As wedding bells for gay couples ring up and down the state, television -- which has in many ways led the fight in treating homosexuality as no big deal -- this week offers a couple of cheerful films on the subject.
"When I Knew" (premiering at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday on Cinemax), directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato ("The Eyes of Tammy Faye") and based on a book by Robert Trachtenburg, is simplicity itself. Gay men and women in assorted ages and colors and from a variety of mostly very ordinary walks of life tell stories of sexual awakening and self-acceptance, of hiding out and coming out.
The stories are sweet, funny, sometimes sad. (Families don't always understand.) Realization comes a thunderbolt, or a slow dawning, or in a dream ("I woke up the next morning and I told my fiance, 'Baby, we need to break up' "), inspired by a crush on a teacher, a best friend, the "man on the Doan's pills box" ("He made excruciating back pain seem sexy"), a Barbie doll, Grizzly Adams, girls in Playboy.
The "when" of the title can be as young as "always,"though most had worked it out before they were out of their teens -- a lot to know about oneself by an early age. Not all were happy about finding themselves the yellow duck in a flock of white. One speaker felt so alien that he believed "my blood and my bones and my organs were actually different." Another young man tried masturbating to a Farrah Fawcett poster to turn himself straight. Everyone here, of course, has gotten past that. And these are still-changing times.