Flashlight in the Closet

By Woody Goulart

This is an original interview I conducted with gay man born in 1925, who made very surprising choices about his sexual identity. The interview was published online for the first time during the late 1990s. This man’s perspective is courageous, shocking, and moving—all at the same time. His experiences are not at all like most of us gay men will never have.

My company formerly had the name “G2 Communications” so throughout this interview you will see “G2” listed as the interviewer.

I conducted interviews by email (1998 – 1999) with this man I identify only as “DLS” since he requested total anonymity. I got to meet him in person in Southern California in the late 1990s after interviewing him for my website. He was in his mid-70s at that time.

This is the true story of a man who chose not to come out, even after knowing for over 60 years that he was gay.

 “I often think to myself, ‘You’ve murdered you. And he was such a nice kid.’ I’m cursed by that murdered kid’s sweet soul still trapped inside me, screaming to escape and to breathe again.” — DLS.

Can any male choose his sexual orientation? This question is answered “YES” by the religious right in America today. Conservative Christians want their followers to believe that a male chooses who he is sexually just like a person chooses what color clothing to wear today.

We have always been taught to listen to the wisdom of our elders. This interview will give you a shortcut to such wisdom from an older man. You may begin to understand what really happens when it comes to a man “choosing” his sexual orientation.


“Flashlight in the Closet”

DLS: I am a 70-something year-old homosexual man who, at an early age, buckled under the religious, social and economic prejudices and pressures of the 1940s through 1960s. In fear of exposure and its shame and pain, I denied my gayness even unto myself.

I took cover within an ill-conceived, eventually miserable, inescapable, and long since sexless marriage to a woman. Only now do I know and understand the harm I’ve done to myself, and possibly to others. I seek now only to caution others not to do what I have done, and to say those who listen to the religious right:

Please ignore those who would warp your soul to make themselves feel good about theirs.

G2: Why do you feel as you do?

DLS: Personally, I do not believe that the sexual persuasion each of us is born with is “curable.” It manifests itself through our inherited genes — genes encompassing our physical, psychological, spiritual, and sensually sexual incarnation. Our sexual persuasion is passed along to us from the genes our parents gave us.

It can be denied, it can be closeted, or even be rejected through celibacy. I suppose it can be curtailed. But it cannot be “cured” because it’s not an “illness,” it’s a character trait, a personality trait.

The simple, intelligent realization for most homosexuals is that they got it naturally. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. This new doctrine of “religiously-cured homosexuals” is nothing more than the attempts of organized self-righteously puritanical boneheads seeking to persecute us. It comes from their attempt to promote a phony cause involving a political power push and bigot-dominated churchly fund raising.

G2: When and how did you became aware that your sexual orientation was towards other males?

DLS: My parents were divorced, and I was an only child living in the New York area with a working mother who had little time for me. Until I was 15, she deposited me in private schools…and while I didn’t know it for a long time, homosexuality was prevalent (mostly the older boys conquering the younger susceptible ones.) I started having “inclinations” toward other lads when I was 13 in 1938. At first, I didn’t understand what or why…

G2: What do mean by “inclinations?”

DLS: Soon enough I understood and was surreptitiously eyeballing boys my age and older, while desperately avoiding eye contact, wherever I might notice them…on a bus, in a restaurant, anywhere, especially the traditional school gym locker room or shower (the nakedness was intoxicating and eventually a lot happened in those environments…), but bare or in overcoats and earmuffs…if the attraction were there it was overwhelming and the relief was through fantasy…him and me!

And always, I was afraid of discovery, exposure and even of being laughed at, ridiculed and/or beaten up. I guess you could say one “score” wasn’t worth the risk of the negatives. I didn’t really “take the risk” until I was 15…in 1940, and then only because the other boy realized I was attracted to him and he took the initiative.

So the inclinations, simple enough, were stifled urges to touch and taste…and to be touched and tasted. I wanted to be held, hugged, cuddled, I wanted my body titillated by fingers, tongues and tight embraces, I longed for it, and sometimes cried because I couldn’t find someone like me.

It’s not true “I can tell a fag a mile away…” and I was a berg of frozen, innocent ice to approachers I didn’t want. I had to care for the boy, not just “do it.”

Guess I was too persnickety in my approach. You know, most of the boys in private school in those days were children of either well-to-do but broken homes or of parents who traveled the country and the world in business and social endeavors. Many of us were lonely this way but didn’t know how to go about obtaining the companionship.

Actually, when I’d see a boy I really liked it was like I’d fallen in love and wanted to do anything that pleased him and to be pleased that way by him. It’s still that way with me. I was then and was always “oral” by preference and “anal” only on demand if I really and truly wanted to please at any discomfort to myself.

