Were you out in high school?
Harvey Fierstein, 49, actor (grew up in New York): “At 13. I went to Art and Design. There was a boy named Pablo who used to breast-feed his baby doll in English class. I was hardly the most outrageous kid in school.”
Frank DeCaro, 40, comedian (Little Falls, New Jersey): “Out is the wrong word. I had a boyfriend. We met in coordinate-geometry class junior year.”
Andrew Solomon, 39, writer (New York): “God, no. Was anybody?”
Michael “Mistress Formika” Ortega, 35, performer (Santa Fe, New Mexico): “My freshman year. I just never hid anything. We used to throw androgynous parties.”
Emil Wilbekin, 35, Vibe editor-in-chief (Cincinnati, Ohio): “No, I didn’t know you could be.”
Do you wish you had gone to a gay high school?
Fierstein: “My mother was a teacher, and she thought Harvey Milk was a horrible idea. She said, ‘Can you imagine if I’d sent you to a special school?’ I said, ‘You did. You sent me to art school.’ ”
Solomon: “I don’t think I would have gone, but having one around would have made it easier for me to come out in my own school.”
DeCaro: “Once I got to college, I met a half a dozen gay men whom I’m still friends with. We flourished because there was no longer the fear of being too weird or too gay. Instead, we worried about being boring.”
Formika: “Yes. I still never felt comfortable. I hated having to make out only in dark places.”
Wilbekin: “I think I’d be further along in my adult development. I didn’t come out until I was 23.”
Is it a good idea now, in New York of all places?
DeCaro: “You worry that it’s too sheltered. But for those four years, maybe that’s good. Plus you could have courses like Gay Reality TV: Boon or Bane?”
Solomon: “It’s a problem when people get caught in an identity too soon. It would be terrible if someone thought, I made a commitment to be gay when I was 13. Now I have to be. But I think many children that age are ready to declare themselves sexually.”
Formika: “Yes. And maybe they should also have a special school for homophobes.”
Wilbekin: “It’s no different than my attending an all-black college. I don’t think it’s bad to segregate people for part of their education. But ‘part’ is very important.”
Fierstein: “The school’s almost twenty years old! They wouldn’t be expanding it if they couldn’t say, ‘Shit, this works.’ This is not for all gay kids. It’s for 14-year-old drag queens who get beaten up daily. Gay teenagers have the highest rate of suicide attempts, and because they’re smart, they very often do it successfully.”