Episode 56: Not the son he bargained for
Nick has always loved his son. He’s just never really known him.
The Last Chance Democracy Cafe
Episode 56: Not the son he bargained for
by Steven C. Day
Horace, speaking of his only son, Lester, who was killed in Vietnam, once said this about a father’s love for a child:
“Before your child is born, you think you know about love and you think your heart is full, but then . . . well, when that child comes you realize that before that day you’d never really understood anything. You discover a type of love . . . a type of unconditional no-holds-barred love that is so far beyond anything you ever even imagined that it turns you into a whole new person. Before Lester was born, I was just Horace. After he was born, I became dad. And to lose that . . . my God, the hole it leaves.”
Some holes are blown open by shrapnel. Others we tear open ourselves
* * *
Nick was staring apathetically at his half empty bottle of Bud. It was perched at an alarmingly unsteady 90 degree angle between the thumb and forefinger of his left hand. For the moment, the thumb was dominant — in a missionary position sort of way — resting on the top of the neck of the bottle, with the forefinger stuck submissively below. But every few seconds they switched positions, as Nick swung the bottle from one side to the other like a gurgling metronome.
Although pulling off this maneuver without massive spillage — only a tiny puddle of drops had fallen onto the bar — must have required considerable dexterity, Nick’s face offered no hint he even knew he was doing it.
His mind, as they say, was clearly somewhere else — and by the look of him, not somewhere he liked.
Tall and thin, Nick has a ruggedly handsome face, with a high forehead, strong chin, piercing brown eyes and darkish-white skin. His principal cosmetic challenge is his thinning oil-black hair, a situation made immeasurably worse by an ill-advised sweep-over hairstyle.
Still, the total package is Marlboro mannish enough that most people are at least a little surprised when they hear his vocation is real estate. You can see him out most Saturday mornings, with his Kmart dress shirt and a clip-on tie that hangs only halfway down to his belt, putting up open house signs.
Nick has made four profound commitments in his life: He’s committed to his wife, Shirley, to the Roman Catholic Church, to his country and to conservative Republican politics.
He used to have a fifth, his son John. But things change.
* * *
John was born on Super Bowl Sunday, Jan. 25, 1981, at the precise moment Oakland’s Jim Plunkett completed the first of his three touchdown passes in leading the Raiders to the first ever Super Bowl win by a wild-card team. Nick saw destiny’s hand in this: John, he was sure, would become the great athlete he had always wanted for a son.
Of course, John was supposed to be only one of many sons and daughters. The son of an Irish Catholic lawyer, Nick grew up with nine siblings and wanted a large family of his own. But a few hours following John’s birth, Shirley started hemorrhaging. The doctors tried so hard to stop the bleeding without surgery they almost lost her. The emergency hysterectomy that saved her life — something Nick was always grateful for — ended their plans for a large family.
And so all of Nick’s fatherly dreams for the immortality of a successful son were loaded onto John, who proved more than a match for them — state wrestling champion two years straight, all-conference defensive end and state record holder in the 100-meter hurdles. He earned a wrestling scholarship at a Big 12 school, but a back injury in his junior year ended his sports career. Undeterred, John finished college and then followed in his grandfather’s footsteps by going to law school.
He landed a job at the biggest law firm in town, in their business law department. Maybe his parents could have been prouder, but neither Nick nor Shirley could have told you how.
* * *
As I’ve mentioned before, we have quite a few Republican regulars at The Last Chance Democracy Café. Many, like Nick, live nearby and treat us as their neighborhood bar, forgiving us our politics. Some of them I like a lot. Some of them, let’s just say, I like somewhat less than a lot. And then, of course, there’s Bob.
But I’m always glad to see Nick walk in: True, his political views are horrendous, but he’s the kind of person who so obviously doesn’t hold your politics against you that you can’t help but not hold his against him.
Religion is central to Nick’s universe. In a nation of line-crossing Catholics, he’s a strictly inside the lines parishioner. If the pope says birth control is wrong, it’s wrong. If he says stem cell research is murder, it’s murder. And if he says homosexuality is an abomination, it’s an abomination.
