Monday, November 17, 2014

Stranger in a Strange Land
















I was born to a long line of heterosexuals, going back to Adam and Eve. I was raised and nurtured by heterosexuals whom I loved deeply, and have lived among heterosexuals every day of my life. And yet I have never understood them, or felt I really belonged in their world—understandable, I think, when I was constantly bombarded with messages which made crystal clear that homosexuals are beneath contempt, damned to burn forever in the flames of hell, and definitely less than human.

It is often said that one is more than one’s sexual orientation, and while I readily agree that being homosexual involves far more than the sex act, my being gay is and always has been a fundamental part of who I am, and has influenced every aspect of my personality and my dealings and interactions with other people. I am who I am because I am homosexual. This doesn’t mean that I see being gay as superior to being straight; I honestly think of us as being simply two variations on a theme…like oranges and grapefruit are simply two varieties of citrus.

I’ve heard heterosexuals ask, “Why do gays make such a fuss over this Gay Pride thing? Heterosexuals don’t celebrate being heterosexual!” No, they don’t. Because they don’t have to. They’re the vast majority and directly or indirectly they never let gays forget it. Gays are proud not so much of the fact of being gay as having managed to survive the discrimination and hostility of the majority. No one who is not a member of a persecuted minority can possibly fully understand. 

I must hasten to say I have never experienced the violence so often and still suffered by gays, nor have I been the target of much overt prejudice from “straights.” (I find it interesting that while heterosexuals have a wide litany of epithets for gays, the only term of approbation I can think of that gays use against straights is “breeders.”)

All my life I have stood in awe of how African Americans/blacks/negroes—choose the term of political correctness you prefer—possibly could have endured what they have endured for centuries. It is totally beyond my comprehension. It’s impossible and pointless to “compare” the sufferings of blacks, jews, and gays. On the one hand, gays and jews have the “advantage” that at least most cannot immediately be spotted in a crowd. On the other hand, simply being black or jewish in the United States was never a codified crime.

As far as I know, I am the only homosexual in my family, though for some reason I suspect that my mother’s uncle, Peter, who died of tuberculosis at the age of 20 shortly after the turn of the 20th century, may have been gay. Sadly he did not live long enough to confirm or deny my suspicion.

I’ve said often I was truly blessed with the family I have. My mother’s side of the family, the Fearns, always instinctively knew I was gay, and their love and support has been unconditional. My father’s side of the family defines the word “dysfunctional” and I was never really close to them. My father, who also knew I was gay before I had a word for it, almost came to blows with his half-sister’s husband for suggesting that I was a faggot.

I think a great many gays share my disillusion with the world as it is, and seek reassurance and comfort where they can find it. Gays are “known” to love musicals, for example. Is it any surprise? Musicals, books, and movies represent an escape from the harshness of reality, and I am not the only gay man to take shelter there. I am, in fact, firmly convinced that I became a writer as a way of countering reality. If I didn’t and don’t care for the world into which I was born and in which I live, I could and do create my own worlds.  

Though it has taken far too long in coming, we are currently in an accelerating state of profound social change, as heterosexuals increasingly if slowly acknowledge our basic human rights and recognizing us if not as equals, then as oranges to their grapefruits.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday and Thursday. Please take a moment to visit his website (http://www.doriengrey.com) and, if you enjoy these blogs, you might want to check out Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs (http://bit.ly/m8CSO1), which is also available as an audiobook (http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B00DJAJYCS&qid=1372629062&sr=1-1).


3 comments:

Kage Alan said...

I went to visit my best friend from college a couple of months after I came out to him. It was a non-issue for him, but he also didn't understand (at that time in the mid 90s) the hostility still out there. Anyway, we were driving across the street to pick up a pizza and were stopped at a light. A truck pulled up next to us and and two men in it started yelling at us.

"Hey, is that your boyfriend? Are you guys going to make out? Ever get your asses kicked for being homos?"

It was an eye-opening experience for my friend. As for me, I was just annoyed they thought he represented my taste in men.

Helena said...

I've read a few posts recently about the disquiet at Bouchercon mystery con that the organisers were financially supporting a "Men of Mystery" session which by definition automatically excluded women mystery writers. The posts discussed the privilege of being a man (as opposed to a woman) and how those who are in the privileged class find it difficult to understand that it exists, how it affects those who are not, and why people feel it necessary to fight against it.

Your post makes the point very well that there are so many different types of privilege that affect each of us to greater or lesser degrees. Someone in the same position can feel quite differently, and yet each perception is valid. For one it can define them to themselves and while I cannot truly know how you feel I believe I can empathise, partly because you explain it so well.

Helena said...

I've read a few posts recently about the disquiet at Bouchercon mystery con that the organisers were financially supporting a "Men of Mystery" session which by definition automatically excluded women mystery writers. The posts discussed the privilege of being a man (as opposed to a woman) and how those who are in the privileged class find it difficult to understand that it exists, how it affects those who are not, and why people feel it necessary to fight against it.

Your post makes the point very well that there are so many different types of privilege that affect each of us to greater or lesser degrees. Someone in the same position can feel quite differently, and yet each perception is valid. For one it can define them to themselves and while I cannot truly know how you feel I believe I can empathise, partly because you explain it so well.