Hi. My name's Andy. Not Andrew or anything foreign, just Andy. It isn't the greatest name in the world, but it certainly isn't the worst. My parents liked the sound of it, but I prefer to think that I was intentionally named after Andy Taylor, the really cool Duran Duran ex-guitarist. There are certainly worse people and worse things to be named after. I knew a kid from Illinois whose name was John. Not Jonathan, just John. He swore up and down that his parents wanted a daughter and named him after a urinal out of spite. His parents were bitter that way. Still, John had to admit that things could have been worse. Neither one of us is named Richard.
When I think about how things started, I don't believe I wanted to "come out" at all. I wasn't happy, and in all honesty, I wasn't exactly the most likeable person at times; but that didn't bother me as much as having to admit to myself that I was gay. I couldn't do it, maybe because I equated it with finding out from the doctor that I had some nasty disease, that I was going to be branded by society as an undesirable and be a victim for the rest of my life.
Nevertheless, slowly but surely, I came to the realization that I was, indeed, gay; and it didn't seem nearly as bad as I'd first thought. Wasn't I still the same sarcastic son of a bitch, if not a bit happier? Wasn't I looking for someone to share my life with and wake up next to in the morning on a more permanent basis? Wouldn't it be nice if they remembered my name for a change? And didn't I want to live beyond my meager means and pay for everything by credit card?
Yes! I wanted all the things that every heterosexual male did, so imagine the irony I felt when I was branded by society as an undesirable and had to fight to not be a victim anyway. Funny how that works, isn't it? Yeah, well, so is Viagra.
A lot of straight people wonder how someone "becomes" gay, or if they were really born that way or even if it has something to do with their environment.
I'm an only child, and I have always been close to both my parents. I wasn't sexually abused and never lusted after my mother. For that matter, I never lusted after my father. I really didn't need to say that, but it never ceases to amaze me what questions people will actually think of when there's a gay man or woman around.
Let me just get some of the answers to standard questions out of the way now. I don't molest children. I don't look at guys in the shower. I don't stare at guys' crotches at the gym, and I don't walk into a room and start picking out guys to try and seduce. Ideas like that only add to existing problems and misconceptions about gays.
I was never big into sports, but I did enjoy reading and playing with my Legos, Star Wars toys and Atari video games. This seems to be a pretty normal childhood to me. I do have a number of cousins on both sides of my family who are gay, only I wasn't aware of it back then. Heck, I never even met them, since they lived out in California and my grandparents never spoke about them.
In light of all this, I find it difficult to believe that I was somehow "influenced to become gay."
One final idea that straight people have about gays is that they're looking for acceptance of some kind, and that ultimately steers them into homosexuality. Yeah, right. Ultimate acceptance through ultimate disapproval? And a sane person thought this up?
What I can tell you about my childhood is that I liked having friends who were girls. I've always felt comfortable talking to women, and tended to make a better friend than date. Too, I liked having guy friends, and I can remember pursuing friendships with guys who I found to be attractive and wanted to experiment with, even as far back as grade school. Kids are curious at that age, only I was really curious.
There was Jim in third grade, Andrew in fourth, Scott and Mike in fifth and Randy in sixth. With my blue eyes and blond hair, they weren't too difficult to convince. Still, I was too young to be called a slut and too stupid to realize what this was all pointing to.
I had two more experiences, one in eighth grade and another in ninth, and then it ended. Most of the people I'd had these experiences with had moved away by the time I entered tenth grade, so I wasn't in too much danger of my classmates finding out. I was still worried, though. The mere possibility of being found out was enough to make me insecure and an easy target to abusive peers.
Just to be on the safe side, I did date girls during those years to make it look like I was "normal." I started dating a girl when I was a sophomore who was genuinely special and who treated me very, very well. I can remember riding my bike over to her house a number of times and watching a movie or playing on the computer with her. When we weren't together, we talked on the phone for hours, and it didn't matter what we were talking about as long as we were talking. At school, I met her each day at her locker and then between classes, when the rooms were actually close enough. I was, in essence, everything the perfect boyfriend was supposed to be, and she was everything the perfect girlfriend was supposed to be.