Nick’s saving grace is his sense of humor. He’s one of those rare birds who the more he drinks the funnier he gets. And since he tends to drink a lot, by the end of the evening he’s pretty damn funny — funny enough to draw a crowd to the table. I almost always have to drive him home when he comes in, usually about once every two weeks. He’s even hilarious during the five-minute drive.
He hadn’t said anything funny tonight, though. Actually, other than ordering his beer, he hadn’t said anything at all.
Horace, who isn’t a man to leave a friend in pain unmolested, slowly pushed his chair back from the large round table, telling Tom, Winston, Zach and me that he was going to the bar to say hello to Nick. I think he decided to join Nick, instead of inviting him to the table, to give him a little privacy. It was a futile gesture, though; from where we were sitting, we could hear every word. We shouldn’t have listened, I know, but for the most part we did — or at least I did.
It’s the chronicler’s first deadly sin: Invading people’s privacy in search of a good story.
“How’s everything going in Republican world,” grinned Horace as he slapped Nick on the back.
Jostled loose from his thoughts, Nick made a halfhearted effort to play to character, saying, “You’re just jealous because our Rudy looks better in a dress than your Hilary.”
This wasn’t one of Nick’s better efforts, but it gives you a sense of why I like the guy. He laughs at the foibles on his side as much as ours. To be honest, a lot of us here have a big problem with how he treated John, but in the end, Horace was right when he said, “A man’s entitled to some space where his family’s concerned. It isn’t for us to judge.”
Horace laughed good-naturedly, before asking, “So, how come you’re not at the Freepers’ Bar and Grill tonight?”
The actual name of the tavern in question is the Freedom Bar and Grill — it’s located a couple miles from the café in an upscale part of town. We’ve “enhanced” the name a bit in honor of the fact it’s become a hangout for conservative Republicans, or at least for those not opposed to drinking.
Nick huffed dismissively, “I don’t go to that place anymore.”
A surprised Horace asked him why, but Nick deflected the question.
“What, isn’t my money good here?” he said.
Horace didn’t press. “You know you’re always welcome,” he said instead.
Then out of nowhere, Nick did something he hadn’t done here for over a year-and-a-half. He mentioned his son’s name: “So,” he said, clearly struggling to sound nonchalant, “does John still come in sometimes?”
* * *
It occurs to me that I’ve been a little unfair to Nick. Contrary to what you might have taken from the discussion so far, Nick never treated John as a mere vessel for carrying forward his own dreams. In fact, the two were practically inseparable during John’s childhood — at least until the teenage rebelliousness set in. And even then, they spent more time together than most fathers and sons. Fishing, camping, throwing the ball around, bowling — they did it all together. Sometimes Shirley felt a little left out, but mostly she loved the fact they were so close.
When John went away to college, they talked at least weekly on the phone and Nick took in every wrestling match he could, sometimes driving through the night to get to a tournament.
And although Nick’s real estate business never produced more than a modest living, with Shirley doing no better working at the public library, they somehow found a way to help John financially during law school.
If there were any signs that John was, well — you know — “different,” Nick missed them. True, John didn’t talk about girls much, but then Nick was never much for locker room banter over sexual exploits anyway. To Nick it was just a given that at some point John would settle down with a Catholic girl and together they would do their duty to the pope — not to mention the would-be grandparents.
So, when, about three weeks after he passed his bar exam, John told his parents he was coming by to tell them something, Nick didn’t have a clue what was coming.
Some sons are the spitting image of their fathers; others look so different not even a DNA match can make you believe they’re related. John and Nick are in the former camp. Their faces are particularly striking in their likeness, although John’s full beard hides this somewhat. Both men are muscular: John, who had more formal athletic training, has a muscle builder’s physique, while Nick’s is the body of a longshoreman, brute strength without the sculpting.
“Mom, dad, this is hard to say . . .” John’s voice trailed off.
“Just tell us what you have to say, honey” said Shirley nervously.
“Okay . . . the thing is . . . I don’t feel right keeping something like this secret from you guys, so here’s the thing: I’m gay.”
