Brooks Kolb is a Seattle writer, artist, and landscape architect.
Coming out of the closet is hard enough; building a new life as a gay man can prove even more challenging. RAINBOW CATCHER: Coming Out / Coming of Age in the 1980s traces my roller-coaster youthful quest to battle veiled, covert homophobia; launch a design career; win freedom; and cross racial barriers to find lasting love.
If you had been blessed with my iconoclastic French grandmother, you too would have moved to Paris to paint and study art history. Events led me to a career in landscape architecture, but when I finally gained the courage to come out at age 26, my professional ambition and adventurous spirit clashed. One day I was designing landscapes for ‘80s rock-star architects, IM Pei and Partners; the next, I boarded a plane to San Francisco in search of gay freedom.
Torn between satisfying my lust and seeking lasting love, I danced in Haight-Ashbury discos and cruised for “Mister Right” in the Castro, all while searching in vain for my place in a vast, abstract entity called “the gay community.” Magnetized by the beauty of African-American men, I joined “Black and White Men Together,” hoping to untangle the racist threads in interracial relationships. There I met my first great love, a Black factory-worker. When he died of AIDS nine years later, I wrote him letters to assuage my heartbreak, but prematurely hopped from one inappropriate date to another.
My often-humorous adventures taught me that freedom demands constructing one’s own morality in the face of social ostracism, that loss is a primal attribute of love, and that the need to find a way to belong can be as urgent as the need for a new love.
Coming-out books often focus on bullying (Darnell L. Moore’s NO ASHES IN THE FIRE) or on religious and family oppression (Garrard Conley’s BOY ERASED), but explore little about the characters’ lives afterwards. By contrast, RAINBOW CATCHER offers an expansive take on what it means to be gay from one whose generation lost so many to AIDS.
Addressing cross-cultural interconnectedness, Chapter 8 was published in the 2022 WHATCOM WRITES ANTHOLOGY and an abridged chapter won first place in the 2922 Write-on-the-Sound literary contest for nonfiction. The opening chapters received positive reviews from both the 2022 Writers League of Texas literary contest and the 2022 Pacific Northwest Writers Association literary contest.