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February 14th, 2014

Repost: Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown…The Boy I Met In Church

The Google doodle today is lovely, and for me personally, very painful. Those of us who came of age right around the time of Stonewall had to find our way to love across a minefield of prejudice, ignorance and hate. And looking back on it you realize that so many of those roadblocks were put there to prevent you from proving other people’s prejudices wrong…to prevent you from rising above them. Because the one thing you never want the scapegoat to be able to do, is believe in themselves.

I have remarked often on how the gutter thinks homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. I’ve had it said to me outright at various times online. Orson Scott Card has written columns saying it with the same off-handed matter of factness one might talk about the weather. Here’s Randy Thomasson of Save California saying it. When I was a young man, people took it as an insult, as a mockery of their own happiness and joy, whenever gay people asserted their right to seek and find their other half too. And so many time I came close, only to have yet another chance snatched away because I couldn’t be allowed to live outside the gutter I’d been tossed into.

It’s better for gay youth and young adults nowadays. But this is not a good time for me. I’m 60 years old now, and I have so many stories…none of them happy…

Closest I ever came to having an actual boyfriend was the one I met in church. And that’s the way you would imagine it would happen in the best of all possible worlds isn’t it after all. You meet the boy or girl next door, say at church or some other social common ground. Your heart skips a beat and so does his (or hers) and the next thing you know the two of you are dating. The problem for us was twofold: we were gay and we were Baptists.

So, and perhaps unsurprisingly, right from the start of it emotional closeness was difficult for both of us. It’s a common complaint you hear at the tail end of romantic misfires among gay couples. He had trust issues. He was emotionally distant. Perhaps we simply were not right for each other after all. Or perhaps it was something he confided to me one night, as we lay together, in a very quiet, emotionless voice.

We began our tentative affair almost as soon as he got out of the military, having honorably served a tour of duty far, far away from the parent units. His mother and mine were church friends. Every Sunday we gathered at the same church until in my teens I decided church was not for me and mom, while she never stopped trying to nudge me back, never demanded I go whether I wanted to or not. That’s actually a very Baptist approach…there’s a reason Baptists don’t baptize infants and small children. You have to come to God wholeheartedly, just as you are.

For a while I actually worked for his father, but it didn’t last. As a boss he had a very bad temper, and could not keep his harsh brand of fundamentalist religiosity, so different from my own mom’s, out of the workplace. Religious tracts were scattered liberally all over his employee lunch room, and he and a favorite employee would discuss the finer points of the Bible all throughout the day, interspersed with bitter complaints about how his customers were always trying to cheat him. I wondered what home life was like with him. Then during the holidays he leveled a particularly angry outburst at his employees for choosing to spend time the weekend before Christmas with our families instead of in his shop. He’d not told us to come in to work that weekend, only in his usual passive aggressive way said that he would like it very much if we did. The next Monday morning he was shouting at everyone who walked in the door, “I WANT YOU TO KNOW THIS SHOP COMES FIRST!!!” and after storming out to get breakfast all of us (except for the favorite) walked…no, ran…out on him.

Sometime shortly after that incident, the boss’s son came back from his tour of duty and made a beeline to my little apartment in a friend’s basement, and next thing I knew we were in the sack together. Apparently he’d figured me out before I’d even figured myself out. My heart seemed like to burst with joy. I was so very lonely then, broke, no job prospects, no car, living in a friend’s basement, and here comes this guy I’d known since we were both kids, decent, well mannered, with a sharp mind you almost didn’t see behind a very big heart. Everything you would expect in the Baptist boy next door, but without the stereotypical hyper religiosity. He had two eyes that just seemed to smile at everything they saw, and a smile that melted my heart every time I saw it.

He had spent years away from the family nest, and now he was back. Bravely I thought, he came out to them. He said later that his father hadn’t exploded, mom and dad said they still loved him, and it would be okay. I had a chilly feeling then, that I knew just what ‘it’ was. Within a week his visits dropped sharply off. One day he told me offhandedly that he was probably more of a bisexual than gay, and I saw it coming. Two weeks later, after no visits at all, we happened to cross paths at a local grocery store and he told me he was getting married to a lady at the church his folks had introduced him to. I think I just nodded my head and wished him well.

Time passes…the universe expands… Seven years later I get a phone call from him…now he’s living far from the family nest, and recently divorced. Can we see each other again sometime? Well of course. And so we began another brief little hopeless fling. Sometimes you really see how the more things change, the more they stay the same. Emotional closeness, if not physical intimacy, was still excruciatingly hard for him. Are we boyfriends, I would ask. He would never answer, just change the subject. He lived far from my own home, and I was in love, so I began to make arrangements to move closer to him. At the time I was making a living as a contract software developer, and I studied the job market near where he was living. When I told him about that he seemed to panic. Once more out visits dropped sharply off. Then came a day he told me, via AOL Instant Messenger, that he was seeing somebody else.

Perhaps we were just not right for each other after all. The hard lesson to learn about love is you can find someone who is just right for you, who seems to complete you in all the places you never even knew were empty, until you met that one person, saw them smile into your eyes. And yet even so you may not be right for them. They may have a completely opposite feeling about you. Ask me how I know this. Perhaps we were not right for each other.

Or perhaps it was something he told me one night as we lay together, in a very quiet, emotionless voice. About the day he came out to his parents. About how the next morning before dawn his father had gone into the household office, fired up the computer, and created a brochure filled with verses condemning homosexuality and what God does to nations that tolerate that which is an abomination in His eyes. About how his father printed up dozens and dozens of copies of the brochure and as the sun rose, walked around their neighborhood and put one in every door of every house, for blocks around. Then he told his son what he had done.

What gay people know is this: strangers can beat you, can take your life away from you, but only family can chew your heart up, and spit it back out. And what I know is this: when you take the ability to wholeheartedly love and accept love from another away from someone, you stick the knife into that person’s heart and also into the heart of the one who might have been loved by them.

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