G2: Because you have known you are gay for over 60 years, it must have been very difficult on you. And that difficulty must have taken it’s toll on you.

DLS: It is psychologically agonizing and physically wearying. The original shame or embarrassment of realization long since gave way to shame and embarrassment that I didn’t have the courage to come out and be me.

Certainly, once I had my first sexual experience with another man, I was active until the time came to take stock and make the big decision — and I guess I made the wrong one. But when I was coming into manhood, being “queer” was terrifying and so many of us either married “to have a cover” or, as I did, to “cure myself” and be “straight and normal.”

While I’ve done that outwardly, it has been especially damaging to my psyche because I am still truly vulnerable. By that I mean…frequently attracted to someone who reflects my fantasies and needs. Vulnerable.

That’s psychologically and physically demanding…and frustrating. There’s always the thought of “would a man want me?” or “what will he do if I let him know I’m attracted to him and he gets angry?”

That sort of thing…the fear…with me it comes from those years of denial and not overcoming the desire. And, of course, now I have children and grandkids to consider. In my anxiety to “put on a straight face,” I apparently became a straight-laced old prude.

Truly, I’ve never uttered a word against gays because I know I’m one, and I understand and admire the ones who come out. They are heroes. Yet, my kids and grandkids are straights with no apparent prejudices. But I don’t think they could accept me as gay and I love them too much to “test” them by coming out.

G2: You knew you were gay, but you chose to marry a woman. What do you feel now about that decision?

DLS: I was somewhat of a slut in my youth, but I actually stayed “straight” for almost 40 years following my marriage in 1951. I am still married to her. By mutual agreement, my wife and I haven’t been intimate in many years. We stayed together because of our kids. I couldn’t satisfy her sexually because she was a woman and I am gay. She interpreted it as my being cold and indifferent; so we stopped having sex. We’re used to each other as “house mates”, we don’t like each other but we stay together…and that’s it. She doesn’t know, not even suspect, her husband’s gay.

I was loyal (and fruitful) throughout my marriage until a couple years ago. That was a weak moment of sexual loneliness, when I made out twice with a casual, but healthy, acquaintance whom I met through a gay neighbor.

It was heavenly, the first time in many years. A short time later, the life partner of that gay neighbor passed away, and in the throes of comforting the survivor, I acquiesced to his request for special comfort.

We saw each other twice and then I withdrew, actually, we’d known each other 10 years and didn’t really like each other that much. I realized his attraction to me was more a grieving reaction to the loss of his life partner.

That neighbor moved away shortly afterward. I wasn’t “in love” with either of those gents — the first was 56, the second 63.

I was was lonely and horny. I’m still a married family man. Truthfully, I think about sex every time I see someone to whom I’m attracted. But just don’t know even now how to initiate the dance.

Although 70 plus, I’m able to get erect and perform, although it takes longer. And that’s easily referred to as “preliminaries” now. Obviously, I’m into self-gratification because there’s no help around.

At this time I do not have one gay friend. There’s no one in whom I can confide or with whom I can participate. And that is Hell.

G2: And you don’t have sex with your wife.

DLS: We have slept in separate bedrooms for almost 25 years…I just fantasize for sex; My fantasies are into younger guys with good looks as much as good character. I confess although I’ve grown older, my “taste” for younger men hasn’t subsided. Although attractive older men are admittedly more suitable to my age group and would be welcome under the right opportunities.

It would be obscene and stupid for me to flutter over “very young” men at this stage. Someone in my own age group would be great, believe me, if there were mutual attraction. Hell, if you’re dying of thirst in the desert, you don’t complain if there’s no ice when you get a drink.

Back in 1946-48, when I was first a 20-year-old civilian employee at the Pentagon, and later an army buck sergeant there, closing at Arlington National Cemetery was maybe 11 p.m. I could pick someone up at Lafayette Park across from the White House or almost anywhere in DC. Ninth Street in DC was great for that in those days and always plenty of GIs.

I preferred young, rough Marines back then. The thing is, I had a 1936 2-door Ford V8 Coupe and I’d drive my companion to the cemetery where we’d simply park and walk among the various monuments and stones to a comfy secluded spot and get to know each other. A friend of mine who worked in the same section at the Pentagon, upon seeing me undressed at his apartment one night, swore he could read the imprint “Rest In Peace” on my back.

G2: As I think about what you and I are doing here in this interview, I cannot help but feel that you must feel “unmasked” by this project.

DLS: You know, as I look at it, I am wearing a mask for anonymity and sitting there stark naked. You and your interview project pointed a flashlight into my closet to find out how this particular old faggot lives…and survives.

