It was probably sometime around elementary school when I discovered that I could make people laugh by telling them I was gay. I didn't know why it was so funny. I was pretty sure it was supposed to mean "happy," but nobody else seemed to think so. All I knew was that I was getting attention, and that adults were mortified by what I was doing, which was awesome.
Looking back, that weird little 7-year-old me was more right than he could have known. Not only was I self-identifying as gay before I even knew what it meant, I practically broadcast sissiness. I was emotional and tended to cry; I liked girly books; I was fussy and shy. And as it dawned on me that the attention those things attracted was negative, I started to realize that maybe gay wasn't as happy as I thought.
Fortunately, I had some friends who provided guidance throughout my childhood: great sissies of TV and film. There was the Cowardly Lion, whose sadness seemed so familiar to me. There was Uncle Arthur on Bewitched and Dr. Smith on Lost in Space, who both seemed like a hoot. As I got older, I started to notice something familiar about Peter Lorre in The Maltese Falcon and the dancers at the end of Blazing Saddles.
I might have been growing up in an environment that looked askance at limp wrists and light loafers. But I'll always be grateful to the brave pansies who were unafraid to flaunt a fem persona before cameras. They were a constant reminder that there were other senstive boys like me out there.
As tribute to them, I've put together this Salute to Sissies, featuring some of my favorite motion picture pansies of the last 80 years: