Chapter 3:  MY SECOND COMING: 1973-1992

E-commerce links for hardcopy of book containing this chapter (DADT 1997).  The hardcopy text is slightly more explicit in a few places.

Narrative summary link for this chapter

See Consolidated footnotes, including notes added since original publication

Note: This file is slightly edited for compliance with the 1998 Child OnLine Protection Act (which, however, is now enjoined). For details see adult access.

See Section_01 "Shaved Mountains"

See Section_02  "Straight"

See Section_03  "A 'Free' Gay Talk Group"

See Section_04  "The Ninth Street Center"

See Section_04B  "Stay Home a Bit More"

See Section_05  "To Men of Earth"

See Section_06  "What We Don't Hear About Religion and Homosexuality"

See Section_07  "AIDS Is Seen as a Result of Too Much Freedom"

See Section_08  "A Paradox of Meaning"

See Section_09  "Real Families and Potential Idols"

 

Section_01

     Shaved Mountains

 

     My throat felt funny, numb, just as it once had in second grade. I had to swallow to stay in control. I just didn’t know what to say. Right in front of me, as a former roommate’s Chevy Nova chauffeured me around a hairpin turn on Virginia’s “Trail of the Lonesome Pine,” the Allegheny mountain looked like a ham butt that had been whacked to pieces by a horde of famished guests at a garden party, and then left outside in the evening thundershowers to spoil. The ridge, denuded and permanently destroyed, had been carved into bald terraces and ugly mud steps.

     “So this is your strip-mining,” the math graduate student screamed. He had once phlegmatically characterized his pursuit of a Ph.D. as “giving it a whirl.” 

     I had grown up knowing that the most imposing mountains were “out West,” where my father had thought I should spend my life and raise a family. The Appalachians, however, had become my own. I could visit them repeatedly with resources within my reach. The mountains indeed were surrogates which took the place of movie stars and more ordinary people.

     While most Washington-area residents are still content to satisfy themselves with trips along Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, I sought the more private scenic wonders in West Virginia. The self-guided auto tours would confront high ridges green with stately strands of spruce, each of them precursors of an alien world just out of sight. Finally, I would encounter the windswept, balding, domed summits, often coated with ice even in May, supporting only banks of crushed, parallel pine shrubs, their gray-green needles blasted into thin horizontal arrows. Through a series of soft, mushy peat bogs, I could hike down gorges with steep sides, formed by sandstone spires and canyon walls.

     These lofty horizons were vulnerable, fragile, and expendable. Real people lived here, and people constituted a threat. The land was needed for income, to raise relatively self-sufficient families; and these requirements were much more basic than mere aesthetics. So people mined coal, both by excavation (with shortening of the lives of the men who did this “real job”), and by shaving down the ridges with their draglines, their Big Muskies.

     Shortly after I left the Army, newspapers had printed “rumors of war” regarding the stripmining problem, and had claimed that eventually earth-moving “forklifts” would be able to cast away 2000 feet of overburden to get at our fuel. A congressman from Kentucky told a radio newscaster, “in twenty years, our lovely mountains will be all gone.”

     A good friend, “Mark,” was already “gone.” Friday had been his last day at my workplace, still the main source of social contacts. Before driving out to the mountains to celebrate “The Last Day of Mark,” an independence day for me, I had consorted with him and his other buddies in some suburban pool-hall. Mark’s body was in good form, despite (at 26 years old) a  year of  “responsibility” for his “instant family” through his third wife.  Family life, with the two kids bobbing on the steps of his rented townhouse, deprived him of the time he used to take for weights and York barbells. Still, he liked to present himself to me as The Renaissance Man, as if I were the only person who could see his “outlook” and cognizance of “self-concept”; and this was good for mutual “visuality.”  His favorite riddle was, “what do you want to do when you grow up? I’ll just sit back and contemplate!” He shared my penchant for objectification: he spoke of sex (in his male experience) as short-lived, if intense, physical pleasure that needed extension in mental aesthetics. Wife and children depended on him (providing enough kick to make him moonlight at a supermarket); but he saw himself as someone special, apart even from family. He barely recognized that without his sexual drive to jump-start his psyche, he might not want dependents at all.  He had shared with me an unpublished pica-typed essay, which developed a long metaphor on “fog,” on the use of art to communicate impressions of and connections between conventionally articulable ideas. I had helped him edit an academic paper on vector spaces, and was proud that, two days before, he had marched into my shared office and announced, “I am published.”  He invited me to a Polynesian dinner, where his rental-wife counter-lectured me about “family” and denied that I should try to copy myself from Mark as a “model”; if I couldn’t be handsome myself, I should just stay as I already was, “different”; I could accentuate my individuality with hippie beads, beard, and long hair.            

     ----

     About ten months before, in July 1971, I had desperately scampered down an eroded ravine, as I carried a little Instamatic of contraband snapshots I had taken of acid lakes and hollows hardly as shocking as the countryside around Norton and Clintwood. I fell. A red pickup truck aimed at me. This, until now, was probably the only time in my life I thought my life was in danger, or at least that I could really get arrested. After all, the repeated signs read, “No Trespassing.”

     I was no dedicated reformer yet. I cared about what my countryside “looked like.” I cared little if I incurred local resentment thorough my voyeurism.

     I got off easy. Douglas Coal Company trapped me inside the smoke-filled cab of the pickup,  gave me a forced ninety-minute tour of the strip-mine back country, and goaded me to take pictures of all the hydroseeding equipment, and backfilling. Twenty years later, the ridges really would be reclaimed and grass-covered, and look like green Mayan pyramids.

     I drove home self-satisfied, even satiated, because I had confronted the system and chiseled off a souvenir.

     ---

     I can fast-forward to a winter freeze frame, December 1972, after I had spent a middle-class day taking a GLM (Graduated Length Method) skiing lesson in New Jersey’s 1700-ft Kittatinny “mountains.” I sat in squaw-fashion on an uncarpeted, loosely nailed plywood floor in a dark, drafty frame rowhouse in Newark, at a planning meeting for the People’s Party of New Jersey.

     I was attending because I “liked” the founder, a guest at a Sierra Club meeting. He had articulated the gradual demise of public transportation, while people who couldn’t “afford cars” lost access to their jobs.  Later, he would attack the notion of “profit” as a morally valid human motive. His girlfriend was reeling off, “why do we have to have capitalism?” They babbled about how people got rich by exploiting workers, blacks, women, and “gays.”  We were all oppressed. Someone had been called “a girl” by her boss, to her face.  “How many people in this room make over $5000 a year?” the girlfriend demanded, without the authority of Jane Fonda. I raised my hand, not exactly in shame. For being part of the “system,” I was making $14K. I couldn’t possibly have been earning it. But I could be of more use to any liberation movement if I made enough money to take care of myself first.

     They planned their protests, starting silly little pranks such as a “lettuce boycott.” They started going over their platform. One provision was a maximum legal income for anyone at $50,000 a year. The “people” would confiscate the rest. There would be only a “single tax,” a national income tax; all other taxes, especially sales and property taxes, were intrinsically regressive. Lotteries were seen as the most regressive “tax” of all, since they fed on mentally weaker (as well as poorer) people. Then the rhetoric got nastier. First, they talked about forcing a national constitutional convention. Then they said stuff like, “we will not hesitate to use any means available to achieve justice.”  I asked if that meant violence. I was not reassured.

     Plotting to overthrow the government by force is still a crime.

     That “party” would mark my closest approach to “left-wing” radicalism. The “capitalists” raped the environment with unreclaimed strip-mining and, like the Army, held some poor people like migrant farm workers or coal miners in essentially forced servitude.  It had always seemed government should be expected to do something about this, because these situations amount to violence against people. But, come on, was I part of “the problem” because I lived in reasonable comfort?

     The political Left is so moralistic!

    

     Section_02

     Straight

 

     I was going down some moderately dangerous paths in my renewed search for “meaning,” for ideals to believe in and the friends that would follow. William and Mary was a dim memory, a red dwarf. I would never let that happen again. I wouldn’t throw that away.

     But there had evolved these “crushes” on “straight” friends, such as Mark. I would feel more “alive” when around them, or just thinking about them. These attachments developed as perhaps useful, if self-limited, exercises in sensitivity and emotion, at first for their own sakes. I would cling to these pals, and suddenly construct the freedom and adventure for myself that I had admired in them.

     I had not quite recognized how I was using many workplace colleagues as foils, how I conversed with them compulsively out of my own need for attention. This had been always been common under “the system.” People could be friendly, and even honest when it came to business transactions; but to anyone who was not “family,” I sensed I really did not matter too much, whatever my hidden gifts. Since I had left high school and the dorm at W&M, good friends had vanished through a process of attrition; they now had wives and children, and moved away. It seemed when they got married they were captured and carted away, almost drafted; they knew they were needed for the rest of their lives, whereas I enjoyed no such reassurance. They would hint I needed to find my own purpose the same way: meet the “right” girl, marry, produce little Boushkas. Sometimes, I did envy their home commitments as paradoxically freeing. To avoid facing feelings of desertion, I would split and wander the wilderness myself.

     I had tried to deal with this by dating girls, without really (beyond a most superficial curiosity) wanting (or feeling turned on by) girls. I guess I looked upon them as James Fenimore Cooper’s “females,” about whom I had hand-written a term paper in junior English. Like Tchaikovsky, I imagined the validation of “marriage” without a wife.  At most, “family” sounded like a domain or accomplishment, not a reason to live.

     The first baby step was joining an Arlington “singles club.” Just the interview for that was a farce. I sat in front of a linoleum partition being asked biographical questions followed by, whether I liked a “good time,” and I’m sure the question had been well intended. I took a free introductory social (not ballroom!) dancing lesson, learning the rumba and fox-trot, and then was introduced to the chain-smoking proprietor who tried to sell me a package of weekly lessons for $80. 

     I had met Melanie at church, and one early autumn day simply made a cold call, to have a date to one of the singles’ club’s tacky Friday night dances. She accepted. The first date, I picked her up at her parents’ modest frame home in Silver Spring, Md.; and, even though I was taking her to dinner, her parents wanted to make me a sandwich! She picked the restaurant, a local Holiday Inn, for the feast that I would pay for, for the “irrational” purpose of showing I could “provide” (we did not go “Dutch”). I drove her around the Beltway to the Friday night dances, and saw she really enjoyed the Virginia Reel with its allemandes, and the square dances with their partners and corners. Much of the crowd, however, practiced gender segregation: shop-talking, relatively young men were uncomfortable chasing older, probably divorced (or abandoned) idle-looking women, none of them sexual princesses and many of whom would never marry again. We were all tormented by an obnoxious, bellicose, ornery, potbellied bartender, who screamed and laid down a smoke screen with his cigar.

     One of my co-workers mocked my need to join a singles club. I replied that I needed some less pagan, money-changer-oriented places to meet (girls). 

I took Melanie out several more times, once to the visionary gay British film, Sunday Bloody Sunday (and I deliberately annotated my walking closer to the street as I escorted her from the theater). I took her to my Arlington garden apartment once, and played a cheap, constricted recording of Beethoven’s F-Major Pastorale Symphony. She made some remark that music was all I needed for my own stimulation; I would never even be tempted into the artificial new realities of drugs. I added, the goosebumps of the triumphant end of a symphony or piano concerto produced a temporary “high” ¾ it did make me feel good. I added that my second piano teacher had felt that way about pianistic technical display.

     I dated one other woman, a legal secretary, and once got to see her pad, just a tiny basement efficiency. She, too, expected to be supported one day. The “future wives” I was attracting seemed to have few preferences; they were obviously more interested in my stability than in ability to provide excitement. Indeed, my early male-pattern baldness was probably an indirect green light, a sign of successful survival through the weeding out of early manhood. Still, after a few months, the dating simply stopped. It had nowhere to go.

    

     Section_03

     A “Free” Gay Talk Group

 

     On January 2, 1973, I was ambling up Third Avenue when I spotted some particularly sexy young male images on a street newsstand. On a very controllable impulse, I bought my first gay magazine. Quickly, I read about New York City gay life, with its dozens of bars, encounter groups, cruising spots and even churches. Quickly, I perceived that the gay world had many sectors, some of which valued establishment and meritocracy; others revelled in wild “rough play” sadomasochistic behaviors celebrating not just sensual pleasure but the flouting and symbolic destruction of surrounding oppressive values. I would proceed gingerly with my liberation. I went to a porno movie, and found myself aroused, more at the preliminaries (like undressings at gunpoint) than the sex acts themselves. I went to a Sunday evening Metropolitan Community Church (MCC, popularly called the “gay church”) service, and found myself put off by the hand-holding.

     I had, however, journeyed a long way from my old perception of “overt homosexuals” as pitiable, rejected old men giving testimonials, their faces hidden and voices scrambled, for black-and-white television news specials.[1]  Just the previous summer, I had taken a trip to Scandinavia, traveled as far north of the Arctic Circle as I could go - an iron mining town in Sweden called Kiruna¾and an attractive gentleman had tried to “pick me up” in the town’s government-run hotel. I didn’t go, but I was definitely not offended. Then, I had met a really talkative college student on the train to Stockholm, and (as of 1973) had corresponded with him ever since.        

     I needed a main event, a ritual to reaffirm my faith in my own (still officially “latent”) homosexuality. I saw a one-liner for a “gay talk group” on the Upper West Side, and the leader assured me, “it’s free.” So on an arctic cold Sunday, February 18, 1973, I took a Twilight-Zone bus ride across the George Washington Bridge from my cozy, career-supporting New Jersey burbs, and trudged through the subways and icy gusts to a rococo apartment building around 96th Street. In a tiny living room, I met six other men, most of them rather shapeless under heavy sweaters. Only the leader and one other spry little guy, Chris, were relatively young. The leaders asked me things like whether I was still a virgin and whether I suffered from anorexia nervosa. I asked them what kind of men they liked. They answered, “older,” to my amazement.  One actually said his sexual relationship with an elderly lover was fully satisfying. Maybe I had reason to hope after all. They talked about GAA (Gay Activists Alliance), and I asked about discrimination.  The leader reminded me that the apartment doorman could make a record of all visitors.   Chris challenged me, and “asked” me whether I was actually “straight,” then  cheerfully invited me to visit the Baths next “Tuesday night.” I wasn’t ready to dive in and swim yet.

     I celebrated my “second coming”¾my anticipation of exploring intimacy and perhaps sexual defrocking¾with a bit of a retreat. I made a business trip to Princeton that week for a company training class, and I enjoyed the adaptive escape from my next personal challenge. The following weekend, I drove to Killington and skied down the only novice trail in the country that starts on a major mountain summit. It was almost a month before I visited a gay bar, on a mild March Sunday afternoon: I paced the block around Uncle Charlie’s South four times, my heart racing, before I had the nerve to barrel into the crowd, towards the free brunch buffet, which the patrons called “the goodie line.”

     Shortly thereafter, I would tell my father in the 8th Avenue Howard Johnson’s when he made a post-retirement business trip to New York. This time, I really meant it. (Well, I had told the truth at William and Mary, then retreated.) He did not act surprised or offended by my “decision,” but he was concerned about things like my employer hiring detectives to follow me on my evening and weekend trips to the City, or about my getting blackmail letters demanding $300, and so on. He still thought of homosexuality as an “unnatural condition.” Later my mother would ask, couldn’t I find the social support I was looking for in a church? Would I be able to take the long trips I liked? Wouldn’t I meet a “nice girl” if I were patient?

     My NIH patient records, however, contain the following startling passage about that first-tell with the Dean at William and Mary, and the lingering attitudes of my parents. “As mother expresses it, ‘Bill was man enough to tell the Dean he thought he was a latent homosexual, and explained the fact he had arrived at this conclusion after reading a book in high school.’ At this point, Mr. Boushka interjects anxiously that this episode is over, that Bill was mistaken, and that (the first psychiatrist) and their minister had assured them that Bill was not a homo. I mentioned that if Bill had problems in this area, the healthier thing would be to tackle it rather than to evade it. Mrs. Boushka agreed, but Mr. Boushka insisted on dismissing the subject.”[2] That is, my mother had virtually accepted that session with the Dean as my “coming out”; but I hadn’t looked at that incident this way until now!  The government wanted to have it both ways: to exploit the sexuality of young men, and then to tell the public to “drop the subject.”

     I had reached the age of 29 without any substantive, physically intimate experience my whole life. I thought I had come to know psychological intimacy that last year in high school, including the following summer¾a “first coming” that would melt down at William and Mary. I had awakened on a bright, late-winter Saturday morning with the sun streaming though the venetian blinds, sheltered in my own garden apartment for the first time, with my own car outside, at 26, now old-man enough to be exempt from the draft. I had lived at “home.”  In the Army, I had lived in the barracks even if I had stayed out of the Bay. In graduate school, I had stayed in the dorm, on campus. Just being “my own boss” had been a novelty, and now I guarded my personal independence jealously.

       

     Section_04

     The Ninth Street Center

 

     “You have an excellent opportunity to use your homosexuality,” Dean Hannotte counseled me one weekday evening in April 1973 as we talked in a cozy East Village apartment, which looked more like a library than a residence. It even sported a table chess set with playable, Staunton pieces. Dean then reassured me that getting older was nothing to worry about; after all, his own lover, psychotherapist Paul Rosenfels, was 35 years his senior. I remember asking him about diseases, whether the lifestyle was “unhealthy,” and he said no, because to “grow,” I would eventually want to stay with one partner for life. That half-hour session with Dean provided me with my first credible, encouraging information about my recently discovered community, beyond the world of fern and leather bars, and tacky GAA dances at the Wooster Street “Firehouse.”    

     I had seen the right ad in the Village Voice, something like, “homosexuality is more than sex.”  I could go to a new social center on East 9th Street, seven nights a week, and meet intact young men in a somewhat sheltered, non-competitive setting with Dean, Paul, and several other of Paul’s “students.”

     Soon, I would take a new job in New York City and move in, to a modest but modern apartment a ten-minute walk from the Center. As I was leaving the old job (Univac), a manager asked, most inappropriately, “Bill, I’m curious about your personal motive for moving right into New York City.”

     Many nights I would step down into the basement “loft,” cheerfully carpeted and painted in oranges and yellows, with chairs arranged in a circle for talk sessions and a kitchenette in the back. A “secret” passageway led to a second room for simultaneous counseling sessions.  Several nights a week, various Center students facilitated Open Talk Groups. The Center sponsored a male nude drawing class, an acting class, and, for a while, a creative writing class. Saturday nights, each week reached a climax with the pot-luck supper, an incredible spread containing many of Paul’s unusual dishes, like chicken aspic, which he and his pupils spent entire Saturdays preparing. “Homosexual,” as opposed to “gay” or “lesbian,” was the Center’s way of describing a deviant aspiring to personal growth.

     Paul had been self-publishing his ideas in a number of didactic books, the most important of which is Homosexuality, The Psychology of the Creative Process (1972).[3]  Paul organizes his material into a highly structured message, with sections called “The Nature of Polarity,”[4] “The Psychological Defense,” and “The Creative Process.” His writing style consists of alternating paragraphs precisely stating and expanding his principles from “feminine” (roughly speaking, introverted) and “masculine” (extroverted) viewpoints. His prose balances itself as if it were verse. He speaks of “men” generically, without the political correctness of inclusive language.  He superimposes over his notions about the cultural and psychological significance of homosexuality a determination to use the scientific method to fully explore human nature and to develop, in a grassroots, communal setting, a more human world.  He gives no references or footnotes; he writes naked truth developed using his own inner resources over a lifetime. He would speak in talk groups of a definitive science of human nature, with his own relatively sheltered community as a kind of lab.   Philosophers had, however, often alluded to this polarity concept. For example, Plato spoke of personality “splits” and “double sort.”[5]  Goethe, in Faust, had referred to “the eternal feminine,” in a passage which Liszt used in the triumphant male chorus ending his Faust Symphony, and Mahler, likewise, when ending his Symphony of a Thousand.  

     The polarity theory, in fact, quickly attracted underground notoriety among many New York City gay men, as a “heavy” head-trip of “so much shit,” [note Y1] even if it never quite got the attention of the mainstream media. Polarity obviously originates in basic biology, where organisms develop both sensory and motor capacities[6].  Polarity surfaces in the animal world with intriguing sights, such as the possession of bright colors by many male birds to stake out territory and divert predators away from nests. Its precepts sound neat enough. Human beings are psychologically masculine or feminine, regardless of biological gender. Masculines like verbs and feminines prefer nouns.  Feminines wonder “what” and masculines wonder “how.” A son usually has the opposite polarity of his father. Polarity expands purely biological meiosis into a universal human touchstone. Some men would refer to themselves as having both masculine and feminine component, rather than to one or the other as an “identity.”

