There are three things I’d like to tell you about me. I’m gay, I’m Jewish and I’m old. That could have been written, “I’m an old gay Jewish guy”, but I wanted to focus on each of those individual words: Jewish, old, gay. They are all a part of me, make me who I am today, and have forced me to fight a little each day. And I think you’ll find me to be one of the happiest warriors you’ve ever met.
Jewish: Believe it or not, there still is something called anti-Semitism in society today, despite the advances. But growing up in South Philly in the 1950’s, I spent my first 10 years on earth in a non- Jewish neighborhood. I was the yid, the kike, the hay you, you Jew. I never quite got that, since I already knew what I was. There were the taunts like “your people killed Christ,” which fascinated me. Not even 10 years old and already a murderer. And finally there were the countless fights during recess at Edgar Allen Poe Elementary school. It taught me after a decade that I was different and didn’t belong.
This is hardly a sob story. I had my group of friends and a loving, nurturing family but I knew I was not a part of what was then accepted society. They really didn’t want me or any Jews. I still remember the day my cousin David graduated law school and my parents telling me about the quota on Jews in law schools. Flash forward to today’s era. You think you’d have any trouble finding a Jewish lawyer?
Gay: As a teenager it quickly became apparent to me that I sort of liked guys. Looking through the Sears catalog, the women in bras did nothing for me, but the men’s section, oh yea! At that point I was living in a Jewish neighborhood in Mount Airy, and accepted as a Jew. But I knew I wouldn’t be accepted as gay. Like everyone else of my age, I hid the fact, and counted the days till I graduated high school and moved to New York, where I could be free… and true to myself.
Inside the walls of Germantown High School, I kept mostly to myself. That worked for me, until my last year when we had a history teacher who threatened to fail the entire senior class.I organized a petition drive, and believe it really united the students in a raucous 1969. After we claimed victory, I often heard whispers, “Oh, it was that fag.”
I left before graduation in May 1969 and moved to New York.