All About the Birds, the Bees, and the Rest Areas – Lessons Learned Coming Out with a Gay Older Brother

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With the passing of my brother, I have remembered so many happy and some not so happy moments that I haven’t thought of in years. You see, my brother is both the most loving and the most viciously protective of all of my siblings. He was never one to back down from a fight and often held grudges till either you repented or revenge was had.

Through his life there were themes that kept coming up, lessons that he would group together, and little witticisms that permeated his vocabulary. We often would joke that he should write a book and call it All About the Birds, the Bees, and the Rest Areas a Gay Man’s Guide to Backroom Etiquette. Today I would like to share just a few of the ones that have been truly meaningful to me.

1.THERE IS NOTHING LIKE PARTYING WITH A DRAG QUEEN.

This was told to me just weeks before I moved in with him for the first time. I had just graduated high school and was admiring his beautiful apartment that he shared with who I found out later was his lover that he was splitting up with. I had a vague sense of what a drag queen was (but not really) and was just realizing that I was gay (although I had been sleeping with guys for years I still dated and enjoyed women.) This was his subtle way of coming out to me.  It didn’t work but the words are still true. You will never have an experience like partying with drag queens.

2. IT MAY LOOK PERFECT – BUT IT ISN’T FOR YOU.

I later moved into that beautiful apartment along with my brother. Towards the end of that beautiful year for which I lived there my brother met a man from California who was here to teach an acting summer camp. From the outside, this man had it all – money, fame, fortune and a body that many would die for. They tried to make it work long distance, and then in person yet there was something not quite right. In the end, my brother didn’t want to be a kept boy (although I would have to think about that one. OK maybe not because this was a lesson leaerned. A few years later I was dancing on the dance floor and this hot guy comes up and starts dancing with me. He offered me $200 to go home with him and I wouldn’t. I would have gone home with him for free but couldn’t take the money. Damn morals.

3.DON’T LET ANYONE INTIMIDATE YOU.

Picture it, 1995 we were at Backstreet, the largest gay dance club in Detroit on one of the first few times I had ever been there. I am 18 years old and although in the best shape of my life, still had a little belly and moobs. Backstreet had these catwalks that you could dance on if you were so daring. I had started to get up onto one and got down again, choosing to remain on the dance floor. My brother came up out of nowhere and not only forced me to go up on the catwalk, but he also took my shirt and stood at the stairway until the song was over ensuring that I would at least stay on the catwalk shirtless.

When he finally let me down he said to me, “You will never be in this space in your life again. Don’t let anyone else dictate things you want to do. You are in the prime of your life, these people wish they can be you. (I tended to hang out on the catwalk a lot after that because it saved someone else who couldn’t dance from being there.)

4. LAST BUT NOT LEAST- YOU DO YOU

One of his favorite things to say to me was, “You do you, Bub.” Many times this was in disbelief but it was truly the way he lived his life. He was never afraid to live his life fully (if not a little more discreetly than me). If Jr. wanted it, he worked till he got it and in the end had everything he had ever asked for – A partner, family, and friends who truly loved him and saw him for the beautiful creature he was.

One last note- I have written before about what I think happens when you die and although I miss my brother, I know he is always watching out for me. Before he passed, I had told him to come to me as a dragonfly. It was the perfect metaphor for his life – beautiful yet fragile. A couple days after his passing I was delivering dry-cleaning for work and at one of my client’s houses was a swarm of dragonflies that had come to greet me in the driveway. They then proceeded to flutter around me as I made it to the client’s porch before resting on a bush near the stair I had sat down on to cry. It doesn’t matter if I am right or wrong about what happens when you pass, I know that those dragonflies were there because of my brother. It was a beautiful expression of love that I will never forget.

Fly on Jr and be you!

As always, you are loved.

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