In 1972, the only businesses open on Sunday were gas stations and Chinese restaurants. For some reason, I am remembering this now. I was a sophomore at Herricks High School, one of the best public high schools on Long Island, and we thought New York was the center of the universe. Our home was filled with books and discussions about politics and important things.
I lived in an invisible world. I had to compartmentalize my life. If I didn’t, I assumed the whole, happy suburb would melt away, and it would be terrible, and it would all be because of the faggot deep inside me. It was my job to keep him there. Later, I discovered that the more I tried to stow away who I was, the more obvious my secret became. That I had zero athletic prowess and suffered from asthma didn’t help. There were some nice teachers at school, but I couldn’t talk to them. Nor to my parents. If I had tried to confide in them, it would have hurt them, and I didn’t want to do that. That would have been cruel.
I had friends, but I basically kept to myself, and fussed over my stamp and coin collections, and in the warm weather I tended to my backyard garden and read lots of historical fiction. I liked James Michener especially. When other kids gave me a hard time, I would retreat deeper inside. When I encountered other guys like me at school, I felt sympathy for them, and I stayed far away.
That summer, my parents and I moved to Florida. In 1973, my dad died. In 1974, I started at the University of Florida, in Gainesville. It was in the environment of a big college where I felt more comfortable to come to terms with myself and live openly. I returned to New York in 1978. By then, I had a beard, and I was older, of course, and I had read more books. But I wasn’t that different from my 16-year-old self.
I am now 57, and there are days I wake up, and I am delirious with joy at some of the changes I have seen. There is a wonderful song from the musical The Rothschilds. In it, Meyer Rothschild, the patriarch of the family, sings a beautiful tune called “In My Own Lifetime.” In a way, my generation is like Meyer Rothschild. We have lived to see things that we never expected to happen. I am glad that the younger LGBT generation has it easier. But I am like the patriarch, too. I don’t want the next generation to forget our history. Probably, this is too much to hope for.