4 The Star / Jan. 6,1984
didn't know about drag until I came out—
but the books I did read as a kid told me
that gay people were unhealthy psychot-
ics, child molesters and—worse—
miserable all the time. I knew I wasn't like
that, but it took me time to get rid of the
idea that maybe the others were.
My own coming out
was hell, and I mean
You said you were in seminary; I presume that means no one knew you were
In a sense, I didn't even know. I just
knew I liked guys, and most of my friends
did too. The seminary screwed me up so
bad that while I was there, I never tried to
make it with anyone I was really attracted
to. I figure they were somehow more noble
or something, so I only made passes at
people I wasn't crazy about. If that sounds
sick, it was. I don't ever want any other
high-school-aged person to go through
that kind of crap.
In one way, the kids now have it easier
than I did. They know there's a a gay community out there. They know that they're
not alone in the world. Still, I've given lots
of talks in high schools, I've worked crisis
hotlines, and I think it will always be hard
for kids to come to grips with their own
sexuality, at least as long as we live in a
country where people bitch about giving
kids basic sexual and biological information. In addition to that, it's still hard for
young gay men and women to meet other
people. I once put up a 17-year-old young
man for a few days until we could find him
a permanent shelter. He'd been beaten by
his father because he was gay.
I've seen kids tormented almost to
suicide—and sometimes literally to it—by
their peer groups and often with the
implied consent of the adults in charge.
There's a lot of pain still out there. Maybe
I'm a dreamer, but I'd like to help some of
the kids there realize they they can be gay
without having to give up their dreams
and goals and loves.
Are you telling gay kids to stay in their
Hell no! I've also seen the other side. I've
seen people 16,17 or so who are out and the
happy, whole people they should be. I
would never say don't come out. I also
don't know if I personally would have the
guts to tell the whole school, but I would
tell my friends. I wish to God I could have
come out in high school. Years after I left
there and had dealt with my own hangups, I wrote people I had known there—
my best friends—and found out that many
of them were also gay. I even found out
that the best friend I had in grammar
/ sometimes think
it's self-hatred by
gay people that
keeps many of them
from learning to
school back in Somerville, Mass., a guy I
fantasized about for years, was gay too.
What a waste , and I don't mean only sexually. There was so much caring and living
that was lost, or if not lost, at least not
lived to its fullest.
You 've got a second-degree black belt in
Kung Fu San Soo. Has that given you
more confidence in beingout in the public,
knowing that fag-bashers may have a
hard time with you?
You better believe it. I didn't originally
get into the art thinking about that, but
while I was the GSU co-ordinator, I was
subject to verbal and mild physical abuse
on occasion. I vowed that no one, I repeat
no one, was ever going to hurt me or someone I cared for without me doing my best to
stop them. It may sound cruel or nasty, but
I really think the only time fag-bashing is
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going to stop is when we send the basher
home on a stretcher. I'm not a cruel person, but I think I'm simply being realistic.
In most situations, the police aren't there
to protect you; in some, even when they
are, it doesn't make any difference.
I think everyone of us , and I don't only
mean gay people, is responsible to himself.
Many times just the way you carry yourself is enough to stop any hassle. One
night my friend, also a black belt, and I
were being harassed outside a bar. The
punks were in a truck and couldn't understand why we weren't running. One kept
coming, opening the door, stepping down
as if to spook us, then jumped back inside
when he found we simply waited for him.
They left without incident.
Just a few weeks ago though, this same
friend and his lover, a green belt, were
juumpedin Los Angeles by five guys out to
kill them. My friend got a black eye; ofthe
five, one went to the hospital minus an
eye, the others were severely damaged
enough that the police had no problem
arresting them. Fighting is not pretty, but
it's unfortunately necessary. I sometimes
think it's self-hatred by gay people that
keeps many of them from learing to defend
themselves. It's almost as if they say I
really deserve to be hurt.
Overall, kung fu has meant a lot to me,
and I really do love the art. At one point I
was volunteering my time to teach a self-
defense class for gay people in Los Angels,
and I am seriously considering doing so
How do the people at the kungfu school
deal with your being gay?
It's funny. I was out openly everywhere
except there until two years ago. I didn't
want to have to prove my "masculinity"
every night. When I started to mention it
to people, all I got was boredom on their
part. They all knew. Actually, that's not
quite true—one guy was a pain in the ass
but that's since been straightened out.
One reason I made Neil a fighter is
because I wanted to have the reader realize gay people can have any interest, and
that they can be good at anything they
I'd like for Neil and Paul to be role models. I don't say that with any inflated
sense of self-importance. I merely mean
that I think they're a lot more healthily
integrated characters than many in
young adult fiction who are gay. At least
neither races off and does himself in—or is
conveniently killed so the nongay character can tell you how great his pal was.
Before any other of those authors write
me nasty notes, I am aware that in some
cases the original manuscript wasn't like
that, and that the changes were made at
the publisher's insistence, but that doesn't
negate the eixsting fact.
Now that "A 11-Americans Boys" is out,
would you like to see CBS or someone pick
up and do a screen version ?
Hell yes! And if anyone is listening, I
know just the guy to play Neil (and I don't
mean me). There are so many gay actors in
the theater, I'd love to see an openly gay
one do the role, but again, at the moment
it's only a dream.
When you came out, were your parents
as rabidly homophobic as Paul's or as
understanding as Neil's?
Neither. They were somewhere in the
middle. There was a tense period of a few
years that has long since mellowed out.
Overall, my family's been great. In fact,
at one point a few years back, my sister
yanked me aside and in mock anger berated me in front of my date for always
having better looking partners than she
Is there anything you'd like to say in
Only that despite the work, I had a lot of
fun writing the book. I didn't worry about
political correctness or anything else. I
simply wanted to write an entertaining
story, one that hopefully people will enjoy
more than once. I'm just vain enough to
think I've succeeded.
This interview was prepared by Alyson
Publications, which has a commercial
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