By Harry Welty
Published July 19, 2002
Scenes from my Queer Life
Age 9 - My neighbor's junior high boyfriend calls another boy a
"queer." I'm astonished by the target's humiliation. I ask my Mom what
"queer" means. She tells me a story.
My Mother's best friend, Jane, fell in love with David. Jane's parents
disapproved of him because he was Catholic but their disapproval only drove her
into his arms. He became a Catholic after seeing Bing Crosby portray a fatherly
priest in the movie "Going My Way." David and Jane's marriage ends in
divorce, but not before a daughter, Michelle, is born. It turns out that David's
need for spiritual acceptance stemmed from his homosexuality. He was drawn to
boys not girls. That is "queer!"
Summer 1969, Age 18 - I read a remarkable story about a riot in New York City.
Homosexuals, now calling themselves "gay" have rebelled after repeated
harassment by New York's infamous vice police. "Stonewall," named
after the gay bar that was raided, gives birth to the modern gay rights
Summer 1969, Age 18 - I spend a late afternoon riding my bicycle around town.
I've been contemplating the moon which has two men on it for the first time
ever. In the magic of the moment I sing a civil war anthem while I ride by the
house of a young woman sitting on her porch. She teases me about singing the
refrain: "I try to cheer my comrades and be gay." She asks me if I
know what the word "gay" means. I try not to look embarrassed.
Fall 1969, Age 18 - Although I am an ignorant college freshman I run for the
Student Senate. At a candidate's forum an older student sitting next to me asks
me who I am. He smiles when I tell him. His residence hall bought my Dad at a
charity slave auction to give them a party (non alcoholic). When the forum
begins one of the candidates starts pontificating. With three quick questions my
seatmate reduces the know-it-all to a lump of sputtering stupidity. My turn
comes to answer questions. My knees quake but I am spared. The interrogator will
become the only person I've ever met that I regard with anything approaching
awe. He's as queer as a three-dollar-bill.
1971, Age 20 - I become a summer intern for our local Congressman. I move into a
seedy townhouse a short walk from the Nation's Capitol. I borrow a cake pan from
neighbors. When I return the pan I am invited over for dinner and a cocktail. I
discover that fresh tomatoes with a little salt are really tasty and drink my
first martini. My neighbors are the first wave of new residents who are
gentrifying the neighborhood. I suspect that they are gay. I am invited back and
find myself among five urbane men in their thirties. One is an internationally
famous premier danseur, a male ballet dancer. He regales us with stories about
how as a young man all the ballerinas tried to bed him for good luck. The men
find this story of heterosexual promiscuity very funny. I excuse myself
from the gathering after one of the hosts, who had been petting a kitten, begins
petting my thigh.
Before I return to school the neighbors ask me if I would like to house-sit for
them next summer while they are abroad. I think they have surmised that I'm not
gay. I tell them I'd like to. When I mention this to my Dad he strongly
discourages me because the homeowners are gay. I drop the idea.
1981 - Age 30 - A hometown radio personality is murdered by a man he made a pass
at. The dead man was a friend of my wife's sister and her fiancée. They
are outraged by the imposition of a measly seven year sentence. The murderer is
out in three. My daughter is born.
1982, Age 31 - Duluth overwhelmingly defeats a "civil rights"
ordinance which would require landlords to rent to gays. I tell my Dad that I'm
inclined to oppose the ordinance. I feel bad that conservative Christian
property owners could be forced to rent to open homosexuals. My Dad asks me why
gays should be denied access to housing. I am ashamed.
1993, Age 42 - I befriend a young gay activist and ask him about newspaper
accounts of his harassment in high school. A few years later he will feud with a
city council candidate who brags about having helped kill a gay sailor back in
his navy days. The boast is untrue.
1994, Age 43 - I visit the activist in jail. He has been accused of having sex
with a gay minor. Charges will eventually be dropped. He gives me some records
for safe keeping. I never see him again.
1994, Age 43 - GOP activists are outraged that Governor Arne Carlson has
addressed a meeting of Gay Minnesotans They deny him the Republican endorsement.
He wins the primary and general elections anyway. I am Carlson's Duluth campaign
1997, Age 47 - My 16 year old daughter defends a gay kid from several bullies at
her school. I'm so proud.
2000, Age 49 - I run for the State Senate and receive the endorsement of the
Minnesota Log Cabin Club. Its a gay Republican organization. They feel the
incumbent DFLer is unsympathetic.
2001, Age 50 - I have been on the School Board for five years. A court makes the
District pay $200,000 to one of our former students whose peers harassed him for
being a homosexual while he was in school. We didn't protect him.
2002, Age 51 - My mother reports that Michelle, and her Father, and his
"partner," are very good friends.
Age 51 - I seek the Republican endorsement for the state legislature. I am asked
what I think of "domestic partner" legislation. I tell the delegates
that gays will not go back in the closet and that it is time they are given some
legal recognition. My opponent says that he thinks gay rights legislation is
"reverse discrimination" against heterosexuals. He wins the
Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com