In the crisp fall of 1977 I was a strapping and husky 16-year-old. A close (and closeted) high school friend of mine decided we should visit the “Florentine” Night Club; the premiere, and only, gay bar in our conservative city of Shreveport, Louisiana. Due to my size, I appeared to be of legal drinking age of the time in Louisiana…18.
While I was at “the club” as we called it, I ran into the hair dresser who cut my mother’s and my hair. He was a flawlessly beautiful man with bright white teeth, chiseled features and exquisitely manicured facial hair. I always loved the feeling of his fingers in my hair as he washed it. GOD was he hot! He was a fantasy of mine since we began going to his salon. I always looked forward to our weekly visits to get our hair trimmed.
When I noticed him, my heart started pounding in my chest. I tried to get by him without him seeing me. Unfortunately, not being so “slinky”, I bumped into the guy standing next to him. Then he noticed me and asked what I was doing there. I racked my brain trying to think quickly on my feet. In what was what I later realized to be the absolute stupidest thing I could have ever said, I told him, “I’m here doing research for a report I have to do in class on the gay culture.” I know now he and his friends must of thought “Yeah…right!” Mortified and embarrassed, I found my friend and told him of my horror. Against his protestations, we ran out of the club as fast as I could drag him behind me.
The next day I thought back on the last evening’s adventure. I was reeling at the new revelation that my hair dresser was a queer like me. I finally knew another gay man! I felt I had to express my feelings about him, about myself, about being gay, about everything. So I sat down and wrote him a long letter. However, in the end, I chickened out and put the letter in an orange class folder and put it in the bottom of my sock drawer in my bedroom; thinking it would be safe from anyone’s eyes. I went to school floating on air, but sad and frustrated that I hadn’t had the courage to follow through with giving him the letter. “Maybe tomorrow,” I thought to myself. I thought about him all day.
Later that day my mom washed some clothes. Normally I was responsible to put away my own clothes but today, out of the blue, she decides to put my clothes away and of course, my socks in the sock drawer. She found the folder with the letter I wrote to our hair dresser.
When I came in from school that day I found my mother with her hands folded across the folder, her head down, sobbing. We talked, she cried. We talked some more, she cried some more. This went on for two weeks. Then one day she came to me in the kitchen and said, “It’s none of your business what your stepfather and I do in our bedroom, so it’s really not any of my business what you do in yours! There is a reason the relationship between a person and God is supposed to be personal.” Then she gave me one of the best hugs I ever got from her. That was all I needed. Now that my mom knew, I didn’t care who else knew. I didn’t open my closet door. I kicked the sucker off its hinges and came out to everybody. That was a little over 30 years ago and I have been an advocate/activist for gay rights since then.
NOTE: Reverend Brett Harris is the creator of the “Save Bryce” campaign and website, which is a movement geared towards the release of teenager Bryce Falkner from forced attendance at an “ex-gay” ministry.