The First Time I Heard About An Actual Gay Person

I for sure don’t truly understand the actual experience, and i can’t promise this article is completely PC, but this is just to explain how i dealt with the cultural progression. When we were kids, which for me was in the 1960s and 1970s (but this is likely universal), little dudes were basically afraid of looking effeminate or weak, and being called the resultant epithets i’m sure gay people are familiar with. One kid named Mark, who had been “held back” and could be called “a bully” (although he wasn’t one every minute), used to sing the tagline of that song “Go away, little girl…” to a kid named Kenneth. I remember standing beside him in line and wanting to stick up for him, but of course i was afraid of “what, are you one too?” I had also never heard of that song. It seems that people were always aware that “gayness” exists, but it’s weird that when it started to become a “thing” in the 1970s and 1980s, all of a sudden people didn’t believe anyone could really be gay. Weird, right?

Tomboys
Girls who appeared “less feminine” were often called “tomboy” instead. This seems like it would be less bad, like it was cool in a way, but seeming (let alone being) different was always risky – i don’t know how much that “nickname” bothered girls who were already struggling with their identities. My first crush Connie who i (surprisingly!) actually got to know and play Matchbox cars with in her backyard, was supposedly “tomboy-ish” but i didn’t notice or categorize her at the time.

One day Billy N. saw us playing in her backyard, and teased me about it at school. I think i denied it and she must have heard me because i don’t remember talking with her after that, and then her family moved to Iowa. That’s the pattern of my life, ack. I haven’t been able to find her on Facebook or anywhere, despite a current friend who lived next door to her way back then.

Tom’s Logs
We used to pick on people for other reasons – i remember “nyah nyah if you step on a green square you love Sandy,” and i feel bad now that i used to participate in what might now be called “mob shaming.” Sandy and her sister were real skinny and you could see the veins in their legs. Later i was thinking they probably grew up to be beautiful, and someone recently confirmed it. Yes i know beautiful is relative and we should be judging people on the content of their character, although even that depends on upbringing and other factors. I have plenty of logs in my own eyes to deal with! I would like to apologize to them someday, somehow, if it comes up organically (might have to be on Facebook).

Alright, OK
But i feel good that i was also a friend to some of the awkward and ostracized kids, to the point that one time in high school my friends wondered aloud: How do we know you’re really our friend when you’re just as nice to so-and-so? I just wish i had been more consistent about it and stuck up for people when the mob mentality reared its ugly head, with me as part of the numbskull. I was too shy and didn’t even stick up for my brother when Pat R. threw him in the jagger bushes!

I owe much of my acceptance of people in general to my mom, who seemed to know Jesus before she knew Jesus, you know what i mean? Part of that was probably a people-pleasing nature. I was born a middle-class white male, but we don’t have to be born gay or a minority to understand repression. I was a shy, fearful kid who got picked on and felt like nobody understood me (until i met God in Sunday school in 9th grade) – I GET IT! Maybe not to the same extent, but are we supposed to compare levels of repression, and “check our privelege” – what does that even mean? I love the downtrodden and repressed, the lonely misfits, rejects, refugees and outcasts! Bring on the diversity! Plus, homogeneity is boring. Hasn’t everyone felt left out sometime in their life? Empathy, people!

Awareness
ANYWAYS, move ahead to college, i was at Virginia Tech in my third year, living off campus with two other dudes from marching band. The trombone player Doug worked at the King’s Dominion theme park in Richmond, VA (the irony of the park name related to this article just struck me!). He came home one day and explained to us that he talked to a friend of his who said he knew a gay dude. The guy had told him this person told him he was born that way, that he had always felt that way and it wasn’t something he was choosing (or something to that effect).

Doug was a real straightforward and honest person, and he said the same of his friend. So on the spot i just accepted that what the gay guy said was true. Why would i not trust what someone said about themselves? I don’t recall if it had ever occurred to me before one way or the other, but i just accepted it.

Is it a thing yet?
After being “saved” in 9th grade, although i had been in Bible studies and read parts of the Bible, i doubt if i knew any of the “clobber” passages or what the Bible said about it. I suppose this is because it wasn’t really a “thing” yet and gay people were mostly undercover. Out of curiosity just now i looked it up here and here, and evidently some notable people had come out in 1975 including former NFL running back David Kopay, and Leonard Matlovich while serving in the United States Air Force. Elton John admitted he was at least bi in 1976, and Martina Navratilova came out 1981. Billie Jean King was also outed by a lawsuit that year.

This doesn’t include much earlier pioneers, as actor Billy Haines was outed by arrest in 1933, Tommy Kirk (a Disney child actor who starred in The Shaggy Dog and The Absent-Minded Professor) came out in 1963 at age 22, and Sal Mineo came out in the late 60s, among others i’m sure. According to Wikipedia there was a slow parade of public awareness that began around 1897 and seems to have picked up momentum in the 1970s.

I have to mention Freddie Mercury because he was so awesome. Looks like he never came out officially, even not publicly confirming that he had HIV until little more than 24 hour before he left us. But this article suggests that Bohemian Rhapsody is about his homosexuality! I can’t believe that never occurred to me, but some of these kids seem to get it!

It’s a thing
So for gay people it has always been a thing, and for the general public it was a thing but not really a thing, until about the 1970s, is that about right? When it came to gay people marrying (each other), in maybe the early 2000s i remember thinking why not just allow same-sex partnerships or civil unions; but as soon as i found out it didn’t have many of the same legal protections, i supported gay marriage. (I don’t actually like to call it “gay marriage,” as marriage itself doesn’t have sexual orientation; people do!)

Now that i do know a lot more about what the Bible says, it is easy for me to understand that the culture was a lot different 2000 years ago and we now know a lot more about science, the value of women, the evils of slavery, and human sexuality. As my dad explained to me very young that Genesis 1-3 are deep stories explaining us and our relationship to God (YHWH/BEing), it is easy for me to understand the Bible in non-literal ways. It baffles me that Christians, who are supposed to believe that Jesus PAID FOR ALL SIN on the cross, commands us not to judge people, and shows us that God is love, should have to be dragged into tolerance and love kicking and screaming! Christians should be MORE LOVING and LESS JUDGMENTAL, or we have a mandate because that is specifically what we pledge allegiance to… the fag, not the flag! LOL

1 thought on “The First Time I Heard About An Actual Gay Person

  1. Thanks for your interesting autobiography. I think it’s good to hark back to school kid memories every so often to see how times have changed, bit by bit. I credit TV and movies with helping to bring about changes in attitude although homophobia and especially transphobia are still alive in many schools. Very seldom have school boards shown leadership and compassion. They tend to kowtow to the most prejudiced and loudest among the parents. But kids, increasingly exposed to sitcoms with non-clownish gay characters, pick up a message of acceptance that the schools fail to impart.

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