I’m old enough I was raised in a society where homosexuality genuinely was considered the deformed alternative to being straight. When I was four, the federal government officially declared homosexuality a mental disorder and began a purge of homosexuals. The churches and public schools I attended embraced that ideology and ensured our young minds were properly educated to the dangers of the predatory insane lurking on every corner for the opportunity to take advantage of a child.
In my later public school years, no one ever did make a move to refute the idea that homosexuality equated to insanity, including my parents. That is, until a voluntary, pay for it yourself “field trip” took place in my senior year of high school. The school provided bus transportation and chaperones to an evening performance of HAIR.
For those not familiar with the topics addressed in that musical, I recommend renting a video of the musical, not the movie. At the time, interracial sex, not to mention same-sex sex, and public nudity were the demons sure to plunge our world into the pits of hell. HAIR has all of those and more.
There were two things in particular that struck me that night at the performance. The first being, how the young lady on the back of the stage during the nude scene had the most beautiful set of tits I’d ever imagined to exist. Yes, I still remember them, and everything else about her. I hope her life without me in her arms turned out well.
The second was the scene where a white man (fully clothed) had sex with a black man (also fully clothed). Holy hell. They were just actors playing roles, but the scene’s message bore into me. It was the first realization that what had been ingrained into my brain might not be reality.
When I tried to discuss that scene at school, with my friends, and at home, I was quickly reminded HAIR was a play, not real life, and there was no need for further discussion.
Place something in front of my eyes that stimulates my mind to question the ideals implanted in me, and I’m damn sure going to talk about it.
That was when I understood very few people in my circle of life understood me or the world in general. And, for the first time, I wondered how many homosexuals I had met, maybe even known and hung out with, who felt they had to keep their sexuality hidden from me. The societal beliefs I had grown up with began to disintegrate, but it would be years before I fully understood how much of a hold those beliefs had on my mind.
A year after high school, fate introduced me to an openly gay couple. Nope. They weren’t insane, and no one they shook hands with developed an obsession for the color pink. In fact, we had a lot of common interests and went to beaches and did a number of things together. Yeah, the evening one of them said how if I ever wanted to explore, they’d be open to a threesome scared the beejezus out of me, but no friendship lines were ever crossed. Note here that I also have and have had female friends who I never had sex with, though the opportunity existed if we chose to cross that line. Friendship is and was far more important to me than the sex that was so readily available during that era. I soon enlisted in the army to break away from the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle I’d been living and provide for my family.
In the army, I learned one of my friends I drank and bowled with was gay. He got publicly ‘outed’ during something that happened in the barracks he lived in. I never did know the full details. Within a few days, he’d been transferred (we were in Germany) back to the states, and the few of us who’d been his friends were questioned.
During the interrogation, I was told my friend had made it beyond clear that I was not gay, nor had any knowledge whatsoever that he was, though in truth, I did know as he’d told me shortly before whatever happened at the barracks happened. He’d protected me with what little he had to offer. You must understand the army at that time. Being gay was akin to being a traitor – those in the “circle” were presumed guilty by being in the circle. I strongly suspect my friend could have lessened whatever punishment he was to receive by sacrificing one or two others. He didn’t do that, opting to stand up for his friends to the very end. He was one hell of a man who happened to be gay.
I think that was the incident that shattered the hold my childhood indoctrination had on me. I became a man who happened to be het, others happened to be gay. That was how life worked, and, in my mind, still works.
Eventually, I began writing professionally. How my first published book was about two gay men is something I’ve discussed other times, other places. Whether the characters are het, gay, or lesbian isn’t an issue for me. For some folks, though, it is. I’ve heard from hets who wonder what the hell I’m doing writing books with gay men in them. I’ve heard from gays asking the same question. And then, there are some female readers who get upset because my stories in which the characters are gay men, don’t always have sex, because as one very nice lady asked, if the men don’t have sex, “What’s the point?”.
So, while I offend idealists, bigots, and an occasional reader, I’ll continue telling my stories without worrying about the sexuality of the characters. For you see, that’s how I live my life now. Why should I be concerned what sexuality my fictional characters are, when I couldn’t care less what sexuality my real life friends are?
“Oh, so you’re one of those heterosexuals who likes to say how he has gay friends.”
No, I’m saying my friends’ sexuality isn’t any more of your damn business than it is mine.
A gay person is born gay. A homophobe is trained to be homophobic.
That’s right…homophobia is a disease born of ignorance. Fortunately, there’s a cure. It’s called education. Be smart and get smart.