This week's LA Weekly has a coming of age story that is also a coming out as gay story - a not uncommon topic for an urban weekly. Less common, Deshawn Cole is black, grew up & lives in the Imperial Courts Housing Project and the Project Watts Crips claim his neighborhood as their territory.
Even less common, the residents of the Imperial Courts are shown as being part of a diverse, multi-generational community struggling to find ways to live together - and, increasingly, working to find alternates for young males other than drug dealing and gang banging. And Deshawn Cole is an important part of that process.
But before you read Michael Kirkorian's great story, it reminded me of when I began to understand how difficult it might be for someone to come out to his straight friends as being gay which I had never really understood because besides growing up in LA and being involved in the arts, I am also part of an in-between generation.
I am old enough to remember when not many people were 'out' among their straight friends - but also young enough that no one I knew cared if someone was gay or not. I couldn't imagine anyone really caring one way or the other.
That's probably why I was so struck when I first understood just how difficult it might be to come out
I was reading a book while taping a TV show that was just barely on and didn't notice the following TV news or old movie until I faintly heard the song 'Heatwave"; a song that was a favorite of mine after a young lady demonstrated how... liberating... she found the song whenever she heard it.
So I perked up, grabbed the remote and turned up the sound - and saw some guys in an apartment goofing around and dancing to the music - having the time of their lives. But I wasn't quite certain what was going on - until door bell rang and a man came in and - suddenly - the party was over. And at that moment, I realized they must have been gay and the man who had walked in must have been straight.
Trying to understand what I just saw, I set down the book for a bit to get caught up,. but ended up watching the rest of the film (which turned out to be 'The Boys in the Band") Then after the part I had seen was over, I rewound the tape and watched the beginning part - until the 'Heatwave' scene - which I then fully understood.
Now I don't think it changed how I treated anyone - and - as it turns out - none of the guys I had grown up with - or hung out with later - turned out to be gay - plus all the new guys - and gals - I later met who were gay - were all 'always' gay - so I never had anyone 'tell me' they were gay. They just were.
But just watching that one scene was enough to give me an appreciation of struggle of those who grew up in other times - or who are today growing up in other places where being gay might still be difficult.
And that's part of why I find Deshawn Cole's story so inspiring.