Talking about the LGBTQ rights journey

During the first Sunday in June’s adult education class at church, a couple folks led a discussion on the journey we have taken individually in our understanding of issues involving LGBTQ rights. There were no right or wrong answers, just a safe place to share.

I talked about one guy, Vito Mastrogiovanni, who was “out” when I was in high school, although there were more gay men that I knew personally who were not out at the time.

There was the gay fellow in college, my next door neighbor in the dorm, who was openly hostile to me, seemingly for no reason. I later concluded that perhaps it wasn’t exactly my race but rather how especially judgmental black people, especially in the church, could be. And I was a nominal Christian at that point.

I mentioned being in Boys in the Band, and how transformative that was.

Others shared their stories. More than one told of same-gender couples who they knew. Though those pairings weren’t publicly couples in those days, most people knew.

One older gay man talked about acceptance, and sometimes lack thereof, from his family. In the 1970s, his mother couldn’t understand his sudden distaste for orange juice. I too mentioned boycotting it, over the fact that Anita Bryant was the spokesperson for Florida oranges.

One man was curious about the term “gay” when it used to mean happy. Some of the gay folks explained that it was almost like code, where it would mean different things to different audiences. The Wikipedia article discusses its evolution. A reference to the Kinks song ‘David Watts’: “The lines ‘he is so gay and fancy free’ attest to the ambiguity of the word’s meaning at that time, with the second meaning evident only for those in the know.”

Some in the group also mentioned how the term homosexual had become distasteful and anachronistic, rather like “colored” or “Negro” for black people. Moreover, homosexual, in a shortened form was a slur, and the word was a term that had been associated with a people who the psychiatric community had once called diseased.

It was, I must say, a very brave conversation, and I’m glad I was able to participate, only because the Gay Men’s Chorus was singing during the church service, which meant the chancel choir didn’t need to rehearse.