The room was dead silent for at least 10 seconds.
Then Nick busted out laughing. “Yeah, right,” he chortled.
“It’s true, dad. I’m gay. And I’ve been in a committed relationship with a man . . . Ben, for almost a year. We’ve decided to move in together.”
Although she would never have admitted it to Nick, Shirley’s reaction was one of relief. Based on the way John started out, she had been afraid he was going to tell them he had terminal cancer. This was something she could live with.
Nick couldn’t. When it finally sunk in that John was serious, Nick responded almost instinctually. “Let’s go see Father Dugan,” he insisted. “I’m sure he can help . . . he can talk to you, or . . .”
“No, dad,” John broke in firmly. “I don’t need to see a priest. I’m at peace with who I am.”
And John, who was his father’s son in his temper as well as in sports, exploded back.
“It’s a mortal sin!” shouted Nick. “You’ll go to hell!”
“I should have known you wouldn’t understand!” shouted John in return, his face turning red.
“Understand?! Understand that my son is a fucking faggot?! I’m supposed to understand that?!”
“Fuck you, you bigoted asshole!”
“Get out! Get out of my house!”
John stormed out, slamming the door so hard that the antique teapot sitting on the mantel over the fireplace fell crashing onto the decorative bricks below, breaking into a million pieces. In the year-and-a-half plus that followed, John called his mother frequently, when he knew Nick would be out of the house, but father and son never spoke — not once.
* * *
“John still plays in the Tuesday evening darts league,” replied Horace matter-of-factly. “He’s a fine young man.”
Horace hesitated before asking, “Have you seen him . . . ?”
Horace gestured to Samuel, the bartender, to bring a fresh beer. He had a half dead one on the table, but I suppose this didn’t seem like a good time to leave to get it.
“Everyone was wrong, you know,” said Nick in a low, almost whispering voice.
Samuel set down the beer, then walked to the other end of the bar.
“Wrong about what?” asked Horace.
“Wrong about why I reacted . . . you know, blew up at John the way I did. Everyone thinks it’s because of my religion.”
“I never thought that,” said Horace.
“Really?” Nick sounded surprised.
“The Catholic Church is wrongheaded on gay and lesbian issues . . . the way I see things, anyway. But it’s hard for me to imagine a priest ever telling a parent to break off contact with a gay child.”
“You’re right. Father Dugan told me I should reconcile with John.” Nick was clearly fighting to hold back any display of emotion; but it was looking to be a losing battle. “He told me I should let God worry about sin and see to my family.”
“Sounds like good advice.”
“But like I said, it wasn’t about religion.”
“So what was it about?”
Nick rubbed his hand across his head, making sure each of the swept over hairs was in the proper place. “This may not make much sense, but it’s how I felt. It was like there was this stranger . . . this gay man who was standing in my house telling me that he had murdered my son. Does that make any sense?”
Horace started to speak, paused, then smiled and patted Nick on the shoulder. “Where did you ever get the crazy idea that families are supposed to make sense?”
Nick smiled weakly. “I guess you’ve got a point. The thing is, as a parent . . . maybe you shouldn’t, but you paint a picture in your mind of who you think your child is . . .”
“Of course you do.”
“Right. And this gay man standing there looking like my son didn’t fit the picture. And I didn’t want him. I wanted my old son back. The one I watched grow up. The one I played ball with. But, of course, I couldn’t get that son back . . . the one I’d created in my head, because he never really existed. And the more I realized that the angrier I got, until finally I said . . . well, I said some awful things.”
Horace spoke softly, recognizing, I’m sure, he was walking across a minefield. “I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, Nick,” he said, “but you can’t change what you said a year-and-a-half ago. But maybe you can change the way things are now.”
Nick shook both his head and his right hand violently. “No, I can’t. And, please . . . I don’t want to talk about that now.”
Horace took a long sip of beer. I don’t know whether he sensed something or if he was just looking for a way to change the subject for awhile and blundered into it, but he asked this: “So, what’s the deal with you not going to the Freedom Bar and Grill anymore?”