     Polarity, for Rosenfels, became a vehicle to develop and define inner identity, that which makes you “who you are.”  Psychologist James Hillman achieved a comparable body of science with his notion of a germinal personality “acorn,”[7] the underlying will to express oneself with some singular purpose and avoid activities which contradict that purpose. Sometimes identity has a collective components, as when scientists like Carl Sagan note that our search for extraterrestrial life is part of our search for who “we” are, considered together. 

      The notion of “femininity,” or of a “yielding” personality, seemed like a godsend to me. Love between men could be more than just the “mutual respect” my Army buddies had once mentioned. Men did not have to stop at shaking hands.  [Masculinity could outgrow collective loyalties and the recklessness of ignorance without selling itself out.]  I had already found the prospect of submitting to a great man (almost as if I were a “woman”)  incredibly titillating. I scoffed at religious prohibitions against “yielding to temptation.”  Another Center student would relate that he had "been fucked" (++ experienced penetrative sex ++) and that had been the most liberating event in his life, except... then what? In “yielding,” I sensed an indirect, if perverse, source of personal “power,” the absolute right to choose the person to whom I would “submit,” and to hold him accountable to living up to my “ideals” of him. I wanted my ideals to look like men; I took after my father, who used to scream in revulsion when seeing young men (ungrateful hippies, he thought) sporting “long hair,” like women’s. Carried too far, however, I could soon resent my feeling of living in another man’s shadow.  I would just be draining another person as if I were a vampire, and ought to feel ashamed.

       Paul Rosenfels soon developed his polarity paradigm by adding a second linearly independent component, “subjectivity” versus “objectivity.” These concepts describe how the personality operates and  approaches achieving its inner goals in a practical world. “Subjectivity” refers to intuitive and sensory facilities, the ability to “sense” the importance of things or undiscovered connections between them; “objectivity” refers to manipulative capabilities, actually motivating or managing other people.  Center students now tell me that this second duality of character confused a lot of people over the years, but I think this second basis component helps to give a perspective on what makes actual, “live” people tick. The masculine-feminine and subjective-objective axes formed a system of coordinates appealing to a mathematician like me; the intellectual precept could quickly get in the way of deeper understanding through personal experience. Other concepts of personal character, expressed as analogues, were: love (or “charity”) v. power, faith v. hope, thought v. action, insight v. mastery, truth v. right, teacher v. leader, honesty (or honor) v. courage (integrity).[8] 

     Much more important, though, is what Paul means by “creativity,” which in our culture now closely correlates to self-motivated deviancy. To get at this, Paul talks about psychological surplus as a benefit from civilization; surplus is a unique attribute of human beings. People use their capacities first to meet adaptive needs, such as providing food, clothing, and shelter for themselves and their families. In an advanced society, there is more cooperation and more “efficiency” in meeting survival needs, and in providing political stability and security from outside threats. Surplus even allows people the luxury of emphasizing the processes they are best at performing. This is called character specialization. Technology does not have to be an evil that destroys the planet or magnifies inequities in wealth. It frees people to live their own lives as they see fit. Rosenfels has structured his “moral psychology” as a kind of Jeffersonianism, even if Rosenfels (unlike today’s political libertarians) would have favored sensible use of the political process to deliver essential services such as clean water and safe bridges. Telecommunications and self-publishing technology, perhaps facilitated by corporate restructuring, now facilitate the expression and debate of daring ideas and the search for truth, to the discomfort of many people who don’t like seeing old notions of men and women challenged. (Well, male homosexuals like me like the old notions of what men should look like!) Technology, though, if not accompanied by spiritual and character growth, can lead to a society’s incineration, or slow, almost Mayan death through desecration of the planet.

     Paul viewed as creative the development of psychological surplus (one’s own feminine or masculine inner identity) in mated relationships, motivated by a need for intimate romantic fulfillment, whatever the social support of others. “Inner identity” means, to me, what makes me tick, how I communicate what in other people turns me on. Later, during the military ban debates (Chapter 4), the writings of Steffan and an interview given by Meinhold (among others) would reinforce this idea of identity achieved through emotional attachments, to ripen as “self-image.”   Creativity and personal growth give one importance to other people. But one becomes significant to other people by actually caring about them or motivating them. One does this with close personal friends and with the achievement of a mild level of earthy, erotic feeling or action. The ultimate expression of creativity is to be found in a lifelong mated monogamous relationship with another loved one, with the full expression of sexuality. There is tension between the ideal of lifelong fidelity and the practical likelihood that two self-actualizing individuals will, in time, “outgrow” a particular courting relationship. Beyond a single mated partnership (whether same-sex or not), there are other friends in a close-knitted community with whom one interacts out of inner identity. For the creative process to be fulfilled, one must be open to homosexual feelings and drives, even if they are not directly acted out. In Paul’s world, any person capable of growth will eventually face homosexual needs; homosexuality is in some sense “chosen” through a greater personal need for romantic attachment and peak experience (a term popularized by Maslow), rather than a biological inevitability. Although personal growth implies eventual self-expression in homosexual intimacy along the way, it is much, much more; so a “gay identity” (if we look ahead to the military ban problem) need not, clinically speaking, suggest a propensity for frequent expansion into sexuality. But there is a continuum between affection and eroticism.

     Surplus is a uniquely human capability. A stray, self-adopted cat drops a bird at my apartment door in gratitude, or a mockingbird repeatedly circles around me after chasing starlings out of his territory, seems to want to tap into our world where there are real problems beyond surviving. Creativity is enhanced when intimacy is openly recognized as possible, but kept in restraint. Boswell relates that the ancient Greeks recognized a continuity between friendship and love and sometimes valued homosexual “relationships” precisely because they were experienced for their own sakes, beyond procreation and even beyond physical sex.[9]        

     Since becoming more intimate with other people is indeed a scary experience, people develop psychological defenses, short circuits to temporary satisfaction through pseudo or surrogate dominance and submission mechanisms. These came up in talk groups, when some men would claim a kind of psychological, perhaps sequential hemaphroditism, with vacillation between yielding and power (“yang” and “yin”, selfhood v. unity) impulse.  I, for example, can gain a certain power over others by my developing secret insights through my talent for relating various problems and then sharing my “intelligence” with others in a selective way knowing that they will behave in certain ways because of their limiting predispositions combined with incomplete, and therefore misleading, knowledge. This is called sadism. Politicians indulge in it all the time[10].  Defenses are invoked because growth really does cause one to change, to molt and to cast away an “old sense of self,” to give up a lot of baby play and childish things, in order to blossom out  as reborn individual. Other important defensive patterns are (for feminines) compulsiveness, associated with easy intimidation and a sensation of being “driven,” and (for masculines) obsessiveness.  My own NIH psychiatric records, on one page, suggested a diagnosis of “compulsive personality,” but elsewhere rather inaccurately described my “obsessive thought patterns.”

     Activities that conventional society regards as “creative” - writing books, plays, and music, or acting, or hairdressing - may in this “human world” be seen as adaptive. These private pursuits or “hobbies” may be good, because people need to be alone sometimes, but they fall short of real, direct interaction with others. Likewise, conventional family responsibilities ¾ baby-making and parenting ¾ may also be seen as adaptive; and this is a shocking (and perhaps offensive) notion. Don’t people grow by taking care of their children?  I thought parenting was something “everybody” did; how could it be special?

     By now, I saw how the language of our social interactions, with family (not person) as its atomic unit, affected the way most adults saw themselves. Referral to marital spouse and kids in everyday society, especially the workplace, gave conforming adults an innocent way to refer to their sexuality. Society, through both the government and church recognition of marriage and the corporate policies built upon this recognition, conferred a permission for sex which most heterosexual adults no longer recognized as such. Moreover, society conferred a legitimacy to the totality of a whole adult life, as factored by the obligations of family.  The comforts conferred to conformity claimed their price. People were so used to familial identification that they never questioned it. They held opinions about political or psychological issues according to what immediate benefit followed the issues for them and their families, not for what would be true or  right in the long run. They would surrender some of their capacities to think for themselves, and let their politicians, their labor unions, or employers’ political action committees tell them how to vote (when they voted at all). A certain measure of mandatory, immoral ignorance and hypocrisy was required to get along and take care of your own “kind.”

     At least, by this time of the 1970’s, discrete homosexuals like me were generally left alone and usually allowed privacy. They still didn’t want us to “talk about it.” You didn’t interrupt a business conversation with the announcement, “I’m gay”; nor did anyone say “I’m heterosexual” when she had spouses and kids she could mention. I liked it that way; my otherness and aloofness, almost like that of an alien fallen to a reasonably hospitable earth, made me feel special. I knew “them” better than they knew me. The “privacy” that enveloped my  life (the mystery of my anonymity as viewed by others, and my total control of my personal life) became itself a public expression of a certain indifference and antipathy to the self-suspension of “normal” family life.  Perhaps this autonomy was a bit of an illusion, abetted by government programs that often relieved me of having to deal so much with difficult or impoverished people myself.  Homosexuality would sit at the center of this new independence; it would become, as one 1973 Ninth Street Center monograph[11] put it, “civilization’s secret,” a psychological Rosetta Stone for what really made things work, but a knowledge “of good and evil” too dangerous for the ordinary world dependent on fidelity to gender roles. Officialdom, the Nixon-Kissinger world, simply never got around to mentioning it, as if to derail the credibility of homosexuality with benign (if intentional) neglect. The “outside world,” including most youth, would simply not be let in on it. During this time, I cherished my own separatist attitude, that this secret world open to peak-experiences of romantic fulfillment through sexual intimacy with an “ideal man,”  was the only universe that really mattered.  I rather liked the idea of homosexuality being elite ¾ even effete ¾ rather than spoon-fed to all on the theory that we could so easily stop “discrimination” by mass coming-outs.

     "Masculinity" - as mediated by family adaptation - indeed experiences a double twist in our culture. We used to expect young men to risk their lives out of ignorance of the consequences of their own recklessness. Then, in the workplace, we want them to use their "masculinity" to peddle other people's products and ideas. They are supposed to experience a sense of "power" in their salesmanship or superficial supervision. They often don't see how their power gets channeled into false submissiveness.

     I became very jealous in my choices of my own goals. I would resent exercises like teamwork pep-sessions in the workplace, with group singing and fun that I saw as false excitement over goals chosen by others. I could never be a salesman (like my father), because I hate the idea of using my own “publicity” to peddle other peoples’ ideas (true or not).  Likewise, I would come to see workplace promotions, while financially rewarding, as hardly fulfilling in personal terms since conventional “career advancement” wasn’t (for me) related to providing for a family. I eschewed participating in organizing workplace social life, or even “daughters’ days” where fathers would ask their colleagues to show their daughters their corners of the work-world.  On the other hand, my own private goals, to somehow make my own upward-looking sexuality more real to others, might be completely inappropriate and unwelcome. This dilemma grew out of my subjectivity and the unbalanced[12] nature of my personality.  I sensed my visionary potential but lacked the focus to achieve the little things.  The unbalanced person is particularly aware of the opportunity to select his own goals without the approval of others and he may see enforcing his own choices as a key component of his identity or acorn. The balanced person may be more in tune with actually reaching others.  I would return to material possessions, private special things that had always provided “highs” - my record collection, for example - to exercise my “feeling” capacities. This backsliding away from attention to others, in the eyes of some at the Center, brought into question whether I “could” grow - that is, outgrow this fundamental inertness of my own private world of feeling.  I think my churlish behavior reminded the others of their own discomfort with the paradox of their “creative world”: they could not develop greater wisdom and freedom without simultaneously dealing with the humility of really serving others. Yet, the easy shelter provided by periodic withdrawal into my private world gave me a certain toughness. Feminines do not have to be marshmallows.

     In later years, I have become more in touch with my own desire to build a complete intellectual model of my world, to explain everything, and leave nothing out, the way I would write a final exam. It doesn’t matter so much how many people listen; it may matter who listens. An unbalanced leader might want to specify the rules for everything, regardless of whether people could follow them. A balanced person would be much more concerned about what idea-segments and presentations could work in a practical way, get things done, so such a person would probably feed people what he thinks they can absorb where they are. A balanced person might make more money!                         

     Center devotees developed the notion that “adaptive” needs should be made as minimal as possible.  Their view of survival focus stands as a curious antithesis to Luddism: while Center students welcomed the discipline of simple life, Luddites (as well as our pioneers in the nineteenth century) regard primitive survival mechanisms as an actual experience of personal freedom and human identity (as clumsily stated in the “Unabomber’s” notorious “manifesto”).[13]  Many Center students lived in the immediate East Village (more “human” than Hell’s Kitchen and not so “upper-class fag” as the West Village) and did simple jobs, like cleaning apartments or bookbinding. Asking somebody “What do you do?” to find out who he is, was a no-no. People would brag that they had not traveled north of 14th Street in perhaps the last year. Learn to live on very little, they lectured. “Give up!” Liberation was, for the indefinite future, to be a “grass-roots,” local neighborhood exercise, where you stayed around people who cared about you.  Liberation was also a “selfish” thing from your immediate community; there was no reason to sell it to the “outside” world yet. The outside world already provided a reasonable measure of stability; admission that national politics really matters was taken as a sign of powerlessness and intimidation. There was no need to be politically “radical”¾that is, openly gay on the job or even with original family members. It was more important to help others in one’s own immediate environment than to volunteer in socially approved projects that met needs (for example, feeding impoverished children) recognized as socially or morally important but less immediately relevant.  An unstable, or at least neutral, equilibrium between psychological self-interest and giving to others (a bit different from service to others) was developing in our discussions.

     I was put off by this and wanted to grow a foothold in the “real” world, to assimilate. Paul would say, OK, but I didn’t need to become president of a company (other than my own). I should help others discern the difference between creative action and adaptation. 

     I had first felt relieved to find Center students as “normal” guys I could identify with; now, some of them came across as men who really couldn’t adapt to the “outside” even if they had to.  If I mentioned their heavy smoking (the air at the Center sometimes got unbreatheable), they would call me a “health nut.”

     In my earliest days, I had felt relieved by the easier things I heard, like “the sex was great, but the head was nowhere.”  I had expected a soft approach to sexual intimacy, but quickly found my overtures and prattle a bit unwelcome.  I felt constantly compelled to “make progress” towards a “first experience”; yet, even as I “knew” I was less “attractive” than the men whose looks aroused me, I was often unaware of my own personal appearance and thought very little about my own body.

     Paul had reassured me that he was very ‘fond” of me. So I went to Paul for a single therapy session, a “diagnostic interview,” to determine whether, as he put it, “you can take the pressure I would put on you.” He challenged me with, “what do you do?” His prescription was to get out and do things for other people, like wash the dishes after the Saturday night potlucks.  Well, I volunteered to do that - Dean even hugged me once I started to “help”; but I did it when I felt like it, not every Saturday. Later, Dean would admit, “yes, Bill, we were trying to feminize you.” Today, he says that, despite my gawkiness, I have a lot of “warmth” and commends my independent (rather than “passive”) femininity. I knew intellectually what this meant: I would get in touch with what made me tick and come alive, which would not stop with a conditioned visceral and visual response to sexually attractive young men, or even with “platonic” crushes on them, but evolve into the real experience of surrender. Paul had, after all, characterized himself as “earthy”; otherwise, his mental preparations would level off into defenses.

Therapy-giving was supposed to be an experience at giving tough love, not just in cool, distant, professional “competence.” The distrust that Center devotees held for “credentials” carried far beyond the mental health profession (which, after all, had just reversed its stand on homosexuality in 1973).  It was commonly held that statements about psychological truths from the position of academic or otherwise recognized authority, loyalty and accomplishment, were inevitably tainted. Human science behaved like quantum mechanics; the observer tended to get in the way with his psychological defenses. The “establishment” came to be seen as part of an “evil” and “immoral” world.  Truth and right could only be found among one’s immediate community of true students; the Center came to be seen as a refuge for social Ludditism. The conventional “mental health” world that had captured me, however, seemed only capable of focusing on pathology. Even other gay psychologists of that period had fallen for it.[14]

I interviewed to join a “closed” talk group sponsored by a gay couple. I snowed the “masculine” guy by reporting my process of feeling (for imaginary icons) and the inner intensity this process generated.  The “feminine” partner, who, like me, had emphasized in the open talk groups that he had never experienced sex with a woman,  scolded me for hiding my feelings behind abstract, inquisitive banter. My compulsiveness had driven me back into sheltered conventionality and  “automaticity.” I needed to think about whether I really could grow at all, and get outside of myself. People who can’t grow are much better off straight!   “Look, Bill, you fool a lot of people, and I’m not going to let you get away with it!... Would you support another person so that he could compose a piano sonata?”   No, I want to do that myself! “Don’t you understand what the guy washing the dishes is doing; you think he’s dull, but really he is very disciplined. So, Bill, where are you going with this? …Have you cried about it yet?  Why not?... You need to be sponged off of, and have somebody to make a home for besides yourself.” (OK, I needed to learn to give and not worry about what I would get.) I remember walking home shaking in the chill October evening to my sheltering loft in the Cast Iron Building after that one. I had been as shocked by the chewing out as I had been by the nurse after that gym class incident in ninth grade. I had always sensed my own tremendous potential, and it seemed to grow out of my deviance, my need to find not just romantic fulfillment but a kind of musical cadence in a “lover.”  I liked the idea of being on my own, and that my homosexuality forced me to absorb the world on my own; in personal life, difficult problems and ambiguous goals created the opportunity to have a space to cover my grandiose intentions that one day would seduce the outside public. Conversely, the need to achieve something special had practically forced me into homosexuality; the NIH psychiatrists had already figured that out.  There was an expanse to all of this, from the beatnik, crowded Village where an adolescent, virile excitement loomed everywhere, to the manicured, proper but sheltering and isolating suburbs where real grownups pretended to live. It could all fit together in one whole, some day. But it wasn’t working! I just wouldn’t focus. One horrible Sunday afternoon, a millstone who had collared me at the Center took me to the Ninth Circle Tavern for dinner and confronted me with, “the way you look, how do you think you will find a lover? The people who find somebody for life are all straight.”   But I had already  noticed that some people seemed really “alive” and others, who sometimes created confrontations resulting in their being asked to leave the Center, came across as pedantic, repetitious, and inert. In a couple of years, the Center had a reputation “on the Outside” (such as at a larger counseling center, Identity House) as a cult with Paul the guru. The Center had turned itself into a non-residential, evening-only commune; perhaps the whole group constituted a virtual ashram.

     January 1975, almost two years after my “second coming,” I finally gained my “first experience,” at the Club Baths. It was nearly impossible to nightwalk the orgy room, bathed in astral violets, without having at least a passive incident. So what if I were a fallen male! [note Y2]

     Living six blocks from the popular West Village bars, I had looked forward to the ritual of going out into the night and looking for intimacy and vicarious perfection, in men whose looks excited me. I would stop into Julius’s and one man would take a whole night play-acting Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama.  Another would lecture on why he thought Asian men always preferred Mediterranean Caucasians like himself. It was almost another year, a New Years night, until I brought home a “trick.”  Again, I got another lecture, this time about the “abuse of the media,” but I enjoyed the tenderness; the young man tried to contact me again and turned out to be quite unstable.  In the next seven years I would sometimes have another man in my bed for the night. A few of the “experiences” were really good. One man, after sex, excused himself to the bathroom to freebase heroin; but most of the men I met seemed to be stable and productive. One would go on to become a Broadway actor. Still another friend, and capable chess player, related to me a story of sexual abuse against him as a juvenile in a New York State welfare facility, not unlike the events depicted in the recent film Sleepers. In Dallas, the saloons and discos were much grander, sometimes guarded by men riding shotgun next to flamboyant signs warning the public: “GAY BAR.”    

     There is an even more disturbing moral lesson to all of this. You won’t have a meaningful life and matter to other people unless you can meet their real needs. You should be selective, but objective, too. In the Center talk groups, caring about other people was put as a foundation of creativity. But this isn’t just the cheap talk of caring; it is the work that follows the initial feelings or drives. People get turned on¾infatuated¾by the superficial trappings and swagger of others (the projections of their own imagined ideals), as if these external things are really what matter and “make a man” (or woman) after all. Real love, say the clinical psychologists, comes with being able to give the other person’s best interest top priority.[15] How facile! Even so, it matters whether one can maintain a sense of real passion[16] for another person as the visual or other sensual and imaginary fascination, however naughty, fades. It takes a real “man” to keep an intimate relationship together for a lifetime and really care about it. A recent radio ad claims, “it takes a real man to be a dad.”  The hidden phobia attracting the pundits of Kulturkampf is the possibility of not being able to get it up if your “beloved” rings your intercom after falling from grace. I know the feeling. After one brief relationship in New York ended, an acquaintance at Julius’s cynically told me, “when you fall in love, it’s because the person fulfills a fantasy. Love is in you, never your lover.”[17] My stares of admiration create even more uneasiness in others if they realize that I’m mentally placing them in some imaginary hierarchy.

     In time, I found myself talking circles in the groups at the Center, and decided to stop going. Indeed, I had clung to the place as a shelter from the brutal, competitive and sometimes untidy world of "fucking and sucking" (++ overt male homosexual acts ++.Yet, I made several good friends there, some of whom I would stay in contact with for years, even today. For example, only a few weeks after moving into New York I met a sculptor who had his own studio on the Upper West Side. He reported an adventurous life, of having been wounded as a civilian combat photographer in Vietnam, and then having traveled alone through Nepal and India. “I needed to be alone,” he said more than once. We did a barter deal: I gave him an old Miracord turntable and speakers in exchange for a sculpture of a Siamese-twin hive-owned extraterrestrial, which still hangs in my living room today. In time, I learned that a certain tension between me and any friend I really cared about gave me more sense of life than would any sexual release; often, sex would just spoil things. Another friend would move with his lover to San Francisco; when he picked me up at the airport during an October 1987 visit he melodramatically pulled his car over to the interstate highway shoulder to tell me the stock market had crashed!

     I would revisit the Center sporadically over the ensuing years. Going back for an evening would seem like a psychological homecoming from my Star Trek lifestyle. It would lose its own space in 1991, although it still sponsors occasional discussion and study groups in rented spaces and members’ apartments in Manhattan.

     “Outside” the Ninth Street Center, gay organizations in the 1970’s seemed juvenile.[18]  I would hear speakers boast things like, “let’s list the ways gays are oppressed,” or “I didn’t choose to be the way I am.”  

     During the same time period, conservative writer George Gilder was publishing his own counter psychological theory of “polarity” in Sexual Suicide (1973)[19] and Men and Marriage (1986).[20] His proposition is that women are biologically superior to men because childbearing and nurturing provide natural satisfaction without the help of men (after insemination). But men do need women, who tie them to their own progeny.  Marriage tames men, after they have been brought up to protect society as hunter-gatherers or warrior-barbarians. (An accurate restatement of Gilder’s idea would be, “love tames men.”) In Gilder’s world, men don’t become “individuals” - and break away from collective hunting and warrior activities¾until they marry and father. A married average Joe, because he has real people (his own family) who need him as he ages, lives longer than a singleton. The importance of marriage for raising healthy children is almost secondary. The breakdown of gender roles¾through the expansion of workplace  and even military opportunities for women and perhaps the decline of male requirements such as the draft¾and particularly of the importance of connecting sex to procreation in marriage, all make marginal or “average” men feel expendable. Furthermore, the breakdown of monogamy ¾ the inclination of a “sexual princess” to steal away a successful “older man” as a rich, proven husband with the ease of divorce ¾ means that it is harder for less talented men to find wives. Gilder even believes that the breakdown of marital monogamy causes homosexuality through the same mechanism that works in prisons. Other, less polished writers, would contribute cheap refrains moaning the erosion of “masculinity.”[21]

     Much later, in 1993, Warren Farrell would combine the ideas like those of Gilder and Rosenfels in The Myth of Male Power: Why Men are the Disposable Sex.[22] (Actually, one of the students at the Ninth Street Center, Jack Nichols, had written on a similar theme in 1972 with Men’s Liberation). Farrell travels the country and gives seminars in the dynamics on expanding psychological roles (such as nurturing in men) in heterosexually married couples. He describes a progression between “Stage I” and “Stage II” societies[23] where individual fulfillment (balanced against responsibility) gradually replaces survival, where the technology that facilitates fulfillment actually requires changing male warrior conditioning, and where new notions of individuality can be taught to couples.

     Even more “political” writers would gradually weave psychology into their principles. Jonathan Rauch would characterize the derivation of truth and right through a process he calls “liberal science.” Rauch criticizes, first, the authoritarian (“fundamentalist”)  model where “absolute” truth gives its original owner not just right but might, and then the “humanitarian” threat which suppresses disturbing or “offensive” discussion. Liberal science can go astray when it winds up deciding truth by popularity or financial results. Rauch concludes, “Competitive and consensual public checking of each by each through criticism and questioning is the only legitimate way to decide who is right.”[24] That is, everyone should join in the debate and search for truth and right.

     Other progressive writers would apply these ideas in practical human relations.  Charles Murray would comment on the psychological rewards and benefits that accrue from caring for other people (rather than just supporting them), first with family but also with friends.[25]                  

     

     Section_04B

     Stay Home a Bit More

 

     One brisk November 1973 night, I sat on a comfy Holiday Inn mattress as I waited for the Redskins to appear on Monday Night Football, and watched President Richard Nixon come up with an amazing duality. Really high quality color in TV was still a little bit of a luxury.

     “We’ll have to cut down on our driving, so I’ve ordered that gasoline stations shut down on Sunday. We’ll all have to stay home a bit more, the President included.  We might have to ration gasoline,” he counseled. Then, just a few sentences later came the incredible juxtaposition. “Now, I want to respond to the calls that I should resign. I’m not going to resign from the job I was elected to do.”

       We were perhaps five years into our experiment with Consciousness III where “the individual self is the only true reality.”[26]  People looked for “meaning” outside of the old-fashioned roles in the family; the Ninth Street Center had made itself a private exponent of a general nationwide repudiation of old-fashioned hang-ups. The world was evil, immoral, corrupt, not just because there were undeserved inequities, but because patriarchal culture seemed to demand hypocrisy and outright dishonesty. Families had grown used to providing better lives for their children, but at the expense to other peoples’ families and often putatively by hiding “family secrets,” whether they were gay uncles or disabled children. It seemed right to look for an opening up, for liberation, and that was for everybody, not just gays. Drugs were seen as an innocent way to experience more, a primeval “virtual reality.” Adults could experience better lives for themselves, and the benefits would “trickle down” to their children.

     Young adults began to live “for themselves” with a deliberation that they hadn’t considered before. Vulnerable people, who were supposed to be protected by moral notions and especially “family values” (the naive notion that everyone needed to settle down and get married) were really hurt by their often abusive personal relationships, and were at most indirectly affected by the more visibly “selfish” behavior that was setting new examples. A Metropolitan Community Church minister, the late Reverend Larry Uhrig, would write an editorial “There is No Better Half,”[27] and urge people to get their own acts together in life before living through the visuality of relationships.

     The tools used to achieve higher “consciousness” - highs produced by chemicals to transcend reality, could kill and wreck lives by short-circuiting chemical circuits in the brain for temporary effect and would soon be recognized as counter-productive for individual self-awareness. A person who stays off the stuff can learn from his REM-sleep dreams. People started to recognize the benefits of more healthful living. Cigarette smoking, our high fat and sugary diets loaded with preservatives, and sun exposure - all of these behaviors that were not an issue when men had been preoccupied with winning wars, are now seen as leading to premature aging and death, particularly for men. Yet these behaviors were associated with the rough male culture necessary in the past to survive. The high fat and protein diet is controversial because it does make young men look bigger and stronger, but they then burn out and die earlier, like blue giant stars. [Steroids really make young manhood explode!] People began to want to look better and feel better, perhaps for a succession of mates, so the health spas boomed; men no longer routinely developed love handles and guts once they got married. Yet, the sexual revolution grew unabated. We began to notice the irony of an earlier generation’s motion picture code, where married couples smoked cigarettes from twin beds!      

     Nixon’s termination of the draft in 1973 had further weakened the hold that the military owned on the conservative, adaptive gender-associated values of the general population and, in the eyes of many people, the influence of the military’s official contempt for gay people. With no conscription, the idea of living for “self” became more credible even within the volunteer military, which created incentive pay schemes and had to focus more on individual excellence at some expense to group values and even to “unit cohesion.”

     The rapid success of women in the military would encourage their gains in the civilian workplace. Women had already discovered during World War II that their social pedestal, supposedly intended to protect “Miss Scarlets” for childbearing and keep them out of dangerous work and combat, often constricted their own personal outlooks.[28]  Companies, after Betty Friedan’s protest in 1959, had already dropped the prohibition on married women’s return to work after pregnancy. Univac, the “second” mainframe vendor, aggressively promoted women into management ranks of its software development teams while I worked for them in 1972-1974, and traveled often to their development centers in Minneapolis. The one-parent family quickly became a disadvantaged option. The idea that a man should, on his own, support a wife and children began to wither. The presence of two-earner families would start pushing up the price of housing and cost-of-living in general, even before the oil shocks. Nixon had already experimented with wage and price controls in 1971.  Home ownership would become like a pyramid, with people feeling compelled to borrow as much as they could get away with, because of both the tax deductions and expectation of rapid appreciation; home was no longer a “castle” in which to raise a family. Renters were considered as transient, second-class citizens;[29] respectable people went into debt! Single people like me would indulge. Eventually, after the real estate bubble burst, I would find myself ironically in a position where I had to “support” another person with mortgage payments on a home she had assumed (without qualification) from me.

     But the greatest threat to the new freedoms would not be internal conservative politics, not even Nixon’s dirty tricks and hit lists. Watergate, in fact, would add credibility to the idea that people should strike out on their own, regardless of the example set by government. But the oil shocks, gas lines, Sunday station closings and even-odd “rationing” of 1973 and 1979 at least brought up the possibility that the rest of the world (not just the Soviet Union and Maoist China) really would tolerate our materialism - even if we later learned that the oil companies had indeed been party to this, “to get the price up.”  Islamic countries screamed that our “freedoms” had been achieved by exploiting their people, their natural resources, and their religious values (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was only one part of this).  Coupon gasoline rationing was not the most draconian idea; more intrusive would have been a sticker system that made it a crime to operate vehicles except on certain days of the week.[30] Personal mobility, for me a kind of pseudo-power, would have to be severely curtailed. Innocuous, palliative Band-Aids, like daylight savings time in the winter (which made the mornings of my January business trips to Minneapolis invoke Alaska) were tried.  By 1974, mass-media magazines were conjuring “the end of affluence” and “the new poor.” I wondered if we looked forward to a future in the 1980’s where a Carter-like administration monitored people’s private lives to control energy consumption and pollution. It seemed I had been very fortunate to grow up in society suddenly wealthy enough to afford lifestyles like mine.

     In 1975, New York City experienced its brush with financial default. Again, all sorts of rumors, about possible general strikes, wage garnishment taxes, martial law, and curfews emerged. A nasty undertone developed, that people like me who wouldn’t settle down in the world but kept roaming the world for psychological, if not sexual, excitement were a real burden on the rest of the “adaptive” world. My father would get after me for living in New York, “a hell of a place” for “selfish” personal fulfillment rather than in the more settled “real world,” the “outside” of suburbs, good school districts, manicured laws, and tricycles.  Even as mainstream people explored their freedom, a subsurface paradigm emerged: work, support your family, have kids, stay home with them (in a secure, sheltered residential community), and be happy with whom you’ve already got. Staying in New York, I thought, let me look forward to an everyday chance to find an even “better” man. I already felt uneasy about my lifestyle “choice.” Security had become an obsession for me; in New York City, no one left a window near a fire escape unprotected by burglar bars, and everyone used Medeco deadbolts to lock up their apartments. These days, the suburbs have the same problems.

     Employers seemed to catch on to this. Even given the energy crisis crimp on auto-driving habits, they deserted the urban downtowns and moved out to the ‘burbs where, they said, their somewhat segregated employees would be happier and have better school systems for their kids. In Dallas, for example, companies tried to locate far north of downtown, where parents could shelter their kids in the superior Richardson and Plano school districts; after all, raising kids was “your whole life” - that, and working, that is. The near-downtown areas, like Oak Lawn in Dallas, were left for re-gentrification, often by singles and, especially, gays (and just relatively recently, senior “empty nesters”).

     At the same time, companies slowly began to chip away at the protections of “loyalty.” Older managers with inflexible skills were being let go about the time of the oil shocks, perhaps as a result of recession; really, however, the trends towards automation, restructuring, and downsizing were already starting. The workplace gradually became more darwinian. The mantra became “produce, produce, produce!” ¾ even for Village guys writing (that is, assembly-line manufacturing) pornography.

     I have grown up with the notion of steady advancement, that a promotion meant perks, a relief from drudgery and “undignified labor,” and a chance for travel and (“adaptive”) excitement. In the 1960’s, a computer programmer gave up the meticulous desk-checking and scheduled time at night for a “higher” job as systems analyst, writing specs for others to code.  I once programmed a system (called “Big Brother”) to scan a mainframe audit log and collect statistics on how many compiles and tests it took individual “coders” to get their jobs done. Soon, I learned a pure analyst’s job carried a lot of unknown risk. You couldn’t prove your ideas, however modern. I once left a job when I could not sell the idea of a generic report-writer, controlled by users; my colleagues thought I had failed in my job to get precise customer requirements, when today this notion of client-controlled computing (often by high-level Structured Query Language [SQL]  statements relating different data files the way I “relate” social and political ideas), driven by menus and options, is commonplace. But industry started combining jobs giving back more control to the individual; so I could become a “programmer-analyst,” do the analysis and coding myself and prove it with productivity tools before publication.

      As my career plateaued, I learned what “the big leagues” really demanded of me: total personal accountability for my own work, as it ran in production, with huge volumes of millions of transactions, 168 hours a week.  My father’s (and the Army’s) old-fashioned preaching about “learning to work” and “formation of proper habits” gradually became real to me. A senior programmer-analyst often had to arrange much of his own life around response to problems and personal guarantee of results. One manager said to me, “anybody can code, but few people can really implement!”  I couldn’t keep a job like this and go away on excursions every weekend or to talk groups or political rallies every night. Yet, a sense of honor meant trusting my own work when I promoted it, and not having to hover over it later. Eventually, professional maturity would also mean developing a real business understanding beyond the technical details and communicating this well to customers, a calling that demands more manipulative faculties that many rather introverted programmers are comfortable with.  I had to learn to pitch with men on base, and to absorb and retain infrequently used skills to help others besides myself become productive.

     I have sometimes worked at inconvenient hours (nights) to save an employer on computer-time costs. On one occasion in 1989, when working for a small consulting firm, I solved a problem by looking at some code a counterpart (with the same project involving Medicare finances) in the federal government had written, and was able to give a client correct results from a simulation model in a few hours. Had I not solved it, our company would have been put out of business the next day. I would learn how easily an undetected programming mistake or procedural error (from not paying attention to instruction) might nearly put a company out of business months later. 

     As a result, I felt put off by the pedestal that we “systems people” had built.[31]  Popular vernacular called us “hot shots,” yet I was once asked by an interviewer, “do you really like programming?” For me, the field exercised my “femininity”: I could usually afford to look for the “truth” about a business problem so that my solution would work time after time; marketing - peddling - trying to convince people to buy something that maybe they really don’t need, struck me as almost dishonest. In one interview with a vendor, management tried to impress me with the fact that the customer didn’t know what he was doing and that I had to behave with authority while still making serving the customer my highest personal priority.  Everyone assumed our lives were sheltered by the quickly growing job market and clean working conditions. In fact, sometimes I have worked in cold computer rooms, around noisy printers and listened to operators claim they were going deaf.[32] We were told that working accurately in front of the customer without sleep was an intrinsic part of the job on benchmark trips. Programmers would sometimes be abused into eighty-hour weeks by management, which was trapped by the unpredictable cost and reliability of new systems and which quickly recognized that computer people tended to become too inwardly independent to band together in unions, to go on strike for somebody else’s wages. Once, during a technicians’ strike while I worked for NBC, I got a chance at a “real job” - as a scab, replacing a union worker operating a microphone boom while filming soap operas in Brooklyn, for double pay. One two occasions, I witnessed minor disorder as I crossed the picket lines. I have never had much sympathy for “people’s” solidarity.

     Quickly, companies wised up to the reality that unattached, single (often gay) employees offered certain advantages, particularly in shops still located in or near major cities. Single employees often had fewer home responsibilities and could put in more hours (and apparent “dedication”) on the job. They could often walk or ride subways to work and not become dependent on suburban bus schedules, carpools, or “slug lines”; however, the increase in telecommuting by modem will probably make the demographics of getting to work less important. Early in my career, my major preoccupation was staying gainfully employed in New York City, without commuting, and having the City remain viable enough that I really could tap into this infinite supply of potential lovers while I finished “coming out.”  Later, I would become preoccupied with just staying competitive, particularly after putting almost three years on a Medicare project that failed in the early 1980’s. Recruiters always stressed the buzzword skills, having to do with the culture of specifically IBM mainframe software, to be supplanted by personal computers and open systems starting in the late 1980’s.  In 1986, I installed a new system on New Year’s Day and supported it on-site throughout end-of-year, even though my father had passed away New Years Eve.   

     Obviously, this would create predicaments and resentments. Sometimes, I would be expected to provide “nightcall” when the regularly scheduled programmer was suddenly unavailable. We would imagine military “barracks for programmers” and invent computer viruses coming out of the home terminals, causing epidemics in people as in horror movies. I could request compensation or leave ”with management discretion” but this was discouraged, by unwritten rules; furthermore, forcing the employer to pay all expenses would, in the long run, undermine my own job in this “entrepreneurial” economy. I would see the capacity to follow a system for twenty-four hours, without sleep and with considerable physical discomfort, as a feminine kind of machismo and perhaps as my turn at slightly hazardous work, my sacrifice or “service” to keep the modern world and its possibly vulnerable infrastructure working. Management would take this kind of problem into account at raise and annual review time. But some colleagues would remain unaware that their absence from the job was actually affecting the personal lives of others like me; that others were sometimes actually supporting them out of their own pockets. Management would often discourage discussion of these matters, even in team environments, and prefer to keep the rules loose because it is forbidden to intentionally compensate people differently according to family status.  Their attitude became a kind of a transposed “don’t ask, don’t tell” about workplace-family conflicts.  I would come to understand, however indirectly, the demands that raising kids make on most “normal” people.

     I eschewed promotions where people reported formally to me. I sensed that managers who couldn’t do themselves the technical tasks they delegated would become vulnerable, even before the corporate downsizings and mergers (ironically increasing after the unexpected oil price collapses of the mid 80’s) made my perceptions credible. I hated the hypocrisy of over-dressing[33] just to placate the sheltered values of others. I did not want to deal with “discipline” problems of people with much greater family responsibilities than mine.            

     The lot of gay people in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations has come a long distance from the days when the New York Gay Activists’ Alliance would, in its notorious SoHo “Firehouse,” write utility checks to “New York Telephone Bigots,” shortly after we were reassured in 1973 by the American Psychiatric Association that we were no longer to be considered “sick.” (Yes, William and Mary and NIH psychiatrists, I am personally exonerated.)  Companies, commercial landlords, and mortgage companies, by now generally were no longer interested in prying into the private lives of people who remain “singletons,” because doing so is no longer in their best business interests.

     Only gradually did the importance of becoming “open” grow on me. Once a Ninth Street Center talk group was televised on a New York City cable channel. I hesitated; I felt my employer, then a software vendor that sent me to customer sites, might claim my appearance would antagonize its customers, but I relished the idea of going on television. (I never heard about it.) Later, the workplace conflicts over overtime and family leave would convince me that silence just left me feeling like a second class citizen, and, while letting others remain comfortable, actually let some people overlook responsibility for their own choices.

     One time, an African-American colleague who had “figured me out,” said, “Bill, you can pass. I can’t.”  An African American related in a televised debate that he was already teaching his son to expect to have some avenues closed off to him because of his race, black. I recalled, the Northern Virginia apartment complex in 1972 that had bragged that blacks never qualified for the rent, or the singles club that had rationalized that blacks have their own clubs. Wanting to assimilate with something one is not just to make life easier, struck me as odd at best. Another time, a coworker characterized professional football to me as, “proving your blacks are better than my blacks.”  I thought we had progressed farther than that, but the past few years have proved me wrong.

 

     Section_05

     To Men of Earth

 

     As I ambled out of an 86th Street theater where I had just watched Sorcerer one fall Saturday in 1975, I picked up a silly little magazine called Fate, and became intrigued with a picture-story about an Arizona commune whose founder, Dan Fry, made public claims about having been picked up by a UFO. Living in Manhattan was like that; you were always finding silly little clues on the streets about how to expand your life and start a new episode. A few weeks before, as I staggered out of the subway towards an “adaptive” day at work, I had seen a newsstand proudly displaying a National Enquirer edition, “Arizona Man Captured by Flying Saucer,” as if this were headline news in the New York Times.

     I decided to check this one out on my next vacation, in the fashion of the clue-in-a-vase game on the 1950’s Howdy Doody show.  I drove my rental car from Phoenix up an escarpment called the Mogollon Rim, from desert in to plateau and pine tree country, not too far from the Grand Canyon. I visited the little towns of Snowflake and Heber, where the protagonist of the Enquirer story had supposedly lived. In Holbrooke, I talked to a reporter who had interviewed Travis Walton and his companions, and believed with all his heart that they “told the truth.”

