Bil Browning

My first time

Filed By Bil Browning | February 20, 2008 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: 1980s, closet cases, first time, gay bashing, homophobic behavior, repressed, sex, shameful, teenagers

Everyone remembers the first time they had sex. It sticks in your memory and can help shape future sexual desires and preferences.

my_first_time.jpgAs I was scanning my photos into the computer, I found this one - the only one - of Steve, the first guy I had sex with. I don't remember Steve's last name; he only lived in town for a few short months and moved before he made the yearbook. I blurred his identity since I don't know what his current sexuality or situation is.

It was the summer of 1988. I was 16 and he was 17. That's George Michael's Faith cassette next to him on the bed. This picture was taken the "day after;" George had kindly provided mood music the night before. I still can't hear "Father Figure" or "Kissing a Fool" without thinking about that night.

I feel a compelling need to track Steve down so we can talk. I owe him an apology.

I'd already had sex with a girl when I was 14 or 15. It didn't really do much for me and I hadn't pursued other chances to do it again. (Instead, I thought about becoming a priest even though I'm not Catholic. Seriously.)

Then I met Steve. I was full of confusion because I knew what I wanted, but I didn't have the words to explain it. We clicked and I loved him as only first loves can. I couldn't tell him, of course, but apparently my desire was clear.

My "bedroom" was the top landing of our stairway. Technically, it was a one bedroom apartment, but we'd improvised. The drawback was that mom's room was the only other room upstairs other than the bathroom. My bed was outside the door to her room; I'm standing in her doorway to take the picture.

Steve slept over at my house one night and insisted we sleep downstairs in the living room because it was "too hot" upstairs since we didn't have air conditioning. We stayed up late talking and at one point he just asked me, "Are you gay? Do you like me?"

I shyly acknowledged that I did like him, but doubted the whole gay thing. He shocked me by telling me that he was gay and liked me too. It didn't take long after that for us to end up wrapped in each other's arms.

We continued the relationship as the next couple of months sped by until it was time to go back to school. Suddenly, I was panic stricken. What would happen when we went back to class? Would someone find out? Would everyone know our secret?

Steve and I had a mutual friend, Steph. I adored her and so did he. She was in his grade and they got to talk in class, while I only hung out with her between classes or after school. One afternoon, Steve followed me home in a really good mood.

"It's a beautiful day and I feel so free!"


"I told Steph about us."

My knees buckled. I sat down on the front steps to my house in shock and started to cry. I asked Steve to leave and shook with fear that my mom would find out. While I was always the class fag, how could I prove them right? I wasn't the horrible names classmates had called me. No one liked a faggot - that had been made abundantly clear from the many beatings I'd already endured.

It was all Steve's fault. I was angry. I was scared. I was young and stupid.

When he came back an hour or so later to talk, we went up to my room. My mom was at work so we didn't have to worry about being overheard. I screamed at him that he was going to shame me into suicide. I blamed him for beatings I would get. Then I did the unforgivable. I got conniving and realized what I "had" to do.

He reached out to me and told me he loved me. And I spit in his face.

I called him names like "faggot" and "queer." I told him I wasn't like him and never wanted to be. I said that I'd tell everyone he was lying and that he'd told me about being gay and I'd rejected him. I told him to leave and never come back.

And then I punched him. Again and again and again I hit him - trying to release all of the hurt and sickness I felt inside for his honesty about being exactly what I'd always been despised for. I raged and I shook and I yelled. I cried for his love that I couldn't accept and I screamed at the pain I'd felt myself as each punch landed. I beat him for what seemed like hours, days, years. He never raised so much as an arm to defend himself.

I spit on him again as he left my house shell shocked and wounded.

When it eventually got around school that he and I had been sleeping together, I spun a big story about how he'd hit on me, I'd rejected him and he was just making up sick queer fantasies. I lied. Over and over again I lied. I denied him in public while at home I cried because I wanted him.

I'm ashamed of what I did, but I've never apologized. His family moved away two weeks later. I don't know where he went or what's ever become of him. I don't know if he's gay, bisexual or even straight. Does he have a partner? Was he ever the same? Did I kill the same part of him that died in me with my inexcusable reaction? I don't know.

