[oasis][columns]

Paul's Column

by Paul Pellerito
April 1996

I knew I was gay before I had my computer, but I couldn't accept it. In the three years that I have used my computer, I have found many resources that have made my life better and helped me deal with my sexuality. I first got hooked when I plugged a 2400 baud modem into my computer and called Cyberspace BBS, which was located in my hometown.

I could chat to all kinds of different people, and they were only a local phone call away if I really wanted to meet with kids my age that were online.

Chad was the person online who impacted me the most, among all the friends I made and kept from the BBS. I remember first seeing him in a crowded chat room of kids my own age. As I would soon discover, Chad was openly gay online and offline.

People were giving him a hard time online about his sexuality, but not me. I knew we had something in common, even if I wasn't ready to admit it to myself.

He was the first gay person I knew online, and he helped me. We talked many times. We had a lot in common, and he helped me understand what being gay was about, even if I didn't quite know how to tell him I might be gay.

Our parents were divorced, we could talk about that. We shared many of the same views; a fascination with the Occult, and most of all we were both looking for a boyfriend. I was too insecure then to tell him, but he eventually found out. I could sense that he wanted to ask me if I was gay, but was too embarrassed or didn't know how. After talking about it one night, I finally had the courage to tell him that I'm gay.

He was the first person I had ever come out to. It felt great. I was affirming what I felt inside, and I got comfortable with saying it to myself, and eventually other friends. I'm not out to everyone, but the friends I know I can trust will all know eventually. Coming out to someone can be a very trying experience, but I feel like a more complete person each time I do it.

Shortly after that I got a disk with 10 free hours on America Online with a new 14.4 modem. My mom let me use her credit card to log on and try it out, and I used the free 10 hours in the first week I was on there. I had a chance to explore the online world of homosexuality, and it answered a lot of my questions about being gay. I had many questions about why people thought being gay was so wrong, and just being around people who are gay made me seem less lonely. I wanted to know exactly what it meant to be gay, and what it would mean for my future.

But I soon found out that AOL was too expensive for my allowance, and my mom didn't want it on her credit card. So I was done using AOL, but I still had some questions.

Chad had moved away from home, so I had not one to talk to. This was during March of 1995, and it wasn't the best time to be alone. I had had my first crush on a guy, a drummer in our school band. I didn't know what to do, what I should say, and I felt really depressed.

But things started looking up. My brother works in a computer store, so when the store decided to beta test Windows95, we got it on our home computer. The best thing that I found in Windows95 was the free use of The Microsoft Network while they were beta testing. I found the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered area, and thought it was amazing.

There were people there just like me, they weren't looking for sex with kids, they were just normal people who liked talking.

They had message areas on MSN so I started using those. I would post messages there with my questions, and other people would reply and answer them. This was great!

Soon, the GLBT area on MSN was changed to Planet Out, an online community of queer people with all sorts of chat rooms and message bases. I was thrilled that there might actually be a resource this big for queers on any online service. I strongly recommend any of you who use MSN to check this place out if you haven't already.

But then August came, and before I knew it the release date for Windows95. I stayed for a little while after the beta test ended, but it was too expensive for me, once again. My online resources seemed to have stopped, but I still had more questions.

Then this January I discovered that Cyberspace BBS offered a Point-to-Point Protocol connection that lets people use the World Wide Web, Internet Relay Chat, FTP and more. It was affordable for me, only $15 a month with unlimited time, so I sent in a check and I was back online.

I found YAO, and then Oasis. I started reading and I knew this was for me. I've since read every back issue, and I'm contributing now because this is such a dynamic thing for people my age I feel I must give something back.

I've since found many new friends on the #gayyouth channel on Undernet IRC, and many gay resources on the WWW that have helped me confront such questions I have about sex, religion and coming out to friends. I even found my old friend Chad.

Thanks to Cyberspace BBS, AOL, MSN, and now Oasis Webzine I've been able to come to terms and cope with my sexuality. Through all these mediums I've learned that there are really more people out there just like me, and its perfectly okay to be gay. With the help of many individuals on AOL and MSN I got all my questions answered, and I must tip my hat to Jeff for his webzine and personal help with a few problems of mine.

There truly is no closet on the Internet.


Paul is a 16-year-old sophomore at Jenison High School, just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan. He can be reached online at paul@oasismag.com.
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