Even if you decided at the end to scratch this interview project and never publish one word, the experience has been a cathartic for me. Imagine having all this bottled up inside me all those damn years…not even being able to sit and talk to anyone about the couple of times I did sneak out of the closet and enjoy, and pop right back in. Exhilarating.

It does make me even more conscious of the fact I, myself, confined me to that dark space. It does make me wish there were some nice guy around with whom I could occasionally take time out from the straight life and be me to the fullest…but I’ve kept myself to myself so much I guess I don’t know how anymore.

About 20 years ago, when I was 53 and still a working journalist, there was a young photo technician who was 27. He was a tall, slender, handsome/cute guy with a great personality and a smile that lit up the world, my kind of sex fantasy. Sure thing, I developed one of those secret crushes and whenever I saw him I was turned on. Really wanted him.

One day when we were alone in the office he came through to pick up some mail and came into my cubicle to bum a cup of coffee, he said. Anyhow, we were joking and at one point I quipped, “You’re a good looking guy, Marc, if you were a girl I’d make a play for you…”
He grinned and told me, “Hey, if you want to make a play anyhow, go ahead…and he cupped his crotch with both palms.”

I guess I was really afire. But I got scared. If I actually made a move, would he pound me, laugh at me, or worse, talk it around? Or was this the chance to “manifest” at last?

I chickened out. “Hey, Marc, I’m only kidding, I’m kidding…”

“Me, too,” he said and left the cubicle to go about his business. A few months later, I was driving into the company parking lot and he was there and stopped me. “I just wanna say goodbye,” he said to me. “I’ve got another job out of town and I’m leaving today.”

Then I told him, “Shit, Marc, just when I get up enough courage to put the make on you, that’s when you turn around and leave town…I’m hurt.” And I pouted. I performed as if I were joking, but I real felt bad. Had we actually come so close?

Anyhow, he was gone and I’ve never seen him again. But a couple months ago, I spotted his name on a website and went for it. Sure as Hell, it was him and, of all things, it was a gay website. And he was out in the open. The website said he’d been gay all his life, was living with a life partner, etc. etc. etc.

I actually emailed him and told him the truth about me. He emailed back, friendly and understanding. And we occasionally exchange email now — nothing sexy or trying to meet — just online gay friends.

His partner is a great guy, too, and there’s psychological relief for me now. But no chance of turning back the clock.

I also think about the other “white-hairs” who really matter — the ones in similar plight but under different circumstances. What about the flaming gay blade who was courageously out and triumphantly happy all through his youth and mature years, but now finds he’s alone and lonesome ’cause his cuteness and looks are gone while his needs are still there?

What about just any of us old fags who still “want it” but are invisible in gay bars, and ridiculed and shunned on the net?

Compared to them, I’m really a nowhere man because I made my own prison and still refuse a pardon. Those old guys were part of the scene for decades. I think about them and now what’s happening to them.

G2: Did you get connected to the Internet in the hopes of changing your life? Obviously, going online has allowed you to really open up about your sexual identity in a significant way for the very first time.

DLS: I got a computer in 1996 and went online. Although my family thought it is great for the old man to “have an interest,” I was looking for the gay world stuff. I was hungry for it and knew it was my only non-rebukeable entry to that world.

I started by using AOL’s Planet Q and ONQ and through those began to really cruise. Foolishly, I believe, I entered my true age in my profile and when I did get into chat rooms, I/M and all that good stuff and felt some camaraderie and sense of community, I also discovered I was getting rejected and even cussed out.

One guy with whom I was “getting down and dirty” on I/M checked my profile, saw my age and told me to get off the net because I was “a dirty perverted dog.” I signaled him a “Bow Wow” and checked out.

Later, I just deleted the profile, and I don’t venture into chat room contact anymore. I love to explore the pictures, the erotic stories and similar activities of a nonviolent or non-cultish nature — what I call “the good stuff,” such as your websites.

I don’t sign on with any pay sites because I’m protecting my anonymity, which means I’m a whimp when it comes to that. And honestly, I can’t afford the fees. I stick with all the free stuff I can get cheap.

G2: Yet, this exposure to the gay world via your computer and the Internet hasn’t changed your mind about coming out, nor about males being “born gay.”

DLS: If a guy is gay, recognizes it and goes with it that’s his choice, then good for him. If a guy is gay, recognizes it and decides to lead a straight life — or a life as straight as he possibly can — that’s his choice. But even leading a straight life, HE IS GAY.

There are gays like me who try to be “as straight as possible” and are miserable because it’s a wrong but maybe irrevocable choice. We are ashamed, psychologically diminished and in agony. Even if we salve our tortured inner self occasionally by backsliding (and enhancing our guilt).

