I don’t know what makes someone gay or heterosexual. I don’t think anyone ever will. And it really doesn’t matter. I do know that people are people, worthy of love and respect, regardless of their sexual orientation. This month reminds us all that it wasn’t always this way.
One of my best friends in high school was gay. Almost everyone else knew but I didn’t find out until my senior year of high school in 1970. It didn’t matter to me. My Uncle Ed, the man who raised me, had friends and acquaintances from all backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual orientations. A few of his friends were pretty obviously gay, although the terms used to describe them in the 1950’s and 1960’s were not nearly that nice.
My friend’s homosexuality did help to explain why many people thought I was also gay. I always wondered about that during my time in school. At the time, I figured that many people thought I was gay just because I was smart and soft-spoken. If they had known I had an affair with a female teacher in high school, that probably would have changed their opinion.
My mother’s boyfriend called me “fag” for most of the 23 years he dated my mother. He even convinced my mother I was gay. Because of her mental problems, she believed anything he said. She even suggested that I get therapy. I wasn’t having any part of that. Yeah, back then people thought they could counsel and or pray the homosexuality out of you.
Her boyfriend based his opinion on the fact that I didn’t like sports or fast cars. (He would have shit little blue BB’s when I bought my Lamborghini Countach back in the 1990’s.)
I was a reporter and photographer for our local newspaper as well as The Atlantic City Press while I was in high school. I had one of the only darkrooms in town. I would develop and print photos for friends and family and even the local police.
Back then, it was illegal to be homosexual in the hopelessly backward state of New Jersey. One day, I was asked to accompany the State Police on a raid of an outdoor meeting place for gays. It was just off the North-South Freeway in South Jersey. It was nicknamed “Fairy Forest.” The police and the editor of the newspaper wanted me to take photographs of the perp walks as they led people out of the woods.
I told my friend about the raid and he put out the word to his friends. I accompanied the raid and, surprise, surprise, there was no one there. (Pretty sure the statute of limitations has expired on my indiscretion). I love it when a plan comes together. Several State Troopers literally “stormed” the wooded area like they were hitting the beach in Normandy and found no one.
They never planned another raid and the rest area continued to be a safe haven until the state closed it. By that time, at least homosexuality was no longer illegal.
I was in college in the 1970’s. Our school had a Pride Day every year. As a music major, I was asked to contribute a musical piece for the day. While I think they were hoping for an Aaron Copland-like instrumental piece, I wrote a song called Let Your Love Out of the Closet.
The opening line was “Love between two people, has got to be the most beautiful thing in the world. So many people seem to be afraid to let their love show.”
The chorus was:
“Let your love out of the closet,
Take your time now,
Easy does it.
Didn’t anybody tell you that your pride comes before a fall.”
The song was used as a theme for the event for the next few years.
Fast forward to my time as Vice President of Talent and Programming for Shop at Home. One employee who happened to be gay was acting really over-the-top on-the-air. The President of the company came to me and said this employee was acting “too gay.”
“Too gay?” It was 2007, not 1950! I had to figure out how to tell the person without creating bad will and opening up the possibility for a massive discrimination suit.
I went up to the employee and told him, “When you’re on-the-air, a little less Charles Nelson Reilly and more Rock Hudson.” It worked; his on-air demeanor changed immediately. Whew!
These days, I thank God we live in a world where race, religion and sexual orientation are finally someone’s personal business. It’s not a perfect world yet, and may never be. There is still a lot of work to be done, but it keeps getting better.
Wishing you and yours the best during this Pride Month!
© 2022 Steve Bryant – No portion of this or any blog can be reproduced or copied and posted on any online site or read aloud on any audio or video media without the express permission of the author.