Monday, September 05, 2011

On Being Gay, Part II

When I was editing In Touch for Men, an international gay men's magazine in Los Angeles, I always enjoyed, as I do now, hearing from readers. I heard several times from a very nice young man in Utah, who was having a hard time dealing with his homosexuality, largely because of his family's rock-bound religious beliefs. I tried to encourage him to just accept himself and not let others tell him how he should live, and to convince him that not all the world was Utah, and not everyone in it was like his immediate family.

The magazine decided at one point to do a bar guide, similar to several others, listing gay bars in U.S. cities. I put out a general call for contributions, and wrote everyone with whom I had been in contact asking for their help. The young man from Utah sent me a list of bars he knew of, which I included in the guide, and when the guide was published, I sent a copy to everyone who had contributed. Naturally, I sent one to him.

A week later I received a thick envelope with a Salt Lake return address and, upon opening it, found a shredded mass of paper which I recognized as our bar guide. It also contained a letter from the mother of the young man I'd been in contact with, informing me that she had discovered that he had been having abominable relations with another man and was a disgusting pervert. When she confronted him, he killed himself "out of shame for his unspeakable sin." It was quite clear that she thought he had done the right thing.

I was heartsick. It took me a few days to be able to sit down and write to his mother, using the return address on the envelope she'd sent, saying how terribly sorry I was for her loss, and that from what I had known of him, he was a fine young man of whom she should be proud. It took all my willpower to keep from saying what I so badly wanted to say: that it was she who had caused his death, and that had she shown him the love and compassion every mother owes her child, instead of condemning him for being who he was, he undoubtedly would still be alive. But I couldn't do it.

The memory of that incident haunts me to this day, and is exacerbated by the terrible fact that the young man's story was not unique, and that countless others, even today, are driven to suicide for simply being who they are. How can human beings display such cruelty, such insensitivity, such lack of compassion and basic decency? How can intolerance and hatred rule...and many? It is, truly to weep.

But for even the darkest night, there is a dawn, and it is the dawn to which this blog is addressed.

When I did Part I of this blog, having no intention at the time for there to be a Part II, I received a note from my cousin Judi which not only touched me deeply but stands in day-and-night, good-and-evil contrast to the incident reported above, and reminded me yet again just how truly blessed I am to have a family who knew I was gay long before I ever told them, yet always accepted me for who I was and am without question, unconditionally.

Here is Judi's note:

Thank you for today's blog. From way back when, I think I was eight or nine, I realized that you were different from others. Not in a bad way, just different. And I didn't think anything about you being different. It wasn't until I grew older that I understood what made you different. You are gay. That's the way you were born and that is the way you live your life. I accept you for who you are, a gay man. I could never shun you or go out of my way to hurt you. I accept you as you are. Dad's cousin, part of my family!!!

I am glad that you were able to grow up and become who you are and not cave in to how others want to see you. It is truly very sad that in this day and age, people still can not or will not accept others for who they are.

I remember coming into Chicago with Grandma Fearn to see you. We always had such a good time. We came into see you one time and it was around Christmas. I think you and Norm took us to Marshall Fields for lunch in the Walnut Room under the Christmas tree. I thought I was so grown up having lunch with the two of you. Of course there were some who looked at the four of us and just shook their heads and walked away, their problem not ours. I didn't know at the time why these people did that, but now I do. How sad for them to not know you as a person.

Would that everyone were a Judi.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's  Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs.


Kage Alan said...

That's a hell of a story, D, and I can fully understand why it haunts you. But you're right; she brought it to a head.

It's difficult for me to imagine it being rougher back then than it was for me. That someone couldn't live with the perceived shame... It gets to me. That is still happens is even worse.

I wonder if that mother ever changed her mind. And if she's no longer alive, I wonder what wisdom the afterlife taught her about it.

Nikolaos said...

Great post, Dorien/Roger.

Well said.