1. The park was enduring the first deep freeze of the winter. Very few people were outside; most were at home, wondering how the recent wave of sexual-abuse reports would change our society. 2. It was easy to be hopeful, or at least cautiously optimistic. If every woman (meaning all of them) and every gay man (ditto, almost) who have suffered, along with our various allies, decided to speak up and demand justice, then 'systemic change' would presumably be forthcoming. 3. But then I remembered our president and what he had said and done before getting elected, and I was less optimistic. It seemed that many of the perpetrators now being called out were relatively easy cases; powerful, famous men who, for years, if not decades, had inflicted themselves on women (and some younger men) without taking too much care to hide their actions. These men possessed a level of power that made them delusional. It felt good to see these men get called out, but were they merely a few heads of a massive hydra? 4. I thought about my own past and whether things I had experienced constituted abuse, and whether these things were -- or would be -- any less likely to occur in the wake of current events. 5. I remembered how, as soon as I became self-aware (around the age of three or four), I faced an ongoing interrogation -- from strangers and relatives -- about whether I 'liked' girls and whether girls 'liked' me, and how these questions were always a source of discomfort that, as I grew older, became a kind of terror, if terror is understood to be a systemic effort to eradicate fundamental qualities of another person's existence. This is not the kind of abuse that gets much coverage, and I'm not sure it qualifies. Most of the people from my past who were asking these questions did not harbor any malicious intent toward me; they certainly weren't seeking sexual gratification. They merely assumed I was like them, which I was not. I also knew that the specific way I was not like them was not something to be disclosed without serious consequences, which is why I learned to deflect these questions or to offer ambiguous, non-responsive answers. Some people these days no longer make these kinds of assumptions, but I also think that the number remains very small. I don't have children but I've been around enough of them to know that, more often than not, adults are pestering/terrorizing them with expectations that may or may not reflect how the kid thinks of him/herself. 6. I thought about how, when I was growing up, everyone I ever saw on television or in the movies was straight, except for maybe Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly. Again, this wasn't abuse per se, but it was also terrifying. I knew some gay men in real life, friends of my mother who were more on the Paul Lynde end of the gay spectrum. They were nice to me but I was afraid that if I spent too much time in their vicinity, they would know my secret. I disliked being around them.7. The state of television is marginally better than it used to be, but is still a nightmare in terms of depicting anything reflecting lives of gay people (or any other marginalized group) in the real world. Television likes to depict British royalty. I know this because I watch a lot of it. It entertains me, but also terrifies and disheartens me. 8. Growing up, I didn't know any gay kids my own age, much less any who played hockey. Which, when I think about it, probably isn't much different today when you consider that the number of gay professional athletes in the four major team sports (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey) is . . . zero. This is another kind of terror for kids who are good at sports and are gay. It's not so bad when you're young, but as you get older, it becomes pretty clear that these two elements of your life are not reconcilable. Or maybe they are now for some kids who are stronger than I was. I couldn't imagine it. 9. When I was fifteen, I happened to find myself propositioned for sex by a much older man (probably close to fifty?) and I said yes. At the time, I knew what he was asking for (and I was accepting) was wrong on some fundamental, age-inappropriate level, but I didn't care. Like every fifteen year old, I was keenly aware of things my body wanted to experience; unlike my non-gay peers, I had no idea how to make it happen. My mind was roiling with fantasies but devoid of practicalities. There were no dances (or at least none were you could ask someone you actually liked) or 'going out' with other kids and maybe kissing them or putting your hand down their pants or whatever else the straight kids were doing with and to each other beginning in fourth grade. So, I was desperate and inexperienced, which made me vulnerable to the advances of an older/married (closeted) creep. His age and experience gave him power over me, and he used it, which is a very traditional kind of abuse. On the other hand, he didn't exactly force me; I could have said 'no thanks,' but I didn't. I said, 'okay, whatever.' I