I was eleven years old and I was with my Aunt Marge in Billings, Montana. It was the summer of 1976.
Aunt Marge had made some amazing lemonade and she handed me a cold glass. As we drank, she ran her fingers over my brand new iron-on T-shirt.
"I like her a lot," she said, taking a sip from her drink and flinging the condensation onto the lush grass.
I nodded to her. "So do I."
"Where did you find it?" she asked. She was referring, of course, to the iron-on of Farrah Fawcett-Majors I was wearing.
"At the mall," I said.
"It's neat," she said.
Later that day a storm arrived. In Montana, storms don't arrive. They come pissed off. I was terrified. All I could think of was the scene in The Wizard of Oz where Dorothy keep kicking at the cellar door and couldn't get in.
I yelped to Aunt Marge. She looked up from her knitting and said, "But it's only a small storm, dear." I implored her to please take me to the cellar. Please, please, please.
Hand in hand, we went to the cellar. I clutched her as the wind howled. I gritted my teeth and clenched my toes as Aunt Marge knitted by the amber light from four kerosene lamps.
Years later, I would tell this true story to my therapist in Boston. He was a slender man who smelled like he had run through the gauntlet of perfumes sprayed upon hapless shoppers who are dumb enough to pass by the perfume counter at Macy's in Herald Square in Manhattan.
He wore silk shirts and had gold chains around his wrist and neck. When he talked, he always hit the 's' in every word, sounding like an exhausted snake stretching it's long body in the summer sun.
I told him the Montana story. He hesitated and looked out of the nearby window. On the windows ledge was a very nice bouquet of fresh lavender.
"Your issue is internal homophobia," he said as he plucked an invisible piece of lint from his designer sleeve.
"No, it's not," I said, feeling itchy and annoyed.
"If you're at a party with a bunch of people, and they're talking about their childhoods, do you tell them that from the ages of 11 to 16 you only wore T-shirts with Barry Manilow, Olivia Newton-John, Barbara Streisand and Farrah Fawcett on them?"
"Farrah Fawcett-Majors. Why would I tell them that?"
"You know why."
"What's past is past."
My very gay therapist stared at me for a while. Finally he said, "You can be super smart and insightful and gay, you know. Oh! Our time is up. Have a check for me?"
I didn't need to run to the library to find the definition of internal homophobia: I was ashamed of being gay.
Ashamed? Me? No way. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized my uber gay shrink might have a point.
I always told people I didn't know I was gay as a kid. But there it was, a photo of me, at 12, wearing a Farrah Fawcett-Majors T-shirt. In Montana.
No 12-year-old heterosexual boy would do that. Ever. They also wouldn't say to people "Her proper name is Farrah Fawcett-Majors. She married the Six Million Dollar Man in 1973 and she adopted his name thereafter. So her proper name is Farrah Fawcett-Majors, not Farrah Fawcett."
And I wondered why the only people who came to my 12th birthday party was a girl named Patty Snyder who ate her hair, and a boy named Steve Parker who was so fat that my mom was told to hide my birthday cake from him. "I don't want to be the one blamed for Steve's childhood diabetes, thank you very much Creepy Kid" she said to me.
Right now in my bedroom is a Farrah Fawcett-Majors poster, as well as an Olivia Newton-John poster. I'm writing this post listening to Donna Summer. If there were a fire and the firemen where to break down my door (I'd be so lucky) and empty out my closets in search of the origin of the fire, they'd find a box filled with four wigs, seven Barbie's, a stack of old Barbara Streisand records and a few dozen, tiny disco balls. They light up.
My internal homophobia has been with me for years. I privately thought that men who sounded super gay, or women who looked super gay, were less than. Less smart or less capable or less something.
I was clearly including myself in that bunch, and now I've come to see that the only shame heaped upon me about being fabulously gay came from me, me and me.
I still have to bite my tongue when I see gay guys trying to act super masculine. I'm still ashamed of gay sex sometimes, which is why I obsess over diseases. I hear some gay men say, "If I wanted to have sex with a woman, I'd have sex with a woman. I want sex with a man" and I want to say something, but I don't. Instead, I go home thinking, "They want to act like they drive a tractor, and I want to go find a new pair of bright, purple socks. Cool."
Of course, the big take away is loving who we are and not waiting for anyone's validation is the trick. Funny thing is when we do that, people flock to us like a fabulous moth to an amber flame.
Okay, gotta run. Logan's Run is on TV. Farrah Fawcett-Majors hair was perfect in that movie.