Journalist Benoit Denizet-Lewis writes today about, well, the opposite of growing up gay in isolation? He has a Twinkie Defense, essentially, about growing up around too many gays: “Growing up a few minutes from the Castro didn’t make me gay — if anything, it made me less likely to see myself that way. I couldn’t relate to AIDS or leather chaps, both of which seemed to be afflicting many of the gay men I saw on the corner of Castro and Market, where, in middle school, I had to transfer buses on my way home from school.”
Yeah. So… it’s too hot out for me to flip out over this with real vigor, coming as it does from a fellow in his mid-30s, but I can try!
I do believe I moved to San Francisco while this person was entering high school, and I’m sorry that apparently five years of age difference created a generational divide so vast that it made him unable “to relate to AIDS,” particularly at a time when his neighbors and chaps-wearing strangers on the street were dropping dead all around him.
And chances are quite good that my friends and I were actually guest-teaching HIV prevention at his very school at the time, which one hopes didn’t make him shove his fingers in his ears too hard in panic (and also hopes maybe made him “relate to” having sex with condoms)? Because while he was running in horror from the community of people who apparently only ever wore chaps (although, most days I showed up for work in nipple clamps and women’s shoes, obviously!), they/we were the ones trying to help raise him and keep him from, you know, dying extremely young.
To try to be fair, adult sexuality is a horror to all early adolescents — surely we can all relate and should probably empathize with that. There’s nothing worse when you’re young than the idea that older people have sex! It’s menacing and uncomfortable and alluring and ultimately… gross.
The good news is that he is alive today! So in a way it’s actually my fault that he lived long enough to write this.