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Celebrating Gay Pride Month


Those of us of a certain age who were born gay have special reason to celebrate this Gay Pride Month of June. It represents our release from the Babylonian Captivity of the homophobic hysteria that gripped the world for millennia.

A young gay boy or girl growing up in America today can have no idea what life was like prior to the Gay Liberation Movement of the last 40 years. This isn’t a criticism of them. Thank God they have no idea. Born free, they can look forward to living full, productive lives, knowing that here in America, at least, a majority of people happily accept the LGBTQ rainbow.

For me, discovering I was gay at the age of about 8 or 9 was one of the most awful things I’ve ever experienced. I’d had no way of knowing there was anything wrong with my natural desires, which were attracted to my male friends. It was beautiful to mess around with them. But one day, I was hanging out with some of the older boys, guys who were 14 and 15. One of them—let’s call him Larry–told a story about how he’d been flunking one of his classes, so he went to see the teacher and asked if there was anything he could do to pass. As it turned out, there was. Larry proceeded to tell his friends that the teacher, an older man, said if Larry let him perform oral sex on him (actually, Larry used the more common vulgarity for the act), then the teacher would pass him. And that’s what happened.

As Larry reached this point in the story, the other guys groaned and made various expressions of disgust. “Oh my God!” they said. “That’s disgusting.” Larry said, “Yeah. There’s people like that around. They’re called ‘fags.’ They like other guys, not girls.”

As I took all this in, my head began to spin, my heart pounded and my stomach sank into my bowels. “That’s what I am,” I thought to myself. “A fag. And, judging from the reaction of these guys, that’s a terrible, awful, horrible thing to be. I have to keep it secret for the rest of my life.”

That was the moment I disappeared into the closet. I didn’t come out for nearly 30 years, when, in 1982, living in San Francisco and leading an active gay life, I finally decided to overcome my fears and let everyone know I was gay.

This June of 2021 also marks the 40th anniversary (if that’s the right word) of the appearance of AIDS in the world. In San Francisco, of course, we were at Ground Zero of the epidemic. For a while, it seemed like we were all going to die. Many of us did. I did not. Those of us who survived made it through, which is another reason to celebrate.

After the AIDS pandemic broke out, I volunteered for a nonprofit called The Shanti Project. They assigned me clients who were very, very sick, and I helped them out a few times a week with chores like laundry, dishwashing, food shopping, vacuuming and dusting and the like. It was my privilege to do so. I’d not been a particularly compassionate or caring person in my life, and it gave me a great deal of satisfaction to do something, little as it was. Every one of my clients died during my service to them.

The gay struggle, however, isn’t over. Nations around the world still arrest, torture and murder gay men and women. Even here in our country, the so-called City on a Hill, there are millions of benighted people—primarily conservative Christians—who hate gay people and would do terrible things to us, if they had the power. They say, “Oh, I hate the sin, not the sinner,” but that’s a lie. I can imagine some Nazi pig in the 1930s in Germany saying, “Oh, I don’t hate the Jews. But we must do something about them.” I have nothing but contempt for homophobes.

To all who are gay who read this – to all who are not gay but who support LGTBQ rights – bless you and keep you in this summer season. Be healthy, continue to do right as you perceive the right. May we all succeed in the continuing struggle for human rights.

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