In a fascinating new interview with NPR, 90-year-old Hector Black talks openly about his very long journey to coming out.
“I felt like I was nobody in the whole dang world was a weirdo like me,” Black recalls when thinking back upon his adolescent years. “I had no idea what it was. All I knew was that I was attracted to men. The word gay was never even mentioned, or even homosexual. It was whispered if it was used at all.”
Black, who was born in 1925, lives in rural Tennessee, where his family owns a plant nursery. He had his first sexual encounter with another man while studying at Harvard in the 1940s.
“I thought this is not me,” he remembers. “This cannot be me. And I was just horrified. And then, you know, after a few months, I started thinking about it and then I realized that I’d wanted to experience this again. And — and so we became lovers.”
Black continued to struggle with his sexuality, however, and eventually underwent treatment in hopes of becoming heterosexual.
“It was the treatment that people felt was the right treatment in those days — you take estrogen. And so I took that until I started growing breasts. And then, of course, they said OK. So I quit, and then I seemed to be OK.”
He eventually married and had children, but his attraction towards other men never went away. It wasn’t until his daughter came out as gay that he found the courage to come out himself.
“We both loved her just as much as ever–more even because I knew how much she had been through, how much she suffered because of who she was,” Black recalls. “And I just said this is it–that I can’t–how can I love her and hate myself for what I am?”
When asked if he had any regrets about coming out so late in life and the struggles he faced as a result, Black says no.
“There were some things just amazing how being gay helped me to understand what it means to be different,” he explains. “I really am grateful that my heart has been broken a good many times because it does help me to love.”