wanted to know what it was like and he offered me the first opportunity, which I didn't hesitate to take. This dynamic informs many of the abuse allegations you see in the gay world; because these teen boys are (psychologically) desperate and insecure, they are vulnerable to older gay men/creeps who are happy to take whatever advantage they have, even if they are not technically in a position of power over the boy in question. My sense is that, despite the downfall of Kevin Spacey and 75 percent of the priests in the Catholic Church, such abuse will continue to plague our society more than anyone cares to admit, because we are addressing the symptom of the disease instead of the cause; the gay mainstream media/entertainment complex abets this situation, of course, by constantly reminding gay men that the most sexually desirable bodies are those belonging to thin, hairless teens. (I am thankful not to be attracted to this type of body, although I once possessed it.) 10. I have some regrets about this incident, but am not 'tormented' by it. I have no desire for 'revenge.' It would have been nice to have sex for the first time with someone I cared about, someone closer to my own age, someone who wasn't using me for my 'hot 15 yo bod.' But, for me, these are small regrets. If anything, I'm grateful because he planted a seed in my mind -- albeit one that would not germinate for many years -- that told me I didn't want to ever be like him. He became a measure of what I'm not. Which isn't to say there aren't a lot more men like him out there now, or that they shouldn't be stopped. They should be held accountable. The best way to stop them, though, will be to give gay teens the same opportunities as their straight peers to figure out who they are, both psychologically and sexually, so that they have the confidence to say 'get lost, you old creep.' 11. Worse than having sex with that older, married man, to be honest, was the time in college I woke up and found my dorm roommate having sex with a girl in the bunk under mine. And not quietly, either. He could have woken me up and said, 'go hang out in the lounge for a few minutes while I get busy' but he didn't. Part of me wants to say, 'big deal -- it was just college and two people were fucking, as college kids will do. Quit being a baby. It's not like you were raped.' But these experiences are subjective, and this one made me feel very small and worthless, and still makes me (a little) angry when I think about it. I felt powerless. It's another weapon people have to inflict themselves on those who are different. I've seen so much straight sex on television, it makes me want to die; not because I hate watching straight sex, but because it seems to always (98 percent of the time) happen at the exclusion of anything else. To see it in real life, at that age, was even worse. 12. I also thought about how men are not the only problem, at least when it comes to the kind of systemic homophobia (and concurrent abuse) that is my primary concern here. 13. I remembered the time a 'superstar' editor told me that I should rewrite The Metropolis Case without the gay characters. 'Just put the manuscript in a drawer and rewrite it from scratch without Martin. Keep Leo but make him straight.' I laughed, but she was completely serious. Over time, I've learned that she represents the rule more than the exception, although most people are more sophisticated in terms of how they couch their objections. 14. For example, the publisher who explained that having so many gay characters in my new novel wasn't really catering to their 'core demographic.' 15. I won't pretend that such incidents cross the threshold of 'sexual abuse' but I think they belong in the same conversation, or at least a related one, about the way people in power -- despite belonging to a politically marginalized group -- denigrate others to enhance their own careers. Big Publishing and Big Media are afflicted with this problem. 16. I also thought about how the biggest-selling novels about gay men in the past decade were not written by gay men. Does this fact not speak for itself? 17. I thought about a prominent literary critic (as in someone who actually gets paid to review books) I follow on Twitter who regularly tweets about how things he doesn't like 'suck ass.' If a NYC book critic can't understand why such language is needlessly offensive, then what hope do we have of raising the consciousness of the twenty-five percent of the world's population that still thinks gay people should be eradicated? 18. But I thought about how I support this conversation -- and am obviously throwing in my two cents -- even if it's imperfect and just beginning and may not lead to much in the way of tangible change, at least in the foreseeable future. Because it might, and something is better than nothing. 19. And, finally, I thought about the trees and the plants and gardens where I love to spend the bulk of my time, knowing that these are creatures of this beautiful earth who do not judge.