Monday, August 16, 2010

Magical Monday Moments: When I Knew

Image courtesy of Harper Collins

This week's Magical Monday Moment is going to be another flashback, but this time with a bit of a twist (and some audience participation, please!)...

Several years ago, my parents gave me a copy of Robert Trachtenberg's When I Knew, a collection of memories and stories from people, both famous and unknown, recalling the moment they knew they were gay. Released in 2005, some of the stories are funny, some heartbreaking and others simply make me smile. 

Here are a few excerpts from the book (which is now available for only $5.55 from
The Paramount Theatre, 1965, Denver, Colorado: I was sitting next to my mother, munching on popcorn, watching The Sound of Music, and I wondered in my little five-year-old brain if it was wrong to want to be Christopher Plummer, a.k.a. Captain von Trapp. It was the only way, as a girl, that I could imagine being able to be with the beautiful Julie Andrews... I made my mother take me back to see the movie several times that summer, which she was more than happy to do as she just assumed it was because I wanted to be a nun -- not that I wanted to be with a nun. -- Kate Nielsen

As a kid, I became obsessed with the man on the Doan's Pills box. His back was so sexy. When my mom's supply ran out and she threw the box away, I went to the drug store and stole another. I stuffed it down my pants, where it's been ever since. -- Jon Kinnally

Twelve years old -- and all the boys used to roll their sleeves up to the tops of their biceps in a tight, haphazard rings. One day I noticed an eighth-grader named Larry Klein with his rolled up completely differently. I practically swooned when I saw it. I'm not sure exactly how I would have described the feeling at the time, except to say that I felt as if I was discovering the secret to masculine, adult, sexy style. He carefully folded the cuffs of his shirtsleeves up over themselves only two or three times, so they ended up at the middle of his forearms, flat and relaxed. I went into a stall in the boys' room and copied hiim. I remember checking myself out in the mirror and feeling particularly cool. At the end of the day, my locker mate saw what I had done and derisively asked. "Why did you roll your sleeves up like that?" I said, "I like it. And Larry Klein wears his like that." He said, "Larry Klein is a fag." I felt completely ashamed but had no idea what he meant. The next day I was reading Ann Landers' column in the Sun-Times and saw a letter from a seventeen-year-old boy who said he was certain that he was a homosexual, and should he tell his parents? I had never heard the word before, but I instantly knew what it meant and that I was one, too; and that I would have to tell my parents one day, and show them how I rolled my shirtsleeves.
I was at my parent's house this past weekend and noticed a new copy of When I Knew on the counter and it brought back memories - not only of all the gems within the book, but also my own memories and stories. Of course, it's hard to pinpoint exactly when I "knew." Is it when I was finally able to put a word on the thing I always knew, or the first moment I realized I might be different from the others around me? So, in the spirit of rediscovering this wonderful treasure, here's my "When I Knew" moment...
Nursery School. Fall 1988. Kids running around everywhere as one by one we were dropped off by our parents. There were rooms full of toys and games - but I knew exactly what I wanted. After throwing on my favorite green tutu from the dress up rack, I ran over to the window curtain behind which I had hidden my favorite My Little Pony the day before in hopes that no one else would steal it away.
Okay - you can stop laughing now...

So, dear readers. Here is where you come in. In the comments section below, I would love to read your "When I Knew" moment. Feel free to keep it anonymous if you'd like... sad or happy, young or old - I want to see them all. Pass it along to friends, relatives, strangers. In the spirit of the recent rulings in California and this Magical Monday Moment... when did you know?

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