Life was good for a 19-year old kid. I was a Division 1 athlete, attending the same top tier university as my grandfather and uncle. I had made it out of my small rural hometown—where holding down a 4.2 grade point average, competing year-round in sports, and serving as student body president all came too easily. Getting out of this mediocre environment made me proud and excited. I was now attending classes taught by some of the brightest professors in the country. And when it came to my sport, water polo, I was playing for one of the top programs in the country, being coached by two Olympians and competing against many players who would go on to represent the United States in Beijing, London, and Rio.
1999: I stumbled into this “chat room” innocently enough thinking how cool it was that I could talk to other people in my small part of the world right there on my work computer. AOL literally changed my life.
We found each other in this “room” and arranged to meet at a busy Shell oil station late one afternoon. I rationalized in my head that I was not getting the sex I needed at home. After all, my wife and I had one toddler keeping us busy and another kid on the way. Her feet were swollen, her back ached, and all she wanted from life was mashed potatoes and a good night’s sleep. Having sex with a man was not cheating. And, I was not gay because it was just a blow job.
Sunday was my favorite day to go out. Friday and Saturday shifts were over. I could go out on my own down to the Quarter and hang with one or two of the bartenders. We’d hang in the part of the Quarter below the Lavender line, a boundary of sorts at St Ann Street where the straight bars ended and the gay bars began. If straight men crossed this line, then they were fair game.
The Feral Boys were a group of a little over a dozen young gay men in San Francisco who formed a sort of fraternity in the early 2010s. We were all recent transplants to the city, and had moved there for school, or to be a part of the tech gold rush, or to leave small town homes and start a gay life in a gay metropolis. We came to be students, models, artists, DJs, and gogo boys. What we had in common was a love for unbridled hedonism: art, sex, music, parties, and living like we would be 22 forever.
1989 to mid-1990s– My husband, Ron Oyer, had a travel business in the 1990s that catered to gay men, geographically mostly from California and New York, though also from many other states. Puerto Vallarta (Mexico), Mykonos (Greece), and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), were the most popular destinations. The groups featured handsome men looking for excitement and fun. As you can see from the following pictures taken during 12 different trips to Rio for Carnival, they found what they were looking for in that fascinatingly “alive” city populated by some of the handsomest men in the world.
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.