I met Jimmy when I was 13 years old, the summer between 8th and 9th grades. A good friend of mine had moved a whole 3 miles and a world away in my 13 year old mind. Jimmy lived across the street from her. He was going into 11th grade and drove, so we not only got to leave our neighborhood, but got to go places like the mall, the pizza place, the movies-all without begging our parents for rides. It was liberating. Jimmy was fun, fearless and he wanted to date me. I wasn’t interested-there was no chemistry. For many years and many girlfriends, Jimmy would date a girl, within one week have the wedding planned, then dump her.
It was no surprise when Jimmy came out at the age of 21. It was something I sensed, and it honestly didn’t matter to me. I loved him like a brother. We were best friends. My family loved him. My parents trusted him so much that I wasn’t allowed to go to Senior week without him after my high school graduation. We worked at several jobs together, and work was always bearable with Jimmy around. Some of the best weekends we had were spent going to the gay bar with a piano player. He jokes that my ‘gadar’ was more finely tuned than his, and he was probably right.
Jimmy also loved that fact the one of my brothers was gay. My brother Tommy was out and proud in the early 70s. Boy, he had guts that Jimmy and I so admired. My father owned a gas station and the expectation was that the boys would all work at the gas station. Not Tommy-he went to school to become a hairdresser-and he was a great one, too! Tommy was always true to himself, and I think Jimmy followed his example.
One of the first people I took my then boyfriend to meet was Jimmy. His approval would seal the deal that this guy was for me. Luckily, he approved, and my now husband is great friends with him, also. My family have so many memories of him because he was always around. Jimmy and I could enjoy a comfortable silence-that is a measure of friendship! At my wedding, he cried as we danced to “That’s What Friends are For”, and yes, he lined up to catch the garter, playing nice at the straight wedding! I think it was payback for the several commitment ceremonies I went to with him.
Every time I got pregnant, Jimmy got a new pet. So, in 5 years he had 1 dog and 2 cats. The dog was named-what else-Cybill Shepherd! He moved away, but we would talk about once a month. We both knew we could pick up the phone at any time and pick up where we left off ! He helped me grieve when Tommy died-from AIDS related pneumonia. I made him promise to always be safe with his partner. My heart broke for him when first his mom passed, then shortly after his dad. He was there crying with me when my dad died. We laughed and had a great time at my niece’s wedding. She had many fond memories of Jimmy growing up. One time he was being particularly obnoxious and dressed Ken in Barbie’s wedding dress!
Jimmy and I have always been comfortable with each other. He pokes fun at me for being straight ( he calls me a breeder, sometimes), and I poke fun at him for being gay(tell him that I want him to come and redecorate my house, because his taste is much better than mine). Yes, I know they are stereotypes, and we laugh at them and ourselves. What he does in bed doesn’t matter to me. He doesn’t try to hide his sexuality, it is just that is who he is.
I appreciate the gay men who are honest to themselves by not denying their sexuality. I remember going to the gay bar with Jimmy-this was 25 years ago, and there were a great deal of men in suits wearing wedding rings, cowards all of them. These same men were probably the ones who would get up and denounce the ‘homosexual’ lifestyle as being abhorrent behavior. Yet, they were footsie-playing, bathroom stall-hopping homophobes. The ones protesting the loudest are usually the least secure in their own sexuality.
So, for all of the Jimmy’s of the world ( and for the lesbians, also) please remember first and foremost, they are human beings. How they express their love is nobody’s business. To deny a LGBT their human rights is a grave injustice that needs to be corrected. My life would not have been the same without Jimmy, I am blessed for having him be a part of my life.