Richard, in his own words: “I knew I was gay when I was very young, I couldn’t have been more than half way through grade school. There was no period of coming to acceptance or of shame. It was just part of me. Sounds easy, right? No, at that time I was sure I was going to die an old man with my secret well kept, still a virgin. Keep in mind that this was the sixties and seventies. Growing up in the suburbs at that time it was as if gay men did not exist. Any reference you may have heard to gay people was not of a loving relationship but sexual acts of such depravity that it could only be an act of the devil. I was also terminally shy and a bit of a social misfit, so it was easy to keep it under wraps. I didn’t lie about it. No made up girl friends. I just refused to acknowledge it to others.
It wasn’t till my mid twenties that I started to change. But it was more of adapting to changing circumstances than any big change on my part. I had started working at a hospital in the city. Gay men were actually visible and reasonably well accepted. I could see that there was truth in the philosophy that coming out made things better. While trying to work up the courage to come out a coworker of mine beat me to it, he started telling people at work that he was gay. I followed in his wake, coming out was made easier.
Being out of the closet at work was a total nonevent from my employer and coworker’s point of view. But it wasn’t for me. I was happier. However, being gay did influence me to move from the lab I had started in and become the lead technologist of the clinical Flow Cytometry lab. Flow Cytometry was a brand new expensive technology that was floundering because there was nothing at the time that could not be done more cheaply by other means. Then it became the gold standard for doing CD4 counts for people with HIV. In part moving into this lab was my way of giving back to the community. Over the years Cytometry has expanded wildly, so now CD4 counts are only a small part of what we do. Since then I’ve moved onto a basic research Cytometry lab.
A few years after coming out I met what I thought was the total opposite of my “dream man”. We were different in nearly every way possible. We became inseparable in almost no time. We complemented each other; together we were more of a complete person. We were together for more than twenty years. He always wanted to marry me, I would have gone along with it but I thought it was just a silly piece of paper. Besides, at the time it was impossible. I was wrong; when he became ill and slowly passed away I would have killed for that piece of paper. I had no rights, which really complicated things just at the time when I just wanted to take care of him.”