I got an email two days ago from a man whose name I haven’t heard in fifty years. The email said, “Are you the Dwight Cathcart that was stationed in Yakima, Washington. 1960-1961?” This man and several others and I were in the Army together and formed a little group who went into town drinking and sometimes went on passes together. One of these guys was married, and we spent a lot of time at his house in town. We were close friends. I didn’t tell any of them that I was gay.
Now, it’s fifty years later, and everything is different. Before this man even found me, he found my web page advertising my gay novels, so when I wrote him back and outlined what I had done in the last fifty years or so, I told him, “In 1983 I separated from my wife and got a divorce in 1984, and then I came out.” I told him about my partner for the last twenty-one years. <
I was interested in the way I felt about that exchange. I found that I felt apprehensive, a little, about what he was going to say. We were friends fifty years ago. We liked each other. I think we had each other’s back, as the saying is. I suppose all of those guys must have suspected something about me, and there was nothing that I knew about them that would lead me to think that any of them would attack me now for being gay. But there was something else. This man might say, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
I was surprised at my anxiety. Is this guy going to understand why I didn’t tell him back then? I didn’t know. He went hiking in Arizona before he could respond to what I had told him.
But what I do know is that, at least in my generation, coming out is still a big fucking deal.