ARE WE READY FOR A GAY PRESIDENT? – Marilyn Armstrong

This is a reblog from a Fandango “Provocative President” post some months back. As we get closer to the election, Pete Buttigieg has moved to the forefront as a potential candidate. Thus I’m running this again and I think it deserves to be run again. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg?


From Fandango:

“For those of you who may not follow American politics, let me introduce to you Pete Buttigieg. “Mayor Pete,” as he is known, is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States. He is a graduate of Harvard University, a Rhodes Scholar, a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan. He is currently the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. And as a bonus — he’s white and Christian. The perfect candidate, right?

He’s ranking third or fourth (out of 20) in the early political polls and is getting a lot of attention and positive press.

He’s also gay and married to his husband, Chasten. Wait! What?”

So here is the question:


“Do you think America is ready for an openly gay person to be elected to the office of President of the United States? Explain your opinion.”


I first would like to point out that “gay” used to mean happy and carefree … and America is 100% ready for that! I can’t think of anything we need more than a spirit of joy and freedom.

As for the more modern meaning of “gay,” my answer is a solid “I don’t know.”

I would, given the negative ionization of the air over America for the past two and something years, would be inclined to say no. Except that I would also have been sure we would not have a black president — twice — and we could never have such a current lowlife elected to the presidency, either.

Each was impossible and both were elected.

Pete Buttigieg – Photo: ABC News

So I don’t know. Our political pendulum swings wildly from side to side, kind of “The Pit and the Pendulum” of American politics. It isn’t unusual for us to go from very liberal to very conservative presidents and we’ve done it any number of times. Can we do it this time?

I really don’t know. There’s a lot of “playing out” of our political spider web still to be done. It’s not impossible and it also isn’t likely. Which is to say it’s neither probable nor outlandish.

I would hope the qualities of the man will be the point on which judgments are made, not to whom he is married. Hey, at least he is married and not a serial philanderer. Or a sociopathic liar. Or a self-promoting moron.

But who knows? Maybe America is not ready for a sane president yet. Maybe we need to roll around in the sty with the pigs for another term of office before we get our fill of this particular nightmare.

And maybe the world will never be the way it was after this presidency. There are too many questions without answers, so, in my opinion, it is also too early to gauge for whom we might vote.

We have miles to go in that snowy woods. What I do know is that the Democrats have yet to even make it clear for what they stand. Until they get their heads wrapped around their position, you can’t know where the voters stand.

A GAY FIRST LADY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

A comment made by presidential candidate, Pete Buttigieg, caught my attention. He said that statistically speaking, the odds are that we have already had a gay president in America. Several presidents were unmarried, but in past times gay men often married and had children because they did not have the option of living an openly gay lifestyle.

While this was on my mind, I came across an article about a first lady who turned out to be a lesbian. Grover Cleveland took office in 1885 – a 50-year-old bachelor who apparently had fathered a child out of wedlock (this fact nearly derailed his campaign). The protocol called for him to appoint his sister, Rose, as First Lady. She was considered a ‘respectable’ single woman who was well educated, a former teacher at a woman’s seminary and the author of ‘serious’ books. She served as First Lady for a little over a year and then was relieved of her duties when her brother married his 21-year-old ward, Frances Folsom Cleveland.

Rose returned to the family estate in upstate New York and a few years later, when Rose was 43, she met Evangeline Simpson on the wealthy ‘social circuit’ in Florida. Evangeline was 33 and had inherited a fortune from her late husband who was almost 50 years older than she was!

The love letters that document their 30-year relationship, begin in April of 1890. Ironically, at that time there was no word in the English language to describe a romantic/sexual relationship between two women. The word ‘lesbian’ was only applied to the Greek poet, Sappho. The field of sexology only came into being in the 1890’s so the terminology would not exist for many more years.

Rose Cleveland

The concept of ‘romantic friendship’ was popular among women of the day but the relationships were often emotional and intellectual but not sexual. However, that gave cover for wealthy white women of the day and allowed them to have open relationships, often even living and traveling together.

The letters between Rose and Evangeline were discovered in 1969 when a cache of Evangeline’s family papers was donated to the Minnesota Historical Society. When the love letters, some quite explicit, were discovered, a memo was sent out suggesting that they are kept from the public. The ban wasn’t lifted until 1978, following numerous complaints. The full collection of Rose’s letters were finally published in a book called ‘Precious and Adored: The love letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890-1918.

Rose on right, Evangeline on left

Rose and Evangeline’s relationship spanned 30 years but had its ups and down. Initially, they enjoyed extended visits to each other’s estates and they traveled together in Europe and the Middle East. They didn’t try to hide their relationship and Rose even wrote to Evangeline’s mother about her love for Evangeline. It seemed to have been accepted – but I wonder how many people of the day understood that there was a sexual component to the relationship.

In 1896, after six years with Rose, Evangeline shocked everyone when she announced that she was marrying a popular Episcopal preacher from Minnesota who was 34 years her senior. She didn’t need to marry him for financial reasons and her diary indicates that she was sincerely fond of him. But why she chose marriage over her relationship with Rose is a mystery.

Evangeline with her new husband

After the marriage, Rose and Evangeline continued to correspond but the tone of their letters changed dramatically. No more intimacies and pet names or professions of love. Evangeline’s husband died five years later, in 1901 and the letters between the two women changed character again. The two resumed staying at each other’s homes for extended periods until 1910 when Evangeline’s brother became seriously ill in Italy. Evangeline and Rose rushed to his side and finally lived together in a small Tuscan town.

In Tuscany in 1918, at the age of 72, Rose died after contracting the Spanish flu. Evangeline lived for twelve more years but wrote of Rose’s death that “The light has gone out for me. The loss of this noble and great soul is a blow that I shall not recover from.”

Photo of Rose with Evangeline on right and book cover on left

In today’s climate, Rose and Evangeline would probably have moved in together when they first fell in love and would have shared a peaceful, happy and uninterrupted 30-years together. At least they never felt shame or ostracism or persecution for their love – which probably would have been the case if they had been men. It’s nice to know that women had an acceptable social ‘cover’ for lesbian relationships, even in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Thankfully people don’t need to disguise or hide their love anymore, no matter what the sex or race of their chosen partner.

STONEWALL UPRISING – Rich Paschall

Fifty Years On, by Rich Paschall

It was much different then. 1969. There was a “counter culture” that opposed many of society’s norms. There were “love-ins” and music festivals.  Hippies made the scene wearing different clothes. Many wore flowers in their hair. Tie-dyed shirts and bell bottoms jeans were the fashion.

It was the summer of Woodstock. It was also the year the Beatles played their last live concert from a rooftop in London.

Woodstock

In the United States, Richard Nixon became president. NASA sent a man to the moon. PBS was established and Sesame Street made its debut. The US Air Force stopped investigating UFOs, having found none since Project Blue Book started in 1952.

It was a time of social unrest. Civil Rights protests. Protests for women’s equality. Students and others protested many political issues. The largest and most frequent were about the “police action” otherwise known as the War in Viet Nam. The Southeast Asian war, the first to be extensively televised, was very unpopular.

Protests at Columbia University in NYC

Homosexuality was illegal in 49 of 50 states. To be arrested meant your life was ruined. You could lose your home, your job, your freedom. To be a known homosexual could put your life at risk. A few gay groups, like the Mattachine Society, tried to depict gay men as just like everyone else in order to be more acceptable to society. Small protests were held each year in Philadelphia and Washington seeking equality. Men wore suits, women wore dresses. No one held hands.

New York had a few gay bars and clubs. Most were owned by the Mafia, who paid off the police. When the bars were to be raided, arresting a few gays, the clubs were tipped off in advance. The police generally came early in the evening so the clubs could reopen later and continue doing business. When the police arrived, the lights went up to tip off the patrons to stop holding hands, touching, and dancing. Men in drag were certainly going to be taken away. Policewomen checked them out to see if they were actually men. No further explanation is needed.

