Just got off the phone with my surrogate family, and it made me feel old as hell.
I got off active duty in June of 1992, and when I did, the very first thing I did was go to a Grateful Dead concert at Buckeye Lake with my old school friends. It was awesome. But then I had to get into school and make something happen, so I applied to WVU, and with the help of an old family friend, I got in, and I had a couple credits transfer. This old family friend had a son named Ben in the Naval Academy (Ben was my childhood friend in Bethany and we beat each other up all the time before they left my hometown in 1979 and moved to Morgantown- I still remember throwing up in their car on the way to Star Wars- he later went on to graduate at the top of his class at Annapolis and become a nuclear submariner and is still the smartest person I have ever known), who had met this guy who was also going to WVU. At any rate, I went to a BBQ at their house, and they said you have to meet this guy named Jack. “You’ll like him,” they said.
Jack and I became fast friends, and he was an Army Ranger and a sophomore, and played rugby, and he introduced me to a shitload of people. Basically, my social life as a 22 year old “freshman” was just hanging out with his friends. After a while, I hooked up with the lacrosse crowd, but he and I were already good friends. We made plans to move in together and share a house, and we had another roommate who was a former Marine who lived with us. Since we were all non-traditional students, we didn’t have to even think about traditional housing, and we just rented a big house. The running joke was no one would ever rob us, because there were probably fucking land mines all around the house, given our past experiences.
Before we moved in, Jack went to DC to work as an intern for some jackass in the House, and I stayed and kept the house running and clean and put in an AC. But the whole summer, every time I went out, I would hear rumors from the more subtle folks, and from other people who wore abrupt and dickish, “Hey- your buddy is a fag. Why do you hang out with him?”
At the end of the summer, I went away for a couple of days, and came back and found Jack in my bed after his internship at DC was over. Not for the reasons you are probably thinking, but because I had the only air conditioner in the house. He then told me- “I know you have heard all the rumors, and they are true. I’m gay.” I just responded- “I’m really not as stupid as I look, I already knew, and I don’t care.”
I’d never given a shit, one way or another, about people being gay. I remember when I was on active duty and the issue of homosexuality was brought up, I’d always joke “I wish you all were gay. It would make my odds at the bar a shitload better.” But this was a real turning point for me. I’d never known anyone who was openly gay, and the first person I meet who is gay turns out to be my best friend and someone I looked up to and still do. It forever changed me, and is probably part of the reason that even when I was a full-fledged wingnut, I was never a gay basher and attacked those who were.
I became close friends with Jack’s mother and father (his dad was a very successful dentist) before they knew he was gay, and they had us out to dinner at least once every three weeks. I used to be terrified of his mother and would always make Jack drink a bottle of wine with me before we went to dinner, but that is another story (we never were able to successfully lie to her- she always always sniffed through all our bullshit). I became good friends with all his younger brothers, and watched all of them grow up to be doctors. We went on vacation together. I felt like the fifth brother in the family. Later, when I went to grad school, I lived with his brother for three years while he went to dental school.
I actually love them all as brothers, too. Last year, their father, who always treated me like a son and was the most generous, decent, kind human being on the planet, died of cancer. It was quick. Not quick for the family, who watched him die over a six month period, but quick in the sense that one of the most vibrant, decent, kindest human beings died faster than he ever should have.
Why am I telling you all this? Well, I just got off the phone with Jack and his brothers and their mom and all their wives and children, and this was their first Thanksgiving without their dad there. And it just made me nostalgic. I’ve had such a good life and been blessed with such good friends. At the same time, I was hopeful, because my story is the same story that is changing the way Americans look at gay rights.
And I am rambling.
You are a mensch…that’s all that needs to be said.
You take your sweet time posting, but the wait is always well worth it.
Sending hugs cuz that’s the best remedy…….l
Two weeks ago we went to the wedding of the daughter of a good friend who died this spring. He was a Navy pilot in the Nam and a ecology professor in Charlotte. She married a wonderful Australian woman and they are in the process of moving down under because, even though it was legal for them to marry in New York, the feds don’t recognize it and she can’t get a green card. It’s a fucking crime they have to go and this dumb ass country is going to be less for losing two talented women. spit
And let’s not forget that with each year’s Thanksgiving, at least one more crazy uncle is turned from the Dark Side because he really listened to a beloved lirbrul family member for the first time.
“I wish you all were gay. It would make my odds at the bar a shitload better.”
As Woody Allen said “The good thing about being bi-sexual is it doubles your chance of a date on Saturday night.”
Can someone more versed on the subject educate me regarding “gayness”? For instance – have there always been self-identified gay people? Did they think they were “gay”, or were there different terms for it in say 500BCE Greece? I believe I’ve read that one can estimate 10% of any population at any time as homosexual, but what does that really mean, I guess I’m getting at. What would a homosexual of circa 1000BCE thought of themselves, and what would their society have thought of them?
I dated a girl right after I got out of high school that was very active in the theater. As a result I ended up going to a lot of after parties with a large number of gay men who were comfortable displaying their sexuality within the group. It was an eye opening experience for me for a couple of reasons.
One was that I discovered they were no different then any group of guy outside maybe being better dressers.
The other thing was that there was one guy who was interested in me & was very obnoxious about it. The things he said and the way he acted reminded me very much of the way I saw guys act when they wanted to bed a girl. It made me realize what asshole guys can be.
Ramble on, John. In my experience, the only people who have problems with gays are people who think they don’t know any.
Reason enough to give thanks.
You are a good man, JC. Thankful for you, this season…
John, you’re a very good man. Thank you for taking time to tell us about Jack and his family. You are all very fortunate to be in each others’ lives.
