Collage of three celebrity crushes from my youth - Donny Osmond, Greg Evigan and John Schneider

Little Moments of Queer Joy

I’m still not at quite a year since the first friend I came out to in 2023. If I’m honest I didn’t think to write the date down so all I’m sure was it was in the last ten days of April. I may pick an arbitrary date to mark each year. I don’t know. April will be special regardless of the date. Sort of my Queer spring. Even before saying the words to someone I was building up the momentum I needed.

A year is coming up and some things are really not much different. I mean, I’m still living at home and caring for Mom’s brood of cats. Still crossing the street and checking in on Mom and her dementia journey most days. I really have gotten to the point I dread driving anywhere for numerous reasons so I’m not sure on a large scale what will change unless I change my location. And I so want to live somewhere next where there’s decent public transit. That limits the field I think to decent sized cities but I haven’t looked in depth. Are there places with a strong queer community that are Goldilocks sized with practically perfect public transit? Don’t hold out on me if you know. I have thought at times of revisiting life in Atlanta but I’m not drawn back there if I’m honest. It would be the easier choice in some ways but I’ve shortchanged myself so many times in life taking the easy choice. Although moving to Atlanta the first time was not the easy choice. I’ll give myself that. I had a job offer in Americus that would have been so much easier at the time. I digress…

This post was supposed to be about Queer Joy not my garden variety indecisiveness! Even at a long distance and mainly online there’s been a lot of little moments of queer joy in my life for the first time. Depending on your point of view, maybe nothing so big that it will get commemorated on the calendar each year. But there were things that were absent from my life before that aren’t anymore. A small but growing circle of queer friends of various backgrounds. I mean, yes, some of those I’ve known for years but they didn’t really know me. And some are new friends I’ve made since coming out. And making completely new friends is a big thing. Even though I’ve had some dear friends over the years, this is different. For one, there weren’t a lot of men in my life period.

Which is a longish story for another day but just adding new men to my friend group was fun and new for me. Why did that matter? It’s part of adolescence I missed in the 80s. When my straight peers were talking about what girls they thought were exceptionally hot, I was mostly silent. I’ve heard other gay men say they couldn’t pick out an attractive woman. On that point I have had a different experience. I can tell when a woman is aesthetically attractive, but I believe I always innately understood that I wasn’t feeling the same thing they felt. I’m still truly on the fence if I’ve ever had sexual attraction towards women but the longer I’ve allowed myself to feel my feelings the more certain I’ve become that it’s rare if at all. By contrast there’s an infinite pool of men I feel are more than just pretty to look at. And at long last I have peers that I can tell. They may get tired of hearing it but no one has said shut up yet. Ha!

It may sound like I’m still obsessing over whether or not I find any women attractive in the same way but I’m really not. That was genuinely one of my big breakthroughs last year, the realization that there was one thing I was certain about, my attraction to men. Getting out of my head on that one subject let me move on. And whether it’s talking about some celebrity from my youth or some guy I just saw posting thirst traps on Instagram it’s been incredibly freeing having people who will listen to the silliness that should have happened for me long ago.

If your actual adolescence was many years ago, it may seem incredibly trivial now. Yet imagine being a teen and never finding the freedom to really speak about your desires and burying them so intensely you couldn’t even really admit them even to yourself? Or even more simply think about the idea that our language creates our world. Do you remember learning to speak as a child? I have one very vivid memory of a new word. I was standing on a step stool near the stove where my Mom was cooking and she warned me not to touch the pot saying that it was hot. I’m not sure how old I was exactly but we left the house this happened in when I was three. I distinctly remember not knowing what hot was and before she could say another word I reached out and touched the pot. Hot suddenly had meaning. Mind you, no one has to teach me what physical traits on a man leap out at me. But I felt too repressed to express those thoughts before this past year. That was part of a separate self that lived in the dark and no one else knew.

I don’t think I’m per se entirely alone here. I’ve noticed a common thread on social media of gay men sharing their first celebrity crushes. No matter their age it seems to be a popular conversation starter. Like the number of guys just a bit younger than me who say they knew they were gay when they saw Chris O’Donnell in his Robin costume in 1995. I mean, it was memorable. But my time was a bit before that and my celebrity crushes looked more like this.

