That Moment When You Learn You're a Fag
by Jason Walker
The summer of 1980 was HOT in Texas!!
No, no...you don't understand. When I say it was hot I mean it was “hotter than a motherfucker!” As the local rednecks say. It was hotter than any normal Texas summer by about 20 degrees. Regular temperatures were soaring up to 115° without the heat index factored in. And I was playing baseball for the YMCA...
I played for a team called the Giants and we were on a crazy winning streak that summer. The year before, my first year on the team, we weren't very good, but the 1980 team was cruising through the season. And I was cruising boys.
...but I didn't know it.
I was 8 that summer. I was a pretty cute little kid, too, if I do say so myself. But, I was starting to figure out that there was something a little different about me. All of my friends had "girlfriends" (whatever that means at 8-10 years old). They talked about which of their girlfriends was the prettiest. Some of them even talked about kissing their girlfriends inside the big cement barrels that were on the playgrounds at school and around town. I didn't have a girlfriend.
Oh, there was this one girl who I think would've been my girlfriend if I'd asked, but I didn't really like her that much. I remember that she had really dry skin on her hands...God, what a little asshole I must've been!
Anyway, long story short, I didn't have a girlfriend and I didn't want one. You see, while Mark, Todd, Scotty, Philip, Dennis, Brett, and all my other friends were talking about how pretty their girlfriends were, I was thinking about how "pretty" I thought some of them were. Looking back on it now I can say that I had a particularly big crush on Mark. He was a year older than I and was our coach's son. (He's actually still pretty good looking today....alas, straight.)
Now understand that my crushes were in no way sexual. At 8 I had no idea what sex was. It just so happened that I looked at little boys my age the same way they were looking at little girls.
...I was cruising! But, I didn't know it.
To me, at 8 years old, it was just the way things were. I didn't give it a lot of thought. I looked at my friends the way they looked at girls. Sometimes when I was in bed at night I would imagine being with one of them--not sexually--I would imagine us lying in my bed, holding on to one another; talking and just being safe with each other. It was just the way things were.
The veil was pulled back on the truth when I was 12 years old.
I had heard people use the words gay and fag. I knew from the way they were used that it was a bad thing, but I didn't really know what they meant. One day I heard an 8th grade whom I sometimes hung around with call someone a fag. So, I asked him what the word meant.
He looked at me like I was an idiot.
"You don't know what a fag is?" He snarled when he said the word...no, I mean he LITERALLY snarled. I shook my head.
He looked around as if he were making sure no one could hear what he was saying to me. "A fag is a guy who likes other guys. They suck each other's dicks! They're fuckin' disgusting!" When he finished explaining what a fag was he looked me up and down and then laughed. I just nodded and walked away.
And my existential crisis began.
By 12 I'd figured things out a little more clearly since that hot summer four years earlier when I realized I was different from my friends. By 12 I knew that I liked other guys. Although I hadn't yet sucked another guy's dick, I certainly knew what that meant and would be lying if I said I hadn't seen porn and wanted to do it. But, what now? Now I wasn't just different. Now I was a FAG! Now I was disgusting!
Northeast Texas was not exactly on the cutting edge of tolerance and equality in 1984. Given the way I was informed about just exactly what a fag is and what people think of them, my immediate instinct was to do everything I could to make sure no one ever knew I was one. So, I got a girlfriend...sort of. Looking back on it now I'm fairly certain that ours was a relationship which was mutually beneficial if you catch my drift.
The older I got, the more I realized that there were myriad nuances surrounding the qualifications which earned one the fag moniker. Those included but were not limited to manner of dress, manner of speech, manner of walking, whether or not one played sports, whether or not one played in the band....forget drama. Our school didn't even have a drama club. I suspect they were afraid it would create a bunch of little fags running around school.
I joke about it now because remembering the isolation and loneliness is too painful. I had very few friends which was mostly of my own doing. I was scared to death to get close to anyone. What if they found out I was a fag? What if they were one, too and other people found out about both of us. The words, "I'm gonna kill you faggot" were not uncommon words to hear where I grew up. Some of the people who used them meant them.
My closet was very small, very dark, very lonely, and locked tighter than a drum. Even when I was molested by another kid in my class I didn't tell anyone because, as he reminded me, everybody hates fags.
I regret that it took 33 years for me to care about how LGBTQ kids are treated in school. I regret that I didn't value my own well-being enough to value theirs. I feel an enormous amount of guilt about that. Even now, all these years later, writing this story and letting other people into what has, up until now, only belonged to me, scares me.
That moment when you figure out that you're a fag changes everything. I truly believe that it radically changed the course of my life in ways that I will never understand. I suspect that for many young men and women, especially here in Texas, the experience is still the same.
We've come a long way, but we have a long way yet to go until that moment when you figure out just how wonderfully made you are exactly the way you are!
About the Author
Jason A. Walker lives in Northeast Texas and is an avid reader and writer. He is currently an adjunct professor of English at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, and is a PhD student in Literature at Texas A&M University-Commerce, transferring to the University of Texas at Dallas in the fall of 2019.
Web site -- www.jasonawalker.com
Previously published work on Cleaning up Glitter: Gin and Tonic