I came to the Center back in 1984 as a scared college student. I was 20 years old. I was going to Cal State LA at the time and was trying to come to grips with being gay. I went to see a therapist on campus, she referred me to the Gay and Lesbian Center in Hollywood on Highland Avenue. I started to see a therapist there, his name was Bob. I saw him for a few months, and started to feel better about myself. He then suggested that I check out of the rap groups happening at the Center.
At that time, there was a Young Gay Men’s Rap Group meeting on Friday nights at 7 PM. I got up the courage to go and was I glad I did. Sure there were cliques like most groups, but there were also some nice people there that I enjoyed getting to know. After the rap groups, we even met up afterwards at Yukon Mining Co. and Wendy’s. When I was old enough, we even went out to some dance clubs and bars.
Suddenly I was seeing things differently, I was not alone. Here was a group of vibrant individuals dealing with a lot of the same issues that I was. I started to get invited to some parties, I even met my first boyfriend there. His name was Kevin… a fun, and sensitive guy who was a bit popular even. We didn’t date that long, but he opened my eyes to the beauty of a black man, something I hadn’t considered before.
Other important friends I made during this time were Damon, Dominique, Alfred, and this guy named Rasheed, who later became my life partner.
After a few years, and another boyfriend for me, Damon suggested that Rasheed and I go out. He was never that close of a friend, more on the periphery than anything. Someone I was familiar with, but didn’t really know that well. He called me up, we went out and the rest is history so to speak. We started going out in January 1989.
Damon and Kevin both succumbed to AIDS… it was a terrible loss for me. Kevin I had lost touch with and heard the news from an acquaintance. Damon I watched decline in health over several months. This was back in the days when AIDS was pretty much a death sentence. Rasheed and I were dating at the time, even living together, so we weren’t as close of friend’s as we used to be. But it was still very devasting to us.
In 1990, we started going to a new group at the Center called Black and White Men Together. Needless to say we fit in. Again, we made some great friends and had some interesting discussions. I even served as the Social Co-Chair for the organization for one year.
The group didn’t survive the move to the new location. But the friendships did survive, some were even from the youth group too!
When CA finally OK’d Domestic Partnerships for gays and lesbians we were one of the first to sign up. We waited in line a couple of hours at the Village to fill out the paperwork and get it notarized.
The Gay and Lesbian Center has been life changing for us. It was there when I needed help with coming out, when I was first finding my way in the gay world, and when I wanted to become domestic partners with my lover. Not to mention the life long friends I made in the youth group and BWMT. Thanks for all that you do. You made a difference in our lives and the lives of all gay and lesbian people in the LA area.
Spice69man is a Los Angeles-based writer and designer. The eBook, A View from the Cheap Seats, can be downloaded from Lulu, Amazon and the iBookstore. It can be read on any computer, smartphone, or tablet.