In June of 1969, there were frequent raids on local bars and clubs. Some were closed down. The Stonewall Inn had been raided on a Tuesday but reopened for business. Saturday of that week would be the day the tables were turned.

Stonewall 1969 (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Stonewall had tried to present itself as a private club. It had no liquor license and was raided periodically by police. It operated very much like a speakeasy in the Prohibition era.

The windows were covered with plywood so no one could see inside. The door had an opening where a bouncer could look out to see who wanted entrance. If he did not know you or thought you were underage, you would probably be turned away.

In the early hours of a warm night, around 1:20 AM on June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn.  It was to be closed permanently. There were perhaps two hundred people inside but only four plainclothes officers, two others in uniform and two detectives arrived. Gays usually put up no resistance, so the police thought they could control the situation.

On this night, they thought wrong.

The usual tactic was to arrest drag queens and anyone under 18, which was then the legal drinking age. The men were lined up and IDs were checked. Events, however, took a different turn from the usual protocol.

The drag queens refused to go and many men were refusing to show IDs. The police decided to arrest anyone who did not cooperate. Things quickly got out of hand.

The ones who had been released did not disperse. Instead, they waited outside. The crowd soon began to grow. The patrol wagons did not arrive and many were forced to wait in line. When a woman was taken outside to be put in a wagon, she fought back.

There’s one well-known picture of the event and virtually no video of what happened. It was before the era of pocket cameras and cell phones. Accounts vary but there are many personal accounts on which to rely.

One thing seems clear. In an era of social unrest, gays were fighting back. They were not going to have the Stonewall taken away, despite the fact that baseball bats were later used like in a Prohibition raid. Activism had come to the gay community in one spontaneous moment.

Only known image of the uprising (Fair use. Photographer: Joseph Ambrosini of the New York Daily News)

Battles with police raged into the night. The ones who had conducted the raid had to barricade themselves in the Stonewall against the growing crowd outside. When police arrived to free Stonewall, the crowd stayed and sang, formed a kickline, threw pennies, did other mischiefs. The people were pushed down the street, only to return behind the police.  Garbage was set on fire, some windows were broken.

The next night an even larger crowd returned to Christopher Street. The police tried to disperse them with nightsticks and tear gas. Again garbage was lit on fire and the crowd fought back.

Why are there gay pride parades?

Stonewall is the answer. On a warm summer night in New York in 1969, the gay patrons of Stonewall Inn decided to stop being pushed around. They wanted to be free to be who they were. They would no longer hide in the dark closets or recesses of dives like the Stonewall. They wanted to be proud and to live their own lives.

The following year on June 28, The Christopher Street Liberation Day was held with a march (parade) from Christopher Street to Central Park, an astounding 51 blocks. Organizers desperately hoped for more than a handful of participants to support the event. Thousands came, not just to watch but to march and celebrate. At one point the parade filled the street for 15 blocks. Events were also held in Chicago and Los Angeles to remember Stonewall.

It is likely many young participants in Gay Pride Celebrations do not know why there are such events or how they started. Nevertheless, it has become a worldwide phenomenon. On June 30, 2019 (today if you are reading this when it is first posted) organizations will come together in New York. There will be a 50th-anniversary celebration of the day the lesbian and gay communities battled for Christopher Street and won the right to seek equality in the open.

Stonewall today

Sources: This synopsis is a very condensed version, and you can read events in great detail on Wikipedia. PBS also recently reran the American Experience documentary Stonewall Uprising which you can find at PBS online. Below is just a small excerpt:

ARE WE READY FOR A GAY PRESIDENT? – Marilyn Armstrong

From Fandango:

“For those of you who may not follow American politics, let me introduce to you Pete Buttigieg. “Mayor Pete,” as he is known, is seeking the Democratic nomination to run for President of the United States. He is a graduate of Harvard University, a Rhodes Scholar, a Navy veteran who served in Afghanistan. He is currently the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana. And as a bonus — he’s white and Christian. The perfect candidate, right?

He’s ranking third or fourth (out of 20) in the early political polls and is getting a lot of attention and positive press.

He’s also gay and married to his husband, Chasten. Wait! What?”

So here is the question:


“Do you think America is ready for an openly gay person to be elected to the office of President of the United States? Explain your opinion.”


I first would like to point out that “gay” used to mean happy and carefree … and America is 100% ready for that! I can’t think of anything we need more than a spirit of joy and freedom.

As for the more modern meaning of “gay,” my answer is a solid “I don’t know.”

I would, given the negative ionization of the air over America for the past two and something years, would be inclined to say no. Except that I would also have been sure we would not have a black president — twice — and we could never have such a current lowlife elected to the presidency, either.

Each was impossible and both were elected.

Pete Buttigieg – Photo: ABC News

So I don’t know. Our political pendulum swings wildly from side to side, kind of “The Pit and the Pendulum” of American politics. It isn’t unusual for us to go from very liberal to very conservative presidents and we’ve done it any number of times. Can we do it this time?

I really don’t know. There’s a lot of “playing out” of our political spider web still to be done. It’s not impossible and it also isn’t likely. Which is to say it’s neither probable nor outlandish.

I would hope the qualities of the man will be the point on which judgments are made, not to whom he is married. Hey, at least he is married and not a serial philanderer. Or a sociopathic liar. Or a self-promoting moron.

But who knows? Maybe America is not ready for a sane president yet. Maybe we need to roll around in the sty with the pigs for another term of office before we get our fill of this particular nightmare.

And maybe the world will never be the way it was after this presidency. There are too many questions without answers, so, in my opinion, it is also too early to gauge for whom we might vote.

We have miles to go in that snowy woods. What I do know is that the Democrats have yet to even make it clear for what they stand. Until they get their heads wrapped around their position, you can’t know where the voters stand.

DON’T BE AFRAID TO LET THEM SHOW – Rich Paschall

True Colors by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

It’s hard to grow up with the perception that you are different from everyone else, even if it is not really so. When you do not know much about the outside world, the world inside you can make you sad. “Why am I not like everyone else?” you may wonder.

“Why am I so different?”  Thoughts like this can lead to sadness. Even though you try to act happy on the outside, your eyes might give you away.

“You with the sad eyes

Don’t be discouraged

Oh I realize It’s hard to take courage…”

75-RainbowNK-2 There is no way to know that being different is not necessarily wrong when your emotions are telling you otherwise.  Worse yet, other people are telling you that different is wrong, even if only in an indirect way.

“Cut it out.”

“Be a man.”

“Grow up.”

“Stop crying.”

“Why can’t you be more like your brother, cousin, sister, uncle, ____(fill in the blank.)”

“Don’t you like sports?”

“Don’t be a sissy.”

“Only a queer would wear that shirt, pants, shoes, ____(fill in the blank).”

Some seem hard-wired to accept the criticism as they grow up. They look like everything just rolls right off of them. They smile while they hurt. You may think, “Every kid is teased as he grows up. It’s just part of life.” Yes, we all get teased, but some of us are different from the majority … and can’t cope with the teasing.

“In a world full of people

You can lose sight of it all

And the darkness inside you

Can make you feel so small…”

At the darkest moment, a rainbow may appear

With a limited view of the world, and lack of experience dealing with the emotions tossed your way, you can feel small, insignificant, different. And different seems bad when you are trying to find your way. What is inside you has dark colors and no glow.

“Dear god,” you may silently cry in the loneliness of a dark room just down the hall from the so-called regular people, “please make me like everyone else.” The prayer might be repeated until you are empty of tears, and they no longer wash down your face.