     I drove back to Phoenix, and then west on I-10 for about forty miles, and sure enough, once I passed irrigated cotton fields, I saw the “city” of saucer-shaped houses stretched out along a dirt service road parallel to the Eisenhower Interstate. When I got there, I found an interesting cast of characters. There were two young men who both claimed to be divinity students. In the main house, Dan Fry and his spacey wife, Florence, were giving the regular Sunday reminiscences. In fact, Dan didn’t start out with the gee-whiz stuff. He talked mostly about his political plan for world peace, his Area of Mutual Agreement, to be implemented by his umbrella organization, Understanding. This was to be another grass-roots process where people, without the help of government, would get together in chapters on their own, all over the world eventually, and brainstorm on moral or political principles on which everyone could agree. Such a statement might be something as primitive as, “everyone has the right to breathe.” But, unlike the approach of the Ninth Street Center, truth was to be disseminated world-wide almost by a new “great commission.” These agreement statements would filter up as these chapters combined and sent messengers to higher congresses, and eventually “the World” had a kind of English constitution or Magna Carta. Then, when quizzed  by the elderly tourists, Dan would tell how this story had come about: how he had missed a bus to El Paso for a weekend pass while in the Army; how he had wandered into the New Mexico desert, and been abducted, and given sort of a Code of Hammurabi by this totally human extraterrestrial, “A-lan,” which meant, “messenger.”[34] This does sound like Joseph Smith receiving the tablets! In the ensuing years, he claimed, he housed A-lan in a spare bedroom for perhaps five years, got him a green card, a job, even a driver’s license. Then A-lan just went home, like the ET.

     In the next five years, I went to three Understanding conventions in the desert, and stayed in one of the saucer-shaped dorms. I met a young Californian, Eddie, at a book bar at the first convention, and would correspond with him for years (and meet him for vacations on the west coast several more times); eventually he would “come out” to me in a letter. We would ride around in the California Mojave Desert, and visit other saucer freaks who came to the conventions. Most of them were “libertarian” conservatives who had supported Ronald Reagan for the 1976 nomination, but what they liked was his “less-government,” not moralizing. Once we bushwhacked away into the desert, and came upon an adobe cabin that would come apart in your bare hands.

     The conventions were filled with bizarre speakers (one of whom, all of 300 pounds, lectured on how one coke [the soft variety] would destroy all of one’s psychic abilities for a month), meditations, and workshops developing the Mutual Agreement process.[35]  The last convention was organized by a gay man and his lover who were trying to set up a private school for Accelerated Christian Education!

     What this all meant, was that people would seek out anything, however fantastic, that would give them something miraculous beyond their mundane adaptive worlds, to look forward to. They all felt, if Dan’s stories were really true, or if a new President of the United States were to feel “honor bound” to tell the “truth” about Roswell, their lives meant something beyond the usual baby-making, toilet-training, PTA meetings, and increasingly shaky employment to support a family. Just knowing, just seeing it happen, would make them feel “important.” Maybe they would have the inspiration to make Area of Mutual Agreement work - and without government (even if it implied world government).

     I remained “scientifically” skeptical, as much as I enjoyed Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This could all be true only with some fundamental change to our reality. I found one book that gave me some hope, by asserting that information, as opposed to matter or energy, can travel faster than light and reconstruct itself virtually, or affect perceptions, in another location.[36]

     From 1976 to 1978, I actually formed and ran a little Understanding chapter in New York City. On one occasion, Dan and Florence actually spoke to about thirty people crammed in to my efficiency apartment. Dan resembled Paul in his manner of speech and even his bluntness in counseling other people. He believed he was being “creative” but he needed to “see” a larger reality outside of his own character; he was a bit of a “doubting Thomas.”  Florence told me, as she stood outside the inexpensive George Washington Hotel near Gramercy Park when I met them, that the City was “dying.” One woman tried to recruit the entire group into fighting nuclear power.[37] I let her have her say, but I insisted I would always refuse to become a foot soldier for any other’s particular interpretation of right and wrong. (So, do we trust technological civilization? In 1982, I would actually visit the Glen Rose nuclear plant, still under construction, in Texas while on a Sierra Club camping weekend!)  I would make my official contribution to Mutual Agreement when the Understanding journal, in 1978, published my little essay on personal responsibility (similar to my Introduction).

     Understanding would fall apart around 1980, as rather unscrupulous persons tore the toy city apart (setting some of the buildings on fire, literally). One irony is that Paul Rosenfels had written, “understanding without love is a potentially destructive tool in human affairs.”[38] 

     I would find several other New Age groups. I joined the Rosicrucian Order and began to study their monographs and meditation exercises (carried out with candles and mirrors), and even attended one of their New Year’s (spring) “Feasts” (a lengthy and “secret” but benign ritual, rather like a communion service) in a New York City hotel ballroom. I recall writing a membership application letter in which I said I needed to find something more than “living for myself.” I could join an “invisible empire,” a secret cultural fraternity and gain access, not just to the operations of karma[39] and reincarnation, but to this larger “Cosmic Consciousness” and miracles, the substance of a “larger life” that escapes from the planet. But I had to give up these neurotic “attachments.”  At a Columbia University gay dance, I met one guy who claimed his father was a Rosicrucian, and he summarized their whole philosophy in one word, “Do!”  Some versions of this esoteric philosophy suggest that you learn the ultimate “truth” about the “Unknown Region” (life in the rest of the universe) only by giving up your “individuality” and becoming part of a beehive group-mind, possibly at “death.”  I read some of the writings on karma, reincarnation, and “Great White Brotherhood” and the surprisingly upbeat personal moral philosophy of  Richard Kieninger, and actually visited his upper middle class “commune,” Stelle, 70 miles from Chicago. Until the mid 1980’s, only one-earner families (where the husband supported the wife) were allowed to live there. Kieninger saw marriage as the commitment that kept one from becoming a passive vessel, captured by possessions.[40] Twice I visited the Lama Foundation, a spiritual retreat and foundation 8600 feet up on the slopes of Mt. Wheeler, near Taos, New Mexico. I would approach the central wooden kitchen-house (the word “Remember” on the door) and hear women chanting as they cooked delicious vegetarian meals for their all-faith (Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Islam) feasts. The second visit was a “Spring Work Camp” to which people came from all over the country; it was a kind of local Habitat for Humanity. I would volunteer to cut shrubbery, plant, and lay adobe brick on a new dorm for two days, and feel reminded of my femininity. This beautiful place was destroyed in a forest fire in 1996.

     There have been scores of these personal betterment, New Age groups that promise to enhance self-concept. Many of them work for some people. What sometimes ruins them is what ruins governments and churches and organizations: bureaucracy and politics.[41] Once they become preoccupied with worldwide organizational discipline, they just come to be perceived as “cults,”[42] ripe for deprogrammers. As I ran around throughout my country in rental cars, I enjoyed being alone, and I relished creating red-letter days in my own mind, without the official celebration of society. One of the Understanding speakers had taught us, “the essence of witchcraft is creating your own reality.”  Growth is foremost an individual process.

            

     Section_06

     Don’t Hide Your Skin; What We Don’t Hear About Religion and Homosexuality  

 

     "The Lord wants your life, the Lord wants your being, the Lord wants your mind.  The Lord wants you to lay everything down and walk with him."

     This is not some pronouncement from Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson.  This was an Assistant Pastor, Joan Wakeford at Metropolitan Community Church of Dallas, in the fall of 1980. She had journeyed to Dallas to escape the horrific apartheid regime in the pre-Mandela South Africa. When she was announced as an associate pastor by Reverend Don Eastman, the entire congregation cheered.

     I had never realized how seriously some people took their faith.  In my first year in Dallas (1979), it was common practice at MCC to have prayers from the congregation, and perhaps twenty people (most of them women) would spill out their troubles to the Lord. People were getting sick well before there was public knowledge of AIDS; they were losing jobs - due to their own ineptitude rather than discrimination - years before the talk of hostile takeovers and corporate downsizings.

     “The Lord wants you to turn over everything to him, so show your complete Faith in him,” she would continue, walking between the pews, without her microphone.      What bothered me about the "faith" I was seeing was, of course, that it was sometimes presented as a cover for personal failure, or for hard times beyond one's control, whether illness, economic reversal, job loss, or even discrimination.  [I felt frankly annoyed by the spontaneous calls of  “Amen” and “That’s Right” from the participative, if hypnotized congregation.]

      I had always dreaded failing, and losing control of my own life.  Faith to me was like keeping a lover: I had to have myself before I had either. A Christian is supposed to recognize that he is saved by Grace, not because of what he does.

     I am a Christian. I neither apologize for nor boast about this. Unlike the hapless missionary of the film The Ghost and the Darkness, I’m not trying to convert anyone.  But religion does highlight some principles bearing on personal autonomy.  Faith implies most of one’s works will be good, or at least well-intended. 

     Reverend Don Eastman, Pastor at MCC Dallas through the early and mid 1980’s, defined faith as “a confidence in God in matters that are unseen and unprovable.”  This sounds simple enough, like accepting postulates in mathematics, as long as everything works. With Reverend Eastman, faith had an intellectual spin to it, a certain distance from the self. People would describe Don as “preoccupied, and that isn’t good.” But with Joan Wakeford (and sometimes even with the “in” clique at MCC) ,  you either had the Spirit, or you didn’t.  A church, with the best intentions, can become a cult.

     It would get even more personal.

     Six months after moving to Texas, I went to an MCC retreat at a gay resort called "El Rancho Vista" out in the Texas prairie, near Abilene.  Saturday night, around a pyre built in a dry pond and in the Texas heat, I had the experience of having someone next to me embrace me and pray for me, just as a cool breeze from an approaching thunderstorm was coming to save me from his put-down, with words like, “a friend among us who is not as able as the rest of us.” Then, a couple weeks later, that person called me and invited me to supper at the old Lucas B&B on Oak Lawn Avenue (a restaurant we were supposed to be boycotting because it had fired a lesbian waitress) while he talked to me about God.

     I became quickly convinced MCC was dead serious about religious convictions. Deacons would embrace me during individual communions and give long, personal prayers that showed a surprising awareness of the details of my own life. They seemed to be drawing me in. Prayer was to be a personal surrender, a paradox of individual awareness. You pray for people that really matter to you, before you pray earnestly for “peace in the world.”  Prayer, as well as secular study, can provided a psychological defense from really experiencing the pain of others in horrible world events, like wars and the Holocaust. Sometimes, pastors would make an issue of learning to pray publicly

     The most inspiring evening of church for me ever took place in August, 1979, just after I  moved to Dallas. Realtor and guitar musician Harry Denham sang - rather screamed, first, “I have to tell somebody,” and then “He’s Alive!” repeatedly, in an almost Bolero-like refrain, while a paralyzed woman got up from a wheelchair and walked for the first time in months. Afterwards, Don Eastman said, “we really had church tonight.”  

     My home First Baptist Church had mentioned a rite of “reaffirmation of faith,” with the comment, “we hope you never have to go through this.” My father had encouraged me to attend regularly, or else people would wonder if I was “sincere.” Later, when I was on my own in New Jersey, I visited a Presbyterian church, and got a call from a woman on the outreach committee, and she would remark, “It’s good to meet a young man who is used to going to church.”

     But MCC Dallas was the first place I ever saw faith really and consistently practiced from the heart. You could get into circular soliloquies about “faith” and “works,” before concluding that they are equivalent; one must require the other.  This was no “Church of Sodom,” no “queers playing church,”  and no deceptive sanctuary for homosexuality. Were someone fired from a job or discharged from the military (as was Reverend Dusty Pruitt) for connections to MCC, a claim of discrimination based on religion would be legally arguable. Founder Reverend Troy Perry (who had started MCC in an apartment in 1968)  used to preach, “you can come out as gay, but it’s much harder to come out as Christian.”

     There are a couple of levels on which I relate to my own admittedly tenuous faith, which is a bit rebellious in the spirit of the monologue opening Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish Symphony. I admit to a primal fear, that I might have to answer for myself someday from some other time-space coordinates within the universe. For a judgment to come down to save those that merely “believe in Him” - show a simple faith - sounds simultaneously like a riddle and a tautology. For, what could tantalize any male homosexual more than the notion of a “perfect” 33-year old man walking among us (barely old enough to have retired from the military before the Pharisees caught up with him) , in a pre-tribulation period. Of course, this can degenerate into the gee-whiz stuff of UFOology ¾ literal depictions of the Rapture (which Don Eastman approached seriously, if unexpectedly, in one Sunday night sermon just before the AIDS crisis broke), or horror-movie scripts like the “Return” of the 144,000 "Beheaded" from Revelation (nobody’s done this yet ¾ I’m surprised!). Some people seem to want the Rapture for the spectacle of calamity, which they feel would give their now uneventful lives a special penultimate “meaning.”

     I listened to a lot of “fundamentalist” preaching on my car radios during my nine years in Texas. Some of it was fascinating, like a by-minute account of how angels escort you when you die! There was a preoccupation with finding ultimate “truth” in religious faith, and an authoritarian assumption that all moral values should derive from faith. The faithful were obligated, not just to follow The Great Commission and to “convert” (that is, save the souls of) others with the “Good News,” but to force religious versions of morality upon the “civilian” public at large. People of the faith trust the priesthood with their money!  Protection of freedom of religion can mean protection of the right to discriminate, proselyte, boycott or even harass others who do not meet one’s religious standards. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 has been criticized for giving “special rights” for the practice of religion, at the expense of other interests.

     At times, this naive mantra, “the Lord provides,” sounded like a childish attempt to close off debate, to keep the world simple. It relieves the believer of responsibility for knowing “why” his postulates may or may not be valid, or even for understanding how he got to be who he is. In different ways, gay radicals and religious “fanatics” are equally “guilty” of this intellectual laziness. The Rosicrucians called this attitude “churchianity.”  The political result of such “blind faith” may be authoritarianism. Religious authorities may hit back at attempts to arrive at a more practical, non-sectarian notion of ethics and even personal self-empowerment, with charges of “secular humanism.”   The end result of blind religious obedience, when the general population doesn’t want to read and think more (like we had to in William and Mary’s English class) is continued war and tribalism. Of course, in this country, the most “conservative” denominations hardly match, say, Shiite Islam for total control of daily life; but there are some scholars in Pat Robertson’s empire who want to make this nation (again, they say) a religious republic, governed not by a constitution but by the laws of Leviticus.

     Questioning of authority had always been in my blood. I would challenge my father (but not military cadre later) to know “why” I had to do something that he had demanded of me. At its best, faith should be like that; “a hallmark of Baptist identity is the affirmation that each individual is competent to interpret Scripture according to the dictates of conscience and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”[43] But it takes a certain sentience (the kind that the intellectual stimulation of music, chess, and mathematics helps develop) to sort through all the ambiguities and surface contradictions of scriptural moral teachings, as reflected in the tremendous changes (and uncertainties) of our culture, toward individuality, since the 1960’s. So various “conservative” theologians have developed the notion of “inerrancy,” the literal infallibility of scripture as a foundation for all truth; they would arrogantly promote this concept through the media during the 1980’s. Freedom in theological thought, fundamentalists maintain, amounts to the arrogance of gnosticism, salvation or exaltation through “secret knowledge,” the kind subjective feminines like to wield!  [“Freedom” for the fundamentalist translated into opportunity to “walk with the Lord” and to obey a collective moral and cultural code, designed to protect community welfare by limiting certain individual expressions, as an experience of faith.] From inerrancy it is easy to jump to political control and hate-mongering. On the other hand, conformity to a certain authority in doctrine seems to help members of religious communities get along and live productively. For the faithful, there is also a tension between the authority of church leaders who interpret the Bible, one’s own reading of the Bible, and one’s sense of truth and right derived from broader personal and secular experience.

     I would sometimes engage the conservative religious community in personal debate. One Presbyterian pastor tried to discourage my coming out with the claim that “homosexuality is a form of immaturity.” Another said I knew I was denying my own “walk with the Lord.”  Both claimed they had suspected homosexuality as my reason for wanting to see them.      

     I can see religious faith can also be a source of reassurance that I am on a constructive path that is uniquely my own, and tied to my deepest notions of inner identity. We all need faith and hope in order to keep going.  We need faith in ourselves in order to achieve anything, because we can never prove everything that is worthwhile in advance, let alone anticipate criticisms and rejection.  Sometimes it’s easier to give in, to get lost in emotion, and join the cult, for its collectivist language (God’s plan for “us”) to work back into a renewed appreciation of “who I am.”  Joining up can bring relief from the rather dishonorable sin of worry or anxiety.  Well, cults like the Moonies carry this process way too far, with their “no more concepts.”[44] When enough of the right uncanny and improbable coincidences occur during my life, I start to have the faith that I can do what I was meant to do.

     After all, Christianity teaches that you just get one chance to be an individual, on only one planet. Whatever is the ultimate truth about the rest of the universe, it will never add to self-expression; we all find out the answer after death, when we forever give up our individualities (and impact on others) for “cosmic consciousness” -- or perhaps remain the same person forever; we still do not know. Christianity begs to deal with the apparent limitations of the “scientific method.” as we learned it in high school, to uncover deeper layers of truth. The great mystery, that our universe exists at all, that all the constants of physics are perfect to allow us freedom if we simply heed the laws, and that so many billions of us are all unique individuals -- certainly urged me to embrace faith and heed hard science at the same time. The discovery of extraterrestrial life early in the next century would not really matter to me, because we would always remain special as individual intelligences. Perhaps Christianity is the religion of individuality! There is no contradiction between special creation and evolution.  

     ----

     The "controversy" over homosexuality and the Bible has been covered by many sources, and there are facile explanations for most of the "clobber" passages. Many of these relate to the notion that homosexuals supposedly enjoy intimacy without the receptiveness to creating new, dependent human life, so homosexuality must somehow be contrary to nature.[45] Much is made of gratuitous homosexual acts committed by essentially heterosexual people. These ideas get covered in these all-day Saturday MCC membership classes, and they don’t need to be repeated now.  But  some highlights apply to our argument. 

     Probably the simplest concept is that "God's love is for all people," as so often preached by Reverend Don Eastman at MCC Dallas in the early 80's.  "Homosexuality itself is not a moral issue, but what you do with your homosexuality most certainly is a moral issue." The notorious passage in Romans, about men giving up what is "natural" could be restricted in interpretation to promiscuity or temple prostitution.  With more recent attention to homosexuality and biology, it may be reasonable (or maybe simply facetious) to claim that the passage was not intended for those "naturally" homosexual (but to heterosexuals committing homosexual acts). But the passage might also be considered as a warning about the endpoint of idolatry or narcissism. It also seems to focus on “conduct,” and presumes misconduct (or indifference to the needs of others) equates to lack of faith, but not the mere admission of unconventional sexual interests. 

     There are a few passages in Jesus's teachings and in the Epistles, which, although they do not specifically mention homosexuality, bear much on the issue of identity so important behind the politics of homosexuality.

     But over the years, I have noticed a few other passages which seem to bear down on the politics of homosexuality, creativity, and personal freedom.

      For openers, in the Epistle Galatians, Paul talks about a “new” kind of freedom; the Law is not a spiritual end in itself, but our inability to keep it invokes both a need for Christ, and a need to recognize the benefits of personal honor and character. In Christ there’s no east and west, black and white, gay and straight. And 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love Chapter,” the Apostle Paul invents the vocabulary of personal growth (love, faith, hope) for a modern Rosenfels, but puts the “eternal feminine” as the ultimate endpoint of spiritual growth. The temptation story teaches a lesson about reality and its limits, that some self-gratifying experiments - the testing of “good and evil”[46] have consequences that will permanently confine us. 

      A more challenging passage is the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25).  What is interesting, is that the servant receiving the fewest talents fails to show faith.  The point seems to be that God has different places for us in life, and that we may very well be unequal in gifts on earth, but that in Christ we are made whole and equal.  I am surprised I don’t hear this Parable mentioned more often. In the “wrong hands,” it could sound like an excuse from “conservatives” to let the rich get richer.  The more subtle message is that everyone must learn to recognize both his or her unique gifts and, at the same time, the limitations and discipline (and even risk-taking) necessary to develop those gifts. Perhaps the parable is a bit of a jest: what matters is not outcomes or winning, but a willingness to play. As in Disney’s So Dear to My Heart,[47] it’s what you do with what you’ve got. A related story is the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20), where workers are paid the same total amount regardless of hours worked, and which looks forward to “libertarian” (Chapter 5) notions of use of private property with personal charity and self-interest simultaneously. I love the phrase, “are you envious because I am generous?”

     Probably the most provocative story is the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 25:16; Luke 18).  This parable got impressed upon me in after I had indulged myself in an encounter group.  This took place in the spring of 1972, at the “Church”, after I had stopped “dating.” I hadn’t yet broken away into my new lifestyle. This non-gay talk group, sponsored by the Assistant Pastor, was supposed to give an opportunity for us to “let our hair down” and we weren’t supposed to speak in “intellectual abstractions.”  I looked out at the dogwood blossoms on 16th Street, and then gave a monologue about “the body,” and how hard I found it to love someone who didn’t have a “good body.” And, speaking rather like the subtitles of a French film (Wild Reeds), I also expressed the fear that good bodies wouldn’t last forever.

