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What Did I Know?

The truth is...not much. I've always been what some might call naive, missing clues all around me. Maybe that's why I've never been one to read mysteries, I miss the subtleties.

Such was the case with our dear son Matthew, who seems to be showing up a lot this week in my narrative. In hindsight, I still don't think I would have got it. I noticed that Matt was unlike most of the boys in his class, however, I chalked that up to his genius. I was wrong, it was more a combination of genius and homosexuality. Why you wonder am I writing about this today?

Clever readers know.

Yes, I watched Milk last night and was overwhelmed with feelings. First off, I'm so grateful for Harvey Milk and his vast army of supporters without whom things today might be a whole lot different. Imagine this happening forty years ago: India. I can't, but then again I was really unaware, for the most part, of gay people for a long time. Being fairly young when Stonewall occurred, I'm sure I was completely ignorant that there were people in this country fighting for the same rights as I so blithely took for granted. As a matter of fact, they still are, fortunately, not to the same degree as then. The fight for equal rights continues....

Particularly chilling is the Anita Bryant part, and the fight to dis-allow homosexuals to teach in public schools. Ironic that all the school sex scandals I read about involve heterosexuals isn't it?

Harvey Milk urged his fellow gay people to come out of the closet, something quite daring for the times. He wanted people to know that they probably already knew and loved a homosexual person, that they were not to be the object of fear and loathing.

I can never fully understand how hard that is for some folks; it's said, and I believe it is true, that until you experience something for yourself, it remains difficult to empathize completely. That said, I've never asked Matt how hard it was for him to tell us. Now, I'm wondering about that.

Those who know Bruce, know that he is an amazing man, so amazing in fact, that Matt told him first. I will never forget that Sunday when he called from London while living there on his student visa. He was 20 years old, living in a hostel, and working a temp job. Every Sunday he called from the payphone, and we'd chat for a while. This particular day he wanted to talk to Bruce. I remember Bruce in the garage, looking quite serious during the conversation. As I recall, he handed me the phone and said Matt wants to tell you something. Matthew gently said, "I'm seeing someone, and it is not a girl." My response was, "Oh Matty, I'm so afraid." You see, by that time I knew just a bit more about homosexuals.

The year was 1988, and I was working in a hospital with a sizable amount of AIDS patients. Very few infectious disease physicians would treat AIDS patients exclusively, but Dr. Roberts was one who did, admitting them all to our hospital. At the time I was taking all types of x-rays; more often than I liked, I was called to a dying patient's bedside to x-ray their chest. It wasn't that I didn't want to be around them, it was that their stories were so heartbreaking. Even writing about it now brings tears to my eyes. I'll never forget one young man whose x-ray I took on a Saturday. When I came downstairs to develop it I didn't know what to do when I saw the film. His one lung had shrunk to the size of a kidney. Knowing as I did that his doc would probably come in later to see it, by which time he might be dead, I called the radiologist at home, describing what I saw. Ultimately it didn't save him, but it did that day. Sadly, they all died. Gut wrenching stuff for a softie like me.

So, that is what I was afraid of. Allaying my fears, he said he'd done nothing to be afraid of. I believed him, but I won't lie to you, I was still very, very sad.

I cried for several days, thinking that people would hate my son because he was gay when I knew that he is an amazing person (still is, for that matter). Truth be told, I'm crying right now, never having expressed myself before on the subject. At the time there was a fairly young pastor at the church we attended. He paid me a visit and got through to me in short order, reminding me that Matt was an educated man and would most likely spend his life around people to whom it wasn't a big deal. I then educated myself, the best I could, on the subject, finding out that many of the most famous and influential people have been gay.

Bruce, God bless him, was a rock.

Sadly, there are still young people who fear telling their parents, in fact, Matt dated one for quite a while. I feel so sorry for them, having to keep that part of their lives secret. I feel blessed that Matt felt he could tell us, even more so, that he told his dad first. That says an awful lot, doesn't it?

Listening to: New Order - True Faith '94
via FoxyTunes

Listening to: New Order - True Faith '94
via FoxyTunes

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