by Michael Ditto
April 1996

I am just sitting here thinking to myself, "What a wonderful life I have." But I am disturbed by that thought. Four years ago I was ready to kill myself, and nearly did. It was not confusion exactly, but more like dread. I knew I was gay. There was no question about it. I didn't even really have a problem with it, except that I was for some reason terrified to talk about it. Why would I care if anyone knew? It was all so strange to me. So new. And I didn't have any friends with whom I could speak about it.

At the time I was the system operator for a bulletin board system called the IAAS Youth Empowerment BBS. I did not feel empowered though, let me tell you. I was promoted to being a hub coordinator for the network I was on, and I began to learn all kinds of new and different things about communicating online. For instance, there was a fabulous gay community online. We're not even talking Internet here, just a comparatively small amateur network called FIDONET. Unbelievably, I found ways I could advertise my system online, and I set up a way of screening my gay and non-gay users. The gay ones got access to all sorts of fabulous gay areas, and the non-gays never new a thing about it. Or about me. I was still in the closet, protected by the anonymity that being online provided for me.

But then I began to correspond with some of these people. I met a boy named Joey, nearly my age, who was in the same situation as me. From there life became easier. Somehow, even though I was still locked tight in the closet, I had a peep-hole into another world. I could communicate with another gay person, my age, who knew what being me was like. How thrilling.

My life has changed drastically since then, and all due to that little electronic opening into a brilliant future. I am still young, only 20 at the time of this writing, but I am now fully out and open with friends, family and coworkers. I am active in my community, and I am happy and fulfilled. And I am not gloating. Believe me, it was not easy getting here, and sometimes I'm not very sure where exactly "here" is... But I do know this: I am gay, and I am happy.

In this column I will share with you, on a month-by-month basis, little snippets from my life that have made me be who I know myself to be. I have had a very busy and colorful life, and I know that if I were to die tomorrow that I would probably have done more than many elderly people have done in their entire lives. And I think that what I have experienced, both good and bad, can help you with the transition you might be making, or are afraid to make. Please feel absolutely free to send me email about anything. Your ideas could make or break this column, I just do the writing.

Michael Ditto, 20, of Denver, Colorado is a part time student, writer and activist. He is currently employed as an operator at a satellite TV company, and is studying physics and education at various local colleges in Denver. He is currently 'single', but is dating a very sweet man. He can be reached at dittomj@ix.netcom.com.
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