I began to worry as the relationship progressed toward where it would inevitably lead. We liked each other well enough, but there were some deeper desires that seemed to be awakening in her that never woke up in me. I was scared to death to tell her that I was attracted to her in every way except sexually, and the closer she tried to get, the further I pushed her away. I think she thought I might have been a bit of a prude, but I didn't have to worry about it very long. In the end, she decided she wasn't going to wait around for me to lose my morality ... and virginity. She had a new boyfriend within a few weeks who had her in bed experimenting with handcuffs and flavored lubricants.
I was so shattered from losing the closeness I had shared with her that I didn't date again until I was a senior. Even then, that relationship only lasted a few weeks before I got dumped for a pizza boy. He was apparently willing to deliver the kind of pepperoni I wasn't.
Suffice to say that neither of these experiences did much for my self-esteem.
Dating was just entirely too depressing to deal with after that. The loneliness and bouts of depres-sion were worse some months than others, but I got through it and graduated. Most of the four hundred students in my class could have gone to hell, and it never would have fazed me. In fact, I often told them to, since I was also known for being a smart-ass.
I have a very simple philosophy about this matter: I was born a dumbass, have since become a smartass and one day aspire to be a wiseass. It used to get me into a lot of trouble because my comments bordered on downright cruelty and bad taste, but that was because I was using them to cover up my own insecurities by exposing others'. I wanted to be nicer, but it's just that there wasn't a great deal of opportunity for a person to change or evolve into someone other than what one's peers perceived them to be. That's why I was looking forward to college so much.
While others went off to places like Michigan State, U of M, Western, Eastern, a few to Northern--nobody ever seemed to go to Southern--I chose a university in the cornfields. My reasoning for this was simple; there was a smaller student-to-teacher ratio than at the elite schools and my parents had met there. They weren't such bad people, so maybe I could straighten my life out there like they had, come to my senses and find some nice young woman to settle down with.
Unfortunately, aside from that motive, I really didn't have much of an idea of what I wanted to do professionally. I wondered if procrastination was a major. Well, that decision could wait.
Another thing I didn't realize was that I was moving to an area of west Michigan termed "the Bible belt," and the people in this churchgoing farming area disliked sinning college students, which was basically all college students in their minds, alcoholic beverages other than the wine at church, stores open on Sunday, people doing work on Sunday, and McDonalds.
Why McDonalds? Well, it went like this. The people in the little town where the university was located fought to keep all fast food restaurants from within their city limits because they felt it would bring the town down. Apparently, eating fast food meant one had fast morals. I would have thought that after smelling cowshit for an entire day, a Big Mac would really have hit the spot, but apparently I was misguided.
McDonalds just happened to be the one franchise being persistent in trying to obtain a permit. In response, the townspeople started a boycott against this heathen chain. Like that was really going to hurt them.
The first semester of my freshman year turned out to be hell. I was homesick, my roommate was rarely around, I was still in denial, and I ended up on academic probation because I failed chemistry. Oh, yeah, now, there's a worthwhile class. It ranks right up there with "Theories of Adult Pornographic Videos." I would no more sit down with friends and discuss why the director chose a specific noir lighting technique on the woman's breasts than I would what the delta heat of some varying degree on a stalactite might be.
Between that class and others, figuring out a major and listening to the preachers who roamed the campus telling us all that we needed to be saved, I didn't have much time to think about romance or even sexuality in general.
On a positive note, I did take my first writing class. Dr. Lockman essentially geared it towards working on smaller essays about ourselves and then combining them to create a single autobiography. I hated English, and had low self-esteem, so imagine the pleasure I derived from writing about myself.
I did learn three major things in that class. First, what a comma looks like and how to use one; second, that I had been taught how to write a paragraph incorrectly in high school and third, that I really could write. In a sea of core classes designed to give me a well-rounded education, like chemistry, I discovered that I not only enjoyed writing but was fairly good at it, too.
Before the semester ended, Dr. Lockman recommended that I jump a level and take a literature class instead of another "write a new paper each week" class. His enthusiasm and support convinced me it was the way to go. I finally had some direction.