Sunday, March 8, 2015
An Excerpt From the Afterword
Peter, the friend to whom I addressed the Preface, died from complications of AIDS, like too many other people I have known. I never finished composing that letter to him in 1987 and so it was never sent. Here, many years later, I include an Afterword, addressed to him.
I’ve somehow survived to 2014. I am old—or pretty nearly old as life journeys go. In the grand scheme of things, I am nobody and my life is irrelevant. So why should my story, my experiences beginning more than half a century ago, matter to anyone? Why should I bother to write down these snippets of my life?
The answer to that last question: I had to write this account, even if no one ever reads it, because I was compelled to do so in the same way as I was compelled to come out; it was a matter of survival. And if I am to live any semblance of an authentic life, I must come out unreservedly and often; because coming out is never only an event: it is a continuous process and one that challenges me daily.
• The woman who cuts my hair when I’m visiting in South Carolina insists on making small talk and asks about my wife. She has scissors. How do I respond?
• At the auto repair shop, I tell the service tech, who I’ve just overheard making a homophobic comment, “If there’s a problem, call Lee, my, uh, friend? roommate? partner? significant other? husband?”
• Lee and I are holding hands on a deserted beach at sunset as some college kids approach in the distance. Do I let go of his hand?
Ann Bancroft as Ma Beckoff scolded Harvey Fierstein’s Arnold in Torch Song Trilogy: “You haven’t spoken one sentence since I got here,” she says indignantly, “without the word gay in it.” How often do I check myself so as not to offend the likes of all the Ma Beckoffs in the world with constant gay references?
• I am challenged daily to come out, again and again and again, because, even as things appear to be changing, there still exist subtle and pervasive societal and cultural norms that are intended to usher us back into our closets: the veiled but insidious beliefs, behaviors, words, and hatred that are still widely tolerated.
• I am challenged to come out, again and again and again, because of the hate and vitriol and rage that seem to escalate in response to every equal rights victory and with every courageous individual who comes out and who refuses to remain silent and invisible.
• I am challenged to come out, again and again and again, because too many gay kids still choose suicide as their only option to escape bullying and familial rejection; because some lawmakers still introduce bills that would take back our hard won rights and liberties; because some religions still wave signs declaring that “God hates fags” while others, less blatant, use more refined and educated language to condemn and vilify us.
....continued in the book