     “What about the body?” the reverend asked. I mumbled something to the effect that only good-looking people receive admiration, as if that were the same as love.  Then, the husband of the organist admitted, “well, Bill, I really don’t have any great love for you.” Everybody was uncomfortable at how this was going. I wanted to say it: a body was something more than ectoplasm, something you could look, even stare at, remember later, and cathect, want yourself to be like.  You could hang your feelings about someone on something you could see, and this seemed to give the other person privileges, even Capricornian “honors and position.” At this juncture, Melanie, whom I had stopped dating six months before broke down and cried about her feeling “trapped in a box” and a lack of openness with people.

     Then the reverend made his own intellectual jump, and let us all, particularly me, off the hook. “You’re all a bit like the Rich Young Ruler,” he said, as he finally opened his Bible.            

     The spoiled man addresses Christ as "Good Master," and Jesus retorts, "why do you call me good?  Only God is good."  To paraphrase, “don’t pander me!”  Or, worship the message, not just the messenger. The "ruler" would only be satisfied with an idol that would gratify his fantasies, or at least his pre-conceived notion of what an ideal man was to be like.  He had indeed lived his life according to the “first normal form” of morality; he had kept the commandments. He had harmed no one. But he was dying, like a leaf in a drought well before an early frost. To learn unconditional love, the ruler was required to give away all of his possessions, and then really follow Christ.[48]  The ruler seemed to have little faith that Christ would really live up to his expectations, that Christ would not desert him. Had I lived during the time of Christ, I would have schemed to meet him, and would have “followed him around,” and grown wary of my psychological dependence. I would have felt strange about connecting an almost sexual attraction with “love.”  I would have dreaded the personal test of watching the mayhem of a crucifixion. The notion of a resurrection would have seemed like a fantasy; yet, at least once with a person With AIDS, I really had come to believe it.

     The following Sunday, the associate pastor gave a didactic sermon on this parable, which he developed into a contrast between a mother's love and a father's love: the mother instinctively loves her child because it exists and it is hers; the father's love stems from the expectation of what the child can become, what he or she might achieve as and adult, the unknown regions he or she will open for the world.  The mother’s love is innate, and the father’s love is learned, but perhaps has the greatest potential for transcendence. This gets to be elaborated in a family-values debate: the father teaches the child risk-taking and rough-play; the mother, caution, expression, and consideration for others.

     The church had always softened the purely psychological demands of “love” by extolling non-erotic, “Christian” love, which simply has the best interests of the “other” person as its aim.  

     There is one more “controversial” New Testament passage that makes a tangential, but provocative pass at homosexuality. In Chapter 19 of Matthew, Jesus defines the significance of marriage and puts the bounds on divorce.  In marriage, he says, two become one flesh, and undergo a fundamental change of identity. The text of Jesus’s teaching gets pretty explicit:

 

     “Haven’t you heard that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female and said, ‘For this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become {one flesh}. So they are no longer two, but one.”[49]

 

    In modern Western culture, marriage has become the rite of adulthood. The ability to commit oneself, not just in sexual intimacy but in shared daily living, eating, sleeping, and biorhythms, to another person (of the opposite gender) is an unwritten requirement to first-class World citizenship. And, until perhaps twenty five years ago, this commitment was to be for life, “in sickness and health”, for “richer or poorer.”  Taken literally, this passage, so far, would suggest that no man should leave his parents and live the independent life I have for 26 years (counting from the day of my discharge from the Army) without at least some commitment to poverty (but not to martyrdom). The Mormon Church (whose members have always impressed me with their individual honesty and generosity toward their own neighbors) carried this idea of “eternal marriage” into the afterlife; singles like me were to remain psychological slaves.

      Divorce is a denial of this rite of commitment, and stems from a “hardness of heart.”  My roommate at William and Mary had spoken of “adultery in the heart.”  Yet, Jesus then says, this passage applies to those “for whom it was intended.” He speaks of “eunuchs” as a priesthood who can reach some sort of Godhead (say, self-actualization) without surrendering themselves to the tribunal of matrimony. We can debate whether instead of “eunuchs” he could have said “gays,” but Jesus definitely says some people “make themselves this way” for the Lord’s purpose.

     Christianity confronts us with paradox, with exceptions that swallow their own rules. Lust leads to “unnatural” indulgences, but one loves a buddy in combat as one loves oneself.  Maybe it’s best never to marry, to save oneself for Faith, but it’s better to marry than to burn. Raising a family today sounds like the most morally compelling personal objective, but it would hardly make sense if Judgment Day occurs tomorrow. Reward or judgment occurs in the hereafter, but expressive individuality is confined to this small planet and demands that one keep oneself regardless of relationships. The Law must be fulfilled but it sets one free. For it is disciplined dedication to human elements outside the self that brings one closer to both “the Spirit” and to the new self, which in modern society is supposed to be constructed by family.

     ---

     The gay community and religion continue to react in big and small ways. For example, for a few years in Dallas, I attended home meetings of Evangelicals[50] Concerned, a small study group of gay self-defined evangelical Christians. Founder Ralph Blair visited once in 1986, and commented on how the teachings of Paul Rosenfels (Paul himself had just died of heart failure) had been keeping most members of the Ninth Street Center alive during the AIDS epidemic by encouraging monogamous relationships.

     Then, just after I left Dallas and came back east, MCC Dallas would build its Cathedral of Hope, with an enormous nave and sanctuary whose somber mood curiously reminds me of the Naval Academy Chapel. MCC Dallas now plans a $20 million center.

     Harvard University Preacher Peter Gomes has provided a modern conceptual overview of the proper interpretation of the Bible and homosexuality.[51] The Levitical laws, he stresses, concerned ritual impurity. Sodom and Gomorrah dealt with a generic wickedness, including inhospitality. The passages in the Epistles dealt with idolatry, perhaps more of sexual practices than of the persons cathected. (The Tenth Commandment, however, reads, “thou shalt not covet.”) Gomes provides a moving account of his own public “coming out” at a rally at the Harvard Yard in the early 1990’s.

     Just as the established church presents problems of conscience for individual homosexuals like me, homosexuality provides mainstream denominations with serious practical questions about discipline within the church, and the credibility of scripture as a cohesive element among believers.[52] Homosexuality brings out the paradox of the individual faith experience, in that it demands openness to truth and introspection; yet, in almost Rosenfelsian fashion, it denies the defense of intellect.  

     ---

     In 1980, two years before AIDS would start to test the stamina and forbearance of the gay community, the churches presented the gay community a smaller, now forgotten challenge: to house thousands of refugiados cubanos fleeing Castro. Many of them were said to be homosexuals, who quickly found their way to both establishment churches and gay churches.

     I signed up for a refresher Spanish course at a community college in Dallas, and I made an appointment to interview as a sponsor at Catholic Charities, housed in a WWII-era brown brick building, somewhat out of place in the glittery Oak Lawn neighborhood. I walked in to see a Mr. Perez, and challenged him immediately by “telling.”

     “The fact you say you are gay ends this discussion,” he said, without standing up. He quickly denied the stories about the refugees.

     I then went over to one of the small gay churches (not MCC) which had started an active refugee program. I met the young man, Carlos, who would stay with me, and then learned I would be expected to give up my job and spend all day getting him up to speed in an English-speaking society. This was not a challenge for a one-person household.

     A few weeks later, at one Wednesday evening MCC Dallas service, I saw a hand-printed postcard sign, “lost everything ....”  I did take in this “poor person” for about three months; he would sleep in the living room (so I kept some privacy), until an ex “lover” started coming over and the two of them would carry out a soap opera in front of me in my own living room. He worked as a waiter, and would invite me to free dinners at the local IHOP, and then start telling me stories of his risky adventures with tricks, which he claimed had included Dallas policemen. He would show me letters from his “family” in Oklahoma, in which a sister would ask to borrow ten dollars.  He claimed I didn’t “like” him and I was put off by some self-defeating habits. Later, I would drive through his home town and find the address he had given me was a charity, not a home.

     I was glad to live alone again after he left.  I preferred to concentrate again on interacting with people I respected, not just people who told me they had “real needs.”            

 

     Section_07

     AIDS Is Seen as a Result of “Too Much    Freedom” and Lack of Marital Commitment

 

     My doctor had finished cutting out two moles, and my employer would pay for the excisions. He leaned over my trunk as I lay psychologically “etherized” on a gurney, and swabbed a small area with iodine. I sat up to look. “Let’s check this one little spot.”

     This moment, as I lay next to the doctor’s full tray, was my knife edge, separating “before and after,” as Shilts had described the personal moment AIDS would change everything.[53]

     I was shocked that he would yank away some tissue from me, and tell me in a few days whether I had long to live. I had thought of him as an “easy” doctor; though, recently he had given up our lifestyle and MCC (having once talked about Magnolia’s being “raided”) to go back to his separated wife because he had been such an outstanding father for his daughters.

     This was a Friday, July 15, 1983. I would have to wait all weekend, and hope for no phone calls next Monday. Acquaintances said it was good to get it taken care of.

     ---   

     Even though the Supreme Court’s majority opinion to allow state sodomy laws (Hardwick v. Bowers, 1986) made no explicit mention of AIDS or sexually transmitted diseases, the panic over AIDS in the three years preceding the decision certainly must have produced a psychological effect on the justices. Indeed, from perhaps early 1983 (when Newsweek came out with its scare issue “Epidemic, the Public Health Threat of the Century” and subsequently Geraldo Rivera described AIDS as the plot of a horror movie) until perhaps the end of Reagan’s terms, commentators seemed to want to connect AIDS to a particularly moral weakness in homosexuals. Commentator Pat Buchanan wrote of those “poor homosexuals” who had earned the “awful revenge” from nature for violating it.

     My  own indoctrination was gradual. I saw the first stories about Kaposi’s Sarcoma on the Texas TWIT (This Week in Texas) as I went into the TMC (Throckmorton Mining Company) bar in Dallas. A week later, I would watch a resident doctor friend pore over the early medical articles on the coffee table in his Oak Lawn apartment. In early 1983, gay doctors at an emergency information forum (I had almost skipped it to play chess!)  would tell us that few people seem to survive, that we were riding an iceberg, and that already we were asked not to donate blood. As recently as early 1981, blood banks had visited Dallas Gay Alliance meetings to court gay men to become “superdonors” (through plasmapheresis) for the new hepatitis B vaccine (which I took in 1982). Going into 1981, we had naïvely thought hepatitis B (also bloodborne) to be gay men’s last big health threat.[54]

     The early numbers were shocking; over 70% of new cases were in gay men (over 90% in many cities including Dallas).[55]  A popular, misleading colloquialism spoke of the “4 H’s” (homosexuals, heroin addicts, hemophiliacs, and Haitians). The Haitians would soon prove to be a misconceived amalgam of other at-risk persons; the hemophiliacs (and, soon, direct blood transfusion recipients) were, if anyone, truly the “innocent bystanders” of a disease explosion.

      I was shocked. I had heard rumors of clusters of “contagious” cancer (such as Hodgkin’s Disease in 1978), and, even in the late 1970’s in New York, of bizarre diseases appearing in the gay community. But I could never have conceived of anything so diabolical as AIDS; any new disease, I had thought, would spare most “stronger” hosts, as does hepatitis (several forms). Now, I would go through a one-year panic of looking at my trunk and legs for lesions, after one horrifying moment in a shower when I noticed a red spot on my trunk; then I had never heard of “senile hemangiomas.” Would I ever have to watch myself become massively disfigured like the hapless Kaposi’s Sarcoma victim just shown on ABC “20-20” in May 1983?  Later, a gay doctor would tell me a simple rule as we walked on Cedar Springs: “if it goes away, it isn’t AIDS.”  For a while, it looked like I would have to go to war with the AIDS epidemic, when I had maneuvered my way out of combat in Vietnam.

     I spent a number of Saturday mornings at the Texas Health Sciences Center Library, desperately looking through medical journals for signs of hope. While trashy theories about AIDS (“poppers”) circulated in gay periodicals, I quickly encountered discussions of a retrovirus (HTLV-1) connected to a bizarre lymphatic cancer that seemed like a mirror-image of AIDS.[56]  I was seeing critical studies comparing the immune systems and T-helper counts of heterosexual men and (even non-promiscuous) homosexual men. Men who go through their tribunals and get married really are healthier, I thought. I felt personally slandered. Lesbians, however, had fewer sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) than straight women. Soon, several major texts on AIDS appeared, many of them with gruesome and very private photographs.     

     At work (at a Dallas credit reporting company), one coworker would kid me, tastelessly: “Bill, let me use your toothbrush. You won’t give me AIDS.” I had still never “told,” but the company was located in the Dallas Oak Lawn area, near many of the gay bars, so everybody just knew. The subject came up in a CPR class given at the company. Management remained silent on the issue, and for almost the entire time at the company there was only one case in several hundred employees.  A (straight) neighbor who was a resident at Parkland Hospital and who accepted me well enough to accompany me to Texas Ranger baseball games, said simply, “AIDS is gross!” 

     Very quickly, on the basis of epidemiological evidence, authorities would conclude that a new virus had to be involved, particularly from the observation that the disease had gone from almost zero occurrence to a pattern of geometric doubling, and from the fact that specific chains of contact would be shown, from a “Patient Zero.” Even today, conspiracy theorists (Duesberg and Ellsberg) come up with all kinds of pseudo-science to play the game of denial. The medical establishment, they claim, has a vested interest in finding new germs (as it once had with scurvy).[57] Although questions of scientific integrity and government cover-ups would surface (most notably in the New York Native), the evidence that the cause was a retrovirus quickly became overwhelming. The Reagan administration sounded pretty smug when it announced in April, 1984, that it had “discovered” the cause of AIDS, then called HTLV-III (later, HIV).

     I corresponded extensively with the CDC, health departments, researchers such as Anne Fettner and Alan Cantwell, and Charles Ortleb, editor of The New York Native. Dallas Veterans Administration Hospital physician Jim Shoney wrote me a warm letter assuring the scientific integrity of the CDC and dispelling the rumors. Texas state senators and representatives wrote back varied reactions: one stated that the vile nature of homosexuality was especially obvious to him now during this public health crisis; another encouraged me to get other gay people to contact their legislators because she was receiving a lot of mail maintaining that gays must not work in various occupations, especially where “food is served or prepared.” Nathan Fain, of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, confided in a letter to me that there was indeed controversy regarding the employment of gay men.

     I even traveled to investigate. On vacation, I drove a rental car to Belle Glade, Fl., and saw squalid tenements with outdoor laundries, until I was followed out of town in a low-speed  “car chase.”  On the plane, I met an anti-AIDS activist from the “religious right” (carrying his “National AIDS Prevention Network” literature) and actually corresponded with him later.  I also visited the iron-gated New York Native office fortress.     

     The Dallas gay community quickly organized education forums. The early advice was to “limit the number of sexual partners,” although it soon became apparent that even this was denial; even one “exposure” [through “exchange of body fluids”] could transmit a death sentence. People would speak of tricks, “is this one worthy dying for?” and ask potential partners in bars, “Are you clean?” We would quickly urge the use of condoms, or, better, fidelity to one partner. We had hushed conversations with CDC’s James Curran in Dallas hotel rooms, and agreed we had to get our acts together. 

     On the surface, it would seen that, once the panic over AIDS had become public, self-righteous "conservatives" could have gone after gays with the same fervor that they chased drug users. And, indeed, they tried.  It is important to depict the "theory" they constructed. “They,” of course, included the notorious Paul Cameron and Gene Antonio (now somewhat discredited even among conservatives), and various other groups, such as the “Dallas Doctors Against AIDS” that surfaced in 1983 (with which I actually corresponded “secretly” in the Spring of 1984).[58] [Their rhetoric threatened a lot more than the silly sermons of Jerry Falwell, ignorantly linking “herpes and AIDS” as the almost the same disease.]  

     Sex acts outside of monogamous marriage, they claimed, facilitate transmission of disease and affect others for two reasons.  First, society has to pay the financial cost of STD's;[59] and more important, STD's often chase "innocent" victims in ways that are unpredictable in advance. Hence, we were shocked to learn that AIDS could be transmitted "secondarily" by blood transfusions and from mother to child.  Even worse, a disease that appears to be transmitted only sexually might mutate later into a more contagious form, after "amplification" among the sexually active.  Or, a disease like HIV, by weakening immunity, makes its victims hosts for other diseases like tuberculosis that might multiply on them and then spread to the public. Of course, they couldn’t use these arguments against gay women.

     Furthermore, male homosexual sex, they claimed, was qualitatively even more dangerous to "society" than (multiple partner) vaginal sex because, first, the rectum (and perhaps mouth) were more easily damaged in intercourse (because of lack of lubrication and thinner rectal wall, making minor tears more likely) and, even more important, because among male homosexuals, the same individual who "receives" can turn around and "give," and propagate a chain letter or pyramid of easy transmission. (At least with vaginal sex, the difficulty of transmission from female to male, when there are not other diseases around to facilitate transmission, putatively makes sustaining a long chain of infection less likely; this analogy does not hold with true “venereal,” as opposed to sexually transmitted, diseases like herpes and venereal warts.)  In just twelve years since Stonewall, they claimed, the gay community had incubated a horrible epidemic with its defiance of "nature," and now the survival of the species might be every much at stake as it had been with the threat of nuclear winter.  They would claim that anal and oral sex could not be made safe (because condoms break and leak), and that gay men, without legitimate procreative outlets, therefore had become human vermin. They got carried away with talk about feces and golden showers.   Even moderate commentators remarked that had AIDS not come along among promiscuous gay men, some other horrible disease would have. The "experts" traveled the country in lecture circuits, spreading images of scatology and rumors of casual secondary transmission of AIDS through the “interstitial cells” in the lungs,[60] while they characterized gay men as effeminate “sophisticates” contaminating normal men. They published books calling for mandatory national HIV testing, exclusion of “carriers” from many occupations (even food handling).[61]  Talk-show callers would ask, “WHAT IF... a flight attendant has a nosebleed into your luncheon lasagna; sitcom scripts would claim, “there’s always a first time!” Gene Antonio, at a public forum held in a fundamentalist church in Carrollton, Texas in 1986, suggested that all employers should “ask.” Proposals were advanced to quarantine all AIDS patients and even all gay men, perhaps in camps like those for the Japanese Nisei in World War II (how gay men would be identified was never clear - maybe by the pupilometric machine from a 1974 movie, The Parallax View, or the penile plethysomograph of sex offender “rehabilitation” in prison).  National Review editor William Buckley sarcastically proposed tattooing persons testing positive on the buttocks; The New York Native fired back that this was another “Final Solution.” Worse still was the psychological scar associated with male autonomy and disinclination for marriage, now associated with likely disease and a short life span. Certainly, the notion that one has absolute moral dominion over one’s own body (previously also an underpinning of a “pro choice” position on abortion) had suddenly been gravely eroded; even if a male homosexual quite properly refrained from giving blood, one could say he had removed himself as a significant community medical resource.  For women, not bearing children was discussed as a cancer risk! CDC would remind the homophobes in forums that lesbians, as a class,  have the lowest level of sexually transmitted diseases among all combinations of sex and orientation.[note Y3]

    Generally, public health officials saw this chain-letter theory as “opportunistic” political crackpotism. Responsible clinicians would remind people at AIDS education forums of several facts.  First, one can meet all the political proscriptions against anal intercourse: while the contention that rectal sex more readily transmits disease (than vaginal sex) sounds like “common sense,” there are, in fact, no complete studies to back up that assertion.[62] The explosion of AIDS within the gay community may have been the result of promiscuity spreading a new agent within a concentrated, circumscribed population; the same “blast crises” seem to occur among heterosexual drug abusing populations here and general heterosexual populations in poor countries. While hepatitis B had also been associated with unprotected male anal sex,[63] other bloodborne diseases such as HTLV-1 and hepatitis C have never shown a particular affinity for the male gay community. In less developed parts of the world, HIV seems as readily explosive in heterosexually active populations,[64] and even in this country, there are now numerous tragic cases of heterosexual transmission with no other risk factors.[65]  Second, using AIDS as an excuse to shut down the gay community and then walk away, would send a message to reckless young heterosexual men that "fucking" (++ sexual intercourse ++) is OK as long as “boys are really boys”; in fact promiscuity is dangerous for anyone, including heterosexuals.  How would the world’s Paul Cameron’s respond if there were a new form of herpes that affected mainly heterosexual women (after being carried by men), and then led to gradual senility over ten or so years (or perhaps to immediate sterility)? How much damage is done by largely heterosexual diseases like chlamydia?  How many cases of cervical cancer can be traced to papilloma (wart) virus from promiscuous vaginal sex?[66] Could the next sci-fi 12 Monkeys scenario for a deadly virus require the female reproductive tract for part of its life-cycle before amplification? Modern encroachment onto the remote turf of nature stirs up new bizarre and horrifying diseases,[67] like Ebola and “mad cow,” but probably none of them will ever pick selectively on homosexuals again.