“But I see your true colors shining through

I see your true colors and that’s why I love you…”

If you are different, but not in a bad or destructive way, you may need someone to reach out and tell you it’s all right. Someone, anyone, needs to explain that different can be okay. You don’t have to be like the majority. Each can possess unique characteristics that make them special, important, creative, fun. And everyone is worthy of love.

“So don’t be afraid to let them show: your true colors…”

Encouragement is needed to let friends, neighbors, and especially young ones know that each has his own gift. We can’t all be the same. We can’t all do the same things. There is nothing wrong with singing a different tune, being a different kind of person. Diversity can be strength. All the pieces can come together to form a perfect picture. When all the colors are put alongside each other, they can bring everyone joy.

“True colors are beautiful like a rainbow.”

If all this seems a bit cryptic, then let’s just say it is tough to grow up different and hiding who you are. The song “True Colors” has taken on a rather symbolic meaning in some circles since it was first recorded by Cyndi Lauper. Contrary to what some belief, it was not written by Lauper and was in fact the only song on her True Colors album she did not have a hand in writing. Nevertheless, it resonated with her and years later she co-founded the True Colors Fund to wipe out LGBT youth homelessness.

John Legend sings this for kids and teachers. You can find a Cyndi Lauper version here.

NEVER CAN SAY GOODBYE – Rich Paschall

JJ’s Night Out, by Rich Paschall


Jason was pacing the floor of the living room.  He was excited about his date night.  They were going to a new nightclub.  It had received nice reviews and he thought they could do a lot of dancing and singing.  Jason’s mom watched the pacing with a feeling of indifference, while his dad watched in what could best be described as “disgust.”

Soon Jason’s date would arrive. Jeff was a handsome young man who Jason had met at college.  Jeff fell immediately for the boy with the constant smile, and it did not take long for Jason to agree to a date.  After a short period of dating, they became constant companions.  Their friends began referring to them collectively as “JJ” since they always seemed to be together.

When Jeff arrived in his best preppy, all American look, he stopped in briefly to say hello to Jason’s parents and wish them a good evening.  Then Jason exclaimed, “Good night, mom,” and gave his mother a hug.  It was returned in a half-hearted fashion.

“See you later, dad,” Jason shouted at his father who was standing quite a distance away.

“Yeah,” his father returned with his most annoyed tone.  The father’s look was his best effort at contempt.  Jason just smiled and the boys set out for a night of fun.  They both hoped that someday Jason’s father would accept them as a couple.  Whether that happened or not, soon the boys would find an apartment, marry and be on their own.  They had their whole lives ahead and could not be too worried about whether they would find complete acceptance.  They had each other.  That was the main thing.

The two men enjoyed the new nightclub.  The music was loud, the drinks were cold and the atmosphere was electric.  Around midnight, Jeff leaned over and gave Jason a big kiss.  Since he was not prone to such public displays, Jason asked, “What was that for?”

Jeff replied, “Because I love you so much, my prince.”  At that Jason’s usual smile became even bigger.

At 4 am the phone rang at Jason’s home.  By the time his mother was awakened and realized it was the phone, the ringing stopped.  She started to drift off to sleep but 10 minutes later the phone was ringing again.  When she got up and got to the phone, it had stopped again.  The mother thought Jason forgot his key or was staying with Jeff.

“He really did not have to call about that,” she thought.  She waited by the phone another 10 minutes but it did not ring, so she went back to bed.

72-BW-Boston-Night_004Just as she was getting up around 7 am the front doorbell rang.  She thought, “This must be Jason.”  She put on her robe and walked to the door.  She opened it to find a uniformed police officer standing there.  Behind her was a man in plain clothes, but he was wearing a police badge on his belt.

“Are you Mrs. DeAngelo?”  the officer asked.

“Yes.”

“And is Jason DeAngelo your son?”

“Why?  What’s wrong? What happened?  Tell me, what is it?” she blurted out, trying not to sound hysterical.

“There has been a shooting at a nightclub.  I am afraid your son was one of the victim’s.  We are sorry for your  loss, Mrs. DeAngelo.”
Jason’s mother stood there absolutely frozen to the spot.  She had been kicked in the stomach and her breath had been taken away.

“Is it alright if we come in and ask a few questions?” the plainclothes police officer asked.

For a moment Mrs. DeAngelo could not speak.  Her eyes began to water and her brain was numb.  She was transported through time to a place of unspeakable sadness.  It was a place where senses momentarily failed her.

“Would you like us to come back?” the man asked.

“No,” she replied.  “Come in.”

Mr. DeAngelo joined them in the living room.  He immediately knew what had happened.  He stood there silently.  His wife answered all the questions.

For the next half hour, the two police officers queried Jason’s mom.  Did Jason go to the Club often?  Why did he go that night?  Was he with anyone?  Was he gay?  Did they know it was a gay nightclub and so on?  Mrs. DeAngelo answered as best she could.

Then they mentioned the name of the shooter which led to a new round of questions.  Did she ever hear the name before?  Did her son know him?  There were other questions too but they all became a blur to Mrs. DeAngelo.  After a while, she was not even sure what she was saying.

The uniformed officer concluded by saying the coroner’s office would be processing the dozens of bodies over the next few days and they would be in contact with them.  Both told the parents “We are sorry for your loss,” as they were leaving the house.

Mrs. DeAngelo softly closed the door behind them.  She grabbed a framed picture of Jason off a table and sat down on the sofa.  She stared at the picture as a tear formed in the corner of one eye.  She tried to envision Jason’s happy face as a child and his boundless energy.  She remembered the time she called him “my little terrier” because it seemed he could run for hours and then come and lay down right by her.  She did not move from that spot for a long time.

Mr. DeAngelo recalled the look he gave the boys the night before as they left for the club.

It was the only thing he could remember.

THE PROMISE OF LOVE

The Reality, by Rich Paschall

When George made his visit to South America to meet the handsome young man,  Jon noticed their large age difference. He decided it did not matter if George would help him.  After all, this could be a way out of his situation in the poor suburb of the large South American city. So late each night he would steal the WiFi signal from a neighbor in the apartment next door and talk with George. This way he kept him close to his heart.

South American city

Jon was tired of being poor. He was sad he could not buy nice clothes and jewelry.  He was unhappy with his dismal living conditions. He was heartbroken he could not help his mother with her expenses.  He just wanted to get out.

Since his time in an acrobatic troupe did not result in much money, Jon took one job, then another.  Nothing satisfied him as he always worked long hours for little money.  He could not spend much time at the gym.  He could not enjoy the nightlife of the nearby city.

“Help me, George,” Jon pleaded one night.  “I want to keep going to the gym.  I want to have enough food to eat.  Please send me a little money.”  Jon’s stories may have been a bit of an exaggeration, but he was certainly very poor.  He was determined to tell George whatever seemed to convince him to send some money.

“OK, Jon.  I will send you something on payday.  Do not worry.” The periodic investment in the handsome Hispanic man seemed to bind them together, as least George thought so.

Jon also thought they were bound together, not just by a few US Dollars, but also by his constant declarations of friendship and love.

When a few months had passed since George’s impulsive visit, Jon wondered if the time was right to push his plan further along.  One warm night, Jon stood on the roof of his building and looked down on the poor buildings below, with their cheap block constructions, and old metal roofs.  It was a depressing site.

poor suburb

The bright lights of the city in the distance were a reminder he had not achieved his goal.  He could wait no longer. This was the night for action. He called George.

“We should get married, George,” Jon declared with confidence.

“What?” George said in a surprised voice that shook Jon a little.

“You should come here to marry me and we can live together in America.”  Jon waited for a reply, but there was nothing for a long minute.  Then George said Jon only wanted a way to come to America.  He did not actually want George.

The response upset Jon.  As he lay in bed in his tiny apartment, he decided he must not lose George now, after all the time he invested.  So he spent weeks declaring his love and asking for marriage without success.  George said he had no other boyfriend, so Jon did not understand why they could not be married.

