No Room For Him Here
J. C. Adamson
Helen was probably Mom's best friend for a decade or so. I liked her a lot. She brought me interesting things from her travels. More than that, though she talked with me. I think most kids like adults who don't treat them like kids. Helen was interesting. She was bright and well read. And she'd been to places I'd never even heard of.
Helen lived in a rented room in the large home of a small family. She had both men and women friends, but I never had the impression that she had a boyfriend. I don't suppose she would have talked of her romantic life with a ten-year-old, though.
Two of her men friends seemed a bit different to me—different from other men I knew—though I couldn't have told you why. They lived together, and had apparently done so for many years. Dad called them queers, which would draw a rebuke from Mom. I didn't think much about Dad having a name for them; he had a ready pejorative for nearly everyone. As I reflect, though, I remember no acrimony in his attitude toward these men. I know that they visited our home on more than one occasion, and Dad seemed to accept them. At least he was polite to them and displayed no apprehension regarding them. That was in marked contrast to other attitudes Dad displayed. He professed, for example, that he would never let a black man in his house. (He later did, but that's another story.)
When I first learned about the intolerance many people exhibit toward homosexuality, I was confused. I couldn't understand why people would be so agitated about the sexual behavior and living arrangements of others. I saw no harm in their lifestyles. At least they didn't bear children they couldn't care for, as heterosexual couples often did.
Over time, I developed my own clear sexual identity—not that there was ever much doubt. My first memory of being aroused by a girl happened when I was about five years old. When I was six I had a girlfriend—I planned to marry her when I turned twenty-four. I fantasized about being naked with girls long before I had any idea why that might be fun.
I never had such fantasies about boys. The idea of men having sex with each other was never even interesting to me. By the time I'd had some sexual experience with women, I was quite sure I had no desire to do that kind of thing with another man. But I was never distressed by the idea that some men had sex together. It didn't affect me. I certainly wasn't threatened by the concept. If two guys wanted to sleep together, that just freed up two women for the rest of us. Not a bad plan it seemed to me.
When I first worked with gay men in the seventies, I suppose I had some trepidation, based mostly on the fear and hatred I heard from some other men. But nothing ever happened to support my discomfort. No gay men made passes at me. No gay men ever exhibited any behavior that was threatening, or even disquieting to me. In time, I began to meet gay men and women I really liked.
In those days we went dancing in gay bars. We went in groups of two or three couples. Sometimes we were joined by gay friends, but we often went in totally heterosexual groups. Gay bars seemed to have the best disco music. Today, the idea of spending an entire evening gyrating to disco sounds is almost frightening, but we loved it then.
We were always welcome in the gay bars. I don't recall an unpleasant incident of any sort. No gay person ever seemed offended or frightened by our heterosexuality, and no gay man ever approached me. I never was sure whether to be flattered or offended by that. Actually, I just believed, as I do today, that gay men are pretty good at spotting other gay men. It wouldn't make sense for a gay man to pursue a straight man in a gay bar. Why go where there is no hope of success, when easy victory is so readily attainable?
Over the years, I have been casually acquainted with hundreds of gay men and lesbian women. I have had friendships with dozens, and have been very close to a few. I have had gay clients and many gay coworkers. I often reflect on how much poorer my life would have been without all the gay people I have known.
Today, we received a bizarre, hateful, confusing piece of mail. It was a bigoted rambling, targeted against homosexuals and homosexuality. I deduce from its content that we received it because our business advertises in gay publications and supports gay organizations and events. Most of the mailing was poorly written, and was simply ridiculous. Some of it was threatening. It quoted a dozen or more bible verses to support its vitriol. It was unsigned, of course.
I'm angry. I fear the damage that can result from ignoring this kind of hate. I think of Matthew Shepherd and countless others whose names I'll never know.
I hope the postal inspectors and the Colorado Attorney General will be interested in examining this tirade. I'm pretty knowledgeable about the law, but I really have no idea whether it is illegal to threaten someone by mail. I hope it is. There is scant chance of identifying the sender from this one letter, but he obviously isn't very bright. (I assume his maleness—even stupid women are usually not so hateful.) He has likely sent out many of these. He has made a couple of obvious mistakes that could lead to his identification. He can be caught.
I want him to know that he can find no success in his efforts. He cannot make me hate homosexual people. He cannot scare gay people straight. I want him to know that I, and thousands upon thousands of straight people, believe with all our hearts that he is despicable. His sickness is the plague upon our culture; homosexuality is not. His twisted reading of scripture is intellectually and spiritually dishonest. I want him to know that his attitudes and ideas will not be accepted in our culture. Whether or not he is caught, I want him to know that he is accountable.
In this land, he has the right to speak, but he does not have the right to threaten others. His actions violate the principles by which we have chosen to live. There is no room for him here.
© J. C. Adamson, 2001