One week after Steve moved away, my mom sat me down on the couch. She told me that she'd heard the rumors of Steve and I. She told me that she didn't want to know the truth, but that she'd better not hear anything of the sort about any other friends of mine.

"Homosexuality is disgusting and God will punish you for it. No one likes a faggot," she lectured me.

I'd already learned that lesson.

I'm sorry, Steve. Forgive me.

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Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | February 20, 2008 3:44 PM

Wow, Bil, I started reading this expecting something entirely different.

I really respect and appreciate your honesty here. I hope Steve reads this and the two of you are able to reconnect after all these years and speak about this.

Bil, honey, you just made me cry at work! *hugs* It's easy to beat yourself up over nasty mistakes you've made in the past, and I hope you do get to feel absolution--and that you have forgiven, or will forgive, yourself. I feel for the scared boy of the past--and I'm also gladdened to see the beautiful and successful person you've since grown into. Honey, you rock my world. And I hope you get to give him the apology you want to.

Entirely Unrelated--TypeKey isn't letting me login to comment and I don't know why.

I think it is brave of you to write this and I thank you for doing so. It reminds me of opportunities I had for love that I couldn't accept because I hated myself so much.

The summer between my junior and senior years of high school, Scott moved to town. His father was the new vice-principal. We met on the summer baseball team. We started hanging out and one day, after we had spent the whole day together we were sitting on the floor at his house. He tried to kiss me. I had fantasized about that moment and wanted it more than he'll ever know but at the moment, I was so terrified that I just got up and ran out of the house. After that, he barely spoke to me. I think he was scared I was going to out him.

I often think about him and wonder how he is.

Bil, Even as a straight woman, this story made me cry. Here you are the boy beat up for being a "faggot" . Then you do the same thing to one of your own. Who can blame you?

I've learned that the reason we humans have such trouble accepting ourselves for purely who we are as individuals is because of fear of judgment. Religious and societal taboos and judgment keep so many souls chained and trembling inside closets of fear and shame.

So many souls have no respect (self esteem) for self, which ultimatley leads them to have no respect for others, for we cannot respect others if we are first not honest about who we are as individuals.

Wouldn't you have loved to tell your first love how you really felt instead of spitting into his face?

This is exactly why we must ALWAYS stand up against the bigots that keep individuals from working through their esteem needs, for they keep humans from self-actualizing.

Maslow said only two percent of the population self-actualizes. More than that need to achieve actualization or our planet will not evolve. It is critical that we, as a society are tolerant of diversity so that individuals can actualize.

The point of this physical life is to self-actualize and create. Again, it is critical for the evolution of our planet for more people to be free to self-actualize.

Your story (and others like yours) help advance that goal.

I hope you find your first love again and that you get a chance to process this pain by talking with your friend and listening to some George Michael again.

One day no boy or girl will feel bad just for being who they are as an individual whether they be straight or gay if we all work to advance actualization of the individual.

God bless you for telling this personal story. Just by saying it, you are helping others.

Indianapolis, IN

Thanks everyone. It took me about 2 weeks to write this post. I've agonized over it... Should I include the picture? How graphic should it be? Should I focus on the actual "first time" of sex - or the actual first time of being in love. I tried to do both. I hope it worked.

FatherFaggot | February 20, 2008 6:05 PM

Great post.
The first time I was with another boy we were both 15. My father walked in on us. Need I say more?

Oh, my, Bil Browning. Thanks for sharing.

Yowzer. That's heavy. I'm sorry.

How has your relationship with your mother evolved?

That is a very powerful and moving story. Thanks for sharing.

bill, that was so sad.... but you aren't alone. i was in terrible denial about who i was. i did a lot of things that i regret terribly....all to prove how much of a man i was.... at the time, back in the 1960's, i don't think there were many other options.

i am glad you have found the courage to love yourself and others. me, too. if i have learned anything, it is that we need to make the world a friendlier, more understanding place for our youth. and that is happening. in spite of the bigotry that exists today, it is better than it used to be. did you see the movie "Blind Faith"? it was on the tube on sunday, i think. it broke my heart.

you did what you felt you had to do. so did i. i am not proud, but you know what? we survived, and we are better for it. you take care. you are brave and you are beautiful. love you...