Raven, I remember reading about your professor friend when he died. He sounded like a terrific guy. I agree, it’s just beyond comprehension that our immigration laws and marriage laws are so archaic and punitive. I hope Australia treats them better.
@redshirt: I know that the Romans didn’t give a shit.
I wonder what the other penguins think about the gay ones?
It varied based on society and time but for the most part Greek and Roman society accepted it not just as normal but often useful.
Older well established men often took young male lovers and mentored them, introducing them to powerful business contacts that would increase the younger mans chances of success. Far from shameful many of the top business, military and political leaders started this way.
Part of the Christian rejection was based on “anything the Romans and Greeks do we must be against”. That started us on the path we or running tody
Short Bus Bully
Your ramblings are done right. One part story with a point, one part self deprecation, one part solid humor. Throw in a dash of snark and that’s a ratio that always provides a worthwhile read.
It’s good shit, that’s the reason I’ve been coming here for years.
I actually spent Thanksgiving this year with a non-crazy uncle. I don’t know the whole story, but he once got thrown in jail for a night for protesting with Cesar Chavez.
I grew up in the 60s/70s in a working class family in a largely working class city (Quincy, MA) and I never cared, either. I think the widespread association of being able to read above your grade level with being a “homo” might have had something to do with it.
All the morons seemed to hate homos and blacks and so on. I had no use for morons and figured people they hated probably didn’t deserve it.
And that has made all the difference. I guess.
What a lovely and eloquent post. You know, JC – if you really want to do some major good (besides providing the Juicerati a place to hang out), maybe you could start an RA movement (Republicans Anonymous), wherein otherwise seemingly normal, functional people could share their tales of douchebaggery and ignorance, and be accepted by their kind and thereby find a way to still their rage and fear and become more whole, sane, rational human beings. Pretty soon there’d be liberals everywhere, and every stray dog (and cat) would have a home, and we’d all be bitching and moaning and infighting, but it would be like a family.
Also, everyone at the meetings should be adopted by a Lily-like pooch as a co-sponsor to expedite their recovery. You’re in WVa – that seems like a pretty good place to start.
Not a ramble; actually you wrote a personal essay with a clear theme, well-written and accessible.
My Dad was a Navy Vet in WWII who went to college on the GI Bill. First in his immigrant family. Holy Cross in Worcester, MA – same class as Bob Cousy. Anyway, he had the same disconnectedness with the 18 year-old Frosh (he was 26) and quickly found other vets to move in together after Freshman year. I suspect it’s a common phenomenon.
@kdaug: They did though, from what I’ve read. While homosexual acts between men were not uncommon, these men were also usually married. Also, there was quite a stigma on the submissive side of the relationship and rumors of it were used against Julius Caesar, for example.
[[And I am rambling.]]
Maybe, but in a good way.
The Other Bob
One of your best posts John. Good work.
sorry, I know this is way off topic, but did anyone else see Bobo on the PBS Newshour? I was flipping and saw his face …
He said the Benghazi thing was the flip side of WMD, where people were accusing the administration of lying, but they were just misled by intelligence reports.
Christ, these people
I have a great-niece. She’s at the age – 4- where she’s trying to understand the concept of death, heaven and dying.
She asked me today if I had a ‘Papa’. I told her that I did, and that he was in heaven. She asked me all sorts of questions about him, and I answered them all…
It was the first time in a long time that I had talked about Daddy, who died 15 years ago.
As she went back to her LeapPad, I sat quietly and cried.
I miss Daddy so much. He was the cook between my parents. It’s not that Mama couldn’t cook..it’s just that Daddy enjoyed it. If there were 100 meals in our home, Daddy cooked 95 of them. And, he loved the holidays.
Just to say, I loved your post.
@Schlemizel: I think I’m pretty familiar with Greek and Roman practices, so that’s why I asked the question. However, many of these men and women were married and parents; as for those who did not marry, I must mention that pederasty was not uncommon in the least, and while this was fairly widespread, it was also a subject of slander and frowned upon to some degree. I get the sense the Greeks and the Romans and who knows how many other cultures had quite different viewpoints on homosexuality than we do. That’s why I asked about the idea of “gayness”. For example, Socrates was probably homosexual, yet was in no way defined or self-defining as “gay”.
Yes you are rambling, but we are a species unique in our ability to tell stories. That’s a good thing as our stories inform and connect us – and we need more connection.
In 1978 I told my roomie at Ohio State that I am gay (the first straight I came out to). It was different times so I was freaking a bit. He wasn’t, “Yeah, I sorta know. I don’t give a fuck.”
A guy like that is a very good friend to have.
Ramble on brother – we have the time…
You’re good people, Cole.
I got a little bit emotional yesterday myself. I have a friend who I met in high school, and is just one of the smartest, most passionate, interesting, loving people you could ever know. He was brought up Mormon, and he served a mission in Australia after we graduated. Even though he was very active in the church when we first became friends, he never had that snide judgmentalism that lots of LDS have, and was already beginning to be interested in social justice issues. Anyway, he left the Church a few years ago and came out, and is engaged to another former Mormon (formon) man, who is equally wonderful. Anyway, yesterday, he tweeted, “Three years ago, I thought I’d lose my family if I came out. This year, Nate and I are hosting Thanksgiving for both of our families at our house for the first time.” Later, he wrote, “Our moms are hitting it off.” Such a long road for them both, and I’m so thrilled for them that it’s working out well.
This was a wonderful read, John. Thanks.
In ’83 I went for a job interview with the NSA. Ugh, don’t know what I was thinking. They spent almost no time discussing me or the job(s), but took a good few hours with a lie detector trying to get me to break down and admit…that I was gay (I’m not). No apparent interest in possible drug habits, gambling, criminal past. Just the gay.