“I was there earlier this evening,” he finally said. He looked down at his beer and shook his head disgustedly. “Bastards. It’s that whole thing about Ann Coulter calling John Edwards a faggot. The regulars there were really yukking it up, telling queer jokes . . . You know, homo this and faggot that. And I just took it. I just sat there and took it for probably an hour . . . Then I’d had enough.”
He took a sip of his beer, the same one he’d been swinging back and forth in his hand. He immediately made a face as he realized how warm it had become. Horace started to order him another, but Samuel beat him to the punch dropping off a fresh one before anyone said a word. As I’ve said before, my staff (and co-owners) really make me look good.
Nick continued, “Anyway, I stood up and started screaming at them. I told them that my son . . . they know he’s gay, the bastards . . . I told them that he’s a better man than any of them and that if they had any doubt about it the two of us would be happy to meet them anytime, anywhere to settle the issue. Then I walked out. And I’m never going back.”
I almost started to applaud, remembering in the nick of time that I was listening in on the conversation surreptitiously. It seems fair to assume that a standing ovation would have blown my cover.
Horace pressed ahead gently. “You should tell John. I think it would mean a lot to him.”
“No, I can’t do that.”
“You’d be amazed at the things you can do.”
Nick’s voice became firm, almost strident. “No. It’s too late. Too much has been said and too much water has gone under the bridge. If I called him now he’d probably just hang up on me.”
“Really, Nick, I think you’re wrong about . . .”
“No. That’s final.”
It was then that I saw, or at least sensed, the twinkle in Horace’s eye — the one that often appears when he’s about to point out the possibilities in the face of a seemingly impossible situation.
He took another slow sip of beer and then in a voice so matter-of-fact he could have been reciting his grocery list, he asked, “Do you mind if I mention it to John?”
Nick took a long slow sip of his own, then shrugged. “Last time I checked this was a free country. I guess you can say anything you want.”
And that was that.
Later, after Nick left and Horace returned to the large round table, Winston asked him, “So, are you going to tell John what Nick said the next time he comes in?”
Horace grinned. “Old man,” he told Winston, “you really ought to try to keep up with the times. You may not know it, but they’ve got a fancy new gadget these days called the telephone.” He took a quick sip. “I’ll call him at his office first thing in the morning.”
* * *
It’s easy to become depressed about the status of gay rights in America. With state after state voting in favor of anti-gay marriage initiatives (with the notable exception of Arizona), usually by large margins, it’s tempting to throw up your hands and declare the fight hopeless: But that’s a fool’s judgment.
As a 51-year-old heterosexual, the changes I’ve seen take place over the course of my life have been nothing short of breathtaking. I grew up in an age when homosexuality was largely hidden away, when police still trolled gay bars arresting people for expressing their sexual preference and when being “outed” meant almost certain professional and social ruin.
I remember a tragic case from back when I first got out of law school: A widely respected lawyer, a man many thought was destined for the state Supreme Court, was arrested for propositioning a male undercover police officer. Back in those days, it was simply a given that his career was ruined; and a few days later he killed himself.
Yet, today, in that very same “red state,” openly gay lawyers have become partners in major firms, been elected to leadership positions in the bar association and even been appointed to important judicial offices.
Public opinion polls consistently show that notwithstanding widespread opposition to gay marriage, public support, in general, for equality of treatment for gays and lesbians has been growing for decades. Especially encouraging is the attitude of the young, who tend to support gay rights, including gay marriage, in much greater numbers than their grandparents.
The future belongs to advocates of full citizenship for gay and lesbian Americans.
The same poll results, incidentally, show that one of the most important factors determining how heterosexuals respond to these questions is whether they personally know a gay person, with those who do being much more likely to favor of gay rights.
It’s one thing to belittle homosexuals in general, but quite another when you’re talking about a friend, a colleague or, yes, even a son.
* * *
At the end of the movie The Chosen, the lead character tells a parable:
There is a story in the Talmud about a king who had a son who had gone astray from his father. The son was told, “Return to your father.” The son said, “I cannot.”