When Jon felt the situation lasted too long he said to George, “You must tell me if we are boyfriends or no.  If you will not marry me, I must find another boyfriend.”

The conversation that followed last a long time, and after Jon insisted over and over he would be a good roommate and stay “as long as God wills,” George finally agreed.

Jon immediately researched what they needed to do to get married.  George gathered the documents Jon requested and sent them express.  The papers were filed and the waiting game began.  Almost the entire summer went by before Jon got the marriage license.

George came as promised. The wedding was held with only one friend of Jon’s in attendance to take pictures, and a translator for George to know what was happening.  When the ceremony was done, George, Jon and his friend Vanessa all went into the city to celebrate.  After just two married nights together, George was gone.

return to airport

The long process of getting a visa began.  Jon could not believe the complexity of the procedure or the number of documents he had to send to George.

“I have to get certified translations into English, Jon.  Then I will submit all.  You must be patient.”  It was hard to be patient, but George sent a little money every month and Jon could buy the food he wanted.

When the process had gone from Immigration, to the State Department, to the American embassy in Jon’s country, the nervous young man met with his good friend, Vanessa.

Jon told her everything that had transpired and they seemed to be getting near a decision.

“And you will leave here to go to this strange place you have told to me?” Vanessa said.

“Yes, of course,” Jon said.  He could see the disappointment in Vanessa’s eyes.  He could not tell if this was because he might leave his close friend or because he would leave his country for a foreign land.

“Are you crazy?  You are with him only a few days and for that you would leave us?” she asked.

“But we are working on this for a year now.  It will be my chance for a better life,” Jon said, but Vanessa replied with a look of doubt. After a short silence, she asked the important question.

“Do you think you will stay with this gringo once you get to America and meet other people?”

Jon’s eyes narrowed as he gave the matter serious thought.  He placed his right hand over his mouth and rubbed the left side of his face with his fingertips.  After almost a minute, he removed the hand from his face, smiled a little and said, “No.  Of course not.”

Then Vanessa laughed, but only a little.


Previously, in order:
I LOVE YOU (No You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player
A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL, The Deal

A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL

The Deal, by Rich Paschall 

After meeting the younger Jon on a language learning website, and seeing him for just four days in person in South America, George was surprised that Jon acted as if they were boyfriends.  In fact, Jon asked George several times if he had a boyfriend in America.

“No,” George always said and Jon would smile.

“You should have no other boyfriend,” Jon would say.  “We are boyfriends.”

This was astounding to George.  Jon lived in South America and George, now in his 50’s, live in a Midwestern USA city.  George was all of 30 years older and felt they could not have much in common.  But Jon kept reminding  George of his visit the previous December and what great fun they had.  This should prove their love!

A South American city

Feeling rather awkward about the whole thing, George thought that perhaps he should break off the daily chat.  He could not imagine where this relationship would go and the boyfriend talk just seemed wrong somehow.  Jon started to add he loved George and they should be together. Then one day Jon pushed the matter a bit further.

“We should get married, George,” Jon declared.

“What?” a stunned George said.

“You should come here to marry me and we can live together in America.”

After George collected himself, he thought about what he should say.  The response was not immediately in his brain.

“You are just saying this because you want to come to America.  You do not want to marry me,” George told Jon.

“No that is not true,” Jon protested.  “I will be with you as long as God wills.”

So, the conversation continued in a similar manner for a few weeks.  Jon would ask for marriage, and George would say “no.”

As time went on Jon seemed to be winning George over to his side, so he demanded an answer one more time.  “You must tell me if we are boyfriends or no.  If you will not marry me, I must find another boyfriend.”

On the one hand, George could not imagine this was a great idea; on the other, he suddenly felt he did not want to lose Jon.  They did indeed have a good time together and maybe they would make good roommates.  Perhaps Jon really would stay “as long as God wills.”  So they reached an agreement and the deal was made.

The South American destination

To be married in the South American country, George had to send documents with certified Spanish translations to Jon, so he could go to the notary public, more like a Justice of the Peace there, and request permission to marry the foreigner.  George waited anxiously for months to hear if their application would be accepted.

“You will come immediately when we have permission, and make the marriage?” Jon asked.

“No, Jon, I must ask for time off work.  I will come as soon as possible,” George assured Jon.

From April until late summer, George and Jon waited and chatted like nervous kids.  Finally in August Jon sent a message that they would get married on the 15th.

“No,” the startled George replied.  “I can not get there so quickly.”  They decided on September 2 and the arrangements were made.  George would fly to South America again.

On the first day of the trip, George took Jon shopping for clothes and rings for the wedding.  On the next day they got married and on the third day they explored the neighborhood around their hotel.  George headed home on the fourth day.

Road to the airport

Upon his return, George and Jon started the long process to get a spouse visa.  They were surprised to learn that after the long and expensive process, there were no guarantees Jon would actually get the visa.

Many documents for Immigration and then for the State Department were required.  After that, documents had to be presented to the embassy in South America.  Speed was not the government way.

After the marriage was done and the process for immigration was well under way, George finally decided to tell someone about it. So he called on his friend Arthur to meet him at the local bar and grill.

As George detailed the story, Arthur sat quietly with the most incredulous look on his face.  When George was finally done with his story, Arthur shook his head and said, “Are you crazy?”

“Well, maybe” George replied rather sheepishly.

“Why didn’t you tell me about this before you ran down there and got married, especially since you were waiting for months to get permission?” Arthur asked.

“Because you would have told me then I was crazy and I shouldn’t do it.”

“You’re right, that’s exactly what I would have said.” Arthur blurted out with a tone somewhere between firmness and annoyance.  He kept shaking his head and looking at George as if he had done the dumbest thing in his fifty something years.

“We discussed the matter at length.  He will help me and be a good roommate.  We have a deal.”

“A deal?” Arthur asked.

“Yeah, isn’t marriage really a deal between two people about friendship and living together?” George asked, as if he wasn’t too sure.

Arthur had a doubting look that George understood.  Then he asked George, “Don’t you think this young man is going to leave you once he gets to America and meets other people?”

George’s eyes narrowed as he gave the matter serious thought.  He placed his right hand over his mouth and rubbed the left side of his face with his fingertips.  After almost a minute, he removed the hand from his face, smiled a little and said, “No.  Of course not.”

Then Arthur laughed, but only a little.

Previously, in order: I LOVE YOU (No You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player
Next: THE PROMISE OF LOVE, The Reality

A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE

A Romantic Player, by Rich Paschall


Let’s face it, Jon was a bit of a player.  In fact, he felt he had to be.  How else was a poor boy to get by in the world?  He had tried to make it in other ways.  Now he had to expand his possibilities in any way he could.  He was looking for a way up and out and the present circumstance did not provide it.

By the time Jon had reached his late teens, he decided he must move out of the small South American town where poverty was the only way of life.  He dreamed of the big city and when he got his chance to join an acrobatic troupe based in one of the largest cities, he was off.  High in the tropical mountains was a city of millions of people and Jon would join the many and hope for a better life.

A move to the city

A move to the city

He could not afford a place in the city, actually, so he took a small apartment in a poor suburb.  He kept the place neat and clean so that he could enjoy his few possessions in pleasant surroundings.  Jon trained and exercised daily for his job.  The troupe performed exhibitions and entered competitions.   Sometimes there was money, but for some competitions, there was nothing.

With his youthful good looks and confidence, Jon signed up with a modeling agency.  There was little placement for fashion models, but with his cute face and athletic body, they were sure they could get Jon into a certain type of modeling and even film career.  Jon was stunned at the suggestion and refused the work.  The agency encouraged him to come back if he ever changed his mind.

