Not until I started grad school at Indiana University did I really "come out," start going to gay venues and meeting gay people. And "tricking," going home with guys I just met.
In West Hollywood in 1985, "tricking" was rare and frowned upon, but not in Bloomington in 1982. We hadn't heard of AIDS, we were young and naive, and after 20 years of being told that same-sex desire does not exist, just being able to flirt with guys, to stare, compliment their physiques, touch their shoulders or chests was a new, glorious freedom.
It wasn't about sex. It was about belonging, friendship, community, about overcoming the heteronormative lie, about acknowledging that same-sex desire is real and valid.
And I met a lot of very interesting guys:
1.Shaun, the first gay person I met in Bloomington, who also happened to be the boyfriend of Mark, the optometry student from down the hall. Not a problem: Mark was happy with "sharing."
2. Roy the Farmboy from southern Indiana, who worked with me in the Eigenmann Hall Snack Bar. We drove down to Kentucky for my first-ever service at the gay Metropolitan Community Church. Then we went out with Preacher and the Security Guard. I only managed to spend the night with the Preacher.
3, My friend Viju talked me into going to gay bars. First we drove up to Indianapolis, where I met a blond violinist from Finland, visiting for a concert. They make them big in Finland.
4. Soon we started going to Bloomington's own gay bar, Bullwinkle's. On the first night I cruised solo, I accidentally hooked up with Creepy Old Guy with a grand piano who kept calling me "beautiful boy."
Six Naked College Guys. Plus I landed a date with Asher, a cute freshman who refused to pull it out.
6. Back in Indianapolis, I hooked up with a Deputy Attorney General of the State of Indiana, whose large dogs kept trying to horn in on our evening together.
8. And a Nigerian Daddy with a tattooed penis, who summoned Yoruba Orishas. He convinced me that the point of cruising is not to search for archetypal male beauty, but to get to know unique guys in their unique locations.
9. That summer my friend Joseph, an undergraduate who belonged to the Gay Student Union, took me to help clean out his great-aunt's house...and, you know, other stuff. Unfortunately, I got spooked by the ghost of Great-Aunt Rose, curtailing the erotic activity. But we spent the night together in his parents' house in Indianapolis.
10. Later Viju came to visit me in Rock Island, and we drove into Chicago's gay neighborhood, including my first bathhouse, Man's Country. We hooked up with a guy who took us to a country-western bar called Yosemite's.
11. I dated Jimmy the Bodybuilder on Crutches all through the fall, until he dumped me for one of students in the class I was a teaching assistant for.
12. But Viju and I still had time to pick up a bisexual bodybuilder from Thailand (left) whose girlfriend showed up the next day. We all went out for breakfast. She didn't mind that he was bisexual, and sometimes "shared" his bar pickups, male and female.
13. After Jimmy and I broke up, I dated a professor of political science from Egypt, in his 40s, hairy chest, beard, very big beneath the belt, who was making the rounds of the gay students on campus. Unfortunately, he kept trying to talk me into anal.
14. Meanwhile, Viju and I tried to find out if Professor Singer. who taught Restoration and Augustan Literature, was gay. Viju tried a "sexual confusion" gambit, while I just took my clothes off at the gym.
15. My last Bullwinkle's pickup was the most interesting: a townie who turned out to be my second cousin, grandson of my Grandma Davis's younger brother Harry. I showed him the photographs of the gay couple that I got from Grandma Davis's trunk when she died. He seemed more interested in my Bratwurst.
16. During the summer after we got our M.A. degrees, Viju invited me to visit him in India, where I got a date with Arshad, dark, muscular, uncut, Zoroastrian.