I finally had enough and told the interviewers off but good. Said their obsession with homosexuality was moronic and made them look like creepy @ssholes, and the last place in the world I’d now tolerate working was in their nasty, intolerant little hell hole. Then I pointed out that their lie-detector had revealed one thing accurately: they’re fools who put their faith in spectacularly failed technology.
At that point the machine technician reviewed his printouts and concluded that maybe I hadn’t caught the gay after all.
Generations of jerks like them did untold damage with such idiocy.
Good ramble, John. I knew of a few of the LAX dudes where I went to school. I can easily picture you among them.
I grew up in a horsey, wealthy community. Lots of gay folks. They were a fact of life since before I knew what being gay entailed exactly.
You’re just good people JC.
@Suzanne – A wonderful story, people like John and yourself makes me come read and lurk on a daily basis. We lost an amazing friend to a heart attack at the age of 56 near the end of May, who was our best man 16 years ago. We are taking care of his affairs, and his 87 year old Mom in a care home in town. His annual Christmas party was a fantastic collection of his friends all the way back to high school, who have become our dearest friends over the last 20+ years. His absence this holiday season will be difficult, but I am so lucky to have known him.
“And I am rambling.”
Ramble On, John. :-)
Back almost 40 years ago I used to go to my lesbian sisters house to help her and her friend raise my nephew and her friends niece. My sister passed away almost 5 yrs ago and she and her friend had separated almost 30 years ago but I still consider my sisters friend to be one of my two very best friends. In the intervening years I have been introduced to a number of gay and lesbian folks and overall I’d say the percentage of assholes among them has been far, far less than in the straight people I’ve known. As in approaching zero.
not all ramblings are bad ramblings! in this case, this a good and awesome ramble
Rambling is good. Rambling helps. Here’s my ramble. And I do not do it to make anyone feel sorry for me but to make people understand that “normal” is elusive most of the time. Let’s see, where do I start? My mom died at 37 of breast cancer. I was 12.
My youngest sister is mentally retarded – what you call “developmentally disabled” 45 years ago we called retarded.
My Aunt (my mom’s sister) died at 36 EXACTLY a year after my mom.
When I was, I think, 10 (my mom was still here) our house burned down due to a faulty wire.
I won’t go into my step-mom; apparently everyone with a stepmom can’t stand her. Then it got sort of quiet.
Then the shit hit the fan again. We thought that one of my mom’s girls (3 girls, 1 boy) would surely die of cancer, well, no; the boy died. My brother, my best friend in life died at 45 of pancreatic cancer. What, you say? 45 year olds don’t die of pancreatic cancer. Oh yes – in my family they do.
And now it gets very ugly. Two years ago my nephew, my godchild, at 19 years old was shot to death by his “best” friend. I cannot really go into the details. Google “Alexander Ernandes” to get them.
Anyway I guess my wish for my family is that the God – by the way I am not a believer – perhaps I mean fate – or whatever you call your God, please spread the crap around. My family is tired.
Whilst in college, about 1981, I met my first openly gay person. He was the neighbor of who later became my wife and we were all good friends.
Sadly he died of AIDS some years later. Those early years of AIDS when such little was known were pretty freaky I thought.
My Truth Hurts
I never cared about people being gay but I did have a normalising revelation working as the only straight waiter in a restaurant staffed with and owned by gay men. Some were horn dogs, some were crass, some were prude, some were sluts. But they were all MEN who talked about other men the way my male friends and I talked about women. I realized there is no difference between me and a gay man except who we like to have sex with.
After that I started thinking of gay men as being ultra-masculine.
I was at Ohio State in 1978.
Summit and 20th.
More evidence for why this is the blog i must read every day, even on my crappy phone on vacation. Ramble on any time. Reminds me that one shouldnt get so irritated at screeching baby nieces and should instead be thankful for their health and everyones health and wellbeing.
Yeah, it’s the same thing, because going on a Sunday show is exactly as consequential as starting a war, right? (Leaving aside that the Obama Administration was just reporting the facts as they were understood at the time, not “misled,” and the Bush Administration was only “misled” if you think that means believing the response to “we demand that you tell us what we want to hear.”)
What a dick.
When rambling is this good, there’s no need to stop.
Ted & Hellen
Cathie from Canada
Off topic, but check this out:
the pug who couldn’t run its hilarious
Larry Hagman, the North Texas native who played the conniving and mischievous J.R. Ewing on the TV show Dallas, died Friday at a Dallas hospital. He was 81.
Mr. Hagman died at 4:20 p.m. Friday at Medical City Dallas Hospital from complications of his recent battle with cancer, members of his family said.
“Larry was back in his beloved Dallas, re-enacting the iconic role he loved most,” the family said in a statement. “Larry’s family and close friends had joined him in Dallas for the Thanksgiving holiday. When he passed, he was surrounded by loved ones. It was a peaceful passing, just as he had wished for. The family requests privacy at this time.”
The iconic role of J.R. Ewing metamorphosed Mr. Hagman’s life. He rocketed from being a merely well-known TV actor on I Dream of Jeannie and the son of Broadway legend Mary Martin, to the kind of transnational fame known only by the likes of the Beatles and Muhammad Ali.
Mr. Hagman made his home in California with his wife of nearly 60 years, the former Maj Axelsson. Despite obvious physical frailty, he gamely returned to Dallas to film season one of TNT’s Dallas reboot and part of season two.
Linda Gray’s agent, Jeffrey Lane, said the actress was at Mr. Hagman’s bedside when he died, according to The Sun in London. He said another co-star, Patrick Duffy, was also present. “They had been friends for 35 years and they had worked together for many years, so obviously it is devastating,” Mr. Lane told The Sun.