My name is the asme as yours if you drop the "ing". Unfortunately I was on the receiving end of the spit and name calling. That age is very difficult to go through. Even without the gay or interaccial portions I still suffered as it was my first time. I've grown up and hopefully so has Steve.
Love ya,
Bill Browne

Rob Barton | April 27, 2008 8:47 AM

I spent most of the night thinking about this one and it has made an impression. I know that a lot of people have posted supportive comments and I admire your willingness to share and I do truly believe that you are sorry. I still find this to be totally inexcusable and I can find nothing supportive to say in this. This was a horror that could have colored the entire life of another person. At the age of 16 I couldn't imagine doing this to a person. Even a 16 year old knows better than to do this. I remember my teenage lovers and I can't imagine this ever happening. I hope that you do find him someday and that you do appologize to him for his sake and whatever pain of his that it may assuage.


Thanks for your comment. You're right on all accounts. I am sorry and I was a monster. It was inexcusable behavior. My only excuse was that I wasn't out, I'd only been having sex with another guy for a couple of months and I was scared shitless.

Unfortunately, I'm not the only person who's made a bad judgement call in their teenage years - especially when it surrounds sexuality issues.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 7, 2008 10:06 AM

Bil, from having written a book length manuscript about difficulties I have endured in life I know that you are glad you got this out. It is a purging. I'm very sorry to say that I missed reading this piece when it first came around. I looked at the title and thought: "Oh, it will just be something cute."

Instead, you reached in to your center and pulled out an old hurt you feel you have inflicted on someone else, and yourself. Now, the important thing, is to let that hurt go, it is over half your life ago, and you were the younger of the two involved. Forgive yourself. I am sure on many levels you already have. I recently contacted an old friend I thought I had wronged and he couldn't remember the problem had even existed.

Now, I would like to wring Steph's neck for spilling the beans, but she was just a kid herself.

It should be perfectly possible to find him if you want to spend the time and effort to do so. If they owned the home they lived in Tax records and property records are freely searchable. Often they are online now. If that is not a option, I believe that you could retrieve his name via school records. Or at least you could find all the Steve's who went to your school in that time frame.

I would suggest you find him and talk to this man. Why wait and maybe loose that opportunity?


Nathanial | July 25, 2008 2:56 PM

This posting brings up a variety of memories and emotions...

I recall an interview given a couple of years ago by gay Anglican bishop Gene Robinson, in which he recalls, as a young boy, remaining silent in fear while a young classmate was routinely bullied, beaten and tormented as a "homo". Robinson described his abject terror at the thought that if he spoke up to defend his classmate, the bullies would somehow know that *he* was gay, and turn on him. And so, Robinson said nothing, and left his classmate to fend for himself -- something that he said still haunts him to this day, and drives his determination to speak out, and never again be silent in the face of oppression.

Well, I had a classmate like that, too. His name was "Perry". He was slight -- even "delicate" -- neat, precise, a little on the fussy side, and had some qualities that could be seen as "effeminate". He eschewed rough physical sports, he played in the school band (clarinet), and most of his best friends were girls. And as far back as I can remember -- all the way back to Grade One -- he was mocked as "Perry the Fairy", tormented, picked on, bullied and was the target of abuse and attacks. Keep in mind, this was long before the onset of puberty, and I daresay that most of us had little to no real understanding of what even constituted a "fairy" (let alone having a grasp on homosexuality). Nevertheless, with a William Golding type of casual brutality, he was hounded and persecuted by most of the boys in our school, and even some of the girls. I never took part in any of the bullying myself, but, like Robinson, in my fear I stayed silent, and allowed Perry to suffer the abuse and torment alone, even though I knew it was wrong.

In later years, when Perry joined the school band, developed a talent for creativity and design (art classes, yearbook, drama), excelled in dance... his reputation for "fairydom" was seen as received truth, even though there was never, to my knowledge, a single shred of proof that he actually was gay. But since when have the bullies ever needed confirmation? The abusive behavior continued -- never so extreme that police were involved, but punches in the back in a crowded hallway, being spit on at recess, having his locker vandalized and his gym shoes set on fire, the ubiquitous name-calling, and a general shunning. And throughout it all, I stayed silent, in denial of my own gaity (despite the knowledge deep down that I was not the same as "everybody else"). Even after my first tentative attempts to act on my desires, I stayed deeply closeted, in denial, self-loathing and -- above all -- kept my physical and emotional distance from Perry the Fairy. In short, I was glad Perry was there to take the heat, and distract attention away from me.