     A very recent Wall Street Journal piece, discussing how the risks for heterosexuals have been exaggerated,[68] may inflame this kind of debate again. This piece assembles the statistics from several separate studies by different entities. Supposedly vaginal intercourse results in one infection per 1000 unprotected acts with an infected partner (male-female and female-male are not differentiated), whereas unprotected receptive anal intercourse carries a risk of 5 to 30 infections per 1000 acts.[69]  Unprotected vaginal intercourse carries a risk one infection in 5 million acts. This would seem to reinforce the putative state interest in hammering down on, at least, male homosexual acts, until one remembers there is no danger at all with an uninfected partner, and much less (though not zero) when condoms are used; further, homosexuals are discovering non-penetrative forms of sexual enjoyment with little or no risk. A recent piece in Science suggests that strains of HIV found commonly in the Far East may be more easily transmitted heterosexually, in a conventional venereal fashion, through “langerhans” cells in the vaginal mucosa.[70]  A recent CBS “60 Minutes” segment[71] counters Wall Street and suggests that spread by heterosexual contact, even among non-drug users in the developed world, is increasing rapidly.  In the early days of the epidemic, Dr. Redfield at Walter Reed Army Hospital published articles claiming spread among military heterosexuals, although one wonders if this was motivated by military denial of the significant presence of gay men in the military, even during the “absolute ban” (next chapter).    

     I remember going to a party of the Oak Lawn Softball Association one night in April 1984, when someone said, “they just closed the baths in San Francisco.”[72] And soon, everywhere, sex-club operators were accused by health departments of selling “disease and death,” like drug dealers or even tobacco companies. But, at least, we could still meet socially. That was protected by the Constitution. “They’ll close down the MCC,” I would hear at some AIDS forums.  No, they can’t. Well, with a law like Texas HR 2138 the Dallas police could have done in the bars pretty quickly, and we’ll see in a minute how close we really came.

     The predictions that gays would be excluded from much of the mainstream workplace (and not just the military) would appear quickly. I recall the media reactions in 1983 as the “ban” on male blood donations continued (as it does today for all men who have had sex with other men since 1977, even if HIV negative). “Tomorrow, they will tell us we can’t work in hospitals,” lamented one man. It seemed that one’s blood belonged to the community, not to oneself. Nathan Fain, from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York, wrote to me of the “current controversy concerning the employment of gay men.”

     I wondered if  the gay community would survive with “life as we know it.”  For a while, I started buying into this guilt. I bought a private insurance policy specifically against AIDS, paying first $250 and then $500 for 6-month periods of protection. I imagined that I was taking financial responsibility for my own past “conduct.”  Would the Reagan administration indulge in its own rounds of political fag-bashing, as if homosexuality were suddenly a moral outrage, capable (like drugs and abortion) of dividing and then mobilizing a 1980’s version of the Crusades? The publicity surrounding cocaine abuse in professional sports and the military, and then some tragic accidents (such as a train wreck in Maryland in the mid 1980’s) in which crew members had used drugs, was already being met by the presidential bully pulpit (Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No!”), tougher laws and by widespread testing in private industry. Reagan had already written his little book, Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation.[73]  In the mid 1980’s, I was, of course, disturbed by the statues with whom Reagan had surrounded himself (like Meese, who actually tried to ask Justice Department employees about their sexual habits), and was unaware of his own rather libertarian nature.  At one point, in 1987, Reagan finally said, “I must say, that on this issue, medical teaching and moral teaching say the same things.”  Yet, that left open the notion that he was talking about promiscuity, not homosexuality. He never went before the public to announce some kind of initiative or vendetta to put away “homosexuality” as another social cancer like cocaine. CDC, in 1987, actually did send a relatively benign information pamphlet about AIDS to every postal address in the United States.

     History, moreover, provided a little-noticed break for our community. In 1982, a federal judge, Jerry Buchmeyer, had declared the Texas "homosexual conduct" law unconstitutional.  This decision (though later vacated in 1985 by a federal appeals court)[74] was still in force during the days of panic in early 1983, during the horror-movie media panic. At that time, the  Dallas Doctors Against AIDS (by now, obviously, the Dallas Doctors Against Homosexuality), who would talk gleefully about the “food chain” and the “dental chain”[75] as well as the obvious “blood chain” in television interviews,  defied the Buchmeyer ruling and goaded the Judiciary Committee in the Texas House of Delegates to introduce a very draconian bill which aimed to put the gay community out of business. “There is no such thing as a right to privacy,” one of their attorneys actually told a public forum! (As one Dallas gay activist put it, “the Texas legislature passes unconstitutional legislation all the time!”) Besides making sodomy a felony (since penal code revision in 1973, sodomy had been a minor misdemeanor carrying a maximum $200 (now $500) fine and had been defined as criminal only for homosexual acts), it made it very easy for police to arrest patrons of gay bars (for the slightest demonstration of physical affection) and close the bars down, and probably would have required holders of professional licenses from the state, as well as teachers, law enforcement, and food handlers to swear they were not engaging in homosexual conduct.[76]  I corresponded surreptitiously with the Dallas Doctors Against AIDS (to the dismay of Bill Nelson, then the president of the Dallas Gay Alliance), as I was trying to extract some kind of lowest common denominator out of their logic. I wrote strong letters to the Judiciary Committee of the Texas House of Delegates reporting on my correspondence with them.  Because of the Buchmeyer ruling, we were able to persuade the Judiciary Committee not to report the bill out; it lost in committee, 7-2. But had it come up for a vote, it would have been very difficult for assemblymen to vote the bill down, because they would have been viewed as promoting homosexuality and AIDS.  But had this bill passed the Texas legislature, no doubt it would have been imitated in many other states.

     The spirit of such public policy would have been much meaner than the much maligned “don’t ask, don’t tell” of today’s notions of “toleration” (short of acceptance). Indeed, even the appearance of homosexual association was not to be tolerated at all. This position maintains that private lives are very much public business, and would normally be the subject of scrutiny of anyone intending to have a place in society. In a local Republican party caucus in Dallas in 1986, one woman actually suggested a resolution that it be a crime for two adult members of the same sex to live together! (It actually is a crime, never prosecuted, in nine states). One Dallas attorney actually told me, incredibly, that cohabitation (though legal in Texas) could be used to justify a sodomy conviction.

     Should HIV infection, perhaps through some Trojan Horse mechanism, mutate into something more "contagious,"[77] or should some other disease get inseminated in the gay community ¾ both are unlikely ¾ or should radical right congressmen and assemblymen decide to run the anti-gay gauntlet after all ¾ what could they do? Remember, once a "private act" has been defined as a "crime," then speech or assembly which suggests an intent or propensity to commit the "crime" is no longer automatically protected under the First Amendment. Theoretically, patrons of a gay bar could be indicted for "conspiracy" to commit "sodomy." Immunity  could conceivably be granted to adults who would “name names” of others guilty of “sodomy,”  as in the military or during some of the purges of McCarthyism.  Cities could stop issuing permits for gay-pride parades. Tax-exempt status could be withdrawn from "gay churches" like MCC. A legislative body could, in fact, define in law the terms "gay" and "lesbian" as "expressive of intent or propensity to commit homosexual acts" (as Congress would in 1993, as shown in Chapter 4).  As noted already, the military ban sets a foundation for all this.   In the most extreme scenarios (of the Paul Cameron variety), one can imagine "chain letter" penetrative sex acts between men defined in law as a "terrorist" conspiracy to eventually bring disease upon "the heartland." Should the "wrong" people get into power, such draconian legislative formulations are hardly impossible.     

     Actually, "conspiracy" or "racketeering" charges are accepted ways for government to intervene in other areas, even when no harmful act has yet been committed, if law enforcement officials believe it will be.  Terrorists can be arrested before they start making their bombs. In one case, pedophiles in Richmond, Va. were arrested and convicted for planning "snuff" killings before the crimes took place.  Of course, in all these cases, there clearly would have been people harmed had intervention not happened. But, once an act (such as homosexual sodomy) has been declared a crime and "immoral" in law, the same right of government to intervene pre-emptively would apply.

     In the earliest days of the epidemic, I was critical of others in gay leadership for practicing denial. Many still wanted (even to this day) to deny a virus could be the cause, when actually its discovery probably made eventual political control (and distinction of actual disease from homosexual orientation) plausible. Others would say, “it’s just bugs!” ¾ never mind that this bug is like an organic computer, a “screamer” or intelligent robot-cockroach from the “X-Files” ¾ and that bugs are spread by promiscuous sex. When the first tests were introduced in 1985, gay writers quickly warned about use of the test to screen people and not just blood. “Don’t take the test,” would be the battle cry in 1985 and 1986. The Dallas Gay Alliance would produce pamphlets proclaiming “gay is healthy” and linking AIDS and cancer as diseases that have common prevention methods. Some on the gay “left” sounded as though gay men shouldn’t have to answer for their own behavior if it led to disease; wasn’t sex a basic right? The Supreme Court had already said (with Hardwick, in 1986) that, outside of procreative marriage, it is not. So, I wondered if we would have a choice about taking the test if we wanted to remain reasonably employed; screening would be better than outright exclusion for being gay (or, middle-aged, male and unmarried). Specifically, would employers screen job applicants for HIV, to foreclose a health insurance risk, the way they were starting to for drugs? A few companies, such as self-insured Circle K, tried to adopt policies not covering “behavior-based” diseases.

     But the community would organize quickly, as it organized frequent education forums. With my own physician, I helped the Oak Lawn Counseling Center write one of its first information brochures in 1983.  My doctor suggested that the blood issue would eventually be defused by the development of artificial blood, possibly first in the military. I developed notoriety by asking probing clinical questions at these forums, which sometimes buried AIDS in the larger question of good health, as did one Saturday “health fair” at the Dallas Village Station disco, where electrocardiographs teased the men on stage. The community quickly developed notions of  “safer sex,” and, indeed, men can have physiologically and emotionally satisfying interaction without penetration. Some AIDS activists promoted the questionable idea that almost all sexual transmission of HIV could be prevented by proper use of condoms; classroom forums would show blowing condoms up as balloons and putting them on as Halloween masks. Don Eastman preached at sermon at MCC that proposed that a moral answer was, to stay with one partner and effectively “get ‘married.’”  The “religious right” still gleefully quotes statistics about condom failures and recoils at the suggestion that a vaccine might someday make anal intercourse “safe”; Jesse Helms and other conservatives tried to block any federal funds from going to condom distribution and safer sex education. Their intent remained always to present sexual acts (“conduct”) and the culture surrounding sexual orientation as synonymous. They would conveniently ignore the easy spread of HIV by heterosexual contact in the Third World, and excuse the notion that “boys will be boys.” [Even if some gay men could successfully practice relatively safer sex, collectively considered most men would not and social policy had, according to conservatives, to deal with the power of otherwise untamed and powerful sexual drives.]

         The gay community rebutted and buttressed its moral stature with the enormous, altruistic volunteer efforts to take care of people with AIDS.  I participated, somewhat at the limits of my convenience, as an “assistant” or “baby” buddy. A couple of the clients were shocking to me, having withered to perhaps 70 pounds, covered with sores and in almost constant nausea until they died. One had been a Vietnam veteran (and the Oak Lawn Counseling Center chose me to see him since I had been in the military myself), and lay in a coma for three days in a hot apartment until he let go. I did my share of toilet-cleaning after putting on talcum and hospital gloves. His “primary” buddy, a carpenter, gave up his freelance income to stay with him most of the time, and had difficulty letting him go emotionally; while I witnessed this continuous spectacle of devoted, agape love (like I had never seen) I maintained a certain detachment.  Another, a piano teacher for whom I bought Chopin cassettes, died three days after I was assigned to him.  But another became a hero, evoking a reverence from me for having made a comeback from Kaposi’s Sarcoma that made him a legend and example for others, then to go back to work with a long sleeve to hide his catheter for pentamadine infusions.  He drifted away as I got involved in my own job and got lost again in overtime to meet “due dates”;  he then went downhill, as much from the medications as the disease, and died. Another buddy from the Oak Lawn Counseling Center would tell the story, that when the parents of his client came the night the client died, their reaction was, “now, don’t you see what you’ve done!” When I took communion at the Garden Grove, Cal. Crystal Cathedral during a 1986 visit and shared my experience with the deacon offering me “bread,” he prayed for my “safety” as I undertook a special “ministry.”

     But the changes of behavior in gay men have been remarkable. Today, younger gay men (in their twenties) in large cities tend to become infected at 2%-3% per year. But many more men are remaining uninfected, and the majority of gay men today are actually HIV-negative. The media will report on the number of young gay men being infected, without reporting that the rate of case increase may be actually dropping.  When I go to a gay club or event, most of the men appear healthy; I am not constantly reminded of the epidemic just by visual senses. There is still another irony: had there been no AIDS epidemic, and resulting moderation in the behavior of gay men, the issue of enteric (bacterial,[78] protozoan or viral) diseases spread by infected food handlers probably would have resulted in even more intrusive employment practices (like those proposed and then reversed by Enserch in Dallas in 1985, that would have screened executive food-handlers even for worms!)[79]  Now, younger gay men have the luxury of knowing that they do not have to let themselves ever get infected; the more attractive men can actually relish in their pleasure of extreme selectivity. In the long run, the political as well as medical well being of gay men may depend on the determination of enough of them to remain uninfected. Again, an individual  gay male may avoid penetrative sexual acts (at least with infected partners), protect his own health and own moral karma; yet he must endure the public’s political connection between his lifeline (and the apparently  “logical” conclusion that he will probably become infected eventually, because he participates in a culture that results in many of its “vulnerable” members getting infected) and “sodomy.” 

     The response of the best in the gay community, both men and women, did help ultimately to contribute to a climate that, even with the conservative Reagan and Bush administrations, would allow reasonable funding for research (some say it’s inadequate, but the progress with this virus was amazing), gradually encourage reasonable, compassionate and voluntary behavior by most mainstream employers, even in the face of potential customer fears, and even before Congress legislated reasonable protections for the rights of HIV-infected people (through the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1992). The worst fears of the  “don’t take the test” crowd have generally, outside the military and possibly some areas in medicine (where invasive procedures are practiced)[80] not materialized. But even the military has been willing to retain, treat, and reassign many HIV-infected soldiers (and in 1986 the Department of Defense issued a memo prohibiting gratuitous discrimination against and discharge of HIV-positive soldiers, in some contradiction to its otherwise anti-gay ban). The gay community lived through this tornado and gradually, by around 1990, seemed to grow stronger, just as the free world seemed to pull through the worst threats of the Cold War (and of shortages), as communism would collapse between 1989 and 1991.   

     In 1988, I volunteered to be evaluated for NIH’s trial of the GP160 vaccine. I felt a bit like a prodigal son returning, this time, I thought, for a much more uplifting purpose. I spent a morning giving blood in vacutainers, taking electrocardiograms and undergoing other “embarrassing” examinations. I was accepted, but declined to be vaccinated because the followup required so much presence during workdays. NIH did warn all participants that vaccination would result in a positive test, and that although NIH would provide explanations that participants are not infected, yielding a positive HIV test “may not be acceptable to some employers.”  The GP160 vaccine turned out to be ineffective.

     There are several areas that give real hope for managing AIDS. First, combinations of medications (especially the new protease inhibitors) may make even advanced HIV infection manageable indefinitely, like diabetes.[81]  Suddenly, men who had expected to die within a few years are told they could live almost a normal lifespan. Some of the new drugs will be difficult to administer, and paying for them lifelong  will become moral and political, as well as personal, issues.  It is still unclear whether these drugs will ever be able to clear HIV completely from all hidden sanctuaries (such as the brain). Second, a significant number of HIV-positive persons progress into disease only very slowly, possibly because of infection with defective or weak strains of HIV, or (probably) because their lymphocytes happen (through fortunate genetics) to have geometrically unfit receptors for HIV. In one case, a (HIV-positive) man whose partner died in 1982 is still asymptomatic. Some partners of AIDS victims never become infected, or, at least, sero-positive.[82]  Finally, the possibility of an eventual vaccine, if sounding like manned space travel, is very real. Vaccination with core-antibody proteins, or, more effectively, a live but defective virus (with certain genes deleted) should have a real chance of success, even if their vaccine trials pose enormous ethical and public policy questions. I would consider volunteering for such a trial.           

     There has always been a tendency in society to rationalize bad things as “moral failures.”  We equate obesity with the “deadly sins” of gluttony and sloth (to be discovered in decrepit apartments by Brad Pitt-like or Mulder-like role model detectives in the movies), and blame the “victims” not only of AIDS, but of cancer, stroke, and heart disease on bad lifestyle habits, the cost of which is borne by the public. Likewise, we blame earthquake or flood victims for flouting nature and then forcing everyone else to pay the bills. In time of war, we might blame civilian and military victims of “cowardice” for unwillingness to sacrifice themselves. So, AIDS becomes equated to the “moral failure” of non-commitment, of a narcissistic sexuality that refuses to accept limitation and commitment. The gaudy, charismatic young gay man is viewed as a white-hot, blue giant star, burning itself out before it can grow old and wither. Then, the moralists can quote their “statistics” on gay longevity from the obituaries of gay newspapers.[83] But their insistence on blaming the epidemic on gay men’s sexuality is a bit like blaming overpopulation or even nationalistic “manifest destiny” on heterosexuality. 

      We don’t like to recognize that bad things can happen to good people. People, like the Biblical character Job, get sick and suffer for reasons totally beyond their own personal controls. At some point, any humane society, however determined to venture in the “libertarian” direction of personal responsibility, must look for appropriate levels of compassion and social responsibility. Cheating on a faithful spouse with unprotected sex (same sex or opposite sex) and then exposing the spouse is, by any moral reckoning, a crime. It may be difficult to prosecute, but a deeply immoral act it is, just like driving drunk. It’s reckless endangerment. However, it is a wrongdoing by an individual; not an excuse to exile a whole community.  Unlike Sodom, the gay community is as good as its best men.  

    

     Section_08

     A Paradox of Meaning

 

     Twelve of us Adventurers, myself included, enjoyed a delectable Saturday night feast of Moroccan chicken and western salad, French bread and homebaked pies, served family-style around an early American dinner table. Although the early December had been quite mild for West Virginia mountains, we enjoyed the crackle of the fireplace across the cabin living room.

     The eight of us unattached peons in the larger building actually enjoyed more luxury during this temporary weekend of roughing it. We had the kitchen and snacks. The trip leader and his social elite occupied the more intimate quarters up the road. Denny had made the communal weekend really work. Everyone had been expected to cook something; he had asked me, “tell me where you shine,” and that had been to make the turkey sandwiches (roast, not turkey roll) for “On the Trail.” For runs to the saloon for beers, we were on our own.   

     We had spent the day hiking, as professional if participating tourists, through the “Ridge and Valley Province,” safely east of the coal measures. There would never be an economic incentive to tear these nearby mountains down. I fell behind on an uphill climb to a 3700-foot ledge, and a vagrant cocker spaniel met me on the trail and followed me up.

     We enjoyed a camaraderie that was not the same as cohesion, nor was it the navel-inspecting clique that considered itself a psychological elite. We were explorer-scouts; we would “see the world.” We were at once grown men and boys. We biked, winter-camped, rappelled cliffs, rode hot air balloons, and arose for dawn bird-watching.  And, generally, we were healthy. The worst of the AIDS epidemic seemed to be moving on, to neighborhoods I honestly cared less about; my own immediate friends were no longer falling ill. The survivors were those who had modified their private behaviors in time.

     Adventuring, for me, represented a resurgence among gay men in healthier lives and less compromising ways to meet people. Founded in 1978 (and one of similar outdoors groups in many cities) it had long avoided possible legal complications for its participants (some who had applied for security clearances) by remaining a “non-membership” corporation.   

     Denny had brought a geo-political board game, “Global Pursuit,” and the world-map, Macerator Projection, already lay open on the cabin floor like a Christmas present. I had already said something like, maybe we should arrange a cabin trip for some future Begin-Sadat-like talks that the Carter Center might cook up; this rustic place looked perfect. Against Sadam, of course, only the use of force would work. The discussion turned somber for a few minutes. The breezes of war were rising quickly. If Sadam really could cut off 50% of our oil, Adventuring might have trouble arranging all these ambitious weekend trips. Someone made the comment that we were defending our “freedom” ¾ that is, personal mobility ¾ by supporting a patriarchal regime that recognized no human rights, vetoed women’s working or driving cars, and decapitated gays like us. We were in the same position as college students and engineers who had prospered by sending young blacks to Vietnam to do their fighting, sacrificing, and dying. We were depending on a military that did not simply discriminate against us but also “banned” us. We had rationalized the exclusion by believing that the military was no place for people who take their own lives seriously anyway; nobody had to serve. There was no draft anymore, was there? We were glad there were 400,000 “straight” people who would let their lives be uprooted and spend months in hot, sandy super-tents. Second-class citizenship could carry its own hidden advantages.

