Martin's Column

by Martin Widmer
December 1995

My name is Martin and I am 22 years old and live in Basel, the second largest city in Switzerland. It is located in the very northwest of the country, close to France and Germany.

I was born in the city and raised in a village of 8,000 residents about 5 km (3.1 miles) away from Basel. I am an only child and as far as I can remember I have had a good childhood, except that my mother had far too much influence on my life, but it took many years and a good psychologist for me to realize that.

My parents both work for the government, my father as a manager of the computer department of the psychiatric clinic of the canton of Baselland and my mother as a secretary in a secondary school. Thinking back I can find a point in my life where I can say that I definitely knew that I was gay, although I could not exactly define my feelings.

It was when I was 14 years old and I found a book in the school library. The book's title was Jim im Spiegel (Jim in the mirror). The back side of the book said that it was a story about a guy who starts to realize that he is "different" and then meets another guy at a party. They become friends and boyfriends.

The feelings that the book described were an overwhelming experience for me because they were mine. I never had such an intense impression of a book before, and I read between two and four books a week during that time.

When I grew older, the world around me showed me that being gay is something bad, something you have to hide. In school the word gay was used to tease someone. Of course those guys didn't exactly know what the word gay meant, but the message that it was bad was obvious. Some people also made jokes about gays, for example that it got so cold in hell because everytime when the devil wanted to bend to pick up a piece of wood for the fire a gay man would try to have sex with him.

Of course I don't care about such jokes today, but I did at that time. I loved James Bond movies, and in these movies the gays were always grimy and repulsive. There were no examples for "normal" gays like me and I developed an astonishing perfection when it came to hide my feelings.

I had very few friends. Girls were not what I wanted and I did not dare to talk to those guys I found attractive, because I was afraid of that they would find out that I was gay.

Of course my parents realized that there was something wrong, but they could not find out what it was. They had to accept that I was an outsider. I remember once when my mother asked me directly "Are you gay ?" Of course, I denied everything, because I was terribly afraid that they would punish me or tell me to leave my home when they found out that I was gay. The fact that my parents actually didn't know me but rather the person I pretended to be made it impossible for me to speak with them about my problems, even if the problems were not related to being gay.

I could not live without love of course, so I looked for a replacement and I found the music. Although I never actually wanted to commit suicide, I think that I would not be alive now if the music would not have given me the comfort I needed. I like the phrase (which is from some song I can't remember): "Music was my first love, and it will be my last." because it describes perfectly how I felt at that time.

This was basically my life until I was 19.5 years old. Then my obligatory military service came closer and things started to change rapidly and new friends were waiting for me to meet them.

Martin Widmer, 22, of Basel, Switzerland, is studying computer science and economy at the University of Zurich. He can be reached online at 100647.274@compuserve.com.
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