When I was growing up I felt different and I knew I was different. I played baseball and football with my friends and had the same interests as they did, but I knew something was not the same. The term gay wasn’t used back then, the term was homosexual and it was a word that caused both laughter and revulsion.
I even made believe I was interested in girls!
There weren’t many people who admitted to being homosexual, because doing so was akin to a death sentence, if not for your life, for your job, your career and your reputation. The most famous person whom most thought was gay, was Liberace. He was extremely talented and extremely flamboyant, but he never admitted he was gay. Most celebrities back then had to hide their sexuality in order to maintain their careers. They had sham marriages and sham girlfriends to fend off the gossip mongers and tabloids. But many noncelebrities did the same. I even made believe I was interested in girls!
…I was terrified and wanted no part of that life.
The only openly gay person I knew was a person who lived in my neighborhood, Norman. He was a hairdresser, who was also very flamboyant, as he was commonly seen sporting makeup pastel-colored wigs and carrying his dyed pink miniature poodle. He was constantly the subject of laughter, ridicule and harassment. I can still remember my uncle, a city cop, relating stories where he and his fellow police officers raided parties where Norman and his friends were just having fun, only to harass them. I knew I was different, but I wasn’t like Norman and I didn’t want to be. If Norman was what it was like to be a homosexual, a gay, I was terrified and wanted no part of that life.
It was still quite risky to let anyone even entertain the thought that I might be gay.
Once I went to college and away from my hometown I began to allow myself to at least explore my sexual feelings. It was still quite risky to let anyone even entertain the thought that I might be gay. When I started to think I might be gay, my mind always forced the image of Norman into my consciousness. In my thirties and having lived away from home for a number of years, I was ready to admit to those closest to me, and myself, that I was gay. I came out to my family after my father had passed away from a long bout with cancer. My siblings and my nephews took the news okay, but my mother didn’t. She constantly accused me of being a pedophile, a drug addict, an alcoholic and referred to me as a faggot with faggot friends. She was more concerned with what her friends would think about her, than she was about my welfare and happiness. She was never without her St. Jude prayer card, praying for a miracle.
I was ready to step out of the closet.
When I moved to Boston to work in a well-known hospital I found freedom, freedom to be gay. I think almost half of my department was gay and the entire hospital was generously staffed with gays in every department. I was not alone. I was ready to step out of the closet. I did not hide the fact I was gay from my staff, my coworkers and my neighbors. Did you notice that I didn’t say friends? That’s because outside of my coworkers and my neighbors I didn’t have any friends! No gay friends outside of work.
I laughed it off, even though it really hurt.
I went to gay bars and to gay functions, but I couldn’t make friends. I was in my thirties and overweight, a combination that did not sit too well with most gays I came into contact with. Even when I attended events for gays, sponsored by the medical community, where one received his education and the position you held, was more important than what kind of person you were. I could lose weight, but I couldn’t change my age or where I went to college. I was who I was. I laughed it off, even though it really hurt. I still had no real gay friends and I eventually gave up trying to find any.
“I wasn’t gay enough”.
All of my friends were straight and were either neighbors or people I worked with. They knew I didn’t have any gay friends, as I didn’t hide the fact. One of my gay coworkers told me that the reason I didn’t make friends in the gay community was because “I wasn’t gay enough”. Apparently, he had received this feedback from some of his friends he had introduced me to. According to him, “I didn’t dress gay or even talk gay” and I “always hang around with straight people at straight places”. I had always thought being gay was a matter of sexual attraction. I didn’t know there was a particular way to talk or dress, or that I could only patronize gay gyms or restaurants.
I was gay and I was going to be gay in my own way!
I have always been told, by straight friends, that I was too sloppy to be gay, as my office and desk were in constant disarray and I dressed in a way that made me feel comfortable and not in a way to impress anyone or dress the way a gay person is supposed to dress. I did try to dress in clothes from Banana Republic or A&F, like good gays are supposed to dress and I did join a gay gym. I hated every minute of being that person. That wasn’t me. I wasn’t going to change just to fit into someone else’s criteria for being gay. I was gay and I was going to be gay in my own way!
