Whenever he's asked for his coming out story, Yuri tells about that night in December 1997, when he was a 23 year old graduate student, new to America, who claimed to be straight until he came as my date to a Christmas party and spent the night later.
Everyone assumes that there was nothing before, just 23 years of silence and darkness. He's only told a few people about his gay life in Russia.
But in the summer of 2002, at a party during the visit of John, the Shy Boy in the Third Row, John asks "How did you get through high school and college without knowing? Even in Russia."
"And without doing anything?" Wade adds.
"Well, I didn't do anything until I was 23, just like Yuri," John says. "But I knew when I was about twelve."
"I don't know there was anything to know," Yuri answered. "I thought I was straight, because I knew nothing else. And for sex, all I did was..." He stops and looked around the room in alarm. "Um...all I did was drochit, jerk off."
"Oh, no, you were going to say something else!" Wade exclaims. "You were with someone before you came to America!"
Yuri shoots me a pained look. He really wants to "share" John the Bodybuilder tonight, and he thinks his "real" coming out story will seal the deal. But it's embarrassing.
"Ok, you will hear it," he says, finally. "But Boomer will tell it, so I'm not embarrassed."
Yuri grew up in Volgograd, in the south of Russia, a cosmopolitan city where you could hear people speaking Turkic languages of the steppes like Kazakh, Tatar, and Kalmyk, plus Armenian, Ukrainian, and even an archaic form of German, spoken for centuries by the Volga Nemtsy.
"Enough languages!" Yuri exclaims. "Go to the gimnaziya."
He didn't learn about the existence of gay people until high school, when teachers began including them in lectures as pitiable examples of capitalism gone awry, men brainwashed into believing that they were really women. Fortunately, there were none in the Soviet Union, teachers said.
But there were men: slim, smooth technology students from Latvia, barrel-chested weight lifters, hairy-chested bears with massive bulges. Nudity was much more common than in the U.S. Yuri "knew" that he was straight, that he would one day marry a woman, but he still looked -- in the weight room, in the park, in the sauna.
You know how to check out a straight guy's basket. A quick downward glance. If he notices, he'll just think you're trying to avoid eye contact. Nothing more blatant.
Yuri didn't know that. He looked openly, longingly, evaluating baskets, trying to determine the size and shape of the guy's beneath-the-belt gifts.
No one took offense, or associated it with being golubyye, "blue." Yuri assumed that every guy did it.
Yuri graduated from the gimnaziya in June 1992, and was immediately drafted and sent to a military base on the Caspian Sea: the Soviet Union was breaking apart, transitioning into a democracy, and soldiers were needed to maintain order.
He didn't fit in well: he was smaller than most guys his age, bookish and intellectual. He was bullied, called names. He was stripped and thrown out of the barracks naked. His bunk was messed up just before inspection, so he'd get a demerit. His packages from home were confiscated.
But Sergeant Andreivich, a middle-aged career soldier in charge of his barracks, took an interest in him, buying him sodas, giving him books on military history, inviting him for late-night conversations in his room a little off the main dormitory.
Andreivich was in his early 40s, bald, with a hairy chest, nice pecs, a little belly, big hands -- and a big bulge. Yuri couldn't take his eyes off it!
The uncensored story, with nude photos and sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.