After I figured it out in the summer of 1978, shortly after graduating from Rocky High, I didn't engage in a lot of "Hey Mom, guess what?" conversations. That summer I told:
1. My brother Ken.
His response was more nonchalant than I expected. "Brilliant deduction, Sherlock! Did you figure that out on your own, or did your boyfriend help you?"
Not bad for a Johnny Nazarene. He even started telling me about movies and musical groups that I might like: Meatballs, The Village People.
2. My best friend, Darry.
His response was less nonchalant. "One of these days you're going to come to your senses and regret this decision! But when you do, don't call me. I don't want anyone thinking I'm a Homo."
But we were best friends from seventh grade! What happened?
And in the fall, 3. Aaron, by that time a freshman at the University of Maryland. Long-distance phone calls were rare back then, so I sent him a two-page, handwritten letter, talking about inconsequential things. And, in between, I told him in an unsigned, typewritten statement -- that way nobody could prove that I wrote it.
I thought that being gay was illegal, so it was best not to put it in writing.
He didn't respond at all.
But he was my go-to guy for all things gay! What happened?
I ran into him at Rocky High's 10-year reunion. He apologized for cutting off contact, and explained: "It was such a shock, someone who was a good friend. It's like it wasn't just a political matter anymore. I freaked out." Then he told me that he had been with his partner for three years.
After that, I adopted a policy of "Figure it out for yourself!" It's not hard: what gender do I look at? What pictures are on my bedroom wall? What gender do I date? Who do I mention on the telephone?
It works pretty well. I rarely hear "Isn't that girl hot!" or "Do you have a wife?", at least not from people who have known me for more than five minutes.