Maybe it was her dementia or maybe it was St. Jude,…
I gave up trying to fit in and accepted the fact that I probably would spend the rest of my life alone, without any gay friends. My decision eliminated a lot of stress in my life and I felt comfortable with it. At the same time my mother finally accepted the fact that I was gay and even encouraged me to find “someone”. Maybe it was her dementia or maybe it was St. Jude, but anyway I was relieved. Not long after I gave up trying to fit in I met Kevin, my now husband. I didn’t meet him here, but in Malaysia, where he was forced to live in the closet, as I once did. Before moving here to live together, he too came out to his family and friends, and has never looked back.
No more closets and no more pretending…
I am happy now and I don’t regret “coming out of the closet”, even though I didn’t get very far. I see that I didn’t have to get very far, because I only had to be myself and by doing that I was able to meet Kevin. I still have only straight friends, mainly because we are new to this small town,and there is no gay community here or gay-oriented groups, and no one really cares about sexual orientation, as was the case when I was growing up. No more closets and no more pretending for the both of us. If only all LGBTQ people could enjoy what we have. We are truly lucky and truly blessed.
All my life I’ve been told to pray. I was educated in Catholic schools and there we prayed several times during the day. As students we were usually told what to pray for and I admit most, if not all of us, paid no attention to how or why we were praying. We were simply repeating words that we had memorized. Through this upbringing I learned that we had to pray to God, mainly for forgiveness for all the dastardly sins we evil children committed! I learned that there was a patron saint for just about everything and was told to pray to that saint for favors pertaining to his/her expertise. There was St. Anthony for lost items, St. Francis for animals, St. Jude for travelers and the list goes on and on. Even our sports teams prayed together before a game for God’s help in winning. I often was puzzled as how this works as the opposing teams also prayed! I don’t believe I ever got an answer.
As I grew older I fell away from the Catholic Church, as I became disenchanted with it’s teachings and the hypocrisy of not only Catholicism, but all religions. I still prayed though even though I wasn’t convinced it worked. Throughout my long life I have prayed for many things, although I believe very few of my prayers have been answered. Those few that have been answered I am not sure if they were really answered or if it was just coincidence that what I prayed for came to fruition. Yet still I pray.
We have overwhelming evidence that people pray and they pray often and for everything. Just about everybody prays,especially when they buy a lottery ticket. They pray that they will win the jackpot. People pray at casinos to win big. People pray for their favorite sports teams to win and also their favorite politicians.People tend to pray for their own self interests probably most often.On Facebook we can see people asking for prayers for sick relatives and quite often for children they don’t even know. Whenever someone asks for prayers for relatives we can see all of their friends sending prayers and prayer emojis. Personally I feel these are meaningless and don’t believe all of the friends and followers are actually praying. Times when we see many people praying are those all too often incidences where there have been mass school shootings. Instead of actually offering concrete actions to stop these mass murders, all we see is “offering thoughts and prayers” from politicians and citizens alike. Why aren’t all of these prayers being answered? Why do the shootings continue? I have never heard a sensible answer from clergymen and clergywomen as to why these prayers fall on deaf ears. Yet still I pray.
I believe that millions of people all over the world have been praying for world peace, as I have been doing my whole life, but we still don’t have world peace. I have been praying daily to end violence, killings and terrorism all over the world and I’m sure millions of others are joining me in my pleas. It still continues though. I pray every day to end the suffering of the sick, the poor, and the starving children of the world, yet it continues. I’ve actually asked members of the clergy about this and have been told “it’s part of God’s plan”. What kind of God has a plan that allows such disastrous hardships. Hitler had a “plan” and he’s considered one of the most evil and hated men who has ever lived! Yet still I pray.
I often think about why some prayers are supposedly answered and some are not, and think that maybe some of the petitions are just too complicated, even for God. After all God gave us all free will and if we chose to do evil, God will allow it, even thought it will hurt innocent people. I figured maybe God answered those prayers that were simple and would not change the course of human history. This idea was shattered recently when the beloved pet dog of my neighbor’s three young children (seven year old triplets)became seriously ill and was taken to the vet. The vet kept him overnight for a 24 hour observation to see if medication could improve his situation. If not he would have to be put to sleep. I knew the kids would be devastated if they lost their precious Griffin and he would be sorely missed by all of the neighbors. I prayed hard that night thinking that this would be a simple request for a benevolent God. After all keeping one dog alive would have no ill effect in the scheme of nature and it would save three children from losing their best friend and faithful companion. I was wrong. Griffin was put to sleep the next day! Yet still I pray!
