Monday, September 03, 2007

Return to Norfolk and Random Thoughts

I made it back this afternoon without to much traffic nightmare and actually breezed through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (shown above) without any delay - something that is nearly unheard of. I had a nice time in Richmond visiting my daughter, walking down some of the streets lined with beautiful old houses, and having lunch with her. There are lots of places to eat right around VCU, but we went to the ever dependable "Panda Veg" on Grace Street which my son discovered while at VCU. The food is good and inexpensive, plus there are plenty of vegetarian dishes for those who are into that.

While I was waiting for my daughter to come down from her dorm, I watched the comings and goings of students. I had momentary pangs of "if I could only do it all over again and really be me." I most definitely do not regret having my children, but at times I feel that I missed so much of my life. Much of my closeted life was play acting and being whoever others wanted me to be instead of being me. I envy young guys who have had the courage to come out and be who they are in high school or college. They can have their whole life to be who they are. Oh well, what is what is.
Some readers will not doubt say to themselves, "why complain, you did it to yourself." True, I did do it to myself. But anyone under 50 has no idea what it was like to realize you were gay in the mid 1960's. It was a very different world. These words from an opinion piece by former Gov. McGreevy sum up well the feelings I had as a young teenager:
As a child, recognizing my difference from other kids, I went to the local public library to try to better understand my reality. Back then, many library card catalogues didn't even list "homosexuality" as a topic. I had to go to "sexuality, deviant" to learn about myself, and the collected works were few and frightening: "Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases," "Homosexuality: Its Causes and Cure," "Sexual Deviance & Sexual Deviants."

If you haven't experienced it, it may be hard to understand the sinking feeling most every gay boy or girl of my generation experienced upon coming across that section of the library. All I could do was slam the drawer closed and leave, steeped in hopelessness. No relief was forthcoming from my then-Catholic faith, which said the practice of homosexuality was a "mortal sin" subject to damnation.

In the way that teenagers do, I came to the conclusion that my only options were suicide, something for which I could never find the courage, or "closeting" my homosexuality. After all the whispering, fights, insults, reading of academic journals and lessons from the church, you simply say to yourself: This thing, being gay, can't be me. Everything and everyone told me it was wrong, evil, unnatural and shameful. You decide: I'll change it, I'll fight it, I'll control it, but, simply put, I'll never accept it. You then attempt to place "it" in a metaphorical closet, keep it separate from open daily life and indulge it only in secret places.

That truly describes my thoughts and feelings. Since I cannot change the past, all I can do is move forward and try to make the most of the present and future, never again submitting to the shame and self-depreciation that haunted my past. While for the most part I do not view McGreevy as a positive for the LGBT community, he properly summed up the mood of my youth. The rest of McGreevy's column can be found here:


Lyndon said...

Here's a quote from a website of quotes I have found which may help you, me & others who "wish we had done things differently". "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past" - Patrick Henry. I stopped a long time ago with the coulda, shoulda, woulda. It does not help to beat oneself up over what has been, we can only change what will be. - Lyndon

dondon009 said...

I'm of the same generation, even a few years older than you, but being raised in Boston and educated in New York, I think those larger northeastern cities were, even at that time more open and accepting towards homosexuality.

In high school, I worked on Cape Cod and Provincetown was in the early 60's already known as a gay mecca as I believe was Fire Island in New York.

In college at that time, the drinking age was 18 and we would often see and socialize with our professors in gay bars.


Billy said...

I cannot speak on what is true for the US, but the same type of 'shame' was placed on us in South Africa, and now living in Kenya, I see it all over again.

I've been out to my family since 18, and feel better for it - althought not always easy, and not always 'smooth sailing', we (my partner and I) now live honest lives towards ourselves, and towards our family and friends.

As for being out of the closet in Kenya, now that is a blog all on it's own!