The year was 1996. I was in 11th grade. I remember that morning clear as day! I walked into my highschool with 30 minutes before my first class. As per my usual routine, I made my way toward the music room to work on the piece I was working on for the New York State Solo Music Association (NYSSMA) tials. When out of the corner of my eye, I notice a soldier standing at a table.
Dressed smartly in his dress greens, he had an air of confidence. Deeply engaged in conversation with one potential recruite. My dad was Army, my grandfather Airforce. It never occured to me that I might join, but seeing the recruiter there speaking with such enthusiasm I thought, maybe I could at least ask some questions.
Until then, I knew I wanted to go to college and study music education. I also knew that paying for college wasn’t going to be easy and that the Armed forces had some programs to help with that.
So, I made my way over to talk to the recruiter. He told me about the GI Bill and some other programs that the Army had to offer. I took the summer to think about it, researching, asking my dad about his experiences, calling the recruiter to ask questions here and there.
Finally, I made the decision and ‘signed up’.
Don’t ask, Don’t tell:
Obviously, I am skipping some parts here, I did take an ASVAB test. It was uneventful, except for the fact that I scored higher than 80% of the people who took it nation wide. Was offered the job of “Chaplain’s Assistant”. Finished up highschool.
Cut to July 1997. So MEPS is where they send you through a physical to ensure that you’re ok to ship off to basic training. And then, the ultimate part. There’s a brief questionaire that you had to fill out. Some of the questions include.
- Have you ever stolen anything?
- Have you wet the bed regularly since the age of 12?
- Did you ever set animals on fire.
No joke, these are real questions that were on this thing.
Then there was another section all about sexual orientation marked out with a big black “X”. Obviously, it was the beginning of “Don’t ask Don’t tell” and they haven’t pushed out new forms yet. In place of answering that question, we were sent to a room to listen to a tape. Which roughly said something like “If you are engaged in homosexual acts or think you might be in the future, you should probably go home”. I of course paraphrased this 15 minute long recording/warning.
The problem with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell:
Remember, this is at a time when I was still a virgin. I assumed I was straight, I even had a girl friend at the time.
Which brings me to the problem with Don’t ask Don’t Tell. At this poiint in my life, I’m 18 years old. I’m pretty sure that I’m straight but I haven’t lived enough to figure myself out. It wasn’t until a year later that I lost my virginity (yes, to a girl) and another almost year after that before it dawned on me that I was more interested in her dad than I was her.
These are, for certain, the most uncertain years of our lives, and we are expected to know ourselves fully enough to be able to judge that we aren’t going to turn out gay?
I lost my virginity:
It was Christmaseve 1997. I had completed basic training and job training in Ft Jackson, SC. I had gone home for a few weeks and am now in Ft Hood, TX. I had become fairly good friends with one of my fellow soldiers. He and his girlfriend were having Christmaseve dinner with her family. I was invited along.
There, I met her sister. I’ll call her Christina (because that’s her name, but you don’t know her so whatever). I didn’t really pay Christina any attention, she was 18 and a senior in highschool. I was 19. We talked a bit. It got real late so her mom said I could crash on the couch and spend Christmas morning with them if I wanted.
I took them up on the offer.
I was awoken at around 1 in the morning to, what Ron White calls “a mouth hug” (I just call it oral), and it advanced from there. Christmas 1997 is the day I lost my virginity. Kind of cool and exciting. And we dated for 6 months.
She said what?
I won’t go into all of the gory details but Christina was seriously controlling. She had her views of what relationships were and were not. I think I stuck around so long out of loyalty than out of lust or love. The 4th time she said “we should break up, no I take it back” I just let it go and moved on.
She called my roommate and told him that I ws gay. Seriously, I hadn’t given any real thought to the fact. Everyone in highschool said that about me (as I explained in my earlier posts) but somehow coming from her, made me think about it. Over the years, how many guys have I looked at just a little too long? And then I remembered that, I always had some sort of strange attraction to guys but never really considered dating them an option.
My roommate asked if it were true, and I thought about it all. Finally I said, “you know what? I really don’t know yet”.
He was really cool though, “I don’t care if you’re gay or not, I’d just like to know”. And he really didn’t care at all, but I really didn’t know yet.
Needless to say, this was a very confusing time in my life. Next post, I’ll talk about the when, why and how it became unconfusing. I’ll probably talk about my first boyfriend too. Not sure yet, I guess we will all just have to stay tuned.