Some things are more obvious to me in the rearview mirror but it should have been blindingly clear then. On Donny Osmond, don’t ask me. I have no good explanation why I was so enamored but I vividly remember the Donny and Marie Show which started when I was four years old. The Christmas right after my 5th birthday I got a Donny doll which I had begged my parents for. I was riveted to the TV when it was on and I have zero question that it was very childish crush. I think that was probably the first one. Only a few years later I have strong memories of Greg Evigan on BJ & The Bear and John Schneider on the Dukes of Hazzard. In fact as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, the first poster I had on my wall when I was about 7 years old was of Bo and Luke Duke. I have no question that was a crush too.

This echoes back to my post on queer representation. Some guys clearly were more perceptive than I was and they knew instinctively what it was they were feeling on some level. When you lack the language and representation, it’s not always so clear. After all people will coo over little boys and girls playing together and talk about how they are boyfriend and girlfriend. But they’d never do that for two boys playing together or two girls. And I’m not saying they should. I’m just saying that doing it for one set of children and not the others creates a divide between what is “normal” and what isn’t. You’re kneecapping the little boys who will ultimately realize that they want a Prince Charming not a Cinderella and vice versa with the little girls.

I hate the phrase “let kids be kids” because it’s so often used by bigots who believe children learn to be queer, but in this case, it really is a situation where I think kids would be better off without that sort of behavior from adults. Don’t feign that Little Johnny is a “lady killer” and maybe read them some diverse age-appropriate stories that let them see that there’s a spectrum of relationships and families out there in the world. Even if they grow up straight they’ll still learn to be more accepting of their queer friends. Oh, I got on my soap box again didn’t I?

Regardless if I was a little slow or the world around me didn’t show me the possibilities, I see those first hints of what was to come in a lot of little proto-crushes including a kindergarten field trip where I didn’t get to sit next to the boy I wanted to. Oh I remember being twisted in knots about that all the way there. And no since so many of my K-12 friends are still in my circle, I won’t say who it was. Ha!

So back to Queer Joy instead of Queer Systemic Rage. So we have a wider circle of friends and acquaintances. I think the other big thing for me in past months was flirting. I mean, online flirting but nonetheless honest to goodness flirting. And the best part was when it happened the first time it was just totally unplanned. Cute guy, flirty talk, and then after literally having a a “squeeeeeee” moment when I realized I had managed to hold up my end of a flirty conversation. I tell you it really is 8th grade level stuff but we find our thrills where we find them, right? Not the first time I got a little bit of attention thrown my way but the first time I managed to reciprocate. I mean on the other end it may have come off as the Three Stooges in heat for all I know. But for one, maybe when I find the guy for me he will like that. Or second I may be being overly critical of my self. I didn’t develop all this self-deprecating humor over night after all.

Anyway those are the highlights. And the final impetus to write this article about my experience this year was actually an episode of a Podcast I’ve mentioned here before about second adolescence. I had already been thinking of the things that have changed in my world and the latest episode helped me frame the experience a bit.

I don’t think the teen me who hid in the library at lunch every day could ever have imagined. I don’t have an easy time connecting to younger versions of me. In fact I look at very young photos of myself like this one of me at a little over three years old.

Me and my father with one of the trophies from the girls track team he coached in 1975
Me and My Father – Spring 1975

The beaming smile throws me. Eventually every photo I have I look sullen and serious. I wish I entirely understood it. I have a lot of things that I can think of might have caused that shift but I don’t know if one wins or it was all of them. Regardless I’ve been struck a couple of times recently by the shift in demeanor as I got older. I recently had a comment on a childhood photo I shared from someone older than me who knew me as a small child. And she remarked on how I would talk their ear off back then. It’s a little sad hearing that but at the same time, I think that version of me is still there somewhere. Maybe part of my journey reclaiming the life I didn’t live will unearth some of the lost spirit, too, eh?

And now I bid you adieu. There are thirst traps to share and somebody has to do it. Wink, wink!

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