May 1999

A Conversation With Ty: Part II

continued from last month...

When did you first meet your boyfriend Eric?

On the first day of fourth grade our teacher was assigning seats alphabetically and because of our last names we ended up sharing a table, and after that we just gradually became close friends. We also did a number of team projects together and we just got along really well, and we were always comfortable with each other.

When do you think you started to feel attracted to him?

There were times in class when I would just look at him and feel this funny sensation inside of me, and I never really understood why that was happening. I knew that boys had crushes on girls and vice versa, but I don't think I ever made that connection until we had been together a while. I know that the first time I saw him shirtless I was totally attracted to him, but it was still a funny feeling for me. That attraction grew even stronger when we started hugging each other.

How did that start?

I remember when I gave him my old bike and he just threw his arms around me, and it felt great! He later told me that was the first time he'd ever hugged another guy, and it was just something we started doing on a regular basis after that.

How did you two end up having sex the first time?

The summer after fourth grade we were playing in the woods near my house and it was very hot and humid out so we just took our clothes off and it was like something just clicked, and we first touched each other and then went on to do other things. It felt very natural to us, and I have fond memories of those first times together. After that our relationship just grew stronger, and it's still strong today.

Some people have a hard time believing that preadolescents are capable of having sex. What do you have to say about that?

I think they have a hard time with that because they can't accept that humans are sexual beings from the time they're born. I know that Eric and I were very capable of having orgasms when we were nine, so those body parts work. Kids are exposed to sex all the time in the media, so what do they expect? I also think that there's quite a bit of sexual experimentation that goes on between kids, especially between boys.

How do your parents feel about you and Eric having sex together?

At first they were upset about it, but then I think they realized that it would be pretty hard to stop us after we had been sexually active for so long. What also made a difference was that we were using condoms, which my Dad had talked about to me at a young age.

So then your parents are very open with you about sex?

Oh yeah. They began explaining various things about sex with us at a young age in terms that we would understand, and they did it very casually. So instead of freaking out if we asked something potentially embarrassing, such as what tampons are used for, our Mom explained menstruation to us in a very simple way that didn't gross us out. I remember my Dad buying a box of condoms when I was with him at the grocery store and when I asked him what they were he sat me down and explained their whole purpose to me, and he even gave me a few to try on in private. I'm sure not many fathers would do that, but I think it's great that he did that for me, although I doubt that he actually thought I'd be using them at that age [laughs].

What's it like to have had a steady boyfriend for so long?

There are ups and downs just like any relationship, but so far we've been able to work our problems out, and there's been some very difficult moments along the way. I think the key reason we're still together is that we're friends first, and boyfriends second. Our friendship is the mortar of our relationship, and anything physical is just the icing on the cake.

What do you like the most about Eric? The least?

The things I like the most about him are his personality, the way he's just very easy to get along with and how much he appreciates everything in his life...he can turn the worst possible situation into something positive. As for what I like the least, I'd have to say that because he's always been big for his age and is also a bit chubby he sometimes gets down on himself for not being skinny, but I love the way he looks! It bothers me when he talks about wanting to be really thin because he's just right to me.

How did you two manage to hide your sexuality for so long?

In all honesty it wasn't that hard. We were always very careful to not do anything if there was even the slightest risk of being caught, and since his Mom worked two jobs for a long time we could always go to his apartment and have all the privacy we needed. There's nothing about Eric and I, and for that matter my brother, that would have ever made our parents suspect that we might be gay, so they never really checked up on us that much. In fact Eric's Mom was glad that we spent so much time together because she felt that my family and I were a good influence on him.

How do you think your coming out affected your parents?

Deep down I think it tore them apart, especially my Mom. My parents never suspected that we were gay, at least if they ever did they sure didn't say anything about it to us, and when they found out it was a huge shock to them. I think most parents, for example, want to become grandparents and there's a very strong possibility that neither Chris nor I will ever have children. They may never have the opportunity to attend our weddings because it's illegal for same-sex couples to marry in our state. They always worry about something bad happening to us just because we're gay. I'm sure those are the same concerns with many parents of gay kids.

How have you been affected by having a gay uncle and younger brother?

My uncle has been a great source of support for Chris and I, and he's someone we can turn to if there ever are issues that we don't feel we can talk to our parents about. That's not a cut on my parents, it's just that some things my uncle understands better because he's gay like us. As for Chris, I think we're even closer now because of our shared sexual identity, and even though we are two very different people we have a powerful bond.

If your parents never discovered that you and your brother are gay, do you think either of you would come out by now?

[long pause] I can't speak for Chris, but I think I'd still be in the closet. I mean, before that horrible encounter between Chris and our Mom I never saw a real need to come out to them. My boyfriend and I had always been very secretive about our sexuality but we dealt with that. That was something we felt we had to do, and I know many others feel or have felt the same way.

Do you think you would have ever come out?

I'm sure I eventually would have, when I felt there was a need to. I can't sit here and say when that would have happened? Maybe when I went to college, or maybe when I grew tired of being asked about having a girlfriend or if there was anybody I wanted to marry? Who knows? It doesn't really matter because I'm out to them now.

