“Milk” was what inspired me to create “I’m From Driftwood” so meeting the film’s screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, was both meaningful and exciting. He was kind enough to show me some artifacts that belonged to Harvey Milk, which he was soon going to donate to a museum or archive. One item was a funny hand-written note from Harvey to a local politician he had met the night before, which said something along the lines of, “Had fun last night. Not in that way! -Harvey”. Anyway, I was half expecting Dustin to talk about “Milk” or winning his Oscar but he surprised me by telling a funny but still personal and meaningful story I hadn’t previously heard from him.
So my name is Dustin Lance Black and I grew up in San Antonio, Texas. You know, different isn’t good in San Antonio, Texas – in the military, in the Mormon church, back in the 80′s. Different was not good. Now I think different is fabulous, and fantastic, and I strive for it. But at the time you didn’t want to stick out cause you felt like you would somehow bring harm to yourself or shame to your family.
I guess it’s in the late 80′s, early 90′s whatever that is – I finally here my first messages of “Hey, there are gay people out there who did alright and there are people out there fighting for your rights to be gay. There might be a happy ending to this, maybe.” But then it was many years before I finally came out. I was still living at this point in Salinas, California – I’d be visiting San Francisco but I was living in Salinas. I was still living in a religious home. Military home. And I just wasn’t brave enough yet. And I didn’t know. I didn’t know that it would be okay. And so I get to college. And I actually go to college with my best friend from high school. I love my best friend from high school. His name is Ryan, and he was older. He ran the Toys R Us so he could hire the other kids. So all the cutest guys in high school, all of a sudden, were working at Toys R Us – not surprisingly he was hiring the cutest ones and so those were all his friends and so I drifted towards him because I think I saw a kindred spirit. I was like, “I think I might be part of your tribe,” not that I would say that for years. But it didn’t hurt that he was surrounded by the cutest guys from the football team, and the swim team and all that as well. So then when it was time to go off to college – I said, “Hey do you want to move out to L.A.? I’m going to L.A., do you want to move to L.A.?” Thank goodness he said, “Yes.”
And so we actually moved out to Pasadena first and did a couple years of college out there, living in a studio apartment. We still, neither of us, came out to each other. Two years. Best friend in the world. Kind of only friend in the world. And then I transferred to UCLA. Now, somewhere in that summer I finally shoved him out of the closet. I basically grilled him until he said, “Yes, I’m gay.” And I remember sitting there saying “Well, that’s okay with me, I still accept you.” I knew I was gay, I just wasn’t saying anything about it. What happened is, when we finally moved into our UCLA, you know – new apartment, over there in Westwood – he started bringing all these gay people over. Like he was out. He was living his life. And there were a lot of cute gay people coming over, and interesting gay people coming over. And for the first time I was like – wow, these are my people. I didn’t know there were all these me’s out there. But eventually one of them said to him “You know your roommate is like gay?” And I think he never thought that and so he started poking at that and wondering about that and I sorted of saw the writing on the wall and was like, “Boy this is coming to a head.”
I just remember I was in some poetry class, of course, at UCLA that I decided to take instead of paying attention to the lecture I wrote this huge manuscript – detailing every moment that he should of known I was gay and should of helped me out of the closet. You know, just like, blaming and doing all this very immature stuff and I wrote this manuscript. I remember waking up early one morning and I left it in the bathroom and I just wrote with soap on the mirror “I am gay” and I went to college and shook the whole time until I got home and finally at that point I was out. And I think he said something like “What are we going to do now?” And I said, “Well, find someone to take me out to an 18 and over club. I want to meet the gays. I want to meet gay people.” And I made up for lost time pretty quickly after that.