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



by Andrew Ramer

     I was never called a sissy when I was growing up, back in the 1950's on Long Island. While I envied my girl cousins the range of emotions they were allowed, I didn't do girl things. Not that I did boy things either. I remember sitting beneath a tree in the elementary school playground, talking about the books we were reading with a handful of other misfits, Albert, Lenny, Peter, and Linda. We'd watch the other boys play softball with the same incomprehension we felt about the rest of the girls jumping rope and singing jump rope songs.
     I came out in 1973, during my senior year at U. C. Berkeley. My first male lover and I were members of a gay men's rap group that met in the damp basement of a local church. Each week twenty or so of us would sit in a circle and bare our souls. I remember how much pain my lover's having sex with other men caused me. "You're just a reactionary heterosexist pig," one man snapped at me, when I talked about it, in tears. Another man looked at me like I was an insect under a magnifying glass and said, "Honey, you're a gay man, not a gay woman. Get over it." But I had no gay women friends, and didn't know what he was talking about.

     In 1974 I left my lover and moved back to New York City, to live with my father and stepmother. I tried to fit into the gay world I found there, but I don't like opera and ballet, or bars and bathhouses either, although I forced myself to spend time in both, trying to make myself "normal" (normal for a gay man). The bars were smoke-filled and noisy and I don't drink much. The baths were dark and dank and didn't work for me either. I've never been able to separate sex and love, and as with cruising, there seemed to be all sorts of rules that I could never figure out. Colored hanky? In which pocket? Is he looking at me because he likes me, or because I'm about to be gay bashed?