Thank you so much for this, on both a general and a personal level.
On a general level, I am not gay myself, but though I was never a gay basher, it took me a while to get used to the idea of openly gay people. I knew a few in high school, but it wasn’t until college that I began to shed some of the stupid discomfort and really come to appreciate the diversity I encountered.
On a personal level, we just went through a similar story in my family. My grandmother passed away Tuesday night after seven months of dealing with esophageal cancer. I spent yesterday flying back to Puerto Rico to see my grandfather and the rest of my family. The funeral service was today, and after hours of crying our eyes out and a beautiful Mass, we kissed her goodbye and went home, and told stories until we were laughing as hard as we’d been crying before.
May those who love you, love you; and those who don’t, may God turn their hearts; and if He can’t turn their hearts, may He at least turn their heels backwards so you’ll know they’re coming by their limp. Happy holidays, all.
Redshirt, Homosexuality and Civilization (by Louis Crompton) is a great exploration of gay sexuality in history and the creation of a homosexual as a person.
Parts of it are dry as fuck, but it’s worth it, as a text.
While there wasn’t such a thing as a gay person, there were definitely people we would Identify retroactively as gay and even, infrequently, gay subcultures.
Nice. Thanks for sharing, Mr Cole.
@redshirt: Being a bottom in Ancient Greece was definitely seen as emasculating. On of the most memorable insults (one man to another) in Aristophanes was “I met you walking along the road with a young man, but you didn’t even offer him to me!”
Well, if you had to go home to Xanthippe, you’d probably start looking at alternatives, too…
You need find out the whole story before its too late. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about. Family stories, connections, and reconciliation.
At dinner last night, my dad finally made ammends with my wife over an incident that has haunted our family since the day she met my dad.
My dad is a retired doctor, and still interviews prospective medical student. The first time he met Beth he asked her a question he claims to have asked medical student applicants. “Tell me something dreadful about yourself.”.
My life has been hell since (10 years) Last night my dad was finally able to admit that the question posed was inappropriate and wrong headed. Beth recognizes his apology and I finally have hope that family gatherings will no longer be as difficult or painful as they have been. N
I love it when you ramble. You should do it more often. You have had a blessed life JG and thank you for sharing it with us pains-in-the-ass.
Thanks John. Your personal stories are the best part of the blog.
our society is still learning how to deal with gay rights, but i am pretty sure the trends are in the right direction and we will get it sorted out in a generation or two.
i was 18 when met someone who was gay. he was totally secretive about it as i guess that is how things were in 1980. a couple of years later a gay man hit on me. i was pretty naive, although i guess i learned i had no interest in men at that point.
my teenage kids have gay friends. as the younger generation ages, marriage equality will pass in more states. the sooner the better.
Lovely post, JC, thanks.
My post about my dad
As disappointing as his reaction to my wife has been, there’re is so much good in him as well.
My dad was raised on a ranch in southern AZ in the late ’40s Two of his younger brothers were gay, and both were diagnosed with AIDSa inthe ’80s. His fourth bother, John, was diagnosed while I was in college, in 1983. He was one of the idea cases if cryptococcal meningitis that herelded the coming pandemic. My parents, to their infinitate credit, took in John, and cared for him until his death, and opened my grandparent’s eyes to the world that their son inhabited.
A couple of years later, when Glenn was diagnosed, the family was able to pull together, and care for both Glenn and his partner, while they suffered with AIDS. It breaks my heart that a year after Glenn and maritizio died, that HAART became available and revolutionized the care of AIDS patients.
My parents never turned away from Dad’s brothers. I hope that now they will stop turning away from Beth.
Your story is great John, keep rambling.
Happy thanksgiving Cole.
@redshirt: I think this will answer some of your questions.
Ted & Hellen
Wag, could you explain why that request upset your wife so?
My best friend in college came out to me back in the 60’s (when I think it was a crime then, geeze). I wasn’t surprised at all, to his surprise. He later became the godfather of my oldest daughter.
I love you John Cole. If I were forty years younger — ok, even thirty — I’d be camping on your doorstep.
@Ted & Hellen:
I think it comes down to a difference in power. Put yourself in the place of a 30 year old mildly insecure woman meeting your newly divorced boyfriend’s 68 year old domineering father for the first time.
And the question comes up in the first five minutes of conversation.
I think it’s a challenging question coming from a peer that you’ve known for a significant period of time. It’s an Inappropriate question under the circumstances where it occurred.
@Ted & Hellen:
Tell us something dreadful about yourself.
Ted & Hellen
I’m not always as kind as I should be.
Ted & Hellen
I think you’re leaving out a lot of subtext, no?
Strip club blows up in Massachusetts.
Dollar bills are everywhere.
H.E. Pennypacker, Wealthy Industrialist
Even a committed athiest wants to say god bless you JC.
@David Koch: Too soon?
Dolla, dolla bill y’all.
@Wag: I mean…yeah, it’s a weird and inappropriate question, and I could totally see being put off or unnerved by it. I probably would have been too.
But you’re saying this one incident, of a poorly chosen question, led to *10 years* of unrest and problems between you and she and your family? That just seems like a severe overreaction. It’s not like he cursed her out or used racial slurs at her or assaulted her. He asked a crass question, and while I agree it can be hard to know how exactly to behave around a partner’s parents, she was an adult. We’re not talking about a child here.