Up on the roof

Up on the roof

While standing on the roof of his apartment building and looking down on the rooftops and poor people below, Jon got an idea.  He had to meet new people.  He had a phone and could easily steal WiFi from inside his apartment, so he decided to meet people and make friends from other areas, even other countries.  Since he thought the United States might be a good place, he decided to try to improve his little English and meet Americans.  Jon charmed his way into many lives under the guise of trying to learn the language.  He was really trying to find friends.

When there were some extra pesos in his pocket, Jon went to an area in the city that was frequented by tourists from other parts of the country and as well as “gringos.” Sometimes Jon went alone, sometimes with friends.  They would take a small table or sit at the bar in a popular night spot.  There the young and handsome men would accept drinks from older men or women tourists.  Sometimes they would get an offer to go back to a hotel for the evening.  Jon liked the free drinks, but declined the extra opportunity.  None of the people were right for him.  He did not want a one night stand, no matter what the offer.

Trolling for "friends"

Trolling for “friends”

While “borrowing” his internet connection from a neighbor, Jon started to become good friends with a few people he met online.  One stood out for Jon because he seemed to take a genuine interest in him as a person.  Jon talked with George about everything.  When chatting online Jon would use a program that would translate messages as they came in.  It is true it was not helping Jon learn English, but he did make more friends through faster communication.

George seemed special to Jon.  He told him all about the city where he lived.  He talked of his job and life.  He asked Jon about his life, his job and his interests.  No one else wanted to know anything about Jon like George did.   Soon Jon wanted to use something other than the language site to communicate.

“Can we use Google or Messenger or something else?”  And they did.  They followed each other on facebook and called on Messenger.

“Send me the camera, George.”

“What do you mean?’

“I want to see you.  I want to see where you live.”

So they made virtual visits until one day things changed.  Opportunity for Jon was at hand.  George had vacation to use and nowhere to go.

“Come to me, George.  I want to see you.  Please.  I like you so much.  Please.”

After a few days of pleading, George was hooked and scheduled a visit to a continent he never dreamed of travelling to.

When George arrived as promised, Jon did not seem to notice, or at least not to care, that George was much older.  They went around town like tourists and had a good time seeing the sites by themselves one night, and with some of Jon’s friends the next.  They were both pleased with the country, the city and with themselves.

Seeing the nightlife

Seeing the nightlife

Jon took advantage of the situation by offering to cook their meals rather than go to expensive restaurants.  Of course, they had to go to the markets where Jon made sure to get extra dry goods and fresh meats to last past George’s visit.  It was OK with George, even though he paid for it all.  He recognized what Jon was doing, but buying extra food for Jon was certainly cheaper than eating out every meal.  It was a win-win according to George.

When the brief visit was over, and George was at the airport, Jon cornered him down a hall way and told him that he loved him and thanked him for coming.  Then Jon looked around to be sure no one was watching before kissing him.  George was more than a bit surprised.

The next day Jon met with a favorite girl friend, Vanessa.  She asked Jon about the visit of the stranger from America.

“He is very nice,” Jon told her.  “I think I will marry him.”

Vanessa looked at him as if she did not understand at first.  Finally she spoke.

“What?”

Related: For George’s side of the story, see “I Love You (No You Don’t)”
Next up: A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL

SOMETHING TO BE PROUD OF – RICH PASCHALL

Your True Colors, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Like most people, you might join in a celebration of heritage, religion, race or some identifying quality at some point during the year.  In fact, you may join into several .  There are so many celebrations it is hard not to be a part of something grand.

We all take part in the fourth of July celebration.  We are proud of our heritage and wish to celebrate it.  There are parades and picnics, concerts and fireworks, flag waving and red, white and blue decorating.  Television shows, especially those of Public Television, bring us programs of our history, national parks and our unique music.  It is hard not to be swept up in the grand emotions of the day.  Do your emotions swell with pride?

Many also celebrate their ethnic background through a variety of events.  They honor the Independence of the nations of their ancestors as well as our own Independence.  Cinco de Mayo, for example, is a great day of events to honor Mexican heritage, although it is not Mexican Independence Day as some think.  In fact, it may be a bigger deal here than in Mexico.  Nevertheless, we all join our Mexican neighbors in the festivities.  September 16 is actually Mexican Independence day in case you were wondering why our friends were celebrating again.

German-American Festival, Chicago

Here our German heritage is celebrated with Von Steuben Parade and a weekend of Oktoberfest-like parties.  Baron Friedrich von Steuben was a German military officer and volunteer for General George Washington in the Revolutionary War.  By the end, he was Washington’s chief of staff.  Imagine the Pride for German Americans that this officer, born in Germany, helped to secure the Independence of America.  He was born on September 17th, hence our combined Von Steuben and Oktoberfest events.  By the way, we are also proud to say that our German parade was used as the parade in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  I guess it is appropriate Ferris is singing Danke Schoen.

In a city as diverse as Chicago, we always seem to be having parades.  In the summer, there are many weekends I can walk to the corner and watch a parade head down Montrose Avenue in celebration of a South or Central American country.  I see the delight in the faces of children from Guatemala or Mexico, Peru or Columbia, Brazil or Ecuador who are new to this country or first generation Americans.  I also see the faces of parents and grandparents who are proud of their ethnic culture and proud to be here.

Ethnic pride

A variety of religious events bring a feeling of pride to those who belong to the various religions around town. There are sometimes parades, sometimes outdoor services, sometimes grand occasions.  Many are proud of the churches built by their ancestors.  A church I attended was built by our German ancestors over one hundred years ago.  It stands proudly on its corner with a tower visible for miles.  Certainly the founders of our German American neighborhood would be proud to know their ancestors still come to this corner to attend mass and celebrate the founding of our church and school.  Many of the ancestors are in fact proud to be here.  All of the great religions can claim a home in Chicago.

We celebrate the culture of our colors as well.  Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, Native American Center, Du Sable Museum of African-American History all take pride in having a home here.  The events rooted in the background of color are a source of honor for many.  Indeed, Black Pride takes an important role in the cultural life of a city for more than just one month a year.  We are the proud home of the roots of jazz and blues and the unique contribution of black Americans to our nations music.  We are also proud to be the home of the first black president.

French visitor at Du Sable Museum, Chicago

If I was to pull up the calendar of events for the City of Chicago, I would likely find more celebrations of heritage than I could reasonably report in this space.  There is so much to be proud of that a simple report just would not suffice.  This weekend I would find one that you might question.  Many question it, and they should get an answer.

Why is there “Gay Pride?” Is this something to be proud of?  Why are so many people partying in the streets?  Why do we need a parade?  We don’t have Hetero Pride Day.  Why is this something special?  Sexual orientation does not seem like the thing to parade in the streets.  Who you love does not seem to be a reason for a parade, although perhaps it should be.

For a particular group of citizens who often felt isolated, it is important to come together to remember that you are not alone.  If your sexual orientation is not the majority, you are different.  If you grew up, as most did, afraid to express who you are, it is not unusual to come to celebrate the man or woman you tried to deny for many years.  Last year it was estimated that over 1 million people jammed the parade route in Chicago.  If the weather is good, we are likely to see the same again.

Pride Parade, Chicago

I have only been to the parade a few times.  It is long, boring, and overcrowded.  It seems every local politician is in the parade along with every large corporation that wishes to curry favor with the LGBT community.  The neighborhood has a perimeter that makes it difficult to get in and out for hours before the event, to hours afterward. Local business are crowded and it is tough to find a seat anywhere.

Despite that, a million people are proud to be there.

DID YOU SEE THE PICTURE? – RICH PASCHALL

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall

When Eddie went into the army, Marge and her husband Edgar decided to leave the Midwest and head for Arizona.  As each year had past, Edgar found the winters increasingly difficult and the summers impossible.  When the spring and fall brought allergies on and the summer humidity brought breathing difficulty, the decision was easy.  It was time to go south.

