In the early 1970s I stood at the train station on a summer afternoon, a lone young woman surrounded by a hundred men, most of them tanned and handsome; All of them gay. I remember thinking it was such a waste as I watched taxis dropping off more men and heading back to the Fire Island ferry. It was another time when closets were still mostly locked. AIDS hadn't happened yet, and nobody talked openly about homosexuality. Local teens would take the ferry to Fire Island in the summer to hit the beach; I can remember a friend telling me with wide-eyed giggles how she'd seen two men heading into the pines holding hands and a jar of Vaseline. It was a bit shocking, even though I didn't understand the full implications at the time. I had only the vaguest notion of what those men were actually doing. Living where I was, I was probably a bit more aware, but the men were still very circumspect in public. I know I wasn't shocked or disgusted by those men; I definitely wasn't afraid or uncomfortable, as I'm sure I would've been if I'd been surrounded by a hundred straight men. Would I have felt the same if I'd been surrounded by a hundred lesbians? I don't know, but probably not. I might have been uncomfortable, but not afraid. Truthfully, I was still naive enough that I probably would've just thought they were “tomboys” without any sexual connotation. It was a time when girls who would rather play ball with the boys and didn't like wearing dresses or makeup were thought of as late bloomers who would eventually grow out of it. Being a tomboy didn't have the same stigma. We've come a long way in 50 years. Even in the early days I never understood the labeling and the hatred towards homosexuals. Who cares what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home? I will never understand parents who disown their children because of their sexual orientation. I can understand initial feelings of loss for the dreams you had for them, but the LGBT community has fought hard to create a world where there are no dreams that are unattainable. While there is still hate in the world, things are getting better. More and more people are realizing they know and love people who are sexually different from themselves, and it just doesn't matter. Love is love. Let me say it again. Love is love. I hope someday we can drop the labels, that people can just be themselves without judgment or fear. We're all a part of the same rainbow, and more beautiful for the variety.
~Elise Skidmore ©2022