I came out in February 1987, during my sophomore year in college. A month later, on spring break, I took my first trip to San Francisco, staying with my uncle and aunt, who'd just bought a house in Noe Valley.
On the next-to-last day, I wandered into the charming local bookshop and picked up copies of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series, which I'd fallen in love with long before.
"You know, he lives in the neighborhood," the clerk remarked. "Sometimes he comes in on the weekend to sign books."
"I'm going to L.A. tomorrow," I said.
"You should give him a call," she suggested. "He's in the phone book."
How bold, I thought. Could I really do that? Should I? After looking up the listing, I agonized for a while before working up the nerve. Maupin answered, and when I explained the situation he invited me over.
The visit was the most ordinary and extraordinary thing in the world. He went far beyond signing my books, spending an hour or two answering questions about writing and talking about all kinds of things. Then we took his dog for a walk and I bid him a grateful farewell.
It was a profound experience, especially at that point in my life. I was reminded of it when I read Maupin's touching foreword to the new book Milk.