Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Police Cadets of South Florida

Fort Lauderdale, September 2001

In August 2001, after completing my Ph.D. in sociology I moved to Florida, on the invitation of my friend Yuri.  I immediately felt at home. It was like I had gone back in time 16 years, to when I first arrived in West Hollywood.

Yuri shared a small ranch house in Wilton Manors (the gay suburb of Fort Lauderdale) with Barney, an older guy who owned a gym in Oakland Park.  He reminded me of Derek, the fitness instructor-turned-insurance agent, my housemate in West Hollywood in 1987.

I had the choice of sharing Yuri's bed or moving into the small room off the kitchen that used to be the study of Barney's deceased lover.  I picked the study, although I ended up in Yuri's bed quite often anyhow: in Fort Lauderdale, like in West Hollywood: good manners required that you invite your roommate to "share" your dates.

We lived only two blocks from Wilton Drive, the Santa Monica Boulevard of Fort Lauderdale, with the Florida equivalents of everything I missed in West Hollywood:

New Age Books and Things (the Bodhi Tree)
Bill's Filling Station (the Hamburger Habit).
The Sunshine Cathedral (The Metropolitan Community Church)
The Ramrod (The Faultline)

The Courtyard Cafe (the French Quarter)

Plus the Clubhouse II Bath House, about 2 miles away, constantly packed with locals and tourists.

We went there quite often, until I started a monogamous relationship with Matt the Security Guard.

Even my jobs seemed to mirror those of West Hollywood .

1. From copy writer for Muscle and Fitness to fitness trainer at Barney's gym.  I taught the new members how to use the machines, and walked around to see if anyone needed help.  

2. From adjunct English instructor at Loyola Marymount to adjunct Communications instructor at Florida Atlantic University.  I taught "Introduction to Communication Studies" and "Popular Culture."

3. From juvenile probation officer to instructor at the Broward County Police Academy. I taught "Spanish for Police Officers" and "Juvenile Offenders."

There was only one problem: outside of gay neighborhoods, Florida was very, very, very conservative and very, very, very homophobic.

Especially my students at Florida Atlantic and the Police Academy, 18 year olds drawn from such redneck cities as Sunrise, Delray Beach, and Pahokee.

The morning of September 11, I was just getting ready for my class, when news of the World Trade Center collapse hit.  Their attitude toward 9/11: "Let's drop some A-bombs on Iraq!"

Their attitude toward gay people: "Let's drop some A-bombs on Wilton Manors."

After being out in grad school I found myself closeted again.

But, on the bright side, I saw a lot of beefcake.

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