Much of this is covered in responses and your own responses. There seems to be a widespread assumption in classical antiquity that it is normal for adult men to want to put their johnsons in young girls and women and young boys and men, wherever it will fit. It’s broadly degrading for adult men to want johnsons put anywhere in themselves or to permit this to happen, though, although there are indisputably people who did want this. Interest in adult men was weird, confusing, and laughable. There is scarce testimony of relationships between adult male peers of age and social status, but it exists. There is widespread silence about female homosexuality, apart from the case of Sappho and her circle on Lesbos. That is not at all to say it didn’t happen; it’s just that they didn’t talk about it, possibly because it didn’t involve johnsons, which they were obsessed with.
The whole thing is bound up with the very different social circumstances of their world, not least with the institution of slavery and the radical inequality of women. But there’s nothing inconsistent with the idea that there was a small segment of the population specifically inclined to sexual activity with people of the same gender, plus a big overlay of cultural norms giving men other options where to put their johnsons, which they did enthusiastically, as you might expect.
Ramble on Mr. Cole, ramble on….
This reminds me of my friend Rob. The first friend who ever came out to me. We were both 16 and he lived a couple doors down. I went over to his house one day and his horrible mother was emotionally abusing him. Surviving abuse was something we had in common. Anyways when I came in she started threatening to tell his ‘secret’ to me and ‘ruin his life’. Saying some terrible things and she had him in tears locked in his room and she kept yelling through the door. I had no idea what they were going on about. I was really clueless but she pissed me off so much I just yelled at her “I already know and I don’t care!”
She looked at me really shocked and told me to leave. Later he came over and we got really drunk and I told him I had a crush on him and told me he was gay.
We lost touch after I joined the Navy But wherever he is I hope things got better for him.
yeah… the holidays…. a good many of you were with me on my parental medical mystery tour last year and I haven’t forgotten your support. concur with JC that the holidays can have a bittersweet tang to them when given time to reflect on our own blessings.
Even though I am supposedly a big boy now, a son still misses his Mom.
So you sigh, tear up, share a few thoughts and hope that your expression of pain and perseverance will help someone else to do the same in the knowledge that friends and family will help you through the long small hours of the night wondering if today will be the last day or will it be tomorrow. They will help you honor the memory of those that have passed and recast bonds that establish the very human community that binds us.
Sorry for being a bit maudlin there, still, this thread is a reminder for me to thank this community for allowing my grief to have a public, yet private outlet. A kind of karmic debt I happily acquire and continue to pay forward with others… so to that end…. thank you all for being here and being who you are.
Friday night lights was interesting. Fog rolled in during the 2nd quarter so over half the game had 100′ visibility. From the sideline you couldn’t see the other sideline. At one point I couldn’t see the lit scoreboard 50 yards away.
The commentary was hilarious:
“Apparently that was a touchdown”
“They tell us the field goal was good”
“A flag was thrown. We have no idea why.”
The first down marker was on the visitor side, as usual, which nobody could see. So we usually knew what down it was but they never updated the down yardage. It was always 2nd and 10, 3rd and 10. We only had a ballpark idea where the line of scrimmage was – within a few yards. Was that a first down? Nobody could tell until the ref called it. You couldn’t read any player numbers, so unless it involved the quarterback, nobody had a clue which player was involved. Never seen anything quite like it.
John Cole, you are a good man. So many people love you and it’s clear why. You are blessed.
@redshirt: So it’s been pretty well covered, but I’m going to try and push this a little beyond the ‘classical antiquity’ angle because, dammit, the past existed before the greeks and in other parts of the world too!
Although we tend to thing of ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ as the separate category, if my memory from undergrad queer theory courses is accurate ‘heterosexual’ was actually coined first to denote a specific identity linked to a specific set of sexual practices (this is ca. mid 19th century). Prior to having categories like hetersexual and homosexual we assume (based on literature, art, gossip and human nature) that humans did much as they do now: most looked for opposite gendered people to rub bits with, some rubbed bits with both genders (or more… see below), some only rubbed bits (by preference) with people whose bits were like theirs (though of course social constraints like ladies being married off by their families or men needing to produce heirs affected this).
Every society seems to have a different way of coping with people whose sexual interests are not mainstream. In some societies they are shunned and ostracised (much of western Europe from at least the Iron Age), in others they are allowed limited expression (eg, greece/rome – taking young lovers), in some their sexual behaviour is read as alternate gender expression and they are considered manly women or womenly men (two spirits in some native north american traditions), in others people with non-mainstream sexual/gender expression are believed to be part of other genders (3rd genders, sometimes more) which have different social roles (often linked to shamanism, sometimes linked to child rearing).
Many of the extreme anti-homosexual laws, particularly in Africa, are not actually the product of ‘genuine’ African traditions (though of course we can debate the idea of genuine or authenticity), but can be traced directly to one or more colonial period European laws (almost always British) designed to curb the local tendencies towards accepting non-mainstream sexualities and creating extra gender categories.
Thanks, John; it’s always nice to hear support from straight people, and you say it so well.
The joke in my family is that when I came out to my parents, my mom looked at my dad, grinned, and said, “You owe me five bucks.” They have always been supportive, and when I had a partner for fifteen years, he was treated as one of the family by everyone, including my 90-year-old grandmother who would send him a check on his birthday just like the rest of her grandchildren.
I’m not trying to be an asshole here, but I wish someone could explain this to me. I’m being sincere.
Of course, looking back on that time, your party was not as rabidly anti-gay (altho the “Moral Majority” still held the reins and have never let go, they’re just called something else now). I just don’t get it but at the same time, some of these very odd, pro-gay rights republicans came over to our side this time b/c their own party decided to completely unmask itself and say exactly how they feel about gays, women, minorities, and “takers.”
To me, inequality is inequality. Be it economic, racial, gender, class, or otherwise.
