People say of themselves that they “just happen to be gay.” I think that’s bullshit. I am profoundly, inextricably gay, and being gay affects every single part of me. I didn’t “happen” to be gay. I am so deeply gay that if you took the gay away, there wouldn’t be anything left of me—or I would be a totally different person.
I was gay, and I knew I wasn’t going to work for American capitalist enterprise, be an organization man and fit in and take orders and live in a suburb. I was a rebel from the gitgo. So starting in grade school, I gradually accustomed myself to being outside, being a loner, being a rebel, being against.
I always felt like an outsider, so no matter what the endeavor, I was going to find a way to do it by myself. Liking boys put me in a different place from everybody else and the forces that drove many other people—get a profession, find the “lovely girl,” get married, have children, etc.—usually didn’t apply to me. I was in a free fire zone where there weren’t any rules. There were times when I had to pretend that the same rules that applied to everybody else were applicable to me when I knew they, profoundly, weren’t.
And the times in my life when I tried to join an organization—I got a PhD and became a college prof and got married—were notable for how very uncomfortable I felt until I gave in and abandoned the effort. Whatever I had to do, I never lost my sense that I was gay.
When everything else seemed to be just a series of pretenses, a long and difficult acting job I was trapped in, being gay liberated my mind. It gave me a firm foundation to stand on, a history to understand and build on. It gave me a future, a way to think, and, finally, a way to act.
Being gay has meant that I learned something of what other minorities experienced in America—Jews, black people, atheists, native Americans, Japanese Americans, others—and I knew that “We the People” did not include all of us unless we fought for it. Because I was gay, much of Christianity came to feel narrow and discriminatory. Being gay, I watched while people claim privileges for themselves that they tried to deny me. Yet they seemed to want to be my friend. It was an interesting—and distancing—experience.
It’s a rich life being gay has given me. Part of our family was just here for a quick visit—C’s and my children and grandchildren. We baked bread and did homework and talked for about twenty-four hours straight. We’ve got it good. But none of this just happened to us. We worked to get what we’ve got—two queer granddads and our kids and grandkids.