to keep their memories alive.
For all those reasons, I believe it is my duty to chronicle my life and times; and hope there are enough people out there willing to read and appreciate my story. Not being confined to my rocking chair (yet), I still have to find a time and place where I may settle down and tell my tale. In the meantime, chapters of my life will continue to appear in this column and elsewhere. If you who are reading this have your own stories to tell, I greatly encourage you to tell them. Only by doing so are we able to maintain our traditions and transmit them to the next generations of LGBT people.
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