     In the first few hours of confusion after his invasion of Kuwait earlier in 1990, Sadam (George Bush had named him “Sodom”) had missed his chance to capture the Saudi oil ports, as if they were properties on a Monopoly Board. The men around this dinner table knew that the outside world very much mattered, and very little of this had to do with direct discrimination against us.

     ----

     You can’t take it back. You touch a piece, and if you have a legal move with that piece, you move it! That is one of the Laws of Chess. In speed, you make an illegal move, you lose automatically.

     Here’s another one: no matter how strong your opponent, even if he’s Kasparov, only your own mistakes can beat you. It works both ways, just as it does on Monday Night Football. 

     We all get tempted. It feels good to have a pawn in your pocket; it’s comforting.

     With some creatures, whom I think are beneath me, there are no values. They take what they want because it feels good for the moment, and because somebody will probably steal it from them tomorrow. The darwinian character of the world sifts down to denial of permanence or futurity; there are only gratifications. We call these people predators, sociopaths, or criminally “insane” and try to keep them caged in prison, even with post-sentence “hospitalization.” As a variation, some persons wish to get attention by complaining about some social injustice (often caused by government) but cannot see any way to express their own views, apart from those of peers, except through violence or, perhaps, authoring and planting computer viruses. A few of these criminals are gay people; not many, I hope. Still, the reports of child abuse by priests and even sports figures, all “forced” to hide, disturb me.

     Why have character, anyway? Beyond the threat of earthly punishment or eternity in hell, or even a naive sense of faith, the most important reason is to be valued by other people, to feel good about yourself, or even to be in a relationship that reinforces that goodness-of-self. In short, you have to “be somebody.” But you have to earn these things.

     Dictatorship obfuscates character formation. Tyranny teaches people to relish in the glory of collective gain or victory  (however convincingly portrayed in art and music) to the point they lose sense of personal culpability.  Nazism, particularly, dealt with the personal discomfort of dealing with and caring about “different” or disabled people, a process which should conform to the best of Christian tradition, by simply declaring all difference and disability (whether mutable or not) to be subhuman unworthiness.   

     You can think you have character and still give in when you know you don’t have to. This comprises the essence of compulsiveness. I cringe at some stupid things I have said and done, and wondered how I could have not known I was insulting others. Perhaps I really did know. But I was too preoccupied with my own comfort, what I would get out of some kind of manipulation. And I could believe that some perverse erotic moment really had meaning.  Similarly, others find “purpose” in their own achievement of power, when they have no ideas except perhaps the undermining or even destruction of others through manipulating their adaptive loyalties.

     The simple idea of  personal responsibility doesn’t cover everything. You can simply have the wrong goals.  Or perhaps they are the right goals, and you just won’t work hard enough; you won’t take the necessary chances.

     In my own workplace I have long noticed a divergence in priorities between singles and people with kids (married or not).  But our social tension over personal motivation is more general than that. There is friction between those who see themselves as capable of controlling their own lives, and those whose believe self-concept comes from the direct reassurance of being needed by others. This latter group is easily manipulated by politicians, even jurists, as well as preachers and peddlers. It tends to appeal to simplicity in moral beliefs and in articles of faith, and value loyalty to established authority over independent thinking. This crack in social cohesion had started around the time of Stonewall and Moonwalk. Maybe my own work history reinforces this perception; programmers typically generate their own job satisfaction (by making things work) without the constant social reinforcement of others.

     ---- 

      People disagree in basic outlook whether the lone individual, the team of one, can make a real difference in the system, without giving in on principles, at least, and paying for influence. The “conventional wisdom” is to “get a life” first and experience “identity” through your own family first. That’s easier if you’re attractive! For gays, in the heydays of the Ninth Street Center, this required confining yourself in a protected environment where you could be left alone to explore “creativity” in human relationships set up for their own sakes. Indeed, the dynamics of personal relationships, between spouses and between parents and children, are not valued publicly today, relative to “accomplishments,” like they were before the “sexual revolution.” The marriage choice (compared to the arranged courtships of other cultures) and consummation was supposed to lead to appreciation of both the domain-enhancing and nurturing “careers,” but the taste of power (grown out of autonomy) took over.

     In the meantime, the “feel good” mechanisms, starting with the “open marriage” and “I’m OK, you’re OK” paradigms of the 60’s and 70’s, grew rapidly in the warehouses of popular culture. Once, in on vacation in Montana, I heard a seminar about “feeling good about yourself” advertised on the rental car radio, right after I had been thinking about that very subject; I changed my plans and drove 100 miles to the motel in Helena to attend it.     

      But all of these paradigms for self-fulfillment are really inadequate, as well as “conventional.” We simply can’t take our adaptive stability today for granted.  We could face collision with an asteroid, a resurgence of Communism or Islamic fundamentalism, domestic terrorism, or progressive destruction of the environment. Science has only begun to suggest our place in the universe; sudden revelations can come whether we want them or not. All of these things call for outstanding leadership (and statesmanship). Even in areas like the military, which we used to associate with giving up individuality, twenty-first century challenges require the honor and freedom from hypocrisy and double standards that are possible only if people have the freedom to know and tell who they are, as long as they have the character that goes with this freedom. In the new millennium, mere survival may depend on “creativity,” in its best sense.

     People who rise to these occasions usually build on some success in interpersonal relations, but they hardly would succeed without their own independent ambitions. “Creativity” grows in many venues, from family to individual psyche, even to politics; the most critical pre-requisite is discipline, and a willingness to prioritize. One must learn to distinguish among short-term satisfactions and their contribution to, or interference with, long-term success ¾ indeed, that is a broader interpretation of “character.” One must also know, through both discipline and a feedback loop with others, when one simply seeks recognition at the possible expense of others, or when one’s goals are valuable. Some people with no access to productive interpersonal relations have recently turned to crime and destruction just for fame and notoriety, to be taken seriously and be noticed by others, often with enormously tragic results.

     I have always resented the idea of joining another Army and letting it do my thinking for me. I won’t even let “family” do that. I resist pleas from others to keep the distracting details out, to keep “our” “campaign” message (of, say, “libertarianism”) simpler. Truth is not always Benjamin Britten’s “simple truth” as in Peter Grimes; the whole truth needs to be unstrung.   

     ---

     I came out, the first time, to step on toes, to draw attention to myself, so the doctors said. The second time, it was out of a need to find romance, a worthy aim if I would do the love-work that goes with it. I grounded myself, like a short field-goal attempt.  There was a third time.

     In the 1982 Dallas Chess Club Championships, I, playing White, had battled the Club President (and usually better player) to a draw in the first game of a Sunday “doubleheader” in my Oak Lawn apartment. Ahead by a rook for a bishop, he had fought me off the ropes to a tie. “It takes a lot to win,” he joked. I took him to the Bronx, a popular restaurant on Cedar Springs, between games. He took note of the local ambiance, and suddenly, reacting to his own  “fundamentalist” background, exclaimed, “you aren’t gay, are you?”

     “If you haven’t figured that out by now, you aren’t as smart as I thought you are,” I came back at him like a line drive come-backer to the pitcher.

     He hesitated as he munched on some meat loaf, and then said, ”you chose to be gay, you know. You chose it.”

     I didn’t argue with him. We went back to the apartment, and in the nightcap, he got a quick opening advantage against my Closed Sicilian. But then, still distracted by his day on the road, he stumbled, and allowed me a cheap shot that quickly turned the game into a rout for Black. I had pulled, in “sports” terms, another upset. 

     Two months later, at a membership meeting over in our East Dallas storefront, he nominated me for the Board, out of the blue.

     Finally, my unusual, if private, tactics for gaining recognition had really worked, with constructive results (victory). I had learned how to use “home team advantage.”

     I even came out a fourth time, to a judge during a voir dire for a rather phony medical malpractice trial in 1986. I told him (and the other jurors) all about my efforts in organizing AIDS education forums and buddy activities. I was not pre-emptively struck, and the next day heard one day of testimony before both sides settled. Outside on the streets of downtown Dallas, a defense attorney told me that my “presence” (once the plaintiff’s attorney found out who I was) had helped force a settlement.

     That little trial had encapsulated for me the schizophrenia and discordance of my treating my own homosexuality as if it were some Mexican jumping bean in my psyche. The first day, I had noticed a slender, mustached, colorfully dressed young man with platform shoes as I sat during the juror vetting. Suddenly, after the session, he came up to me in the hall and complained, “quit staring at me and following me around!” Had I really been doing that? I was unaware.

     During the worst panic of the early days of AIDS, I had sometimes teasingly condemned myself for having “been involved with homosexual activity.”  Would I believe my behavior had been wrong only because I might get “caught” by nature? Is that why I enjoyed toying with our enemies with these little secret letters, trying to set up some kind of reconciliation with my own guilt? Then I could look back further, to around 1979, when I moved to Dallas - a move that delayed my potential exposure to AIDS (for the putative “two year waiting period”) and probably saved my life - I had wanted to get away from a personal situation in New York, a possible relationship that, had it unfolded, might have challenged my ability to feel sexually at all. As that partner divulged his past medical problems (not AIDS) to me, he editorialized about the futility of “friendships based on sexual attractiveness,” a phrase which suddenly came across to me as a moral no-no like no “sexual intercourse before marriage.”  He would comfort me with a pigskin field goal: “I like you as a person,” which impressed me about as much as a colleague’s saying he saw in me a “friend for life.”  So much for the self-therapy; now, I saw that my homosexuality, while disturbing to others if improperly expressed, could blossom into a source of special knowledge and influence, in unexpected situations. This I felt good about.

     After I moved back to the Washington, D.C. area, I would meet a very nice young man, indirectly through the workplace, who was in some program to “give up the gay lifestyle.” He spoke quite a bit about his volunteer work with Love and Action, which is the conservative community’s group to help people with AIDS. Once, he took me to a benefit at the National Presbyterian Center (near American University in Washington), where Bach’s Magnificat was performed, but rudely interrupted before the last chorus by a prayer.  He never tried to pressure me to follow his example, which would be not just going back into the closet but giving up all the feelings that make me tick! But news accounts of the ex-gay movement are heavy indeed; one group in Kansas confines program participants in a “halfway house” and never lets them leave “on pass” alone.[84]   (Thankfully, accounts of emetic “aversion therapy” are rare indeed).[85] If anything, contact with him helped me decide to expand my activities back in the community, with the hiking group and volunteering at Whitman Walker Clinic (where I participated in safer-sex and “Dating 101” forums) and Food and Friends (the donation can program) and, on one occasion, food deliveries to homebound patients).  The ex-gay movement certainly does not have a good reputation for success, although in opposing the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Senator Ashcroft claims to know of thousands of ex-homosexuals who have “changed.”[86]

     I never gave up the “gay lifestyle” or anything close to it, despite cyclically “coming out” and then going back, if not into a coal mine, at least into obscure, if aggressive privacy. My feelings about my homosexuality indeed have pulsated. I did give up oral and anal intercourse. Between 1976 and 1983, I had gotten used to having men share a twin bed or, at least, a whole apartment or condo, occasionally. After February 1983, I just stopped. That helped settle the anxiety for me. I would just return to fantasy, and then build back social interactions. I have probably “known” about thirty-five men in my life,[87] which may seem outrageously promiscuous to a moralist. I did have some companions for varying periods of time. I would find I appreciated the qualities of people, even their physical beauty, if I stopped trying to make it with them.          

     I found it still was satisfying to be around men I admired. The tension of restraint, sometimes explored with affectionate massages, would be more pleasurable than sex itself, because it could be sustained and extended. Imagined perfection (and anticipated surrender to it) always excited me more than blatant nudity. I suppose my technical “abstinence” could end tomorrow.               

     ---

     So, did I “choose” to deviate (to be “gay”), to satisfy my need for intimacy and attention, when I couldn’t get it through socially approved ways? Do we choose to “be” who are, or just to express it? Is the choice only just to “come out”?

     According to Chandler Burr, at least, science is rapidly accepting the fact that sexual orientation, at least in men, may be substantially genetically determined,[88] rather than imprinted by juvenile (or even pre-natal) environment.  In contradiction to old (1940’s) Kinsey Study ideas of men’s varying in sexuality on a sliding scale from 1 to 6, Burr reported than men, in their personal arousals, tend to be either sharply heterosexual or homosexual; women do run a continuum, however. The nutshell of his most interesting argument suggests that a “gay gene” would simply stop the brain from becoming “defeminized” before birth; so a gay man is a “creation” with a male body and a simultaneously male and female brain. (Masculinizing and defeminizing are independent events caused by different hormones requiring different cell receptors as catalysts).  The gay man has extra neuro-chemical assets which could be seen as an evolutionary advantage, if enough gay men somehow reproduce (or if the women who passed the genes actually reproduce more)[89]; the gay man can use this “feminine” facility or not. This XQ28 thing may be a great gene to inherit! Perhaps it leads to greater retention of visual and other stimuli, and attaching significance to them, and then to a greater need for “romance” for its own sake.

     Zoology has found interesting comparisons in studying our closest genetic relatives, chimpanzees. Though most chimp societies are organized in small competing groups centered around combative, dominant males and use sex for procreation only, the bonobos live in large communes and can use sex for enjoyment and friendship.[90] Burr provides a similar discussion of the bizarre, matriarchal African hyena. All of this shows an interplay between genetics, environment, and gender-associated social behavior throughout nature.  

     My dual brain takes me down an interesting road. Other than setting up a fleeting curiosity, women mean nothing to me erotically; what have I to gain from “conquest” or domination? I just give up commitment to ideals or truth. Were I psychologically “masculine”  (that is, defeminized) however, women could offer me expression of domain. I don’t suggest any conscious control over my erotic “choices”; they emerged in tandem with my psychological self-interest. I did not “choose” to be gay.

     Yet, the moralists have always come up with moral theories to make me eat sexual “spinach.” One, for example, was “aesthetic realism,” the notion that I could have “learned” to love someone who would “need” me to support them for a lifetime, so that I would feel needed myself. I did not choose my imprints (let alone my genes), but I can choose a lifestyle. 

     Masculine, mentally defeminized men feel aroused around sexy women before they know what is happening. A couple of conflicting processes evolve, however. Men may lose interest and grow tired of their sexual partners, unless they learn or develop on their own a deeper commitment to others. But, they may sense that their need for the approval of others undermines the integrity of their commitments and the value of their loved ones. In such circumstances, a same-sex relationship may make more romantic sense even to a biologically “masculine” (defeminized) man. People will then argue that the “common good” (expanded in Chapter 5) requires that society (whether schools, government, or just parents themselves) make it difficult for young “waverers”[91] to find out that homosexual attachments actually make psychological sense. In fact, young men allegedly need to learn that homosexuality (whether acts or latent propensity) is a bad thing. The modern interpretation is “we’ll leave you alone if you don’t talk about it.”  This sounds like an improvement over the witch-hunts of McCarthyism. But this sets up the circular situation where in sports, the Boy Scouts, fire departments, or, most of all, the Armed Forces, the presence of men who do talk about it is supposed to upset or distract other men who really need to stay focused on their roughshod aggressiveness. I have previously thought that being left alone was enough, to excuse me from joining in silly “we win, they lose” behavior. Now, it seems no one will believe me if I have to pretend to be someone I’m not. I will be “insignificant”[92] and powerless, like the piglet Babe when he is told “your job is to stay at home and eat your food.”

     In 1993, conservatives took delight in studies that claimed the number of men who would admit in surveys to having engaged in homosexual acts was under 2%, not the old Kinsey 10%.  These same studies suggested that the proportion of men reporting lifelong abstinence was more like 4%[93]. The number of “gays” as a purely political or cultural block cannot be stated precisely. I like this notion: count a person (regardless of internal attractions as Burr describes) if he or she has “come out” at least to the self, if that person at least seeks out social contacts of others he believes to be homosexual. Do not count someone if she remains heterosexually married or socially active and avoids, not just homosexual sex, but any intentional contact with the gay community. Done this way, I think a good survey would come up with about 4% (slightly higher for men). Politically, gay Americans are about on par with Jewish Americans.            

    

    

      Section_09

      Real Families and Potential Idols

 

      Am I less of a man because I have not raised a family of my own? I would say I have missed a great experience, and I take full responsibility for it. Perhaps NIH is right, I prefer a private astral world of fantastic ideals rather than surrendering myself to a self-compromising intimacy, which must grow more functional as I and a potential partner grow old together. (This is just as true with a potential male partner; I hate to watch the ultimate meltdown.)  [If I can really achieve and contribute a personal expression from my own private resources, I can skip out on being rejected, and on the fear others have of being left alone; I have more or less outgrown that.] But I will not know the self-transformation that is supposed to occur with the wedding vows, the rice throwing, the father-of-the-bride’s generosity, and the subsequent “deep sexuality.”  I will not know, beyond intellect, the feeling that wedding marks as the beginning of an adult life that is indeed “one’s own.” I will not personally know the mystery of (or take the possibly burdensome responsibility for) a new life that I could have created and of nurturing it into its own autonomy and unique identity. I will not know the change in heart that being a dad (especially without deliberate preparation) is supposed to bring. I feel uncomfortable around small children, yet I was, myself, once a little kid who couldn’t feed himself.  On the other hand, no one will tell me that roots planted like sessile tunicates in a coral of wife and children are supposed to become my “life” as a man. Once, a colleague circulated an ill-conceived eMail urging people facing personal loss to turn to their children for support and for evidence that they matter!   I have contributed to an international children’s charity since 1977. This is conscience money, to be sure; that is better than nothing. As Buckminster Fuller mentions, I’m not contributing to the perceived 50% of child deaths due to abuse and neglect.

      But sometimes, I have internalized the notion that, since I don’t have a family to support, I should step aside rather than push too hard for my rights or well-being; this has led to some self-handicapping behavior. Not only have I eschewed promotions that would have people reporting to me and perhaps juggling their family problems; I actually resigned six weeks after my own promotion that had people formally reporting to me (in a critical period before a merger).

     Maybe even this is all right. I pay the additional taxes, and take no personal offense. If I pay school taxes, I ought to have a say in the curriculum, to know that it is evenhanded when respecting diversity - and this opus feeds a good book report.  I object that it doesn’t occur to others with families that perhaps I am subsidizing them, as when I take an unreturned nightcall when a workplace colleague suddenly has a family responsibility, or when I am looked at with suspicion by a potential employer because I can’t claim to be married-with-children on a resume, as if I were an AIDS risk.[94] 

     I agree that I have perhaps not played completely fair.  Now, I’m in a mode that says: forget about relationships, just go out and accomplish something! (Why is propagating genes - vicarious immortality - whether by sex or “cloning” an “achievement” anyway? It isn’t such; it makes people needed.)   I like to live in fantasies constructed of little pieces, of part-objects, with a continual chance of winning the lottery and dating a Christ. In 1978, a date tells me, “Bill, you don't seem to need a lover.”  A man carpooling with me back from an Adventuring hike appoints himself  to pass judgment: “Bill, at least you shouldn’t be living alone.” A married-with-children workplace colleague mistakenly states that I still live with my mother. Neither is blunt enough to voice a suspicion that I have stayed alone much of the time and lived a “virtual” life because I am unattractive. (That’s true. Sometimes it’s simplest to let the masculines go free!)  Marriage and “family values” ¾ even gay family values ¾ means settling down and accepting one person as having a special place in your life, for eternity ¾ and then not secretly ogling other people. It demands giving up those pleasurable, naughty, guilt-bearing fantasies, the way I once had to give up an imaginary playmate. Accepting one’s own degrading or vulnerable body image, getting closer to people nonetheless, crawling out of The Box and then staying tied with one other person for a lifetime, and then relating to inhibitionless kids (enough, in many families, to want the kids sleeping in the same beds as their parents) - all these things demand a dissolution of the walls of self and an abdication of intellectual independence.  One gives up the moral right to make others uncomfortable with new truth, even when one is mildly wronged.  Family is like Mother Country.  As I moved back from Texas to the D.C. area, closer to my mother, I had come to see my homosexuality as a private thing, that, given the AIDS crisis, could hardly be argued in the political process. I could withdraw, and recreate my feelings and mental sensations in others through art and music, and curiously gain recognition from an otherwise second-class status. Only the winds of war - another military one - would wake me up and get me fighting for myself again.