Is your life better now that you've come out?

I don't think it's necessarily better, but it is different. Although we no longer have to hide our sexuality, there can be awkward moments since our parents know we're gay. For example, there have been times when we've gone as a family to see a movie and if there's a teenaged boy in it our parents have come right out and asked us if we thought he was cute, which makes us very uncomfortable. Maybe that's their way of compensating for not being able to ask us if we think a particular girl is cute, but because we're both in steady relationships that kind of question is unnerving.

Do you think your parents have fully accepted the fact that they have two gay sons?

For the most part I think they have, but I'm sure there are times when it's hard for them. I think all parents want the best for their kids, and since they know that we may have more struggles in our lives than if we were heterosexuals, it makes them worry all the more about us. I think the way Matthew Shepard died made them worry even more about us.

How do you feel about what happened to him?

At first the whole thing upset me deeply, but then after a few days of seeing the news reports and the way people had gathered at his funeral holding up signs with antigay slogans, it hit me that much harder. That could have been anybody. I can say for certain that his death made me become much more careful, and I've become even more militant about protecting my privacy online.

Why do you think gays have such a hard time being accepted by the public in general?

I think a huge part of that is the image that some gays have created over the years, and much of that isn't very positive. As an example, look at gay pride rallies and parades. Instead of using them to show the heterosexual majority a positive image of the gay community, we have people running around with FAG painted on their chests and others displaying outrageous behavior that I feel deepens the antigay sentiments in the general public. I think a part of the reason gay rights issues have been defeated at the ballot box is because heterosexuals see us as a bunch of freaks instead of people who are just like them except for our sexuality, and until we can come across as being both respectable and responsible citizens then we're not going to be treated as equals.

What, if anything, would you like to change about the gay community or its culture?

I'd like to see the gay community stop putting so much pressure on young gays and lesbians to come out of the closet. It seems to me that coming out has been made into this status symbol, and I don't think young teens or even preteens need that pressure placed on them. Calling someone a liar because they stay in the closet just makes things worse for someone that's having to cope with all of the feelings that comes with the self realization that you're gay, but it's a common thing. There are lots of stories about young teens that came out and everything was great, but how about the other side of the story? That point of view seems to be suppressed within the gay media, which may create a false sense of security for someone thinking about coming out. How many teens have been kicked out of their homes when they came out? How many people have lost their jobs for coming out? Not everything goes the way you think it will.

Have you ever done anything to help your local gay community?

In a way I have. There are two guys around my age that I have become a sort of gay mentor for, and that's a great feeling! One is a thirteen-year-old who was questioning his sexuality and incidentally wrote a column here a while back, and the other is a twelve-year-old I came out to when I saw him reading a copy of XY magazine tucked inside an issue of Rolling Stone, obviously in an effort to hide what he was actually looking at. I just walked up to him and told him that I have a subscription to XY and asked if he wanted to talk about it? Now we're good friends and he has my entire family to turn to for support. I'd like to see him write a column for Oasis because he has a lot to offer.

You've mentioned in your columns that you have been treated poorly at times by other gays, and especially by older gay peers. How do you feel about this?

It hurts. Here my brother and I are attending gay support group meetings and the very people I should be looking up to are laughing at us because we like bands that aren't "gay enough" or because I don't have multiple body piercings, and that makes no sense to me. I mean isn't being gay enough for us to belong there? There seems to be an ideal image that you have to have or you're not good enough, and in the long run that may prove to be detrimental to the entire gay community. What those people that made fun of us may want to consider is that a young gay who feels rejected by his or her peers may very well become an adult unwilling to be involved in gay activism, and we need as many people on our side as we can get. I think it's safe to say that my brother no longer cares about participating in the gay community in any way.

What future role do you see yourself playing in the gay community?

I'm not sure that I even have a place in the gay community, although I've become in a certain sense a cyber activist. As I just mentioned, the way I've been treated in person by other gays doesn't exactly encourage my participation in gay causes, but the saving grace may be the fact that I've been a part of Oasis for so long, so at least I'm connected to things. Realistically I can't predict how I'll feel down the road so anything's possible.

What impact do you feel the Internet has had on you as a gay teen?

I think it's had both a positive and negative effect on me. On the positive side the Internet made it possible for me to not only test the water, so to speak, before I came out to my parents, but to also communicate with other gays and to discuss my feelings in my columns. On the down side, I think a whole generation of gays has been created that's only interested in cyber and phone sex and gay porn, which leaves people interested in regular conversations out in the cold. I've tried to be supportive to younger gays in chat rooms but I almost always end up being snubbed since I'm not interested in having cyber sex or trading pictures.

What's the hardest part about being gay?

Being gay in a heterosexual world sometimes can be overwhelming, and when you have to deal with all of the stigmas and pressures placed on you it's even harder. You have to deal with the fact that most people really have no idea how it feels to be gay because it's impossible for them to know. You also have to face the reality that your life may be harder than a heterosexual's because you have to fight for the things they take for granted, like being able to marry or have children. It's not easy being gay but it's something you have to learn to accept, and once you do that then I think anything's possible.

To be continued...


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