July 1983—I was seventeen years of age when I first met another gay person. My dad was an executive with a company in Ireland, which was owned by a Canadian multinational headquartered in Toronto, and each year he’d head away to the AGM. The night before he was to leave, something urgent came up at work, so he asked me “how would you like to go to Canada tomorrow?” That was a no brainer, and next morning, not having slept all night I left Shannon with an older colleague of his called Kevin. Dad would join us in a couple of days. His advice was not to discuss Northern Ireland or politics with anyone there because Toronto was mostly Protestant, and things in the Northern Ireland were pretty bad just then.
1978—Werner Seelig and I met in the South of France. He was twenty-one and from Indiana. I was twenty, a hippy from California. We were both staying in a commune up in the mountains of the Languedoc. I was immediately attracted to him and over the course of a couple weeks of exploring the wilds of the countryside together, we became inseparable buddies.
August 1972: I chose this photo for a reason. It was taken one month after, at 20 years of age, I’d had my first sexual experience with another man (In it, in August 1972, I’m dangling my legs in a pool in Panama City, Florida.).
1999 – For New Year’s Eve 1998, I found myself in Hong Kong, visiting my best friend from grad school and his family. I stayed with him, his wife, and daughter in their fancy three-bedroom ex-pat apartment, which was a huge cost-saver for me in that ultra expensive city.
On New Year’s Eve, my friend accompanied me to a cocktail party thrown by a gay expat couple I knew there. After the party, he left to go home, while I decided to stop by Propaganda, the island’s long-time gay disco.
In the bar area, I noticed a handsome, built, 30ish man who stood out noticeably among the primarily Chinese crowd. I introduced myself to him and learned his name was Jean Carlo. He was a Brazilian model, lived in London, and was visiting Hong Kong with a friend. Our mutual attraction was immediately evident. All that remained was to figure out where we could go to have sex.
A few pictures of Michael Dowell and me in the early-to-mid-90s. We lost Michael in 1995. The last shot is a self-portrait he drew of himself coming back to me after an extended stay with his family. It actually captures his happy, adventurous “let’s go” gait. He was hilarious, sweet and always game for a new experience. We’d met in late 1989 at a bar called Trunks in West Hollywood. He was wearing a beige cowboy shirt under a mink vest… yes, mink. He winked at me and I laughed a little, but thought he was cute. I’d like to say those six years were non-tumultuous ones in my early 20s, but there were quarrels, money issues, struggles over our future stability and ultimately a health scare that would become increasingly evident and then eventually take him away from me. It’s difficult for me to think of this as ‘just’ gay history, though our fashions would suggest otherwise. But history is just life as seen through a lens from the future. And tumultuous or not, this was a lovely part of mine.
In all my years at the Pines, my housemates were always fellow worker bees who toiled hard for our time at the beach. Our delight in arriving there, especially in the Plague years, was sometimes overwhelming as seen in this photo circa 1991. Celebrating left to right are an ecstatic Gray Coleman, an incandescent Tom Shoemaker, a blissful Steve Yorra, a thrilled Bill Goeren and a somewhat blurred but equally happy yours truly. Actually, I think we were also hamming it up under a thunderstorm, but this photo still illustrates what a unique and joyous place Fire Island was to many of us. – Steve Bolerjack
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of going on board the cruise ship Carnival Pride for a week-long family vacation to Bermuda, my grandmother’s birthplace. This was my first time going on a cruise ship. The ship was comprised predominantly of middle aged to elderly straight people (Confederate flag and ‘I Stand for the National Anthem’ shirts galore).