One phenomenon of modern society that I find to be disgusting and unbelievable is what I call “mass demonstration of prayer”. I am referring to demonstrations of prayer emanating from the golden halls of today’s “megachurches” which are broadcasting to their gullible followers over our airways. These gigantic spiritual edifices are filled to capacity every Sunday preaching their own version of Christianity heavily laden with, not the love of Christ, but the love of money. I think it would be safe for me to say that the majority of the followers of the popular megachurches are lower middle class, the poor and the lonely and poor elderly. As we all have witnessed, the flamboyant and charismatic leaders of these megachurches, more often than not, live in multi million dollar bejeweled mansions with a fleet of expensive foreign luxury cars and even jet plans waiting at their beck and call. Who’s paying for these extravagances? Their followers! Inevitably the religious services conducted at these megachurches end up with the congregation being asked for prayers and money to assure that their prayers will be answered. Like lemmings, the members of the congregation loudly pray in unison for their souls, while opening their wallets and pocketbooks to ensure their salvation. In moving spiritual performances, which would be the envy of any Oscar nominee, preachers tearfully beg for money to be able to continue their ministry “the way Jesus would want” them to. And of course the congregation succumbs to their pleadings. Anybody want to bet that even if these preachers pray , it is to keep their followers gullible and generous? I firmly believe that prayer can be valuable for some people, but ministers and churches such as those mentioned above make a mockery of prayer and those who profess to pray.
I’m still debating with myself whether or not prayers are ever answered. Are some prayers answered, while some are not. Do the prayers of some get answered, while prayers of others are ignored. Of those prayers that some people say were answered, was it just coincidence that what was prayed for became reality? Would the events have happened anyway? I don’t know. I guess I’ll never find out. But, just in case, I’ll keep praying to be on the safe side!
This article was originally published in Publishous on Medium.com
I published this in my own publication, “Your Voice Counts”, as I was quite sure it wouldn’t be accepted into any another publication, after I initially tried and was rejected. Even though this article is about my own personal feelings I thought it would be too controversial for some publications. After I published it my own publication it went nowhere. I am republishing this in my publication to see if it will pick up any traction or will be forever ignored. So much for my personal feelings.
I’ve always thought of myself as being quite tolerant towards different lifestyles, people of different races, creeds and sexual orientation and people with different beliefs. Being gay I have always been sensitive to the feelings of other people, even though I may disagree with them. However, I must admit that at times throughout my life I have harbored some less than endearing thoughts about a certain group of people. The events of the past few weeks in Alabama have forced me to realize that I may not be as tolerant as I thought I was. I have to admit that I have always disliked or mistrusted people from the South.
…not only the vile hatred, but the thick Southern accent stuck in my head.
When I was growing up I had neighbors who were from Mississippi and they were the nicest people, but they only lived in my neighborhood for a couple of years before the Army transferred the husband overseas. In my teen years I observed the events of the Civil Rights Movement unfolding on the nightly news. I can remember the Southern accents of people like Alabama governor George Wallace or Arkansas governor Orville Faubus ,who actively fought racial discrimination. On television I remember seeing the Klu Klux Klan marching against the enactment of civil rights legislation. Watching interviews with angry White Southerners condemning the federal government for trying to give equal rights to African Americans, not only the vile hatred, but the thick Southern accent stuck in my head.
I’ll never forget George Wallace standing in front of the door of the University of Alabama…
I could never forget the pictures of lynchings, or acts of tar and feathering, as well as signs reading “Whites only”. I’ll never forget George Wallace standing in front of the door of the University of Alabama trying to prevent three Black students from entering. Under orders from President Kennedy, the Alabama National Guard made Wallace step aside to let the students enter. Once again that accent stood out. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement hatred and violence towards Blacks and anyone who supported them seemed to be tied to that Southern accent.
I guess I tolerated them because they shared my values.
As the once solidly Democratic South turned Republican over President Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights Act of 1964, to me the Southern accent began to be associated with Republican politicians. I was confused however by Johnson, Clinton and Carter. They had Southern accents, but they were Democrats and not racists, in my view! I guess I tolerated them because they shared my values.
…but I was still terrified of ever traveling through the South.
