2004: a long time ago by American standards and right after the worst of the gay pestilence that scared us all to death, but not so long after I lost two friends. I had missed the golden years, the carefree times that one might consider the heyday of gay liberation, but all in all, things were good. I was blessed but not liberated. I still used caution. I never went to the bathhouses. I always practiced safe sex and had, somehow, dodged the bullet. I was a bottom.
Nonetheless, I felt the tension between desiring to be myself and the fear of reprisals, which could be treacherous for someone with a job in education. Colleagues often used personal information to take each other down. Perhaps I was being a coward, but as soon as I finished college and got my teaching license, I left the country. I’d done enough student teaching to have some doubts about my chances of success. I wasn’t ready to come out. I wanted to get as far away as I could. Although I may have missed the parade, I felt fortunate to have weathered the storm.
First, I went to Osaka on a program not unlike the Peace Corp designed to promote international understanding. It was not a mistake, but as soon as I got a more lucrative offer, I headed for Saudi Arabia. Our academic director had been there and talked it up. He said it would be a life-changing experience.
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