Then his father sent a messenger to say, “Return as far as you can and I will come to you the rest of the way.”
In our case, it was the father who had left the relationship. And when Nick came to the café to tell his story, realizing, I’m sure, that it would inevitably be passed along to his son, I guess he had returned as far as he thought he could. Then, John, after getting Horace’s call the next day, traveled the rest of the way when two days later he picked up the phone and called his father.
As you’d expect, the reunion they set up in our lounge started off a little stiffly, but over time their mutual love of humor overwhelmed the obstacles and they were laughing together like nothing had ever happened. There will be challenges ahead, of course, as the two feel their way back into each other’s lives. They haven’t even begun, for example, to work out how John’s partner, Ben, will fit into their relationship. Still, at least for this one evening, for the first time in a long time, they were indisputably father and son.
And so in this one tiny little dot on our troubled blue and white planet, if just for a moment, everything was the way it was supposed to be. And I have to tell you it felt good. It felt damn good.
* * *
Check out our episodes archive.
* * *
When not busy managing a mythical café, Steven C. Day lives with his family in Wichita, Kansas where he has practiced law for 27 years. Contact Steven at .
© Copyright 2004, Steven C. Day. WGAw #974001
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March 22nd, 2007 at 2:24 am
“The room was dead silent for at least 10 seconds.”
A few seasons ago on the TV show “24″ — and yes, I’ve read the stuff recently about how it should be boycotted because it encourages military students to torture and is the right-wingers’ wet dream and so on, but hey, we enjoy watching it anyway, it’s exciting and gets your blood pumping and keeps you awake at the TV at nighttime, and I personally (unlike many right-wingers) have no trouble distinguishing fact from fiction — this was exactly what happened when they tortured a liberal suspected terrorist and he confessed he was gay. All the characters were so shocked and silent for like 10 seconds and the camera switched from horrified face to horrified face. Everybody was obviously thinking, “Hey, we only thought he was a terrorist, we didn’t know he was one of … THOSE! Good thing we tortured him, he so obviously deserves it.” I almost expected big red letters to appear on the screen: “MESSAGE, PEOPLE: HOMOSEXUALITY IS MUCH WORSE THAN TERRORISM.” Yes, sometimes it’s pretty embarrassing to like that show.
March 22nd, 2007 at 4:42 pm
This brings up several issues for me; my own difficult relationship with my father, my attitudes about gayness and gay people, and my own heterosexual attraction to something outside the norm in this society.
I am not gay, but I had a difficult enough youth as it was, having had both problems in high school and problems with a domineering father, one result of which was that I did not have the self-confidence to relate to girls and women when I was young. I am now, at age 56, struggling with feelings that I missed the boat when I was younger as far as women are concerned.
My father did many good things, and sometimes helped me out in important ways, and I had many good times with him.
Even so, he was very judgmental, and many times treated an honest mistake, an honest forgetting of something, or something not according to his standards like it was a serious crime. He would invariably say that what he was saying or doing was “for my own good”, like he was on a level with God.
And he was many times especially poor at understanding some difficult or sensitive issue from my point of view; sometimes he seemed to not even try to understand.
I realized how angry I still was at him about a year after he died, more than 20 years ago now. He has been the one person I have had difficulty forgiving more than about anybody else I can think of.
The passage of time has been helpful, plus work in therapy, and having my own sense of what I am willing and not willing to do for and accept from other people.
I had been a Christian as a young adult while my dad was alive; I found that Christianity had not been of help to me in enabling me to deal with my dad, which has been the biggest single factor which led me to part company with the Christian faith.
When I was a Christian, I tended to accept uncritically the judgments of some Christians that homosexuality was something wrong and unnatural, because of what the Bible said.
However one former pastor of a church gave a talk about homosexuality at a single’s group meeting at the church, and one thing he said that struck me, and that I remembered, was a reminder that people do not choose who they are physically attracted or not attracted to; they find that they are attracted to certain people. And some people find that they are attracted to people of the same sex.
