In other ways, though, you also find out about things accidentally left behind. Unlike a cross-town trip, there is no going back for that one last forgotten item. Fortunately for me, an unopened bag of cat food and a cookie sheet are the only things that I have found missing so far. Then again, it’s early in the unpacking phase.
I did find, however, my photo of James Dean for the fridge door. GayProf-devotees might recall seeing it in my
Though partially motivated by Dean’s queer-icon status and good looks, this does not fully answer the inquiry. To get the full answer, we must go wandering through the seasons of my youth.
Queer folk often get asked, “When did you first become aware of your queer desires?” These questions always struck me as impossible to pin-point. Anybody who has a definite answer, I think, has just sub-consciously or consciously chosen a moment in their autobiography to make sense of their identity. Straight people, on the other hand, never feel as inclined to name a precise moment when they realize that they had a sexuality.
All the same, there have been some key moments on GayProf’s road of life. For me, as a young queer lad, I knew that I had a deep desire to see men without their clothes. Doing anything sexual beyond looking, though, was literally outside of my imagination (And I really mean literally, not (as Earl Cootie points out) the way most Americans use the term (when they actually mean figuratively).
Even post-puberty, when I knew that my body was charged and ready to go, it did not occur to me that men could actually have sex with each other. Consider me a sheltered Catholic boy, but I really didn’t have the mechanics down in my head.
Of course, I knew that a group of people existed who fell under the category “gay men.” Television and films provided that information, but I never quite clicked about actual sexual acts (mostly because televison and films left out that little tidbit as well).
As an awkward teenager, I began to notice that I kept falling in love with other young (and sometimes not-so-young) men. You might consider it medieval, but a romantic lives in a portion of my otherwise cold, dark, truncated heart.
Still, it took some time to untangle those adolescent emotions. Rather than saying that I loved/lusted after these other young men, I convinced my self that only a deep, deep, deep, deep desire for friendship motivated those feelings (I debated about using the word “urges,” but that struck me as baroque).
My senior year of high school proved the battleground for personal awareness. In that year, I became best friends with a fellow male student. I fell in love, head-over-heels, in the way that only a teenager can in our society. Every waking moment and most sleeping moments focused on him. We saw each other at every free instance in school; talked for hours on the phone after school; and spent the weekends together.
By the time I graduated, I finally admitted to myself that my vision of our association went beyond simple friendship. In my awkward, inexperienced way, I communicated my desire for my little friend and what he meant to me at the end of the summer. Like an ABC-After-School special, he reacted in shock, then histrionics, and then horror. He finally fled the scene. Unlike an ABC-After-School special, he never returned to share the important life-lesson that we both learned. Indeed, I never heard from him again (Given the extreme commonness of both his first and last name in Latino circles, he is impossible to Google).
So, I started college feeling entirely rejected (Yes, rejection plays an important, though negative, part in my sense of self. It’s a topic for therapy – whenever I find a new Boston-therapist. I do, however, have a great story about another teenage crush that reentered my life recently. That, though, is another blog-entry entirely).
In that first year of university, I knew and owned my queer desires, but my first stab at the whole “gay” thing didn’t really leave me feeling grand. Remember, too, that I always start at a place of extreme gravitas. So just imagine my thought patterns at that moment.
As fate would have it, though, during that freshman year, a young woman in one of my classes invited me to a party. Yeah, I know, a party? Freshman year? How unusual. Though trite, it’s my story and I can tell it however I want to tell it.
Anyway, two gay men happened to be hosting this particular party. I did not enter the party house feeling any particular kinship to these yet-unknown gay men. Indeed, it just seemed like another
I briefly met the hosts. Both were nice, young, and attractive. Overall, though, I didn’t think much about them. Then, as I searched for a beer in their kitchen, I saw a casual image of James Dean hanging on the refegerator door.
At that moment, I can’t really explain why, but I suddenly felt a whole-hell-of-a-lot better about all my queerness. Some of it derived from the unashamed way that the picture signified the hosts’ own appreciation for Dean’s masculine beauty. Another part came from a sudden sense of linked history. Here, a man dead for some forty years (at that point), continued as the subject of the queer gaze. Many, many, many of us queer men had looked upon Dean with the same sense of sexualized appreciation. It inexplicably eased my loneliness.
I never became friends with those gay hosts. I couldn’t even tell you their names. Had I known that I would point to that moment as critical, I probably would have jotted down their digits.
Still, their unthinking moment of pasting an image with a magnet resulted in a host of good feelings for me. Since that point, I have usually had a picture of James Dean on my refrigerator wherever I have lived.
As I slapped ol’ James Dean onto my new fridge (pictured above), I thought again of that party fifteen years ago. Looking at the image will always remind me of the interconnections between all of us who fall into the queer realm.