Chapter 24: Queer in the South: My Story, Part 1

I struggled with how to title this post, but I decided to go with the pejorative terminology.  Now is not a time to be delicate or sensitive.

I’m just going to lay out the facts.  I’ve been very honest on this blog about my family and I’m going to try to be equally as honest about myself.  Fair is fair.

Some of you know part of this story.  A very few know it all.  Most of you don’t know any of this….but with us facing at least 6 suicides by young gay men this week, I decided to move up the time clock and tell it all.

I’m going to tell my personal story, but I don’t think it’s a singular story.  One of the things we learn as we grow older is that we aren’t as special as we once thought we were.

I’m only going to tell it this way in hopes that it makes a difference to someone else.  That may sound pretentious, but I’ll take that cut if it ultimately serves the intended purpose.

I had planned to use this blog to tell my “Coming Out” story on the National Coming Out Day on October 11th.  But, I’ve never been one to be a slave to tradition.  Especially a tradition recently dictated by the “gay” establishment- a group for whom I have little respect.

Instead, I’ll tell it now because I feel like telling it now and because it seems more timely when so many young gay men are in the press for not making it as far as I have made it…

Let me start by saying that even using the term “queer” is difficult for me.  I much prefer “gay”.  It sounds so much more elegant and “Noel Coward”.  But, if we are going to talk about the impact of being “gay” in the South, “Queer” is much more appropriate.

That is how we are viewed.

I learned a long time ago, it doesn’t matter if you drive a new Lexus and shop at Brooks Brothers or if you drive a 10 year old Ford Pickup and shop at Wal Mart,  if you are Gay the haters view you the same way.  To them, you are not a person, but rather an abnormal thing they can feel free to hate.  To them, you just don’t matter. You aren’t human.  You aren’t a person…

In a way, I was lucky.  I didn’t really deal with being Gay-or Queer- until my mid to late 20’s.  I avoided it until then.

It was easy in High School.  Frankly, because my little group really didn’t give a damn what people in Danville thought because we all planned to leave there.

We were the smart kids, from good families but without the shackles of social position. We were North Danville kids, the first generation in our families with multiple options.  Frankly, we were smart.  Maybe too smart.

We all thought we were too smart for the room that was High School, so we didn’t really give too much of a damn.  High School was a temporary condition that we knew we would  out grow.  In that way, we were wise beyond our years.

We pioneered the concept of “Group Dating” that is so popular today.  Back in the “couples only” days of the late 1970’s, that alone was enough to cause concerns.  I’ll never forget one girl in our class saying:  “They are just not normal.  I bet they just lay up in a big pile and have sex with whatever is closest.”  We all took great pleasure when she “had” to get married later that year…

We also had nothing but contempt for the “sissy boys”.  We couldn’t relate.  We thought they were simpler than we were and not in our league.  We felt we were superior to them.  It would take some of us years to learn, we weren’t….and more years to deal with the guilt of abandoning them to the social forces of the time.  They would haunt some of us…

See, the weird thing was, none of us were even having sex.  We were just trying to find out who we were.  Sex was a concept, not a reality.  We were being judged on terms we couldn’t even yet begin to understand…

But, in an era and a place were asking questions about sexual roles and orientation was blasphemy, just that open mindedness made us suspect.

We were sexually ambiguous guys who hung out with a lot of straight girls who were saving themselves for marriage.  So life was good.  Sexuality was a concept, not a reality, and we were all cool with that…

We didn’t have to worry about breaking the rules- yet.

The other thing to keep in mind was that our hometown, Danville, Virginia, was eaten up with pretension, lies and religion.

In Danville, even the most obvious, notorious Queens thought no one “knew” they were gay.  There was so much internalized homophobia.

We never once had a positive role model. We just knew bitter, pretentious Queens who lied to themselves and self-medicated themselves to make it through their lives.  But then, it was the mid  1970’s in Danville, Virginia, so I will try to not judge too harshly…

But…

These guys actually, really, truly  thought if they showed up with a woman at a party once a year, they could “pass” as straight and no one would talk about them or hate them.  They clung to that hope that no one really “knew”.  They lied to themselves and thought as long as they tried to “pass” they could still be socially acceptable.

They could not imagine anything worse than people knowing them for who they really were…

There were a few of brave old queens who didn’t give a damn.  But none of us could talk to them or be seen with them because of guilt by association. They were too fey or notorious.  We had to go our own way…

Is it any wonder, with all this complexity, that we just lived to leave town and go away to college?

College was a different world.  I really was a socialite at College.   It is truly both a miracle and a triumph of will that I managed to graduate from Washington and Lee University.  Eventually…

My first three years at W&L were wonderful.  Sex did not enter my mind.  It was all about parties and social events.  Back then, W&L was an all male school.  People are amazed when I tell them I never had sex there.  Perhaps, I was too young, sheltered and shallow.  I really just didn’t cross my mind that often.  I was more concerned with cocktails and parties.

And being in denial.

First of all, I dated a lot of girls, but it never crossed my mind that women had sex drives. I thought I was supposed to go through the cursory after party motions and we would both be relieved that I didn’t push too hard.

I was amazed when my “steady” at one of the girl’s schools dropped me when I didn’t push to go farther.  My heart just wasn’t in it and I wasn’t used to be being called on that.  None of my friends understood why she dumped me and I certainly couldn’t explain it to them then.  But it got me to thinking…

My Junior year, I finally went “all the way” with another woman I was seeing.  She was fascinating, sophisticated and intriguing and I wish we could have cocktails today and catch up  But the sex was a bust.  We both knew it.  We really liked each other, but, it just wasn’t working.  Like many have said, after 21 years of waiting, all I could think of was that old Peggy Lee song:  “Is That All There Is?”

My mind was exploding….I kept wondering what was wrong with me.  Maybe it was time to find out…

The very next weekend, I was at a party in Danville.  One of the notorious old queens was there.  I went home with him.

I didn’t hear “Is That All There Is?” afterwards.

From that point forward, through the next 10 years, I was truly a mess….

More to come….

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4 Responses to Chapter 24: Queer in the South: My Story, Part 1

  1. Ray in MD says:

    Good read, Scott. Looking forward to “the rest of the story”.

    • gail says:

      Scott, in all honesty, I think we all knew and accepted it long before you did. And, most importantly, we loved you anyway. As a matter of fact, I love you more now. I love the person you have become………yourself. You have arrived at happiness and that is the goal.

      • Scott M says:

        Thanks, Gail. It’s so good to have you back in my life. Now, why the hell didn’t you knock some sense into me years ago when you all seemed to know all this better than I did!

  2. Vicki says:

    oh, i can hardly wait for part 2.

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