While my attractions have always been heterosexual, and toward women, I have always, since I was an adolescent, had an attraction to body hair on women, particularly hairy legs.
I remember seeing a few such women when I was in college in the 1970’s; it was one of my big disappointments in life that that never became more common since.
I remember wandering about my college campus looking for women with hairy legs, and being very scared first telling somebody about my liking at age 20. However after the first time I came to be more confident about telling others about my liking. I imagine it would have been one or two orders of magnitude worse for me, especially when I was young, if I had to tell others that I was gay.
I have been sad that in recent years the emphasis for women has been to religiously remove just about all body hair.
It has often bothered me that just about anything else has been acceptable, or semi-acceptable, in our society, at some time since the 1960’s, except for natural body hair on women.
March 23rd, 2007 at 9:16 pm
You just don’t get out enough. Some folk, women included, get a five-oclock shadow by noon. An old girlfriend was such and just gave up, but felt her teddy bear look to be a big negative. I convinced her otherwise, but she still wore long pants etc in public, so few people knew.
Note to women thinking the same, it is not a negative. Note to Mike, neither is the opposite. A good sane person with a kind heart trumps everything else.
Re; the original thought, there is a great discussion about things that help honest folk escape the mesmerization by the Gang Of Pirates here
http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2006/08/cracks-in-wall-part-i-defining.html quite a long posting but worth the read.
One of her points of note is that the person breaking away needs a friendly place to land. It is worth remembering.
March 28th, 2007 at 12:24 pm
I saved 3 parts of that blog entry but couldn’t find part 4? I’m going to read it later. I checked out part 1 and it’s going to be a good read. Thanks.
Did anyone read the article in the Nation - ” How Specialist Town lost his benefits” by Joshua Kors ?
How many smarmy, underhanded, inhuman things do we have to learn about these people before we impeach the whole lot of them? I think I have developed a personality disorder from reading this column!
Good episode , Steve. I live in Indiana and , well, we all know how red my state is, anyway, you should hear the idiots in our state senate arguing for a new one man -one woman marriage legislation because the old laws aren’t nearly as punitive or condemning as they should be. One thing the right loves is hate. Did you read about that bozo baptist who said babies may be born gay and so we should begin hormonal therapy in the womb to cure them of their gayness before they are born? (a woman would a patch)
Two hilarious sides to the story :
1. The research was done on gay sheep. (please don’t ask me how they identified the gay sheep)
2. The rightwingers were furious that he would suggest homosexuality was anything but a lifestyle choice! After all it’s easy to hate someone for that, come one, it’s too hard to hate someone for being born different.
AND how dare he even suggest that God would make an imperfect baby who would be an insult to him.
I liked this post because I often hear that time will solve this problem as the younger generation doesn’t embrace the hate all gays theme, but this post reminds us that we can change right now and we can ask others to be tolerant and more open-minded. Some people are stuck where they are and will never change or stop hating gays. Life will pass them by as they stand in their rut, their spiritual growth will stagnate in that pool of hate and righteous judgement and, if there is reincarnation and Karma, they will get to come back and experience the discrimination for themselves. I almost feel sorry for the poor narrow-minded fools……………almost.
I’d have knocked your socks off when I was young. I hated my monkey-like legs! Post-menapausal, however, I barely have eyebrows.
Alas, we meet too late for a hot and hairy romance!
March 29th, 2007 at 8:23 am
It is unfortunate and sad that the influence of the Church and its idealogues has extended so many hundreds of years into the future. With all of humanity’s vast knowledge of biology, psychology and communication, we still can’t all wholly accept the beautiful tapestry of human sexuality. How can something so complex, so individualized and so close to the very core of our being be so easily compartmentalized and polarized? I wonder if this is exactly the sort of repression and oppression that prevents us from using our brains to their fullest capacity.
While I identify as straight, I am also very comfortable in recognizing and accepting that no one is 100% straight (myself definitely included) nor 100% gay. I mean, that’s just silly. There is simply no logic in having a concept that complex and varied be thrust (heh heh) into one of only two camps (2.5 camps, if you’re open-minded enough to allow for bisexuality/trans, etc).
