Monday, February 16, 2004

The plight of all those hopeful Gays and Lesbians ...

camping out at San Francisco's city hall (thought of them as the heavy rains pelted down during the night) in the hope of getting married today ... . Thought of Rick, and wept in the night.

Rick's homosexuality was obvious from infancy (as I look back). I recall reading an article in Parents Magazine when he was about five. Something about testes that fail to drop by a certain age, or glandular development that might be delayed -- not sure what it was, but whatever caused my questioning, I made an appointment with our pediatrician to talk about what I suspected. She was shocked by my questions and let me know it. "This is simply a gentle child. You Americans are so strange. In Europe we allow our men to be gentle without suspecting homosexuality. In America it is different." She continued, "children don't choose gender until they reach puberty and it is impossible to tell anything until that choice is made."

I continued, "but if a child is continually having his/her gender questioned, isn't that choice somewhat prejudiced?" She didn't answer me. I figured that this information was suspect and that my "gentle child" was gay and that it was okay with me. One can't share life with a youngster for his five earliest years and not be smitten for life. My biggest problem would surely be to protect him from his "testerostonous" father!

I remember (very athletic) Mel -- on the occasion of about the tenth time Kenny Allen (around the corner toughie) sent Rick home bloodied and bent-- decided to teach Rick to defend himself. Perfectly ordinary thing for a Dad to do, right? Wrong. I knew that this was a gentle child who would never make it against the strength of a bully like Kenny! This ritual went on for weeks. Mel would kneel with both hands held out before him for Rick to punch his little fists into. First left, then right, then crossover, then upper-cut ... made me nervous to watch this futile game day after day.

Some time later Rick came home from play -- nose bloodied, chin scratched, tears of humiliation and fear of facing his dad mixing with outrage! I ran to gather him up for comforting before Mel could get to him -- but it was too late. Mel popped out of the kitchen with, "...why didn't you hit him like I taught you?" Poor little Rick, "...but he wouldn't hold his hands up!"

There was no male killer instinct in my child, and there never would be. He loved dolls and math, in that order. Built his first crystal set for radio reception when he was eight. Taught himself algebra with books from the library when he was in 6th grade because he needed it for a science project he was working on. This was a special child. He was bright, a linear thinker, sharp, and far more feminine than masculine in some important ways. And he'd been so since he came into my life at only a few months of age.

When he was in third grade I attended a teacher-parent conference and was told that Rick was a good student but that he was often seen "passing notes with another little sissy boy." At about the same time, my mother-in-law visited the house and noticed Rick washing dishes. Her warning, "...Betty you mustn't let that boy do those kinds of things...". But the pediatrician had told me years before that boys needed to play with dolls and do household chores just as girls did because "...they grow up to be parents just as girls do." An early feminist? At least she was partly right, but just a little twisted in her diagnosis.

The part that stuck was the part about there being a choice at puberty. I tried very hard to keep open and accepting so as not to effect that "choice." (If there was the slightest possibility that she was right.) Never allowed myself to hint that I knew, at least until it was so obvious that Mel and I were unable to discuss his homosexuality at all. We never did, though I heard Mel call him a sissy in anger -- but only once. Their's was a love/hate relationship that tore them both apart for years.

Poor Rick! His alcoholism was his only out from the misery. He was -- first of all -- an adopted child in a family that later produced three more biological children. He was an only child until he was five, then Bobby and in quick succession, David. He suffered the agony of being the only black child in that suburban school where he was scorned. He was Black and Gay. He was a lost soul.

After a tumultous and painful adolescence, at twenty-one he moved into town from Walnut Creek, into his first apartment. He was on his own. The call came, the one I'd expected all our lives. "Mom, can you come to dinner next Wednesday? Dress your prettiest. It's something special." When I arrived that evening, a young woman was waiting in the livingroom with Rick. He introduced us, and announced that he had something terribly important to tell me. It was at that moment that he told me about Ron, a handsome (white) man in his early thirties and owner of a kind of "Sharper Image" store in San Francisco. "He wants me to move in with him as his roommate, Mom." "And will you," asked I? "But you don't understand, Mom." "Yes, I do," says I. The young woman (obviously here for moral support) enters the conversations at this point with, "yes, she does, Rick." "You've always known, haven't you" says Rick? "Yes."

We left to join Ron at a fine restaurant where he announced that he and Rick were planning a trip to Amsterdam soon, and that he'd not wanted to take off without our family knowing about their relationship. Ron's family lived in Connecticutt -- a place they would visit on the return trip from Europe. I felt relieved and grateful that we'd together crossed some threshold that freed us all. We'd all come out, that evening.

But all that's left of that relationship are a few shares of Ford Company stock, given to Rick as a Christmas present years ago. The documents have been in my safe deposit box for all these years, a box I thought I'd closed out long ago when I moved. He had a key and had placed them there in a sober moment, I guess. I knew nothing of them until recently when they appeared in my name in an announcement of unclaimed property from the State of California. Have sent in proof of ownership and one day soon they'll arrive, the last vestige of a lost life... .