Marge received a transfer to a Mesa, Arizona store and Edgar was sure he would find work if only he could breathe easier.  They took their daughter with them, although she had reached 21 years of age.  She did not know what she wanted to do in life and a change of location seemed like a good idea.

Eddie had worked for two years after high school and then decided the army would be his best start in life.  After the army, he would use his benefits to go to college and make his life better.  While in the army, he lost weight, matured and became a handsome young man who made his parents proud.

Even though Marge was a rather conservative type, she learned to use social media and followed along on Facebook and twitter hoping to see more of Eddie.  He was on Facebook, but actually used it very little.  When he posted some pictures from a Middle East cook out with his fellow soldiers, his proud mother shared the pictures all over the internet.  Eddie did not post much after that.

Marge spent some time each day, and much time on her day off, posting on Facebook and reading internet articles.  She would “like” things she thought were good and sometimes comment on postings and news stories.  Although she did not consider herself very political, she did seem to agree more with Republican postings than anything else.  Her friends started avoiding posting political items to her page.  It was better that way.

Whenever Eddie was on leave from the service, he visited friends in Chicago and then went on to Phoenix to see his parents.  When Marge would ask Eddie what he did in Chicago and who he saw, she got vague answers.  Eddie said little about his personal life.  He told next to nothing about friends or the service.  His mother thought it was just a phase that young men go through.  She figured he would tell her a lot more when he got out of the army.

When he was nearing the end of his time in the service, Marge asked Eddie if he would join them Phoenix or return to the Midwest.  He told her he would move to Chicago.

“Chicago!” she exclaimed.  “Why do you want to move there?  It is not safe there.  It is expensive to live and the job market is not the best.  You can get a job here.  I can help you.”

“I want to go to school there,” Eddie explained.  “I have friends there.  I will get a job, don’t worry.”  He spent months assuring his mother he would be fine until the day came when he got his discharge and went home to Chicago. Eddie saw his mother’s Facebook postings on a regular basis and that only convinced him to keep his personal life to himself.

He got an apartment, a job and made friends.  He enrolled in a city college with his army benefits and was happy with his life.  He assured his mother that all was well. After following along on Facebook, Marge decided she did not like the direction the country was headed.  She did not like the liberal policies and she would definitely vote a more conservative ticket.  It was easy to find friends online who agreed.

One day, an old friend from the Midwest called Marge.  She was excited about the latest news and could not wait to talk to her old friend about it.

“Hello Marge, you must be so excited.  I must tell you I was so surprised.  Did you see the picture they just posted?”

“Picture?” Marge asked.  “What picture? What are you talking about?”

Her old friend just laughed.  “Why, the wedding picture of course!  Did you know they were going to city hall?  Did you know which day it would be?”

“Who are you talking about?” Marge demanded.  A long silence followed while Marge’s friend wondered if the whole matter was actually a secret.  It seems that Eddie was tagged in pictures by others, but he had posted nothing himself.  The friend thought carefully about what to say next.

“Oh, it is something I saw on Facebook.  Perhaps you should go look at a few pictures that Eddie is tagged in and we can talk later.  OK?”  After some vague promise to call back soon, the old friend hung up and Marge raced to her computer.

The PC started slowly and Facebook seem to take extra long to load up.  It was no different than usual, but this time the wait was maddening.  Finally Marge got online and found the pictures that her old friend referred to.  There was Eddie at City Hall getting married.

Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto

Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto

The fact that Eddie married without telling her in advance was upsetting.  The fact that she did not know the other person at all was also upsetting.  But the most surprising part of all was that the groom took another groom.  Her handsome, white, middle class son had married a handsome Hispanic man of about the same age.  In one picture, they were looking deep into one another’s eyes as if they were truly in love.

Marge was stunned.  She had no idea that Eddie was gay or loved the young man she had seen in the photos.

After she stared at the pictures for a while, she started reading back through her Facebook posts and “likes” to see if she had said anything negative about Hispanics or gays.

Related story: Seeing Things Differently

SEEING THINGS DIFFERENTLY – BY RICH PASCHALL

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall


All through senior year of high school, Eddie was telling everyone that he would be going on to college.  He had applied to a four-year university and to a “junior college” just in case he was not accepted or could not afford the university.  He received acceptance from both, a bit to his surprise, actually. While his parents, Edgar and Marge, were naturally quite pleased at Eddie’s acceptance, they advised him almost immediately that there was little they could do to help with the costs of college.  The best they could do was to allow him to continue to live at home for free and could not do much more.

Eddie got a part-time job in the last semester of high school and a full-time job after graduation.  His parents would not co-sign on a loan for the university and showed great reluctance to do so for the junior college.  Even though Eddie thought he could talk his father into signing for his student loan, he had heard all the nightmare stories about student debt and decided to pass on his dreams. When the decision to skip school was made final, his parents advised that an 18-year-old with a full-time job was expected to pay rent.  They did not ask a lot of Eddie, but since he was making little over minimum wage, it was impossible for him to save money for school.

Over the following two years, he kept in touch with some friends from high school, made new friends at work and enjoyed the life of a young man without commitments.

One day Eddie expressed his frustration to his good friend Carlos.  They were best buddies since senior of high school started.  Even though they were very close, he had never introduced Carlos to his parents.  He was not sure how they would treat him and he did not want any problems at home or with his buddy.  His friendship with Carlos was too important to risk any disrespect.

“This sucks,” Eddie said choking back tears, “this absolutely sucks.”

“I know,” Carlos replied, “but it won’t suck forever, you’ll see.  We’ll both have better jobs someday and it will all be good.”  Eddie did not appear to be buying it.  “Come on, man, smile a little.” Carlos made a funny face at Eddie who immediately broke into a big smile.  Eddie was not convinced, but at least Carlos knew how to make him smile.

As the first year after high school turned into the second, Eddie’s fortunes were no better off.  Older adults kept telling him he should join the army.  It was the place for young men trying to make their way.  He would be “whipped into shape.”  His father even chimed in that it would “make a man out of you.”  None of them seemed to realize that Eddie did not need to “find his way.” He needed money for school.

As the second post high school year wore on, Eddie figured out how to get money for school.  One day he told Carlos, “I am going to join the army.”  Carlos was stunned.  He could not believe Eddie would go away.  They discussed it for hours until Eddie convinced Carlos it was the only solution.

“Then I will save money the entire time you are gone,” Carlos announced, “and we will go to school together.  I swear I won’t spend a penny I don’t need to spend until you get back.”

Eddie joined the army.  His parents were proud.  Carlos worked hard.  All thought things were finally moving forward for all, although they did not all know one another.

After boot camp, Eddie returned home before being deployed to the middle east.  He lied about his return so he could spend the first day with Carlos.  When he left he promised to write and post pictures on-line and keep everyone up to date.  He worried how he was going to do that and keep his different circles separate.

After his parents moved to Arizona, Eddie’s mom became active on Facebook and encouraged Eddie to post pictures of his service.  Although there was much he could not show, he did post some barbecue pictures on Facebook that his mother immediately reposted all around and commented on each picture.  Eddie was embarrassed and decided never to do that again.  When anyone took pictures with Eddie in the group, he asked that no one tag him in the picture so no one at home could see them.

When he was on leave he would always fly to Chicago first to visit friends, especially Carlos.  Then he would go on to Phoenix and visit his parents who had finally moved there for a change of weather.  Eddie spoke little about the service and less about Chicago.  He had come to realize through his mother’s Facebook postings and occasional comments to him, that his best course of action to keep peace in the family was to say nothing.

After the service Eddie returned to Chicago, got a job, enrolled in school and became roommates with Carlos.  After saving his money carefully and working as hard as possible, Carlos also enrolled at the junior college, but not in all the same classes as Eddie.  They were chasing different dreams.

