WANTING TO BE WHO WE'RE NOT
 

Creative Nonfiction by Queer Writers
Edited by Jim Tushinski and Jim Van Buskirk
Now available from Harrington Park Press

 
 
 

ITALIAN-AMERICAN BOYS (excerpt)

by John Gilgun

     I came of age sexually in an Irish-American/Italian-American working-class neighborhood in the blue-collar city of Malden, Massachusetts in the 1940s. Yes, I had the fantasy that a mistake had been made in the hospital and that I was in fact the child of a rich couple who lived in another part of the city and would find me some day and take me to their thirty-room mansion and drive me around in their Buick Roadmaster. But I really wanted to be an Italian-American boy, living as part of an Italian family, with Italian brothers, cousins and uncles.
     I did not want to be Irish-American. Irish-Americans were hard, mean, aggressive, and spiteful. Irish-American boys rejected me before I could open my mouth to say something to them in a friendly way. Being friendly itself was suspect. What did I want out of them anyhow? Being friendly was queer stuff. Who needs it? It was always the Irish-American boys who picked me last and then complained about me when I struck out or dropped the ball during a softball game. "We don't want him. Why don't you take him?" always came from Irish-American boys. Italian-American boys were willing to give me at least half a chance. Irish-American boys gave me no chance at all. I was rejected by them as soon as I stepped into the city park across from the house we lived in. And if a fist hit me in the face it was always an Irish-American fist. No Italian would ever do that to me.


     My father was a thin-lipped, angular, alcoholic who looked like Beckett. You know, the hard cheekbones, the intense dark eyes, the twisty lips. He had rejected me by the time I was five. Italian-American boys had fathers who never rejected them no matter what they did. These fathers seemed able to love. They were there for their kids. They weren't alcoholics.