Gay People Saved My Life

As part of my duties as SLA’s Inclusion Caucus co-convener (and if you’re an SLA member, you should seriously consider joining the caucus), I attended the Gay Lesbian Issues Caucus business meeting during the annual conference in Baltimore. My goal was to publicize the caucus, introduce myself to the Gay Librarian (the featured speaker) and slink out; however, the lure of the open bar was too strong to resist (these folks do know how to celebrate) and I stayed for Dale’s presentation.

As I listen to him riff about Web 2.0, I was once again slapped upside my bronzed forehead by a truth that should be universally known:

Gay people saved my life. Literally. And they don’t even know it.

No overt heroics were involved. No running into burning apartments and dragging me out in embarrassing undergarments or swimming against ocean waves to save me from predators. Not even a disinterested attempt of the Heimlich maneuver to keep me from choking to death on free prawns at a gay film festival.

So how did they do it? Just by existing.

You see, as an extraordinarily chubby kid with an obsession over Danny Dunn books, spontaneous combustion (I was betting on the right arm exploding first) and Rex Harrison, I figured my chances of making it weren’t all that good, particularly in the world I inhabited. And in those days, freakiness was not yet iconified as a sure-fire pass to future hipsterdom. By twelve I figured my future consisted by being ensconced in the attic of my family’s house, à la Emily Dickinson (I was also an overly romantic child, it seems). In short, I had given up.

But help was around the corner–precisely one block away from my house: high school. My friend Guy was the first indication that there were others out there as odd as me. And Guy was not only unusual, he was popular–everyone loved him, despite the fact he was gay.


Good Night, Naked Guy: This is old news to quite a few of you, but I can’t let the passing of Andrew Martinez (aka “The Naked Guy”) disappear into the electronic ether. He was an undergrad at Cal the same time I was there attending library school. Though he created quite a publicity storm (not bad considering his competition at the time was the Oakland Fire and the installation of volleyball courts in People’s Park), he was always a serene presence, clothed or unclothed. I was saddened to hear that his life after Berkeley was not quite as serene.

Peace out, Andrew. I hope you’re happy, walking around somewhere wearing nothing but a strategically-placed bandana and a fanny pack….