     Sexual pleasure, and later just sexual fantasy, had for so long looked like the “peak experience” to which everything else was subordinate. What mattered about someone - could he turn me on?  Sexual fulfillment seemed like the musical climax toward  which all other culture worked.  Sometimes what it transcended was nothing more than hero-worship - idolatry - and left me feeling eclipsed, ready for a new bout of independence.  If it could be channeled into marriage and family - or a lifelong homosexual commitment (not just “serial monogamy”), that made it healthier. I saw this as somebody else’s experience - somebody else’s feelings and even identity superimposed upon me as a mask! - while I kept the freedom to roam within my celibacy. My unbalanced personality, after all, requires me to choose my own ends, and not just to satisfy the goals defined by others. You mattered to someone else, hopefully to kids. But your commitments cut you off from the truth, at least your own construct for it. Politics became, what’s in it for me. Adaptive problems, like gas lines, could perhaps be covered up with healthier family life. Others, like crime, really mattered, because of loved ones, your kids -- and if you really had grown up out of childish things they really counted more than anything else. Social justice and discrimination mattered if you were discriminated against or bullied by police. But higher politics ¾ generalizations about human rights ¾ these seemed to belong to those people who walked in the clouds because their own personal lives didn’t quite click. Why worry about it, if you can do what you want and get away with it? Get a life. That’s most people’s attitude!              

     I am fortunate to have had loving parents (who were married for forty-six years until my father’s death) and a stable environment so that I didn’t fall over (or jump off) that cliff, even if I understand how it can happen.  People need to form good partnerships as adults before they can provide stable, loving homes for children. Psychologists say people will remain committed to relationships or marriages that reinforce their feeling good about themselves, although this isn’t a good enough reason to start a relationship. One enters a marriage because one has something to give. Yet, in “mainstream” culture we remain drawn back to the idea that creating and parenting life is supposed to be the ultimate “actualization,” and I don’t believe it.  Providing for the kids becomes a whole life, one’s highest priority, a reason to build castles in the suburbs and to pay attention to politics only “when there’s something in it for my family,” and even to oppose some political simplifications out of “loyalty” to family.    

     I didn’t buy into this fatherhood motive, and my generation, despite its best intentions, couldn’t offer much more than trying to shaming me into “change.” Once I had knowledge of what it meant to care “creatively,” I wasn’t quite ready to leap. But I did without the immediate personal intimacy without which life, for many, would be unimaginable. Most of the time, I actually feel good, although this is hard for many people to believe. My difficulty with organic, earthy sexuality ultimately leaves me with more opportunity, and incentive, to spill out the entire truth about an issue, without snitching on anyone personally. Friendship becomes a distant, yet mentally active, kind of love - that can respect someone’s best interest by waiting and leaving him alone. Most of my Christmas cards come from old “family” friends who have no concept of what my life could have been like.

     There is another mystery, however, that matters as much as would fathering life. That is, the potential of a man to be his own person and to achieve maximality, regardless of the immediate approval of the society or of others, even in a marital relationship. Any son (or daughter) I might have begotten and raised probably would not have turned out as well as some people I have befriended.  I feel proud of the men I have known and who have gone on to do some great things after I knew them; and at an astral level, they are in a sense, a family. I had been right at William and Mary; many men shared my erotic fascination and could cash it in. When a gifted person is gay, there is something special, which I can’t quite define. I would want to take some of them in my arms, and the experience would feel sexual even though there is no sex; it’s all wholesome. If  “love” means having another’s best interest at heart,[95] then I take comfort in having concern over whether a friend finishes college, stops smoking, or remains otherwise “healthy” regardless of whether the person is mine to have.  It’s too bad, that I’m not willing to feel that way about any but a select few. I definitely relish holding the power behind a throne. But I’m not comfortable with the idea of a “relationship” (“marriage” or not) unless I have definite accomplishments of my own first. But my friends, and my connections to them, do help make me feel proud of who I am. 

 

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[1]  Edward Alwood, Straight News: Gays, Lesbians, and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), p. 69 describes the CBS special “The Homosexuals,” March 7, 1967, with Mike Wallace. It was horrible.

[2]  As recorded by an NIH social worker in my medical files, Sept. 1962.

[3]  Published by Libra in 1972; Republished by The Ninth Street Center in 1986.

[4] Psychological polarity theories have been published in Germany, by various psychologists associated with the Humboldt Society of Mannheim. Other writers include Carl Jung, Geoffrey Sainsbury and Alan Watts.

[5] Andrew Sullivan, editor, Same-Sex Marriage, Pro and Con: A Reader (New York: Vintage, 1997), Plato, “The Speech of Aristophanes,” p. 5.

[6] Dean Hannotte, “Rosenfelsian Semantics,” lecture notes for Ninth Street Center Study Group, New York, 1986.

[7] James Hillman, The Soul’s Code: In Search of Character and Calling (New York: Random House, 1996).

[8]  Dean Hannotte, We Knew Paul, (New York: Ninth Street Center, 1991), Introduction p. 16. 

[9] John Boswell, Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), p. 23, p. 46.

[10] Some Center people used to refer to Richard Nixon as a “subjective feminine.”

[11] The Ninth Street Center Journal, published from 1973 until 1991.

[12] Feminine-subjective and masculine-objectives are “unbalanced”; other two combinations are “balanced.”

[13] “Industrial Society and its Future,” The Washington Post, Sept. 19, 1995.

[14] Martin Hoffman, The Gay World: Male Homosexuality and the Social Creation of Evil (New York: Bantam, 1968). Hoffman describes pretty well the old-fashioned ideas of Freud, as exploited later by Bieber and Socarides.

[15]  M. Scott Peck MD, The Road Less Traveled (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979).

[16]  In a critical scene in Making Love (1982), the wife of the gay physician, after he “come out” to her, cries about his thinking he could fake a whole lifetime without “passion.” 

[17] In the Hitchcock 1958 masterpiece, Vertigo, the whole plot is built around the retired police detective’s falling in love with his own female fantasy. 

[18] For another account of the Center and other gay groups during this time, see Ian Young, The Stonewall Experiment: A Gay Psychohistory (London: Cassell Wellington, 1995). Rosenfels’s work was discussed from time to time by writers such as John Hudson (Gay Magazine, 1974) D.F. Lawden (Psychoenergetics: The Journal of Psychophysical Systems, Vol. 4, #1m 1981), Judy  Chicurel (Gay Magazine, 1983), Jay Bolcik (New York Native, June 1, 1987).  

[19]  Published by Quadrangle in 1973.

[20]  Published by Pelican Books (Louisiana) in 1986.

[21]  Patricia Cayo Sexton, The Feminized Male: Classrooms, White Collars and the Decline of Manliness (New York, Vintage, 1969).

    Aybrey P. Andelin, Men of Steel and Velvet (New York: Bantam, 1982).

[22]  Published by Simon & Schuster (New York: 1993).

[23]   Farrell, op cit., p 355; compare to Reich’s levels of Consciousness (subsequent  note).

[24] Jonathan Rauch, Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attack of Free Thought (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), p. 159.

[25] Charles Murray, What It Means to Be a Libertarian: A Personal Interpretation (New York, Broadway, 1997, p 34.

[26]  Theodore Reich, The Greening of America (New York: Random House, 1970),  p. 225.

[27]  Larry Uhrig, advertisement in The Washington Blade, sometime in 1990.

[28] Remember, Scarlet O’Hara’s friends in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind complained they would be left as “old maids.”

[29]  In 1979, National Car Rental denied me a credit card, partly because (at the time) I rented my residence. 

[30] But in 1979 I once made a motion at an MCC Dallas (next section) congregational meeting that the church organize car pools, and the motion died for lack of second! The City of Dallas actually did a telephone survey of residents of what services to cut back, such as park lawn-mowing, during the shortages!

[31]  Companies like IBM and EDS would enforce notoriously strict dress codes on programmers, so that customers didn’t perceive them as effete or “above” everyone else, and less constrained by customer sensitivities. Univac was not as strict, although I resisted Univac management’s prodding to get me to spend more of my own money on fashionable suits.

[32] Another example of high-tech employment dangers was documented on NBC “Dateline,” Apr. 18, 1997, with a report on cancer in “clean room” workers making microchips; apparently their bunny suits may not protect them sufficiently from toxic chemicals. We constantly find examples of how our high living standards do involve some risk from people who do our “dirty” work. 

[33] John Molloy, Dress for Success, (New York: Warner, 1975, 1988).

[34]  Dan Fry, To Men of Earth (Portland, Ore., Merlin Publishing, 1973).

[35]  I sometimes heard mention of Heaven’s Gate cult founders “Bo” and “Peep” but I do not recall meeting them at these conventions.

[36]  Jeffrey Mishlove, The Roots of Consciousness (New York: Random House, 1976).

[37] In fact, there is plenty of evidence that nuclear power poses average citizens to less risk than fossil fuels, or even than radon in many homes. Some infrastructural items are safer in collectively controlled and regulated (even though privately) hands.

[38]  Rosenfels, op. cit., p. 115.

[39] Under the karma concept, a person can reap the rewards or penalties for his conduct even within the same lifetime.

[40] Richard Kieninger, The Ultimate Frontier (Stelle, 1970).

[41] Russ Baker, “Clash of the Titans: Scientology v. Germany,” George,  April 1997, p. 94. Other self-development groups have included Est and Experience Weekends.

[42] Jean Elshtain, “The Hard Questions” Heaven Can Wait,” The New Republic, May 5, 1997, distinguishes between the somewhat open faith of most mainstream religions and the authoritarian, group-mindset character of cults.

[43]  Molly T. Marshall, “Exercising Liberty of Conscience: Freedom of Private Interpretation,” to be published in 1997 in an anthology Baptists in the Balance: The Tension between Freedom and Responsibility, compiled by Everett Goodwin (Philadelphia: Judson Press). 

[44]  One gay acquaintance, after losing a teaching job in New York, actually spent a weekend camp trying out for a teaching job with the Unification Church; he talked about hours of “group singing.”  He may have been looking for an army as an employer of last resort.

[45] Boswell, op. cit. describes how the intolerance for gays did not develop until the 12th Century under the authoritarian theology of Aquinas.

[46] Visiting pastor David Day gave some stirring sermons at the Dallas Metropolitan Community Church in 1981, starting with “the biggest sin was wanting the knowledge of good and evil,” followed by “ET  Phone  Home” and “It’s Friday but Sunday is Coming.”

[47] Buena Vista Pictures, 1949.

[48] Ted Koppel’s “ABC Nightline,” on Nov. 29, 1996, portrayed an African American man in Richmond, Va. who had done just that.

[49] NIV Bible, Matthew 19:4-6.

[50]  The term “evangelical” emphasizes salvation through grace and unshaken belief that Christ is the risen Son of God. Often, it also emphasizes witnessing to others about one’s conversion or “born again” experience. It does not imply fundamentalism or homophobia.

[51] Peter Gomes, The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart (New York: William Morrow, 1996).  Gomes provides a lot of commentary on Boswell’s historical research on religion and homosexuality.

[52] Everett C. Goodwin et al,  op. cit.

[53]  Randy Shilts, And The Band Played On: People, Politics, and the AIDS Epidemic (New York: Penguin, 1987-1988). 

[54] Hepatitis C now rivals Hepatitis B for causing chronic illness and liver cancer, and its transmission is not fully understood.

[55] By 1994, the “gay male” percentage of new cases had dropped to 58%. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now defines “AIDS” as HIV seropositivity with a T helper count < 200. By 1993, over 1,000,000 persons were HIV positive, with 350,000 deaths. The average lifetime cost in caring for HIV disease is $60,000; this will go up as patients live longer and new drugs are developed, but may come down as technology improves.  See James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Second American Revolution (New York: William Morrow, 1994), pp. 201-204.

[56] HTLV-1 can cause immature T-helper (T-4) cells to proliferate malignantly; HIV causes T-helper populations to shrink and eventually vanish.

[57] Since I was a rather sickly child, my father once said, incorrectly, “birds don’t get sick from germs!” 

[58] Their letter called me a “thinking member of my community” but then went on to gross  comparisons of rectal mucosa and vaginal linings.

[59]  But they could have said the same thing about women (including lesbians) who don’t have children or have them later, since they have higher risks of breast cancer. “What You Need to Know About Cancer,” Scientific American, Sep. 1996, p. 127.  

[60] On May 6, 1983, JAMA   had run an editorial by Anthony Fauci speculating about household transmission; this claim was quickly recanted. (JAMA  is officially known as the Journal of the American Medical Association..)

[61] James Mckeever, The AIDS Plague (Medford, Oregon: Omega, 1986). McKeever plays games with the idea that AIDS is a plague sent from God.  Another right-wing book is Gene Antonio’s The AIDS Cover-Up (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1986).

[62] Gabe Mirkin, M.D., Talk Radio, WRC-980, Dec. 4, 1995 

[63]  As have some other forms of hepatitis and even squamous cell carcinoma of the anus. Breast and ovarian cancers occur with some increased frequency in older women who have never had children or had them later; so the religious “right,” when it chooses, can make a health issue of women who won’t submit to men! 

[64]  John and Pat Caldwell, “The African AIDS Epidemic,” Scientific American, March, 1996, p. 62. The lack of male circumcision seems to encourage heterosexual spread.

[65]  Good Housekeeping, March, 1996.

[66] Condoms are notoriously ineffective in preventing venereal warts.

[67] Laurie Garrett, The Coming Plague, Newly Emerging Diseases in a World out of Balance (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994). Ebola is, despite the rumors, still spread only by direct blood contact; but caring for an Ebola patient is much, much more dangerous than buddying for HIV.  Mad cow could be spread by bone fertilizer! (NBC “Dateline,” March 14, 1997).

[68] In June, 1985, a Life  magazine issue featured the scare cover, “Now, No One Is Safe from AIDS.” The debate over heterosexual AIDS certainly tracked the debate over the underlying moral acceptability of particularly male homosexuality - or, perhaps, non-heterosexuality.

[69] Amanda Benttett and Anita Sharpe, “AIDS Fight is Skewed by Federal Campaign Exaggerating Risks,”  The Wall Street Journal, May 1, 1996.

[70] Luis Soto-Ramirez et al, ,“HIV-1 Langerhans’ Cell Tropism Associated with Heterosexual Transmission of HIV,” Science, Mar 1, 1996, p. 1291. There are also langerhans cells associated with hair follicles.

[71]  Nov. 10, 1996.

[72] Rep. ‘B-1’ Bob Dornan, Congress’s incarnation of Paul Cameron, proposed giving the Surgeon General authority to close bath houses and require federal contact tracing. 

[73]  Ronald Reagan, Abortion and the Conscience of a Nation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1981).

[74]  In 1994, the Texas State Supreme Court refused to rule on the state sodomy law because there had been no prosecutions; in some other states, such as Kentucky, sodomy laws have been overturned as violations of a state’s constitution or bill of rights.

[75]  The Bergalis case, in which six patients of the same dentist all developed AIDS with the same substrain of HIV, was almost certainly caused by insufficiently autoclaved dental instruments, unless it was spread deliberately. 

[76]  Chai Feldblum hypothesizes such an oath being required of Virginia law students in her paper “Sexual Orientation, Morality and the Law: Devlin Revisited,” Georgetown University Law School and University of Pittsburgh Law Review, 1996.

[77]  Robert Gallo, Virus Hunting: AIDS, Cancer, and the Human Retroviruses (New York: New Republic Books, 1988). The argument is presented that thet virus would have to change radically in character to become more contagious. HIV still is transmitted only by direct introduction into the bloodstream, through sexual contact, injection or needlestick, birth, possibly lactation and very intense oral sex. Transmission by infected lymphocytes (usually T-helper cells) appears more efficient than by raw virus.     

[78] The dangerous, even lethal, forms of E-coli can probably be spread by food-handlers. 

[79] Private letter to me from Nathan Fain, Gay Men’s Health Crisis. Fain, in 1984, would be the first person to warn me, “the virus is mutating.”

[80] Generally, doctors and dentists are not required to take HIV tests. There was one dental office in Dallas in the 1980’s that advertised the fact that the dentist and all employees had been tested! 

[81] Andrew Sullivan, “When Plagues End,” The New York Times Magazine, Nov. 10, 1996, p. 52.  Also, “The End of AIDS,” Newsweek, Dec. 2, 1996 - a tremendous turnaround from the April, 1993 issue called “Epidemic” that announced :”the public health threat of the century,” p 81.  See also Christine Gorman, The Disease Detective, Time (Man of the Year), p. 56ff, Dec. 30, 1996. Combination protease inhibitors given very early after exposure might eradicate the virus. Were patients so treated to reinfect themselves through sexual activity, however, they might abet even more drug-resistant strains of HIV.  There is optimism that newer combination drugs might be able t eradicate all HIV virus, even from the brain and lymph nodes, in about three years.

[82]  The typical “window” until sero-conversion still seems to be about three months; a very small number of infected persons may never develop a positive Elisa or Western Blot test, but will still show infection with advanced techniques like DNA polymerase scans or P24 core antigen.

      The blood virus-load is high for a brief period before antibody (although perhaps not antigen) can be detected. For years, the virus reproduces rapidly (and is resisted vigorously) inside the lymph nodes but is usually found in lower levels in circulating blood. Possibly it is less transmissible during this period. During end-stages, the circulating virus levels go back up as lymph nodes explode. See Time  article mentioned above. 

[83] For example, Jeffrey Satinover, Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), p. 69 claims that even apart from AIDS and even with monogamous partners, gay men live three decades less than “normal” married men. According to Satinover, AIDS shortens lifespans by only 7%. Hardly!! Notice the accidental irony in the title of Satinover’s book. It is sold by the notoriously anti-gay  Lambda Report, discussed in detail by Chris Boll and John Gallagher in Perfect Enemies: The Religious Right, the Gay Movement, and the Politics of the 1990’s (New York: Crown, 1996),  pp. 219, 268.  Cameron also used these obituary statistics, eventually to the embarrassment even of his religious clients.

[84]  “Anti-Gay Group Counters PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays): PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays) Launches to Dispel ‘Pro-Homosexual’ Viewpoints,” The Washington Blade, Oct. 18, 1996, p. 14. A more recent account of the ex-gay movement appeared in the March 7, 1997 Washington Blade.

[85] In 1971, Irving Bieber had actually proposed using heterosexual  pornography to “change” male homosexuals! The ex-gay movement loves the “change” metaphor; at least one child-molester bragged, before his execution, that he enjoyed doing evil and didn’t want to “change.” Why would someone have to change to stop enjoying hurting people?   

[86] “ENDA: Pro and Con,“ Congressional Quarterly, Nov. 1996, p. 285.;  K. Vickery “Fundamental Change: A Virginia ‘Ex-Gay ‘ Minister  Talks about his Transformation from ‘Homosexual’ to ‘Saver of Souls’ ” Our Own Community Press, Richmond, Dec., 1996

[87] One “trick” stole my wallet, one freebased in my bathroom while I waited, and one jokingly confessed to a bombing; although I didn’t believe him, I was relieved that he disappeared. On the beat side, one took communion at MCC the next day and eventually became a successful actor.

[88]  Chandler Burr, A Separate Creation (New York: Hyperion, 1996). Burr shows there is more discordance among identical twins in left-handedness or juvenile diabetes than in homosexual orientation. Major studies have included LeVay’s about brain structure, and, more important, Hamer’s National Cancer Institute study showing statistical correlations in region XQ28 of the X-chromosome among gay brothers. See Science,  vol. 251: p.321; Guiod Pincheira’s “Genes and Sex” in The World and I, Nov., 1996, p. 178. There is other opposition. See  Ruth Hubbard’s Exploding the Gay Gene Myth. (Boston: Beacon, Press, 1993). Furthermore, Madeleine Nash’s Special Report “Fertile Minds,” Time, Feb. 3, 1997  suggests that “imprinting” on neural electrical circuits in the developing fetal and child brain can have an enormous effect on behavior and character; if applied to sexual orientation, this means that nurture and biology  (though not genetics) are concomitant. Burr covers transsexualism, but its relationship to homosexuality in these biological theories is obscure at best. Rosenfels used to insist that most transvestites (to be distinguished from transsexuals) are straight. Trans-gendered people (by identification or behavior) really comprise a true minority.     

[89] This is an example of pleiotropy, in which a trait which generally increases reproduction or survival has artefactal side effects. 

[90] Richard Wrangham and Dale Peterson, Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996), reviewed by Daniel Pinchbeck in The Washington Post, Book World, Nov. 17, 1996.

[91] E.L. Patullo, “Straight Talk About Gays,” Commentary, Dec. 1992, p 21.

[92] So Rev. W. A. Criswell called gays in a vitriolic Sunday night service at the First Baptist Church in Dallas in the Autumn of 1980.

[93] P. Rogers, “How Many Gays?” Newsweek, Feb. 15, 1993.

[94] I really ran into this when interviewing in Dallas in 1988 before deciding to come back East; only one “asked” directly if I was married, but my omission of family matters seemed to bother other interviewers.

[95] M. Scott Peck, MD, op. cit.