Family

It's time to see: They're our kind

Eve, a lesbian, was my best friend growing up and beyond. I didn't know Eve was gay, but our high school principal did. He told me not to be friends with Eve anymore. "She isn't our kind," he said. What kind is that, I asked myself. Oh, Eve's from Puerto Rico. I guess that's what he means.

In spite of our principal's vague warning, Eve and I remained friends. Lunch hour, we swapped homemade sandwiches and, after school, home-grown problems. Eve taught me to cook Puerto Rican foods, and I taught her, well, nothing. As we grew into women, I was invited to Eve's parties. Only women were there, and I was always invited to dance. I still didn't get it. See, I've seen women dance together since I was a kid. Too many men killed in too many wars for too many years left women dancing with one another.

One day Eve invited me to meet a friend at their new house. Eve and her friend slept in separate wings, so I still didn't get it. Their relationship didn't last and Eve moved in with Donna, a nurse who had just served a tour in Vietnam. Doctors there suspected myasthenia gravis and sent Donna home. Their diagnosis confirmed, Donna wanted to live her final days in California with her family and asked Eve to go with her. Then I got it. I wished Eve well and never saw or heard from her again.

I guess because of my naïveté about Eve, I got it with Gerry. A salt-and-pepper-haired Bostonian, Gerry looks like the downhill skier he is. Steve, his partner, is broad-shouldered and husky and looks like the football coach he was.

Gerry and Steve were married in Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Twenty-some years later, they're still married and they're here in Raleigh. They had some doubts, though, before moving here because North Carolina does not recognize their marriage. "But good manners trumped," Gerry smiled. "People here are friendlier and more polite. Standing in line, I noticed they talk to one another. You just don't do that in Boston."

And what sometimes happens to a good Catholic boy in Boston happened to Gerry. "I was an altar boy and was abused by three priests. They told me it was 'between you and me, so don't tell anyone,' but I knew something was wrong."

So Gerry, then 13 years old, told his parents. "Irish immigrants, they didn't believe me at first. They just wanted me to go back to church. I had kind of a nervous breakdown."

Years later, Gerry took care of his aging parents, sometimes driving from one hospital to another, taught English for 35 years and joined the Episcopal Church. As expected, Gerry was tagged as the good-looking new bachelor in town. " 'I'd like you to meet my daughter,' a mother said to me. What I needed to tell her daughter was the truth."

Then Gerry decided to tell all the people the truth. At the church's vestry meeting, with homosexuality on the agenda, Gerry, at 40 years old, came out. " 'A damnable sin,' said one to me. There were shocked looks by others and backpedaling by the rest."

So where do I stand? I stand here: Living low, as Eve and Donna once did, may have been good enough then, but it's not good enough now. A quote from a 1967 Supreme Court ruling might help you, loyal readers, know how I feel.

"Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man, fundamental to our very existence and survival."

Although directed at a Virginia ban on interracial marriage, the court's words, I believe, apply to gender as well. And if it doesn't to you, maybe you're thinking way too much about a gay person's sex life. Not me. I've got enough problems with my own.

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