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Progress on the back of a rented limo

by Jeremy Hooper

I had known I was attracted to boys since Reagan's second term, had verbalized it by the time I was 13 or so, and had self-accepted it as my reality by the time "Friends" hit the airwaves. But in 1997, my prom picture still looked like this:


I can look at this picture and literally see some torment in my face. Not because my date sucked, mind you -- she was one of my best friends and was quite the looker. And also not because my sideburns were threatening to overtake my face -- I was actually fine with that coiffure, for some remarkably strange reason. No, no -- the torment came from having to stand there, with several of my friends and neighbors, posing for pictures with a date that was the wrong gender. Coming out was not an option at that time in my community. Not for me, at least. And even if it were, then bringing a same-sex date to prom was not even in the ballpark of reality. There was just no way.

So I took a female, knowing full well that thirteen years later, I'd look back and cringe not just at the hair or the rented tux, but also the fakery I was undergoing in the name of teenage passage-rite.

Fortunately, modern gays are changing things for the better, showing bravery that seventeen-year-old me only dreamt of showing:

Constance McMillan: Court Rules That Mississippi School Violated First Amendment Rights Of Lesbian Student [ACLU]


Bravo to them. Bravo to us.

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Your thoughts

But 13 years later you have a picture of your stunning self in a cute blue suit kissing an equally stunning boy also dressed in a cute blue suit. Whatever leads us to today was worth it. That being said, these kids today amaze me.

Posted by: SammySeattle | Mar 23, 2010 8:44:14 PM

Ah, you're sweet, SammySeattle. Incidentally enough, you might soon have the opportunity to read exactly what got me to where I am today. Stay tuned...

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 23, 2010 8:48:00 PM

You've come a long way, baby!

Posted by: Michael | Mar 23, 2010 10:37:56 PM

Let me echo Sammy's sentiments: all that is in your past has made you who you are today. I married a woman, fathered 3 wonderful children, and eventually came out after meeting the man who would become my husband. He married a woman as well, fathered 4 children, and came out of the closet after meeting me. We could lament those tortured years, worry about what we've "done" to our kids and ex wives, or we can be grateful that our total experiences led us to each other and the fantastic life that we now have together. Occasionally we ask ourselves why we could not have met sooner, then we realize that if we had done so, we would not have all of the wonderful things and people (kids!) we enjoy now.

Blessed Be!

Posted by: keltic | Mar 23, 2010 10:58:48 PM

I didn't even attend my prom.
Did the girl ever find out you were gay? And if so, what was her reaction?

Posted by: Bill S | Mar 24, 2010 7:16:21 AM

Oh yea, Bill. We're Facebook friends. No negative reaction. We were basically just friends, nothing more.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Mar 24, 2010 8:17:40 AM

here's a wonderful sense of incrementalism. Not that incremental change is necessarily satisfying, or that it helps avoid bumps and potholes along the journey, but at least it lands us in better places.

The girl I dated my junior year of high school was great and we had fun together, but she was clearly frustrated after several months in which she repeatedly created moments in which we were alone and unsupervised, my desire to explore simple intimacy was much more constrained than hers.

To me, it seemed convenient and a little pious that I wasn't experiencing anything resembling passion which could spiral out of control. There were odd/uncomfortable private moments, but in my naiveté, I assumed she, being a pastor's kid, wanted to constrain passion and intimacy.

She dumped me with no explanation. Good for her.

It was the late 70s, it was a small town in the Midwest. I loved the physics, chem, and calculus classes I shared with Craig, the blonde football star and comedian who played dumb but wasn't. I felt something weird whenever he smiled at me, even briefly, that I couldn't explain but always enjoyed. That was the extent of my understanding of my orientation.

When I married in the mid 80s, I was somewhat concerned that I might be gay, but doubt, denial, and misgivings about a couple of limited, uncomfortable same-sex encounters gave way to an amazing season of dating and engagement which left me convinced God wanted me to be married to this person.

Residing comfortably enough in the background of my midwestern experience were culturally-induced convictions that being gay was a wacky, activist, flaming thing, and that people who grew up with self-doubts like mine regularly/often resolved them via hetero marriage.

As a teenager, I must have had some intuitive sense of the difference between gay and straight, and that I was something other than 100% straight. I was OK with being different... rearranging living room furniture at 7, rejecting Mom's approach to learning the piano and discovering my own, improvising raucously in private when no one else could hear me, reluctantly accepting the HS choir director's invite to accompany a choir song, and a talent show piece, and then seven talent show pieces.

And yet, from what I could tell in 1978, being straight was real, foundational. Being anything else was contrived, outrageous.

Compared to all of the hoops I jumped through as an uninformed teen in the 70s, and as a culturally-deluded newlywed in the 80s, a divorced dad of a virulently anti-gay co-parent in the 90s, I love it that you recognized your orientation sometime in the late 80s, had some clarity about your prom date in the 90s, and married appropriately in 2009... and yet, something more special, though obnoxiously disputed and challenged, is playing out for Constance McMillan and Derrick Martin.

It's not good enough that Derrick was rightfully convinced that he'd need to jump through extra hoops, or that Constance knew that she needed to plan ahead, both determined to prevent an anonymous, last-minute ambush.

But, it's more than good enough, it's great that both of these teenagers stood up to say: This is the person who matters to me, and regardless of the conflicts, repercussions, or stigma that might spring from saying so, this is the one person I want to share that supposedly magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience with.

Posted by: Steve Boese | Mar 24, 2010 8:28:26 AM

I was that straight pal that gay kids came out to. Two girls and four boys altogether confided in me during that time. They didn't always reveal whatever other insecurities, family reactions and so on. It seemed a big deal to have a few peers be accepting and close.
Two of the boys I knew when, who were talented singer dancers subsequently died of AIDS.
One of them, it happened 14 years ago, but I only found out last year from his brother. And I felt extremely sad. More than I would have expected. I loved my friend back then.

However, the others, have been a triumph of accomplishment and haven't let me forget what having someone accept them unconditionally meant to their lives.
This is why PFLAG is so crucial. Why GSA's and GLSEN is.
Adults, parents...have to learn about the process of coming out. That a kid will be gay, and no amount of cruelty, ignorance and expectations will change THAT.

I mentor gay kids, and help them with their parents and peers. It's tough. I'm not a parent. But I am a hetero adult. Credibility is touchy.
But it gets done because I've had a fine education from my gay friends.

Constance McMillan was RIGHT. More than anything she IS showing that her school is bigoted, brought the spotlight on themselves as the backward and hostile presence they are. And they wanted to punish her for it.
If they'd let her and her gf go, I doubt anyone would have barely noticed.

By advancing cynicism and bigotry, they pretend that she's responsible for THEIR reaction. She's showing THEM she's stronger than they estimated.

In so many ways, the anti gay aren't much advanced past an immature and arrogant NEED to still bully and ridicule people like me. Who are OUT allies. The way they let a discussion devolve into crude remarks about sex acts, how it's impossible to mention anything without a juvenile sounding retort, I've wondered if I was dealing with an adult or someone who gets emotionally regressed when the subject of gay people comes up.

In any case, Constance is a beauty, she's a good student, and good kid who is loved by her family.
They can try to wage this petty war on this girl, but she's miles ahead of their game.
She totally rocks.

And Jeremy, you look like a young movie star like Daniel Radcliff in that picture. We may not know what's going on. And having a hot girl on your arm for the dance isn't all bad either.

But you're here, you're in love and married and have it going on brother. What you WERE isn't exactly irrelevant, but you're dynamite NOW and I love you for it.

Posted by: Regan DuCasse | Mar 24, 2010 12:38:59 PM

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