I remember being obsessed with my coming out story. I told it a lot, cuz straight-up to the head-up, it took some donkey-sized balls to come out of the closet back in da dayz and back in da hood when and where I come from. I’m talkin’ about coming out in the summer of 1991 in the heart of Inglewood (no shittin’). I’m talking about uttering the words I’m “bi” at a time when a lot of homos had died of AIDS (we all started out as “bi” back then, cuz bi was better than gay–kinda like being an alcoholic sounds better than admitting you also did crystal meth…like a lot). Being young and gay was no walk down West Hollywood Park like it is today, let me just tell you bitches. We put on a brave smile, we were stubborn and sassy as all hell, but the shadow of AIDS was cast on our young faces and there was no scooting away from that awful shade in the early 90s. Back then if you made the choice to be gay (I mean choice sarcastically), it wasn’t a question of IF, but WHEN you would be “peeing sideways” as my mother would call it in reference to being on your deathbed.
I remember walking home from work that evening. I used to work at Staky’s Deli for Mr and Mrs Kim, a Korean family in the business of making Italian sandwiches. That night I ran into a Fernando, I guy who lived two blocks down the street. My heart fell to my shoes. There was a nasty rumor that Fern had come out of the closet. I had known Fern since the 4th grade. He was one of those super smart guys who used books, smarts, an extensive vocabulary and a layer of fat to hide the fact that he was funny in the homosexual way. My sister was the first to tell me that, “Omigod, did you hear Fernando’s gay? He came out of the closet. He’s telling everyone.” People got called gay all the time where I come from, but I had never heard anyone call themselves a homosexual and actually own it. Of course, I was like, “Fernando!?” “Fat, nerdy, goofy Fernando!?” “There’s no way he’s gay. He doesn’t look gay…”
So that night Fern got in my face and he was like, “I have something to tell you. I’m sure you heard the rumors. Well those rumors are true. I’m gay.” I fucking DIED! I could feel my head twitching (the trembling chicken, he called it). I admitted that I had heard something. I said, “Good for you.” And I kept stepping swiftly. Of course that bitch followed me home. He told me about having a boyfriend. He told me about going to gay clubs and he told me about other gay guys who live in Inglewood. I kept on twitching like crazy. Of course, that fat bitch straight-up asked me if I was gay also. I thought about the straight homophobic crowd I ran around with in High School. I thought about my mother beating the shit out of me for playing with dolls, so of course I gave him a flat “nope”—however, added that I respected his choice to be whatever he wanted to be.
Then I couldn’t help myself from asking questions. When/why/how did he come out? How long has he known? Do his parents know? And before you know it, he was in my bedroom telling me about calling a gay hotline. He told me about attending discussion groups for young guys at the Gay & Lesbian Center, which was located on Highland and Fountain Ave at the time. He told me about Arena, a dance club for 18 and older that didn’t card you at the time and he he loved to dance all night long. He told me about kissing a boy for the first time and how he went to gay parties. I flinched every time the words gay or homosexual rolled out of his tongue. And my ass kept on twitching.
It wasn’t until Fernando got up to leave that I pulled out the Playgirl magazine buried inside my mattress. I stole it from a book store at The Fox Hills Mall—“SISTER!” he exclaimed and gave me a hug. Then he immediately asked me if he could borrow the mag (which–I might add–he never returned). I didn’t sleep that night thinking about all the ways he would betray me.
But he didn’t betray me. He took me under his wing. He’s my fluffy Eskimo who took me out of the cold and taught me the ropes. What he did back in da dayz and back in da hood took some donkey-sized balls (literally and figuratively–or so I hear). He seriously paved the way. He introduced me to other local gays–some who remain my friends to this day. He took me to Arena where I danced with a boy for the first time and he was right there when I experienced my first kiss. He later walked me through the fear of my first HIV test which to this day is negative (knocking on wood).
I had a fucked up way of showing it back then (we can be nasty little queens toward one another in those early years), but I am forever grateful to my good friend Fernando 21 years later. He helped me come out to myself (coming out to family and friends is a WHOLE different story). He saved me in more ways than one could ever imagine. To Fern I just wanna say thank you.
HAPPY COMING OUT DAY!!!