Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
By John Corvino
It was Thanksgiving eve, 1989. Michael and I had been dating for a month, which gave him the title of “my first serious boyfriend” by default. I was twenty, he was turning twenty-three, and we were headed into the city to celebrate his birthday, joined by his cousin and his cousin’s boyfriend. I think his cousin’s name was Fred, but it’s been over a decade, and there are some details one forgets.
“The city” was Manhattan. I was still living with my parents on Long Island while going to college; Michael lived about a half-hour away. I picked up the three of them in my 1985 Camry and we drove west on the Long Island Expressway, eventually crossing the Williamsburg Bridge into downtown.
We had dinner and cake at an Italian restaurant in Greenwich Village. (Its proprietor was Al Lewis, who had played Grandpa on The Munsters.) Afterwards we walked over to the Monster, a venerable old bar at the corner of Christopher Street and 7th Avenue. On the main floor a comically ugly drag queen named Stanley played the piano; downstairs was a disco. We went downstairs.
By the time we decided to leave it had begun snowing – heavily. No one had predicted a blizzard that night, or if anyone had, none of us had bothered to check the radio. (There was no such thing as weather.com back then Ñ or for that matter, anything “dot-com.”) We piled into the Camry and slowly made our way back to Long Island in the blinding snow.
We were about a third of the way across the Williamsburg Bridge when traffic stopped.
We waited a minute, then ten, then twenty Ñ and still no movement. By this time Fred and Whatshisname were soundly asleep in the back seat. We couldn’t see a thing, and there was no one to call (it would be another decade before I had a cell phone). So Michael and I did what any two young lovebirds would do while stuck in a car in a snowstorm: we started “making out” in the car.
Michael was 6’4″, brown-haired, and fair, with long limbs that reminded me of El Greco painting. (I’m 5’8″, which made kissing awkward when we were standing; sitting in a car it was no problem.) He had milky-smooth skin and thin but pretty lips. He wore glasses, which gave him a gentle, studious air. He was nerdy in an appealing way. I enjoyed being with him: it felt exciting and comfortable at the same time. It felt “natural.”
And so for nearly an hour (was it that long? who’s counting?) we kissed and cuddled and held each other, oblivious to the weather outside and the snoring behind us. It was, to put it simply, the kind of experience that makes one want to say, repeatedly, “Life is good.”
Michael dumped me a few weeks later (Merry Christmas, indeed), and what remained of our relationship turned out to be more of a disaster than that night’s weather. But I always smile when I think of him and the lessons I learned that night.
Like many gays, for most of my teenage years I struggled with my gayness. It was a source of anguish and shame, and I wanted it to go away.
When I finally realized that it wasn’t going to go away, I studied the issue: reading books, talking to mentors, debating with myself and others. Very gradually I came to understand Ñ at least on an intellectual level Ñ that gayness could be a positive aspect of life, a source of meaning and fulfillment.
That night on the bridge transformed the intellectual lesson into a profound emotional one. Deep in my gut I finally understood that gayness would be the means by which I experience beauty, and affection, and intimacy: profound human values for which there is no substitute.
Our opponents like to paint what they call “the homosexual lifestyle” as nothing more than the selfish pursuit of pleasure. Doubtless many of them would read my story as a reinforcement of this theme. But such a reading would be blatantly uncharitable. There’s nothing selfish about a sincere desire for human intimacy, for connection with another person.
Sometimes such intimacy is fleeting (as it was with Michael); sometimes it is more durable. Sometimes it is wild and passionate; sometimes it is slow and steady. Sometimes it comes in unexpected places, like the Williamsburg Bridge, in a snowstorm, Thanksgiving 1989. Let us be thankful for it in all its forms.