To be ‘young and gay’

Posted: January 8th, 2016 | Back Out With Benny, Columns, Featured | 1 Comment

By Ben Cartwright | Back Out With Benny

I was thinking the other day about what it felt like to be young and gay. While I know at 35 years old, I’m still “young,” I’m certainly not 18 years old anymore. There was an innocence, excitement and curiosity that just can’t be matched.

Whenever possible, I try to have Monday date nights with myself, as I seem to have free time on that day more than any other. I typically take myself to another part of town, listen to relaxing music, and either take a long walk, sit in a cafe with tea, catch a movie, or just drive around.

Benny Cartwright (Photo by Rob Lucas Modern Aperture Photography)

Benny Cartwright
(Photo by Rob Lucas Modern Aperture Photography)

This week, I found myself driving up to the San Diego beachside community of La Jolla where I passed The Living Room Coffeehouse. The now long-closed Hillcrest location of The Living Room was a place that I met my first group of gay friends, and learned so much about the community. It was there that I spent just about every night of the week after work and school studying, socializing, people watching, gossiping, and making new friends and romances.

Every new LGBT person I met brought curiosity, every upcoming community event was not to be missed, and exploring things I hadn’t done before made every day an adventure.

I remember every time I met a new, attractive guy my age, there were instant butterflies in my stomach as we went on dates and explored this “new” gay world together. I remember going to movies with dates and the nerves filled my body as I decided whether or not to hold their hand and our hands kept “bumping” into each other.

There are so many sweet memories now that I look back.

And as time went on, I got to know lots of people, learned so much about the community, and made some incredible connections. But the excitement of those early years seemed to fade. I have since had days where I dreaded small talk with community members and tried to figure out how to get out of going to some of the many events that fill my calendar. I’ve been involved in dozens of community projects and organizations, and have been through points where I had to scale some of them back due to the stress they brought.

Something that I have been working on in recent months, though, and my late night La Jolla walk past The Living Room reminded me, is to bring back some of that excitement from the early days.

Sure, it’ll never be my first time at Pride again, I’m more than well past my first sexual experience, and I have lots of good, bad, and ugly information about the community in my head.

Those who follow me on Facebook may have seen me repost some of my old “twink” photos recently, but it goes beyond that. My new goal is to refocus my energies on the causes, organizations and projects that I care about most. This means learning to be better at saying “no,” this means continuing to scale back the things I do — but not because I’m stressed out, because I need to do things that bring me excitement — so that my enthusiasm will carry out for the benefit of the project.

Also of great importance to me, is continuing to share my life journey through writing. As this first column of 2016 is evidence, I will spend more time sharing about my life, fun stories, and things I’m doing in the community.

Not only is this fun and therapeutic for me, but many of my friends and longtime readers tell me they want more of this — so I hope you enjoy it!

Before we go, I have a few upcoming community events I wanted to share with you (for those who aren’t completely burnt out from all of the celebrations, events, and gatherings during the holiday season).

For those who live in the best gayborhood around, the first Hillcrest Town Council meeting of the year is on Tuesday, Jan. 12 from 6:30 – 8 p.m., at the Joyce Beers Center on Vermont Street. The group wants to hear what Hillcrest residents (renters and owners alike!) want from the group in 2016, and as secretary, I encourage all Hillcresters to come speak up! Details at

The San Diego Human Rights Campaign will host their next HRC Connect event on Tuesday, Jan. 19 from 7 – 9 p.m. at S&M (Sausage & Meat). Participants will hear more about the Rady Children’s Hospital Gender Management Clinic while mixing with some pretty cool San Diegans. Details are at

Jai Rodriguez will be at Martinis Above Fourth Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. for a performance of his “Tales of An Aging Twink” show. As a fellow “aging twink” — or maybe I’m an “aged out twink” — I’m very much looking forward to this show! Details and tickets at

And finally, the San Diego LGBT Community Center is looking forward to presenting our “Masquerade” event on Feb. 11 at the beautiful BRICK space in Liberty Station. The evening will include cocktails and surprises, with costumes and masks encouraged! Proceeds benefit The Center’s services and programs. Tickets and more at

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016 and look forward to sharing more next month!

—Benny Cartwright is the director of community outreach at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He can be reached at 619-692-2077 ext. 106 or Note: Byline photo by Rob Lucas Modern Aperture Photography.

One Comments

  1. brian casey says:

    happy new year benny! another great and thoughtful column. thank you.

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