Curing someone of being gay??? Isn’t that like “curing” someone of having hazel eyes, or putting someone into rehab for having AB-positive blood?
I am not a religious person by any stretch of the immagination. I was, however, raised Catholic, so I do have a very firm foundation upon which to base my knowledge and opinions. That being said, it seems to me one of humanity’s greatest “sins” is to have so rejected our own sexuality and condemned the sexuality of others. To me, it seems that healthy human sexuality, in all its many stripes, is one of god’s greatest gifts to us. To attach shame to that… to reject that and villify it is of the utmost affront to the very god we’re supposedly honoring.
March 29th, 2007 at 6:12 pm
Just beautifully written, Iowa.
Thanks. Open-minded, unafraid, compassionate, understanding, comfortable and awed with life and it’s “stripes”.
I couldn’t agree more.
April 5th, 2007 at 11:24 pm
Iowa, that was terrific. I also left the Catholic Church when it became clear that there was no room for my kind at the table. (Though I’ll always be grateful for the excellent education I received from the nuns). I came out at age 17, (35 years ago) much to the horror of my folks, and particularly my strict German Grandmother, who even called me an abomination to my face.
Things got somewhat better years later, when she called to say she’d seen me on CNN, “but did they have to put ‘lesbian activist’ under your name?” At least she was speaking to me again…
What I came to understand is that sexuality is one of our greatest gifts from our Creator. In fact, under the right circumstances, and with the right partner, it can be darn near sacramental. Though I did not ask to be gay, it’s how I was born. So it’s as natural for me as another’s heterosexuality (or bi) is to them.
Studies have shown that if you know a gay person, you’re less freaked out by us. As more and more people have come out, public sentiment about us having equal civil rights has shifted in our favor. That’s a good thing, and the “so what?” attitude of today’s youth toward our community is also encouraging.
I’ve seen a lot happen since Stonewall, knew many of those pioneers, even played a part in our history, spearheading efforts geared toward creating a safe climate in which closeted GLBT cops felt empowered to come out. As a cop myself in the South in the mid-70’s, I had to go back into the closet. I didn’t dare reveal my sexual orientation, because I would lose my job. So I invented a boyfriend who was conveniently in the military and stationed overseas, which was believable, since my dad was career military. The lying, hiding, and denying created one miserable existence, not to mention conflict of conscience. I was in a profession that valued honor and integrity above all, yet I had to lie every day just to keep my job.
Coming out to police comrades was the most freeing experience ever…I was scared, but I was out…and I never looked back. I have no regrets, because I at least know that sexuality is only one small component of what makes me “me”, though I admit that it certainly has influenced my politics.
I live in a small town now, with my partner of two decades, and we don’t hide. Amazingly, there is a thriving GLBT community in this very Republican area. I don’t fear getting bashed like I used to when I lived in the city and was very political. But that’s just my experience. Every day there’s another account of brutal violence against someone because of their perceived sexual orientation. Gay bashing still seem to be a right of passage for young men, and law enforcement still doesn’t take it seriously. Domestic violence is also a big problem for us, but because of our hesitancy to call authories, especially if we are closeted, makes it nearly impossible to determine it’s scope.
I hope I live to see the day when a person’s sexual orientation is a non-issue, but that’ll probably never happen as long as religion plays such a powerful role in people’s lives. Blind allegiance to dogma stifles rational thought, so the day of true equality for our community may be longer than I have left on the planet.
Still, I wouldn’t change a thing about my life. I have love, laughter, a good business, many good friends, and I’ll leave a legacy of public service and activism, all accomplished because I had the courage to come out, stand up, and say that I am not ashamed of who I am.
I hope others follow a similar path.
Thank you again for your heartfelt post. Like Hope, I couldn’t agree more.
April 11th, 2007 at 8:57 am
You probably won’t get back to this ,but I just today read your post and was once more impressed with your great attitude, honesty and activism. Please post more often.
November 25th, 2007 at 4:18 pm
thanks thats a great post maybe a little confused….