Well, I never forgot Perry, and I have never overcome my shame at my earlier inaction. Even if I had been straight as an arrow, I knew that the way he was mistreated -- while teachers and staff did nothing to aid him -- was wrong, in every sense of the word, regardless of whether Perry was actually straight or if he was gay. A few years ago, I made up my mind to see if I could track down Perry. I wanted to apologize to him for my earlier cowardice and betrayal, and to commend him for his courage and perseverance in the face of treatment that might have destroyed a weaker person. I thought I had a fairly decent chance of finding him, as he had an unusual last name, and I was right -- I found him online.

To be more accurate, I found mention of him online. I found his name, complete with clarinets, embroidered onto the Cross-Canada AIDS Quilt, and a tree planted in his memory at a park in Calgary. He was one of the casualties of the AIDS crisis in the mid-1980s. I still don't know for certain that Perry was gay, but as he was never the type to be an injection drug user, I rather suspect that he was, and that the bullies had been correct all along. That's not really important, though. What IS important is that he was SEEN as gay, and persecuted for it, and I had stood by silent, and done nothing, locked into inaction by my own fear, cowardice and denial. I had thrown him to the wolves.

I will never, ever make that mistake again. I will speak up on behalf of those who cannot defend themselves, I will fight uncompromisingly against the bigots and the bullies, and, if necessary, I will use force in their defense. I will never ever again walk away while someone is being beaten, tormented or abused, no matter how terrified I may personally be. Call it my way of offering atonement to the memory of Perry -- who had so much more courage than I ever did -- call it karma, call it whatever you will. But, like Gene Robinson, I have never forgotten that kid I went to school with, and I never will.

A few years ago, I told this story to a friend in California, as a way of explaining my determination to stand up to the dirtbags who persecute our People, and he told me a story about his past, something that he was deeply ashamed of. Without going into a lot of detail, it bore a lot of similarities to Bil's story. Like me, my friend's youthful experience had changed him, and he had also become a public and vocal defender of our People. I could not condemn his past actions, and did not need to -- he already condemned them himself, and had worked for many years to redeem himself.

All of which leads up to a couple of comments I traded recently on another discussion board about this very topic:

I wrote:

"Sadly, 'Raos', this is not the first time I have heard stories that are remarkably similar to that -- many times from people who I consider to be good friends. Experiences such as that can easily warp people on both sides of the relationship, sometimes for years afterward.

Of course, we know who is to blame for all of this."

And my friend, 'Feral' responded:

"Blame? Are we going there? What will we get out of it? Those who have done these things... they are responsible for their own actions. They did as they did.

One could talk about "blame." One could. It would be better to talk of "redemption," not that that's the best word for it. Who was "to blame" is just a targeting mechanism.

Hmmm... who shall I hate for this particular tragedy today?

It's a common enough strategy, so why not?

I'll tell you why not: you don't get anything out of it. Nothing at all. It's a waste of time, this "who's to blame."

Instead, where do we go afterward? What's next?

Sure, sure... there are ten thousand extenuating circumstances for just about everything... and none of them wash for some people. Everyone has an excuse, do they not? None of it makes that which has been done undone.


I like to think my friend in California, and I -- and I hope the author of the original post, Bil, too -- are working to redeem ourselves. And part of that is being open about our past failures, as they inform and drive who we are, and what we do today, and in the future.

But I still wish I could apologize to Perry. I will spend the rest of my life trying to do that.

Good luck to you, Travis Ballie... maybe your work can help cut down on the number of Michael Johnsons and Perrys out there in the future.

I was lucky. Girls who are TS start to have problems with violence earlier, around ages 7-9, rather than later.

There was one guy who was bullying me - a friend who was doing it from peer pressure, not malice - , and I over-reacted, splitting his head open. I was 7, so was he.

41 years later, he contacted me. Something that I'd felt awful about, one of the 2 things I'd always been deeply ashamed of, and I finally got to say "sorry", as an adult.

He didn't even remember the incident. Just that we knew each other at school, and even had some good times together.

Bil, we can't change the past. Sometimes though we get to apologise, and even get granted forgiveness. You've earnt that, and I hope you get it. You deserve it, anyway.