@rikyrah: I was totally in love with his character in I Dream of Jeannie (the name escapes me right now, other than Tony) — Good lord, he was cute! Of course I wanted to just be Barbara Eden somehow, although I didn’t realize it was a physical impossibility at the time. I never watched Dallas. RIP Larry. You certainly made me smile.
@Helen: So very, very sorry for all that you and your family has endured – please know that people here care and hope that you can handle those issues. We all face death at some point – for me, the threat is daily but I realize that is life for so many – none of us get out of it alive; we can, only if lucky, choose the manner we die. Till then, do live life like death is around the corner – not foolishly but with appreciation of its small joys and the good that you can do for everyone.
My best friend and I had a crush on each other until puberty, when it turned out I was a straight female and he was a gay male. By the time I talked him out of killing himself I both knew, and knew it had to be a secret, mid-’70’s.
We lost touch because both of us still had that lingering crush… it was trouble for our other relationships. But I never understood the hate and I still don’t, except some people are so full of hate they look for targets.
They would do far better to get rid of the hate.
The innate human decency that your “ramblings” represent, and that which characterizes the posts on this blog, is the reason I come back to it every day, as one of the top three blogs I read.
The world would be a better place if more people were capable of the commitment to honesty and caring about one’s fellow human beings that underlies the thematic content of this blog.
Thanks for the beautiful post on the nature of friendship, and *especially* for that link to the Tapers’ archive! Just revisited my first Grateful Dead show (Buckeye Lake, 1988) — what an incredible day (and night) that was….
Thanks John, wonderful post. Though I wonder now if other people thought that you were gay…. Your ‘lack’ of discomfort around gay people is something the social conservatives will never have, because they just can’t stop thinking about other people’s private lives.
@Alex S.: I think it’s safe to say they are obsessed with ppl’s sex lives. The last thing in the world I want to think about is other ppl’s sex lives. It is none of my fucking business and that includes creepy speculation.
Why the hell they aren’t embarrassed to be so obsessed with what goes on behind closed doors b/w two consulting adults is beyond me.
In the world of normal adults you get chided, derided and shamed for talking about other ppl’s sex lives all the time! The general consensus being “you’re bitter. you ain’t gettin’ none”
My sympathies to everyone who had to listen to a bunch of RW bullshit from their families this Thanksgiving. It must have been particularly awful this year. Any personal stories yet?
I gave a shout out to the unemployed yesterday and I forgot to include the precariously employed, which is every bit as bad if not worse in some cases.
Wow, my own personal story about my best friend since high school days (I’m now in my 50s) being gay is so similiar, that it must be more common than I fhought. Best friends since the age of 17′ about 15 years ago he comes out and tells me he is gay. I was surprised, but not that surprised. Anyways, didn’t matter one bit to me, could care less what he likes to do in bed. He was so scared of telling me, that it took half a bottle of Jack before he cold get the words out.
Anyways, ever since then, I have always thought that if every closeted gay person came out of the closet and told their friends, more people would realize that being gay is just not a big deal. That they are normal folks, and not the weird stereotype freaks that make the news.
Hear, hear! Beautifully expressed and right on the money.
John, What a wonderful story about love and caring. The world is changing.
I also have to thank you John for sharing your wonderful weird little world with us, and also why I came for the politics but stay for the stories. My best friend since 7th grade came out to me as a lesbian our sophomore year in college, and I remember the gut punch feeling which quickly passed, then the realization that absolutely nothing had changed. This was 1974. The only difficult time was when her first real relationship was with an Andrea Dworkin style radical “all sex with a man is rape” type who wouldn’t allow my husband in their house. So, I got a taste of how that whole discrimination thing must work if the shoe’s on the other foot which was a useful exercise, and I got to work on some political arguments with her and we all ended up better off for it, and laugh about it, 35 years later.
lol. The Seventies.
Yup. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
I’ve heard some mumblings from my 82 year old dad about gay marriage, to the effect that people should be allowed to marry who they want. He amazes me sometimes, my white southern born and bred dad who never even got to go to college. One thing he readily recognizes and understands is inequality and injustice.
@hep kitty: Ha! This year they get to listen to *our* bullshit.
Bookmark that, Nazis.
“Wish I could look that good in a tux!”
@1badbaba3: Oh good! I think it’s high time we started acting like assholes about winning! Assholery is the only language they understand.
Despite my appreciation of John’s sensitive post, may I say that you have not earned the right to “feel old,” John. Get back to me when you turn 50. :)
@hep kitty: or 60. :)
@Mustang Bobby: I think we can both agree that anyone in their 40’s complaining about “feeling old” needs to stfu. :)
When I was a naive 16 year old from a farm town I started working in restaurants. Most of the waiters were gay and all of them had a raunchy sense of humor. At first I was all “ZOMG GAYNESS!” Then I was all “meh”. It was a tough life and that makes the best friendships. The turning point for me as a kid was realizing it had nothing to do with me at all.
The only problem now is my very old fashioned mom who thinks sinners will boil in hell-lava for all eternity.
J R in WVa
Sorry for you and your friend’s loss, and thankful for your sharing the whole experience, which allows others a chance at growth.
Also thankful for the blog!
RossInDetroit, Rational Subjectivist
When I was a naive 16 year old from a farm town I started working in restaurants. Most of the waiters were gay and all of them had a raunchy sense of humor. At first I was all “ZOMG GAYNESS!” Then I was all “meh”. It was a tough life and that makes the best friendships. The turning point for me as a kid was realizing it had nothing to do with me at all.
The only problem now is my very old fashioned mom who thinks sinners will boil in hell-lava for all eternity.
