by Sally Miller
Last year I was interviewed about my life experiences as a young gay person way back before Stonewall. The interview was conducted by a student in Susan Eggman’s social work program at Sacramento State. The young, straight, interviewer blew my mind with her key question. Referring to my anecdote about my first gay experience, she asked me “Who did you tell about it?” I was shocked because at that time we hardly told anyone about our actual lives. One of the men in our local Stonewall chapter told me he was interviewed by the same person (apparently) who asked him the same question. “Who did you tell? We both told nobody, for quite a while. Any of us lucky enough to have gay friends had someone to share our stories with, but most of us were alone in that era, and we told no one the truths about our lives.
Because we all have a human need to communicate, I was anxious to talk to someone about this significant new, mind-blowing fact in my life, so months later I confided to one of the girls in my small circle in our junior class in high school. She was not exactly condemnatory but she certainly did not give me her approval or encouragement. She advised me that we -- and she also knew the other girl with whom I was head over heels in love – should never have sex again. It was not a good ides; it was too dangerous. I had started down a path that I should not take.
Actually I could not go very far down that particular path because the object of my affection quickly dumped me. She decided that she was straight, and that we should not see each other, which of course broke my sixteen-year old heart.
This question that sticks in my mind of “Who did you tell?” would be answered differently by those of us born in different decades. Some younger folks probably “sing it from the highest hill” in contrast to those of us who are older and had to keep out lives to ourselves. The turning point has to be the 1970s when the Stonewall rebellion had erupted, and gay liberation became a fact which changed our lives.
Anyone want to let us know how you would answer the “who did you tell” question?