I’m not sure why I’m plaguing my future comment spam with a title like that, but anyway…
I mentioned yesterday that I was writing a screenplay in the early- to mid-1990s, entitled Getting By, and that there was a love triangle, and that one of the points on this triangle was a closeted gay teen named Paul.
The important bit here is that I couldn’t admit I was gay when I was writing this screenplay. This led to me being “blocked” but really thinking I had a powerful story, since it was pretty verboten to have a traditional teen story with a closeted teen character. It became a novelty for a while, but back then, this would have been major.
In fact, gay teens portrayals then were major to me. I remember seeing Pump Up The Volume, and getting so emotional when the closeted teen called Christian Slater.
But anyway, my story had stalled, and I blamed Paul. But at the same time, it all made sense. Like, how would I be expected to write a good portrayal of a gay teen character, if I’m straight?!
To set the scene here. This is back when AOL was a dial-up proprietary service, before the Internet had entirely taken off. So, you would pay so much money for so many hours per month, and any time over that you would get billed for.
And you’d constantly get 3.5-inch discs in the mail, offering so many free hours to try out the service. So, I decided I’d try it out, download some free games, and get out before the billing kicked in.
What I didn’t expect was to find a chat room with the title “Hot Young Gay Teens.” Now, to be fair, I was already not a teen at this point, probably 22 or 23. But I wasn’t really having a clandestine, anonymous Internet experience here. I was intrigued.
So, I went into the room and told the boys in the room my supposed truth. I was a straight screenwriter working on a script that involved a young gay character, and I wanted to talk to them. Several of them suggested we get a private room, so we did.
It was a pretty normal interview setting. I would ask questions, and they would answer. Only, it was slightly strange, since none of their answers seemed all that gay to me. They seemed like the same things I had gone through, and I wasn’t gay.
One guy in the room was sending me a lot of private messages, so once things were dying down, we went into a room together alone. He was thinking he might be bi, and I was, of course, straight.
We typed for hours. And, by the end of the call, we were both saying we were gay and, if we had lived near one another, we probably would have gotten together and hooked up immediately. It was a powerful, life-changing event.
I previously had no way to be conceptually gay, or closeted, but as soon as there was a boy sharing his emotions, fears, and everything else with me, I was totally on board. And, I never doubted being gay since that chat, really.
Now, of course, I was in a room for gay teens, and I was older, but in that moment, it didn’t matter. He and I were the first people we ever admitted being gay to, and we were in love.
Not that I ever met him, or saw him naked even in a photograph or anything, but I do think there is an unexplored phenomenon related to coming out slightly older. I can now trace gay thoughts I had repressed to back when I was 15 or 16, even though I didn’t come out until I was 23. And I think that is relevant, since that time has to be accounted for.
Since I had gay thoughts about my peers at 15, I think I still found guys that age attractive even though I was now in my 20s. I honestly think that’s how things work. On some level, I had sort of stunted my emotional growth in the closet, so talking to teens was sort of appropriate. We were at the same point in our development.
So, I want to be honest that I was having a very deep, emotional experience with someone who was way younger than me at that time, and to be honest, that relationship would have been physical if that option was available to us then. Legally, it was very clearly not a good idea.
But I think that is a common experience. You are attracted to people at the same point where you stopped maturing emotionally and, of course, you can easily catch up after that. The vast majority of people I’ve dated, slept with, etc., have always been close to my age. But that initial spark was a bit naughty.
Of course, it was also very innocent. We were both virgins. Both never admitted these feelings before. So, it was very heightened, crazy stuff. I had a scanned photo of me at the time, so he knew what I looked like. But he didn’t have a scan, so he sent me a copy of his high school picture. It was inside of an 8.5×11 inch folder paper that he had filled with my name, hearts, and a cute pattern, all with red and black ink.
Sadly, after he had to leave AOL because of the massive monthly bills, I never spoke to him again. I know his name. Can’t find any reference to him online. Although I know he was real, and important, and that for a brief moment of time, we both felt loved by each other, in a time when we were both confused by what our future would be, now that we were gay. There was love. A very overwrought, heightened, messy teenaged love.
Eventually, I made some other friends online, and I was so obviously gay, it seemed amazing I was able to conceal it to myself.
For background, my bedroom looked like it belonged to a teenaged girl. On the walls were pictures of Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, and other male teen stars of the day. But we really can delude ourselves when we want to.
Needless to say, the screenplay never did get finished. I’m not sure it was ever that good. I think it was meant as a way for me to explore my own gay feelings safely, by adding a layer I could deal with to the process. And, eventually, I was able to break through and deal with things directly.
Jeez, I hope my novel isn’t some big mental puzzle waiting to hatch, too.
Let’s hope not.