Tweet from Melissa Harris Perry show:
John, you were reminiscing, not rambling. Don’t ever call it that again.
Tell your Marine friend
I still remember my family’s first Christmas after my father died, and that was 1975. The chasm is never filled.
OT, but Chris Hayes’ discussion with Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay to Lincoln, is really fantastic. They’re just about to discuss Obamacare and the lesson for Obama in the movie. Up is such a smart show, and Chris Hayes just puts the Fluffys of the world to everlasting shame.
Man, am I glad the GOP started purging the “less pure” last decade. Makes coalition-building that much easier. Hey, wingnuts loss is our gain. When they were at the peak of their powers in ’84, I feared that it was permanent, so good was their messaging. It was ubiquitous, there was no escape, and no recourse. But, my Gawd, it was all bullshit, false front bullshit, I’ve-got-some-land-in-Bumfuck,USA-to-show-you-bullshit, Obi-Wan mind control bullshit. Jeez Louise, if they don’t fuck with Florida in 2000, and Ohio in ’04, look at what we would have had. Center-right nation my ass.
John Cole is not unlike the canary in the coal mine. If he got out, how many others have and will? Thank you for “coming out”, JG, and for giving all of “us people” (that’s “you people” in Queen Ann-speak) a safe place to play and frolic and flame(on) and love and cry and share. I have learned so much in the short time I have been here, and I am terribly glad I found you all.
That is all.
Thank you for this posst, John.
I think people are drawn to BJ not only for thought-provoking political writing, but also because you write really great about stuff that really matters. Like this.
Or at least, I am. Every time you post something like this or have some great photos of you with friends, no matter where it is, I sort of wish for a second you lived around the corner and I could come just hang out.
Thanks for a great story this morning, John! I hope the straight friends from my life, who played the role you played in this story, tell our story in the same way.
hmmm…does that make sense?
itz not buckeye lake, itz buckeye ocean
That is a fucking sweet story JGC. Thanks to you, I now have diabetus.
I live in a little different corner of WV, but one of the stunners for me, moving in, late in life, was the noticeable *lack* of discrimination of any kind here. Two women, local, each left their hubbies, and moved in with each other. The *only* comment I ever heard was of the husbands: Boy, *that* must have smarted. . . . I also don’t see any vis a vis black/white mixing. The women started a business together, which has been booming altogether.
The openness about who and what one is takes my breath away sometimes, but I really don’t see meanness anywhere. About the openness: was at the local pizza place, and guy comes in — he’s minus his right arm to the shoulder. Chorus of friends chimes in: Hey, Lefty!! No one but me flinches. Especially NOT Lefty.
I’ve wondered at times if the history of this state doesn’t explain it — just plain buzzard individualists: men and women who have survived on virtually nothing for a couple of hundred years, and in the middle of the Civil War, switched sides, seceding from Virginia and the Confederacy. State Motto – “Montani semper liberi” – Mountaineers are always free.
This is the sappiest comment thread I have ever read.
Nice, but wow.
John Cole: The people (and animals) you have met and become close to in your life have molded you into a decent, kind and ethical person. As was said much earlier in this thread, you are a mensch. And that is the highest order of compliment.
@Maude: We’re forgetting how to be a snarling mass of vitriolic jackals! Well, the next thread will appear and we’ll get our mojo back.
I actually don’t think this one is the sappiest. The one right after JC got Lily and posted of his heart overflowing with love for her was a delightful molasses thread, indeed. I got a dog around the same time and I was all verklempt.
This thread is pretty sweet, too, though. I know it’s going to be a better world soon because my two sons (11 and 8) already know that some men love other men and some women love other women, and that there’s a fight for them to be able to get married and raise kids. My youngest got that exasperated look that kids get and said, “Why is that a fight? Who CARES?” They get it, little kids. It’s only when grownups start dumping their fears and issues on their kids that they get confused. We had a neighbor dad who was so paranoid that when all the kids (boys and girls) were out playing together and his son started pushing one of the girls’ PINK (gasp!) doll strollers, he immediately yelled at him to stop it. He actually pulled his kid away from the girl toys. My husband made the point to him that if pushing a stroller affected one’s sexual orientation, he himself would have already had to jump the fence.
Forum Transmitted Disease
@Schlemizel: I lived in San Francisco for seven years and never got hit on once. This actually caused me enough anxiety that I went and asked a couple of gay friends of mine why. Was I ugly? What was the deal? They both told me I was obviously straight and that I was an obvious waste of effort. I still feel a bit odd about that explanation. But yeah, guys are real dicks when hitting on anybody, male or female.
There was a guy I met in college when we were both working at the local newspaper making phone calls to try to sell subscriptions. You know how every now and then you find someone you just click with, a soulmate that feels like you’ve been friends forever with after hanging out for just a few hours? That was him. We ended up going out for a beer after the afternoon shift was over and hung out, laughing and talking, all night.
For the next couple of months we were inseparable, hanging out, talking, getting drunk, going to concerts and shows, driving down to the banks of the Missouri River at 2:00 a.m. and having those deep conversations you can have when it’s dark and peaceful. We were BFFs before that term even existed.
On one of those Missouri River excursions, out of the blue, he asked me if I was gay. I was, but had never come out to anyone, had never looked on him romantically or with any thought but friendship, and still to this day do not know why he asked or what gave me away. Still, I trusted him, and palms sweating and heart racing, I told him the truth that I was – the first time I had openly admitted it to anyone else. He told me he was straight but he was cool with my being gay. We talked about it a bit, then moved on.
For a brief time, I was amazed and relieved. It had finally happened: I had come out and it was okay! Maybe I really could deal with this. Maybe it would be okay to just be myself. Maybe I wouldn’t have to hide a part of myself forever. Maybe, just maybe, I could find people I could be open and honest with.