On spring break Eddie and Carlos, along with a few other friends, went to New Orleans by train.  One of the boys rented a car upon arrival and they all hung out for a few days.  It was there that Carlos made his move.

“Let’s get married when we go back home,” he said to Eddie.

“What?” his surprised mate responded.

“You are living in sin, you know, if you will not marry me.  I demanded a proper marriage.”  Carlos looked at Eddie with the most serious look he could give him.  Then they both laughed.

“Do you love me?”  Carlos inquired.

“Of course.”

“Then why not?”

City Hall, credit: Chicago architecture.info

City Hall, credit: Chicagoarchitecture.info

When they returned home, they got the license and made their plans.  On a Thursday afternoon, with Carlos’ two sisters joining them, the boys went to city hall.  They were married and the girls took pictures.

Neither Eddie or Carlos had ever been happier.  The sisters had some great pictures and one could not wait to share with friends and family.  She even posted some on Facebook and tagged the boys.

Eddie, however, could not think of anyone else he should tell about his happy day.

OVER AND OUT

A short story by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


It was not like Billy’s dad to just walk into his room. At 17 years old he really expected his parents to knock first. He quickly closed out of his chat and turned around to see what his father wanted.

“What’s up, dad?” Billy began.

“Son, I think there is something you should tell me.” Billy’s father paused and waited for a response. Billy was clueless. He could not think of a thing he should say, so there was this long awkward silence as the two of them shot puzzled looks at one another.

Billy’s father had noticed over the last two month’s the nature of his son’s friendship with a handsome young classmate named Josh. They went everywhere together. They studied together and they spent hours on the phone together. Going to the movies on a Saturday night was just like the dates Billy’s dad had with his wife when they were teenagers. Billy would spend a lot of time getting ready. He picked out his best date-night type clothes and he absolutely lit up when Josh appeared at the door. Dad felt he could not be mistaken.

empty chairs

“No, dad, I can’t think of anything,” Billy finally said in his best “I’m innocent” voice.

“Are you gay?” his father shot back. All of a sudden something heavy fell on Billy’s chest. It must have been the weight of reality hitting him. He was unprepared.

“Yes dad,” Billy responded as boldly as he could after the truth was already out there anyway.

“And this Josh fellow, is he your boyfriend?” Billy did not want to out Josh to his father but he figured that he somehow knew so he gave up that truth too.

“Yes, dad.” Once again they stared at one another until Billy could finally throw that weight off himself and speak up.

“So, it’s OK then?” Billy asked. His dad did not want to say “yes” because it was not alright with him, but he did not want to say “no” because he recalled how difficult teenage love could be and just figured that gay teenage love was even harder. After a few moments deep in thought, Billy’s dad had a course of action in mind.

“Son, I want you to tell your mother this week. Am I clear about that?”

“No dad, please,” the boy replied in horror. “Can’t you tell her?” If his dad was not all “open-arms” about this he could not imagine his mother’s reaction. She was far more right of center than dad.

“Billy, if you think you are old enough to be making out with another boy, you are certainly old enough to man-up and tell your mother exactly who you are.” At that, Billy’s dad left the room and quietly closed the door on the way out.

For the rest of the week, Billy was a nervous wreck. Every time he saw his mother he could feel a knot in his stomach. His father started shooting him angry glances for failing to tell his story. Billy did tell two people though, Josh and his sister, Mary. The latter was a tactical error, to be sure.

One night when they all happened to be at the dinner table at once, a rare occurrence for two busy parents and two teenagers, Mary could not hold her brother’s secret any longer.  “So, little Billy, did you tell mom yet that you’ve been kissing boys?”

Billy’s mom immediately looked like she had seen the ghost of her dear departed mother glaring at her. “Robert, did you know about this?” Billy’s mom shouted across the room at her husband. He did not respond but she could tell after twenty-three years of marriage what the response would be. “How dare you!” she screamed at either Billy or her husband, neither was quite sure, and then she stormed out of the room.

Over the next few weeks Billy parents argued often about why the boy was gay. Each thought the other had a hand in it, but only mom was mortified and angry beyond reason.

“If you had been a stronger father,” she took to telling him almost daily, “This would not have happened.”

To which he frequently responded, “I tried to discipline the boy but every time I did he would run to you and get off the hook. I would say you are the reason he’s a mamma’s boy.” From there it only got worse.

After one particularly stormy session, Billy’s mom finally declared she was through. “I want a divorce.  We can not continue these fights in front of the children.” Robert agreed and went to their room. A stunned Billy, eavesdropping in the next room, began to cry.

Robert called his brother and asked to stay a few days. He packed a bag and prepared to leave when Billy ran into his room. “No dad, please don’t leave. I am sorry, it’s all my fault.  I’ll change, I promise. I won’t be gay any more. Please.” Billy buckled at the knees and went down to the floor. His dad helped him up and sat him on the edge of the bed.

“Look son, my marriage was over years ago. It took something like this to point that out.  You can not change this anymore than I can change who you are.” At that he reached over to hug the boy. He planted a kiss on his forehead, got up, grabbed his bag and walked out the door.

A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE

A Romantic Player, by Rich Paschall


Let’s face it, Jon was a bit of a player.  In fact, he felt he had to be.  How else was a poor boy to get by in the world?  He had tried to make it in other ways.  Now he had to expand his possibilities in any way he could.  He was looking for a way up and out and the present circumstance did not provide it.

By the time Jon had reached his late teens, he decided he must move out of the small South American town where poverty was the only way of life.  He dreamed of the big city and when he got his chance to join an acrobatic troupe based in one of the largest cities, he was off.  High in the tropical mountains was a city of millions of people and Jon would join the many and hope for a better life.

A move to the city

A move to the city

He could not afford a place in the city, actually, so he took a small apartment in a poor suburb.  He kept the place neat and clean so that he could enjoy his few possessions in pleasant surroundings.  Jon trained and exercised daily for his job.  The troupe performed exhibitions and entered competitions.   Sometimes there was money, but for some competitions, there was nothing.

With his youthful good looks and confidence, Jon signed up with a modeling agency.  There was little placement for fashion models, but with his cute face and athletic body, they were sure they could get Jon into a certain type of modeling and even film career.  Jon was stunned at the suggestion and refused the work.  The agency encouraged him to come back if he ever changed his mind.

Up on the roof

Up on the roof

While standing on the roof of his apartment building and looking down on the rooftops and poor people below, Jon got an idea.  He had to meet new people.  He had a phone and could easily steal WiFi from in his apartment, so he decided to meet people and make friends from other areas, even other countries.  Since he thought the United States might be a good place, he decided to try to improve his little English and meet people.  Jon charmed his way into many lives under the guise of trying to learn the language.  He was really trying to find friends.

When there were some extra pesos in his pocket, Jon went to an area in the city that was frequented by tourists from other parts of the country and as well as “gringos.” Sometimes Jon went alone, sometimes with friends.  They would take a small table or sit at the bar in a popular night spot.  There the young and handsome men would accept drinks from older men or women tourists.  Sometimes they would get an offer to go back to a hotel for the evening.  Jon liked the free drinks, but declined the extra opportunity.  None of the people were right for him.  He did not want a one night stand, no matter what the offer.

Trolling for "friends"

Trolling for “friends”

While “borrowing” his internet connection from a neighbor, Jon started to become good friends with a few people he met online.  One stood out for Jon because he seemed to take a genuine interest in him as a person.  Jon talked with George about everything.  When chatting online Jon would use a program that would translate messages as they came in.  It is true it was not helping Jon learn English, but he did make more friends through faster communication.

George seemed special to Jon.  He told him all about the city where he lived.  He talked of his job and life.  He asked Jon about his life, his job and his interests.  No one else wanted to know anything about Jon like George did.   Soon Jon wanted to use something other than the language site to communicate.

