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GUEST COLUMN Evolving as "Gay"
by Michael A. Horvich

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I have grown up. Again. When I was a young man, I would look at a new understanding regarding myself and life and say, "Wow, I was so naive. I will never let that happen again." Ends up, my life, which is now in its 71st year, has been a series of "being naive agains." Maybe that is not so bad as it shows I am continuing to grow and become.

My recent visit to San Francisco, Gay Capital of the USA to attend the Frameline 40 Film Festival where I experienced my documentary ALZHEIMER'S: A Love Story screen in front of a warm, accepting audience of 1,300 gay and gay-friendly people—and having had the chance to view over 25 films ( shorts and longs ) dealing with gay issues, and meeting a wide variety of people from different walks of life—has brought a new sense to my homosexuality.

I have been gay all my life. In looking back, the signs were there since my earliest memories. I "came out" at the age of 18, meaning had my first sexual experience, and began to understand why I was different than most other boys. I had known it for a long time but didn't understand why.

I probably did not fully accept with confidence that I was gay until I was 40 years old when I informed my mother that I no longer was going to lie to family and friends about my sexual preferences or my male lover. Everyone knew anyways but just weren't acknowledging it out loud.

During the first 50 years of my life, the 1950s through the 2000s, society's attitudes toward gay people, men and women, were quite different then they are today. Life for gays was closeted and characterized by the expression, "The love that dare not speak its name." Older role models did not exist. Most gay activities and socialization was underground.

Things today, while not perfect, are amazingly different with same-sex marriage legal at the national level ( and parts of the world ); wider acceptance of homosexuality by more people; greater visibility of gays in the political, entertainment, and sports worlds; and perhaps more understanding in religious arenas.

This scenario brings me to the discussion of some of the realizations I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Most of my younger life I liked other younger men and found older gay men disgusting. Now I am an older gay man. Age affects how beautiful a person's body might be, it does not affect the beauty of a person's soul and their continued sexual desires. While I look pleasant enough, my physical beauty is gone, my sexual needs not as easily met as when I was in my 20s. I wish I had been a little more "generous" to the older men who approached me when I was young.

As a young man; Drag Queens, Transsexuals, Transvestites, Leather Men, Butch and Lipstick Lesbians, and probably a few others groups were embarrassing to me. I wanted gay men and women, including myself, to be well-behaved, normal, invisible, etc.

I thought that if only these extremely visible groups would calm down, gays like me in general would be more easily accepted into society or at least go un-noticed. This belief was pretty common, I think, among many gay men of that time. For me this was based on little if any knowledge of who these people were emotionally, physically, or belief system wise. I had few if any friends in these groups and knew little of who they really were so I had no right to judge, but judge I did.

After Stonewall, during what is known as the Gay Liberation Era, there was a huge spit between gay men and gay women, the women fighting to be known as "lesbians" not "gay women." At the time I thought this was foolish. I understand this now and give the lesbian community credit for being among the first groups ( including the early suffragettes ) to fight for equality for women in general. The battle continues.

Men, especially in those days, were dominant; making most important decisions; holding most important roles in business, government, religion and making decisions about who and what women could be. During gay liberation, the lesbians said, "Hell no! We are in charge of ourselves and will make decisions about ourselves ... men will not be in charge of us and we do not want to be dumped into the group with them known as gay."

My next awareness was that seemingly "outrageous" expressions of self by Drag Queens, Transgender People, Leather Men, and Butch Dykes turn out to be honest outward expressions of how these people see themselves, how they want to live their lives, and part of their fight for equal rights and protection under the law. They lives their lives and do no harm. I now understand and accept that.

I now have a wider life range of friends in my social groups. Slowly society is becoming educated about and more accepting of these groups. Just because I am not part of these groups does not and should not mean that they are wrong, or bad ... or embarrassing. I have become more accepting of myself and of others in this area.

Some say we shouldn't label or categorize at all, but I maintain that in order to have some understanding in our life this is what human beings do to make sense out of the huge amount of data available to us. So LGBTQ it is and God Bless us, one and all.

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