Alas, it really was only a brief time, since that was literally the last time I saw him. He had assured me he was cool with it and he could handle it but, for reasons I still know nothing about, he really couldn’t. Suddenly, he was too busy to hang out, too busy to return my calls, too busy to go to a concert we had planned to attend together. After a couple of weeks, I got the message and stopped trying. He never called me and we never talked again.
I can’t even begin to tell you how painful and damaging that betrayal was. It took me years to recover, years before I got up the nerve to come out again, this time, thankfully, to someone much more like our genial host here. In that later coming out, my friend told me that he had already known and he was just waiting for me to trust him enough to tell him. God bless friends like that and friends like JC.
@hep kitty: This year’s Thanx was surprising, a culmination of all the jostling that has gone on for decades. My sisters are all married/associated with bigoted guys, and this time I was shocked to learn 2 outa 3 have changed their voting registrations (one went R to Ind, the other, Ind to D; that guy said “we” picked up house seats!). Some “centrist” tropes still survive, but this transformation proves evolution can work in mysterious ways.
The MIL I mentioned the other day is just an old-school meanie, so if anything this gives my sis a chance to be less of a pit-bull about holiday disagreements…especially when it really isn’t any skin off yer nose to just ignore the biddie. One of the best family gatherings in years.
Well I bet this post is going to get shared like crazy over the internets.
And JC – you mentioned brothers, wives, children over the phone but no boyfriend of Jack’s. Which means he’s single. Which means to me anyway that you’re slyly playing wingman for him. Nice.
Much to be thankful for.
I love you as a brother JG. Always have, always will. My family loves you too. Peace
I’m really sorry to read this, but glad to hear it came around for you eventually.
Every once in a while, something from being a dumb 18-24 year old comes back to haunt me, and one of those things is the lack of sensitivity about gayness in my world back then.
The few times when it started to become more evident that a few guys in our circle of friends (Big 10 college, frat background, etc) might be gay, neither I or the other friends rushed to embrace them like I might have now. I remember someone saying in not the nicest tone that one of our friends was gay in a way that I know he overheard in the bar. I still cringe about that awkward moment, and the fact that it could unsettle any of us even a little bit, for no good reason.
The good news is that this wasn’t particularly entrenched homophobia, there were a lot of ways we needed to grow up, and this narrow-mindedness was resolutely stripped away from that age on, and I’ve always wanted to apologise to those guys.
Maybe your friend feels the same way, and it pokes through his consciousness every so often. I went on to like living in cities, in pretty gay neighbourhoods, and began to see the last few decades as a civil rights struggle that is leading to a much better world for all of us.
Cathie from Canada
@PaulB: I am so sorry you lost your friend. I had the same thing happen when my daughter came out as a teenager 15 years ago. I thought I was good friends with the mother of one of my daughter’s teammates from softball. After my daughter came out, her mother dropped me flat. She never said anything directly, but three times I made plans with her to meet for coffee and three times she cancelled at the last minute. I finally got the message and left it up to her to call the next time. That call never came.
By the way, my daughter is still good friends with all of the softball team members, who didn’t care at all that she was gay.
In spite of telling myself that I didn’t need someone in my life who was intolerant, it still hurt. But I finally realized it was on her, not on me — just because someone has charm doesn’t mean they aren’t a shallow person.
Thanks for sharing, John. I’m just kinda speechless at the moment and it’s almost time for Buckeyes vs Wolverines.
Great story. Thanks for sharing it.
How were you ever a raging conservative?
Thanks for the story, John. I personally needed some warm fuzzies, and you write wonderfully.
My family is pretty conservative, but I can still remember my mother saying “Why should I care if two men or women want to get married? How does that pick my pocket or break my leg?” and general agreement in the room. Then again, we’re Canadian, and we tend to be much more laissez-faire about what people do in the privacy of their own homes, as a general rule, than Americans are.
I think the reason that even when you were still kind of wingnutty you had a lot of liberal readers (I used to be one of them back when you were still trying to be a conservative) is that your general personal decency came through, even if we didn’t necessarily agree with your politics. Oh, that and unlike most of the US right, you can actually write.
This was one of my favourite “John posts”. :) I love his stories.
@Jack Gocke: He’s definitely one of the good ones, isn’t he?
One thing I give my parents HUGE credit for is that they have always been open-minded and pretty much free of prejudice, and they raised me the same way. At age 8, my best friend was a little girl from India. Race never even came up. I knew that her family was from a different country, and that her mom wore these beautiful things called saris, and that their food was sometimes different, but that was it. For my parents, it was a total non-starter. Same with gays — my ex-stepmom had a gay couple in her circle of best friends, and one weekend they crashed at my dad and stepmom’s house. I (at age 10) asked my dad “Why do N. and G. sleep in the same bed?” His answer? “Because they’re a couple and in love, just like Gisele and me.” That was it — it was just so matter-of-fact and Not a Big Deal. And looking back now, I can appreciate the gift that my parents gave me by seeing people as people, and not focusing on their differences.
Awww. I heart this blog because of stuff like this.
@jharp: Sorry so late, back from work.
At that point I was on E 12th Ave just east of 4th St. I went from there to be an RA in Taylor. Fun times.
John, you were never a “wingnut”.
A person of reason and habit sold a bill of goods who took a while to accept that quality control had long since gone out the window, maybe.
Having the stones to re-evaluate your position no matter what the cost in self-esteem is as much a reflection of who you actually are as this story. A true “wingnut” in that position would have cut all ties and shunned his friend just because his pastor told him to.