“Can we use Google or Messenger or something else?”  And they did.  They followed each other on facebook and called on Messenger.

“Send me the camera, George.”

“What do you mean?’

“I want to see you.  I want to see where you live.”

So they made virtual visits until one day things changed.  Opportunity for Jon was at hand.  George had vacation to use and nowhere to go.

“Come to me, George.  I want to see you.  Please.  I like you so much.  Please.”

After a few days of pleading, George was hooked and scheduled a visit to a continent he never dreamed of travelling to.

When George arrived as promised, Jon did not seem to notice, or at least not to care, that George was much older.  They went around town like tourists and had a good time seeing the sites by themselves one night, and with some of Jon’s friends the next.  They were both pleased with the country, the city and with themselves.

Seeing the nightlife

Seeing the nightlife

Jon took advantage of the situation by offering to cook their meals rather than go to expensive restaurants.  Of course, they had to go to the markets where Jon made sure to get extra dry goods and fresh meats to last past George’s visit.  It was OK with George, even though he paid for it all.  He recognized what Jon was doing, but buying extra food for Jon was certainly cheaper than eating out every meal.  It was a win-win according to George.

When the brief visit was over, and George was at the airport, Jon cornered him down a hall way and told him that he loved him and thanked him for coming.  Then Jon looked around to be sure no one was watching before kissing him.  George was more than a bit surprised.

The next day Jon met with a favorite girl friend, Vanessa.  She asked Jon about the visit of the stranger from America.

“He is very nice,” Jon told her.  “I think I will marry him.”

Vanessa looked at him as if she did not understand at first.  Finally she spoke.

“What?”

 

Related: For George’s side of the story, see “I Love You (No You Don’t)”

ANGEL COMES OUT

It was not just the recent passing of the 20th anniversary of the brutal murder of Matthew Shephard that made me think back on the story that we first published two years ago (below).  It was also the rise of hatred we have seen in the recent political climate.  Prejudice and hatred can also lead to violence and even to death for some.  What causes someone to hate so much that he is willing to beat up a stranger, a friend or even his own son for being gay?


Based on the story that is sad, painful and true  
Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Angel was a handsome boy who had a secret he desperately needed to keep. By the age of 13 he knew what he liked and by 16, he had a boyfriend. He spent a lot of time with his boyfriend and his cover was always that he was working on his homework. No one knew that his homework included kissing another teenage boy.

When Angel would return home from his after school “homework sessions,” he would have his boyfriend drop him off 2 blocks from his house so his father would not see him kiss his boyfriend good-bye. One day, however, his father was behind him on the street and saw the boys from a short distance away. When Angel realized his father was watching he told his boyfriend to leave immediately.

“Are you going to be OK?” the boyfriend asked.

“I don’t know but you won’t be if you don’t get the hell out of here,” Angel cried. He grabbed his guitar and got out of the vehicle. His boyfriend sped away. He knew his father hated gay boys. When he was 13 the father told him if he ever found out he was gay, he would put him in the emergency room. He feared that might include his friend too.

Angel’s father drove his car across the road to where Angel was standing, got out and shouted at the boy. “Who the F is that?  Are you a faggot?” Angel said nothing and this angered his father. “I’m going to ask you again, are you a faggot?” the dad repeated. Angel could not deny being gay, but he knew admitting to it could actually be deadly. So his father hit him full force in the chest and asked again.  Angel said nothing and took a beating right there in the street. No one came to stop the father as he punched the boy over and over. Finally, the father threw Angel’s guitar in his truck and ordered the boy to get in. It seemed he drove 100 miles an hour the two blocks home.

Once inside the kitchen, Angel was backed up against the stove as the father again demanded to know if he was gay. Angel remembered the emergency room threat of three years earlier and said nothing. That did not save him. His father wailed away on the boy’s face and chest and arms and stomach. Angel became sick from the pain as the father kept it up.

“How can you do this to me?” the father shouted in extreme anger. At that Angel had to respond.

“How can I do this to you?” Angel cried out through his pain. “Look what you are doing to me right now.” The boy had suffered through a beating that mere words could not adequately explain as the father continued to batter him on his handsome face and anywhere else he could reach.

Angel then started inching his way toward the sink while he was being hit. He knew his father would demand his phone and there were definitely pictures he did not want his father to see. There was a bucket of water in the sink and his plan was to drop the phone in the bucket. He did not get there. The father demanded the phone. After he took it from the boy he sent him up to his room. Soon the father arrived in the room and declared in an angry voice, “You will stop this. I did not raise a faggot in this house. Is that understood?”

Angel swallowed his pride. He was sick and bleeding and could not take another punch. “Yes,” he cried. At that the father left the room but warned he would be back soon. He had not seen the phone pictures yet, and had to go with Angel’s stepmom to pick up the step sisters.

The boy cried. He cried like he had never cried in his entire 16 years. He was in pain, he was bleeding and he was called a “faggot.” To Angel, being called a faggot was as bad as the beating.

He knew he had to get out. He could not call the police. His father was a cop. So he searched frantically for an abuse hotline number he got at school. He stumbled down the stairs and called. Shaking and in fear, he tried to urgently explain what happened before his father returned. The hotline operator sounded like an angel to the boy and asked if there was somewhere safe he could go. Angel mentioned the parents of a person he recently met. They got the mother on the phone and explained the circumstance.  Angel was instructed to pack some clothes and leave.  The friend’s mother would meet him a few blocks away on the corner.

Angel threw a few items in a bag and ran for his life.  His face was bleeding.  His stomach and chest were in severe pain and his legs were weak.  He tried to run but his legs did not seem to want to go.  It was the longest journey of his life. He wanted to go faster.  “Please get me there.” he thought.  When the corner was in sight, Angel willed himself forward.  He had to make it.  He truly felt his life depended on it.  But when he got to a liquor factory parking lot, he stumbled and fell to the ground.  Battered, bruised and bleeding, Angel could fly no further. There he lay wondering what would become of him.

His friend and her mother spotted him from the corner and ran to his aid. They helped him to her car and took him home. There she did what Angel could not. She called the police. They came and took one look at Angel and called for an ambulance. Angel’s father had successfully carried out his promise. He put his gay son in the emergency room.

The story does not end there. Angel recovered from his injuries. Things got better for him. In future years he was able to forgive the father who could have beaten him to death if there had been a little more time. Eventually, the father realized what he had done to a son he thought he loved, and asked for forgiveness. Now as a young adult, Angel has the courage to tell that painful story, because there is a lesson in it for teens facing danger just for kissing someone of the same-sex.

Note:  I did not know Angel or speak to him in advance.  After this story was written, I found him and asked him to read it.  He had not thought about it for a while so I felt bad for bringing it to him.  He said it was OK, and liked it.  “You captured the day pretty on point.” If you wish to see Angel tell the complete story himself, you can find it below. For more thoughts on A Coming Out Story and the Trevor Project, check out this past article.

FIRST PRIDE PARADE

On June 28, 1969, we went to see a play with a group of friends. When the show ended, we left the theater to fine the street full of people. Crowded. It was the first ever New York Pride Parade … and we were there — accidentally — but there. 

Photo: Alexander Thompson

Photo: Alexander Thompson

I’ve been seeing pictures from Pride Parades taking place all over the world. With all the hate rhetoric and negativity we are seeing these days, it’s encouraging to see how the concept of Gay Pride has spread all around the world. It’s a much-needed antidote to the awfulness of the rest of the political scene.

Gay-Pride-Parade-NY-2013_001

The narrow-minded, stupid, loud-mouths of the world make the most noise. So much noise, that sometimes they drown the rest of us out, as if we don’t really exist. We exist. We care. We aren’t going away.