Spring, 1972 – As a third-year American student at the University of Manitoba (UM) in Winnipeg, Canada in the early 1970s, I was eager to find other gay men and to participate in the energetic wave of gay rights activism that immediately followed Stonewall. At that time, Winnipeg was quite conservative, with only two “discreet” gay bars and a private, gay social club that did not have a liquor license. Neither the bars nor the private club appealed to me. The folks at both bars were pleasant but, except for those in drag, most guys seemed closeted and fearful of being outed. One of the bars even disallowed close dancing by same-sex couples because of Manitoba’s strict liquor laws. I wanted something more than forlornly staring into my beer behind blacked-out windows.
1974—“I’m like you,” the hand printed and hand delivered note said. “My name is Jimmy. I live on this street. I am 12. Will you meet me behind my house tonight at 5?” In the small mailing envelope there was a picture of Hercules, cut from a book. When I was Jimmy’s age, I’d wait until no one was around, and then pull out the “H” volume of the World Book Encyclopedia, and stare at the picture of Hercules.
Thanksgiving used to be a time when I would go home and see family. This tradition ended 6 years ago when I moved across the country in my mid twenties and the distance between California and New York was too much for a long weekend.
When I moved to New York City I became involved with the a project to build an AIDS Memorial in the West Village. This led to a career pivot working for LGBT focused organizations and I then began acquiring a close network of friends from a diverse spectrum of the LGBT community.
Jackie Yordan was, according to many who knew him, an “incredible sweetheart and an amazing person… He was truly one of the biggest heart throbs of the period in New York. The thing about him was that he had no attitude at all and he couldn’t have been sweeter. So, everybody loved him. “And, he was “the hottest guy… top of the ‘in’ crowd.”
Louis had vanished. Iʼd look for him but he kept out of the bars, strange hours, whatever jobs he picked up. Saw Jeff again who came on to me at Jewel’s and weʼd play around some with his big beard and arms and was kinda hot but he was not Louis. I couldnʼt make out with him. Louis was in my way. He knew it, didnʼt offer any information. I worked my shift regular and fucked around now and again, hangin with my bartender friends. Iʼd get off work at 5am, count tips and be home around 7am to pass out and get some sleep. I just worked a Sunday beer bust and was feeling good and frisky. I parked myself on a stool in the back of Lafitte’s by the fireplace, had my stool leaning against the bricks, and kicked back having had a lot of drinks and shots and shooting bull and cruising hard.
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.