Gay is gay whether you “do it” or “don’t.” Popeye the Sailor Man — the essential straight image — put it in perpetual perspective when he said, “I YAM WHAT I YAM AND THAT’S WHAT I YAM.”

That may not be a scientific conclusion, but it’s a fact. As for the Trent Lotts, Pat Robertsons and similar ilk of the religious right, they’re saying what constituents, contributors and other scared politicians and public figures want to hear.

I spent more than 20 years in the military, including duty in World War II. I also pulled a two-year duty in the Pentagon, eventually retired as a master sergeant. During that time I was a good soldier, a damn good one, with promotions, citations, etc. Retired with honor and integrity.

This nice married soldier was never suspected of such “obscene tendencies” as some would refer to them. In my time in the military (which ended in the 1960s), if a guy were determined to be gay he was kicked out the next day with either a medical or “less than honorable” discharge. I’ve known a lot of gay guys in the military (in my day we were called “Queers”) and they were great patriots and proud Americans — always hurt by the policies and, thus, living in fear. That hasn’t changed.

Has my own perspective changed over the years? Only in the fact that where I thought I was doing the right thing by “going straight” nearly 50 years ago, I can see now I was wrong.

Because I’ve inflicted such a mortal wound on my psyche by stifling, murdering the real me.
I often think to myself, “You’ve murdered you. And he was such a nice kid.”I’m cursed by that murdered kid’s sweet soul still trapped inside me, screaming to escape and to breathe again.

Believe, me, I’m not psycho about this. I just know what I’ve put myself through, what I’ve gained and what I’ve lost. The damn scales don’t balance. That may sound idiotic, but I’ll wager a lot of your “wrong-choice” readers out there have had the same, or similar, misgivings.

G2: What would you say to such a man if you had the chance? What would you say to a man about choosing to hide his homosexuality throughout most of his adult life?

DLS: One thing I would say is: I strongly suspect that among those staunchly crusading anti-gay parochial and secular “healers of homosexuals” in the religious right, there are those who would themselves like to explore homosexuality. As a result of their own misguided secret shame and frustration, that element probably seeks self-vindication by harder persecution of those they envy for “being gay” and loving it.

Damn, I hate that phrase, “You know you could change if you wanted to…” Perhaps those who would “cure us” would like to see us parading in ceremonial robes, much like the Chinese emperors’ eunuchs, those poor bastards who carried their castrated balls with them in lacquered boxes, hoping some day to be reunited with their testicles in an after life.

Looking back, and I often do, my homosexuality as a gay teenager was frightening and shameful to me. There were no gene theories, no guidance-giving support groups, no understanding family, nor sincerely straight helpful pastors to turn to. Of course it was also before the advent of today’s rabid anti-gay movements headed by bigoted politicians, preachers or other stupid do-gooders and sex-shunners who now demonize us. Still, the very environment was anti-gay because no one understood it or wanted to.

So, my adventures and affairs as a juvenile and later as an adult were secret, furtive. While orgasmically satisfying, they lacked the soulful, the ethereal luster of an open carefree interlude or relationship one could chat about or even brag about, or just remember and smile.

It was particularly agonizing (and hazardous) while I was in military service, it was absolute torture withdrawing completely from the lifestyle once I married — give or take a few indiscretions which left me trembling.

If I were counseling a hesitant homosexual in this day and age I would tell that person not to be ashamed, not to be fearful or shy, not to be cowardly or compromising. “Be yourself, Dude, be who and what you are and want to be and enjoy it .”

Gays know there’s no need for a “cure” ’cause they’re not ill, nor will God damn us all to Hell. But there are gays who marry for cover and think of fantasized partners while participating in heterosexual sex, as I did. Or, there are gays who fall in love with women and marry and enjoy it, and either simply put away their gayness or discretely manifest it away from home without torturing their souls. And of course there are the poor bastards who can’t make up their own minds which way to go and just fantasize and masturbate alone and unrequited.

Do be yourself, Dude, be who and what you are and want to be, enjoy it, and nurture your sanity, protect your body. If you don’t, you’ll end up lonely, frustrated, angry and in a self-destructive frame of mind — a soul-seared son of a bitch — in other words, a damn fool.

It may still be “early enough” for you to change. Take it from an old man who has been there, done that, and made the wrong decisions.

Coming out while I’m still around would be counter-productive. It could leave me rejected, alone and wilting in a crummy room in a boarding house or old folks’ home. If I were really head-over-heels in love with a loving compatible man standing by for me to love when the crisis was over I might think otherwise.

* * * * * * *

Read a follow-up commentary from the man known only as “DLS”.