As I was growing older I watched movies where the plots often centered around the mistreatment of Blacks in the South as a matter of every day life. I can remember many movies where even White people form Northern States were singled out and terrorized simply for being from a Northern state. I realized they were just Hollywood movies, but I was still terrified of ever traveling through the South. When I was in high school a teacher of mine who happened to be a Catholic priest was driving to Florida to play golf on vacation and was arrested in one of the infamous speed traps that Southern states were and are still known for. He was thrown in jail for the night because he wasn’t wearing his Roman collar, and most likely because he was Catholic and from New York, a Northern state.
I cringe every time I hear Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana speak…
As an adult I was and still am leery about traveling to or through the South. I have been to New Orleans a couple of times and absolutely loved the city, the food, the people and the atmosphere, but visiting there I’m sure is not like living there, even though it is probably much more liberal than the rest of the state. I cringe every time I hear Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana speak out in his thick Southern accent against immigrants and LGBTQ rights, while at the same time fighting for enactment of religious liberty legislation to allow discrimination against anyone who is not a white right wing Christian.
I was dumbfounded…
I realize at times that I am generalizing in my attitude towards the South and Southern accents and I have truly tried to be more accepting, like the time in Boston when I befriended a young doctor from Mississippi who was attending the same pathology conference as I was attending. We had dinner together and I showed him around Boston Common and the Public Gardens. We stopped in a bar for a nightcap and I asked him how he liked Boston. He replied “ I didn’t realize you had so many n*****s here! I was dumbfounded and very angry. Surrounded by all the historical sites and monuments to the founding of our country the only thing he noticed was the color of people’s skin! Needless to say I ended the evening with a nasty comment about his racism and left.
…but the Southern voices seem the strongest.
People say that as we grow older we become more tolerant, but I’m not sure that’s true, at least in my case. As an adult I saw the likes of Mike Huckabee, from Arkansas, Southern Baptist preacher, Pat Robertson, Senator Mitch McConnell, Senators Graham and Cruz, all Republican Southerners vehemently oppose gay marriage and anything resembling the granting of a civil right to the LGBTQ community. Just hearing that Southern accent was like an attack on my being! Every current Republican in Congress has opposed gay rights, as well as women’s rights and minority rights, but the Southern voices seem the strongest. It seems like they are pushing to return to the 1950’s, the glory days of the White, Christian, straight male!
I guess I have wrongfully learned to associate the Southern accent with racism and bigotry.
I realize that not all Southerners are like those I mentioned above, but unfortunately I don’t hear them. I know there are gays living in the deep South and I admire them for living there, but I don’t hear them. I know I shouldn’t paint Southerners as racists and bigots, but maybe I should paint Republicans, regardless of where they live, as racists and bigots. There are also many people who oppose civil rights, gay rights and immigrant rights who are Yankees, but I don’t hear them in the same way. I guess I have wrongfully learned to associate the Southern accent with racism and bigotry.
…I associate the sound with an attack on me and everything I stand for.
I have learned that when I hear Christmas carols I associate the sound to joy and good will. When I hear Dean Martin singing “Amore”, I associate the sound with eating in Italian restaurants, when I hear the sounds of children laughing and playing I associate the sounds with happiness and innocence. But when I hear a Southern accent I am put on guard, as I associate the sound with an attack on me and everything I stand for. I know this is wrong and I honestly try to fight the feelings, but lately I have not been successful.
How do I destroy my own bigotry towards those who wish to destroy me?
With the Trump administration this country has become more divided than I can ever remember. We are not only divided by politics, but by race, gender, sexual orientation,religion and even where we live. It seems as though we have abandoned tolerance towards those who are different and are now choosing our camps and fighting to defend them, regardless of what it is doing to our country. I sadly have become involved in this abhorrent behavior and I don’t like it. Yet at the same time, the attacks on the values I hold strongly continue. My sexual orientation, my marriage, my immigrant husband and even my safety are being attacked daily, but I am going to fight back for my rights and those of others. How do I do this and remain tolerant? How do I destroy my own bigotry towards those who wish to destroy me? Is it really possible?
…I know Southerners are caring people…
Deep inside my being I know the South is a beautiful part of our country and I know Southerners are caring people, and I would really like to spend time there. I want to get over my mistrust and fear of those with a Southern accent. After all it is just a manner of speech. I feel badly that I have allowed myself to stereotype all Southerners by the actions of a loud bigoted few. To those from the South who may be reading this, I apologize for my feelings. If there was only a way to fight ideas instead of fighting the people who espouse them!