Back in California, at Wholeness, after visiting family, I was on an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes I would be so happy at the wonder that had come into my life. Sometimes, such as riding in the station wagon on the highway going into town, I would have to just roll down the window, stick my head out, and scream.
Deva and Carpenter were excellent counselors, natural at it. I guess it’s a counselor thing never to tell a person what’s what. The person has to figure it out for himself, walk his own path.
I had told them everything that had gone on, but they never said I was gay. I did not call myself gay. It just didn’t seem to fit. Gay was, well, like those guys I had seen in college. Flipping wrists, and expressive mannerisms, and, well, just not like me. Something was going on, but I didn’t “feel gay”.
I could say that I was in love. And it was with a man. But that’s as far as I could go. For the first time in my life, all the songs on AM radio made sense. The sweet ones, but also the broken hearted ones.
I went on long walks by myself and thought about things. I took out old keepsakes, like the pendant I had made when I was biking cross country, a chip of granite with a lichen on it, from the Colorado mountains. I laid it on the black stone at the lookout rock, and went away and left it there. It was a time of changes.
I thought about Adrian every minute of every day.
Sometimes, Carpenter would come home from somewhere he’d been, and share with me a juicy gay joke he’d just heard. He always did this with great glee.
Nowadays, if someone asks me what I think of gay jokes, I reply, “I’ve never heard a gay joke. They’re all just butt-fuck jokes.” You know, demeaning, insulting, maybe witty, but always predicated on how cracked and sex-obsessed the gay character is.
I couldn’t figure out why Carpenter was doing this. Then I remembered something.
Deva and Carpenter’s first three adopted kids were mixed racial, one parent black and one parent white. Carpenter told me a story, appalled, of what had happened when he and Deva had taken their kids to visit conservative relatives in the South. “They would tell the kids nigger jokes!” he said. He shook his head.
I guess he didn’t realize he was doing the same thing.
Ever after, it has helped me. When someone says something, seemingly insulting, about me being gay, I have an easier time stepping back and looking into it with wisdom.
Very often, maybe always, they were really trying to connect. They were trying to deal with this strange new idea of gay. They did it the only way they knew how. They brought to it what they had, which was often only lame stereotypes and awful jokes.
Once, years later, at a gay and lesbian campout, I was piqued to notice the folks there were breaking the ice — by telling each other the most horrible gay jokes.
Decades later, I had a boyfriend, and it was his first year of coming out. He had had a very rough time of it, as he was naturally very masculine. He’d had huge inner conflicts: Did his secret desire for men made him akin to the likes of drag queens?
But now he was coming out with a bang. He’d told everybody in his family. One time he complained to me that someone, maybe his grandfather, hadn’t accepted it yet. I thought about it and advised, “Give him some time. Think how long it took you to accept it yourself.”