Hugs, Zoe

Ha! I had something similar happen to me. Of course, my story is a little more recent. I only just recently came out to a friend of mine (Maybe three months ago, one of only two people I've come out to, the other being my mother). We were talking about his girlfriend, who he was trying desperately to get away from, and he may some crack about thinking that I was gay because I had stayed out of relationships all through high and middle school. My response was something along the lines of, "Yeah, well, close enough." And he looked ...well, not shocked. Suddenly I gave him the last piece of the puzzle.

And now that I think about it, it may have been a little more engineered on my part. Maybe I love him, I don't know. I do know he's not gay. He's very not gay. But his reaction was the same as my mother's: wait a while, experience life, you don't know what you want. Nevermind the three years of fantasy and slow (at times shocking) self realization.

But no, here I am, sitting in his truck at school, half smiling, half waiting for his reaction. It was like trying to disarm an atomic bomb with your teeth.

But he took it well, which was well enough for me. So we both went our separate ways that day, and all seemed well for about a week. As far as I knew, no else was told. At a conservative Catholic school in the overwhelmingly red northern California, I would have been torn apart. Probably literally, definitely figuratively.

And then something peculiar happened. His girlfriend warmed up to me. I didn't know what to think at first; we had always taken the side of her as 'hos' and myself as 'bros'. I was her enemy when it came to spending time with her boyfriend. But suddenly we were best friends. I didn't get it.

Maybe a week later my friend calls me, which is a strange event in and of itself. "I want to tell my mom about you," He says. Clearly about my sexuality and not about me, per se. So I think to myself, why not? I came out to him, I know his mother very well. So he does. It took my a while to figure out what had happened. I had okay'd away my sexuality to him. Now it wasn't just that I was gay. Now it was free information on my school's rather large gossip market. But I was nearly free, almost graduated. No one cared, surely. But the coming weeks were like throwing a rock into a pond. The rings just got wider and wider and wider. First it was his mom, then his almost-skinhead brother. Then his white nationalist father, who himself gave me a not so gentle ribbing (more like baiting). Then the girls in my class, starting with his girlfriend, and then to the class dyke (every class had that one girl who stepped out for a second), who spread it to the 'alternative' girls in my class, who spread it on and on. I'm sure that now, two months after graduation, everyone in the class knows. Everyone who didn't guess already.

My point is this: it seems in every 'coming out' story, there is the one loose gasket, the one teapot on the quiet engine shouting out everything. Obviously I am twenty years too late to stop what you did when your friends talked a little too loudly. Out of the range of human reactions you may have been a little too radical but imagine my age group in the same situation after Columbine and King.

(We aren't all killers, though.)

i guess i'm fortunate never to have undergone the cries of "faggot" or "queer" spewed out at me. at the same time, since i am now 59 years old, closeted and only having recognized my gayness for 10-11 years now, i suspect times have changed enough that i might not ever have to face that.

you'd think the first time would not only be memorable, but worthy to be held up as a wondrous occasion. in my case, my first two times were "experiments" in gay sex and led me only to many hours and years of wondering. i was in my twenties and waited until i was pushing 50 before i worked up enough gumption to find another man. i'm so glad i did, as it has led to so many wonderful times in the company of men, and the realization that i should have had enough sense to know that all those times i read Blueboy or sneaked around to watch a video at the adult bookstore were indicative of a deeper need.

i applaud your willingness to tell us this story, bil. i know if i had been a teen and word had spread that i was queer, i might have reacted in a similar fashion.

thanks for sharing - it's always enlightening for me to read of others' experiences, be it first time or fiftieth.

Chris Carnage | February 8, 2010 8:33 PM

first, I was think love/sex story and was about to close, but then it totally changed. I totally feel sooo sorry for you =[ genuine empathy right here. I understand the awkwardness of coming out, but luckily, no where near as bad thanks to greater acceptance and the fact I'm bi, not gay. But when I first started to hint my friends about it when I was about 13, I remember all the disgusted and scared glares I would get. my friends would forget about it within minutes, but untill I transfered schools, so many ppl would make fun of me for that and a wide variety of other issues...

I hope steve finds this blog, I'm sure that no matter what his situation no, he would be truely touched by this ^_^