Back in the day, before Reagan even, I was gay in Suffern, New York, dating, trying to do the hetero tango, etc. You know the scene.
I was an academic/musical kid, popular enough to keep myself busy on the weekends, a huge mop of curly hair and a pretty optimistic hop in my step. Sometimes, though, I was dark and brooding and depressed and terrified because I knew, way down, I was goose-gay. Some kids at high school were mean to me (you two guys in Physics, you know who you are). Most were not and I had many friends. The meaner kids, for the most part, came to boring or dead ends in life. My vindictive side cheers for the hero, time, who took care of them. But mostly, besides the humiliation of finding carved into the bathroom stall wall, "For a good blow job, call Donald Cummings 357-3651," I soldiered on and figured I would outgrow my attraction toward men. Maybe. (That was my real phone number. Someone did their research.)
So there I was, in high school, without the internet (or cable). In an attempt to find out some shit, to see if I could live inside myself without a mountain of pain, I walked across the tracks over to the Suffern Free Library and went to the card catalog and looked under the subject heading, "Homosexual," and found a few books in the stacks that were all about it.
The one that grabbed my full attention had photos.
I hid in a cubicle and looked at every black and white picture. You see, this was a book that had a title like, "Henrik and Peder are Gay and Happy." It was Danish. It showed these two hipster, good looking guys living together, domestically and happily in their Copenhagen apartment. Cooking. Watching T.V. Laughing together as they poured drinks or Peder was on his way out the door for work while Henrik was still sipping his strong morning coffee. They were a couple. They were gay. And it was all good.
I was amazed. I thought--These two guys, these two good looking gay guys (and one was so ridiculously rock star cute) are having this much fun? They are smiling constantly? They are lighter than air? They are...confident? And they don't seem to hate themselves? Can this be true? Why don't these pictures show the real truth, that they must hate themselves? Is the Danish government in the business of pushing this whacked homo thing onto its people? What for? To pretend that it's okay? Because they don't understand that being gay is the same as being almost suicidal? These must be actors they hired. Why is the Danish government trying to brainwash me? I don't want to be gay. This is insane, clearly.
I finished the book and put it back in the stack. I thought of taking it home. But I figured--Why take the chance of having that book on my library record? Or the chance of someone at home finding it?
I headed home. I think I was on Oliver Street and it hit me--Sure, okay, that book must be true. Wow. Amazing. Really? Okay. Okay. It's possible. It really is possible. And even though being homosexual is so wrong and messed up and somehow evil, I guess you can be happy if you are gay...Sure--in Denmark.
I did drugs the first two years of college and went sort of nuts.
I went to the stacks at Tufts and again, without taking out the book, I read the wonderful The Best Little Boy in the World. Famous gay coming of age story. It helped.
Then...the slog. The endless slog of self acceptance (hard), peer acceptance (easy), family acceptance (a few bumps, but easy), actor career situation (hard), and then all those relationships (easy, hard, easy, hard, etc.), dodging AIDS bullets, the therapy, the gym, the running fast and then calming down and finally finding my Adam, building a life together, complete with all sorts of house habits and then twenty years of domestic togetherness and happiness, D.O.M.A. repealed and finally, today, finally, I feel quite fucking Danish. And the feeling is light. So light. And the loathing vectoring inward is, well, it may be almost completely gone.
There is something, it is indescribable, but when you are walking home alone from the library, heading West to cross the train tracks, with images of happy gay Danish men living together in an apartment and you know, you just know, that that is an impossibility for you and it will never happen and you want to disintegrate out of shame and then life happens and it's basically a good life and then the government, the actual federal government tells you, "Yeah, dude, you're as good as everyone else. You're as good as those black and white photographed Danes in their cool apartment," you just want to go back in time to the edge of the tracks to tell your sad isolated self, "Cheer up, you mopey guy. You're not in a Bergman film."
And though Denmark is not Sweden and I had only ever seen one Bergman movie, I think I would have looked up at the older, balder, fatter me from the future and said, "I don't care what the hell is going to happen to me sexually, but if I end up looking like you, I am going to throw myself in front of a train right now."
Thank you Denmark, The Suffern Free Library, my friends and family, my old boyfriends who are still my friends, Sarah Schultz (who is the first person I came out to and she didn't blink), my husband Adam who I love and share my life with, who cooks and works and loves me for who I am, who cried all day with joy over DOMA's repeal, the five justices of the Supreme court who knew it was time to catch up with Denmark and just about almost everyone I know who have, to a person, been completely supportive and loving in this weird-ass-hell-journey-of-mine growing up and living gay during the later 20th Century into the 21st. I am forever grateful. You have all made me so happy. I feel included, completely. I am lighter than air. Marry me again, Adam, this time in California? You've made my life a little slice of Copenhagen. Pass me the Frikadeller.