Cambridge, Mass. Fall, 1969. I was in grad school at Harvard and desperate to come out, whatever that meant. I only knew that I liked guys. I only knew I was lonely. I went, yet again, to a shrink, who, after listening to me pour out everything I could think of in that opening session, said, “Well, no matter what you are, you’re going to need a lot of help.”
I left the office. The hell with him, I thought, in a moment of psychological bravado.
About two weeks later I picked up a copy of The Phoenix, a Boston underground newspaper with an ad for a gay lib meeting at Boston University.
Now or never. Do it.
I took the subway across the Charles River, found the right building, and arrived on the 10th floor.
The one with the sign taped to it. Who might see me looking at it? Who cares?
I’ll use the Dorothy trope to describe the next moment—you know, when the house lands in Oz and the screen goes from black-and-white to color?
I opened the door to the rest of my life, more vivid than ever.
I saw a bunch of guys in a smoke-filled lounge, talking politics and dressed in the political drag of male college students back in the day: blue work shirt, jeans, and boots. The myopic—like yours truly—also wore wire-rimmed glasses. (Don’t forget the untamed hair.)
There they were around a big seminar table, captains of a newly emerging industry that I was ready to buy into.
No room at the table, so I stood against the wall with a few other guys, avoiding eye contact.
But soon I looked up. Scruffy dudes, with an agenda, were talking passionately over and at each other. It was intellectual. It was funny. It was lively! Good-bye to the dead life. Hello, strangers and brothers.
When the meeting wrapped up, the guy running the meeting said, “Everybody to Sporter’s!”
“What’s that?” I asked someone next to me.
“It’s a bar on Cambridge Street.”
I followed the crowd.
Another door to go through once we arrived, but this time I had company, and I have ever since. Not just white men but women and men of color and trans and queer and allies.
Dorothy flew home to Kansas.