I was afraid to be gay. Growing up in a northern English mill town, I heard the hate towards gay people, and I didn’t want to be hated.
I was also afraid of gay people. Although I’d never met any, I believed every stereotype – sad, lonely, pathetic, shallow, predatory. But in 1984, a chance meeting started to change my mind. A gay couple in San Diego helped me – nothing major, I’d locked the rental car keys in the trunk. They were nice, good-hearted people.
That chance meeting made want to return. I’d seen a light at the end of the tunnel. A place where there were ‘good gay people’. A safe place far away from home. A glimpse of my Oz!
So, in summer ‘85 I went to Kansas City. Everyone made me so welcome, and I really enjoyed it. Mid-western hospitality; but I was secretly looking for a way to meet… GAYS!
Weird co-incidences helped my search.
It started with a sarcastic reference to the ’Fruit Loop’; the scenic drive around a plateau, overlooking the city.
Almost at the end of my summer, I spent my lunch break walking round the Fruit Loop taking photos. A car cruised by, just like my bosses, black with blackout glass.
I stared into the car expecting Mary-Beth, but when the windows rolled down, a sexy guy smiled and slowly drove by… I suddenly understood Fruit Loop. I was terrified – I got back on my motorbike and drove!
After, I was just kicking myself; why had I not just stayed?
A week later, I plucked up all my courage and went back – determined to stay there till I met someone – anyone!
Well, it worked – eventually. I met people; good people.
Two weeks later, I had to return to Britain to finish my degree, I planned to go back into the closet, until I could return to the US. Before I left, a new friend had a small going away party for me. He understood my fears and quietly invited friends who knew England, and it filled me full of optimism.
When I got home, I steadily came out to friends and family. There were problems, but the kindness in Kansas City, really gave me the strength to face them.
And the image above… Well, that was a card my friend sent when I was back home!
Thanks to straight friends for making me so welcome – AJ Nobiltt, Jeff Proski, Kim, the family Tritt and many others; and special thanks to Michael Gillespie, if he ever reads this… Happy Memories of an old Cadillac, a cabin on the lake, and kindness 🙂