LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth
Gay 'n Gray
|by John D. Siegfried|
|Some of My Best Friends...
Gentlemen's Agreement, a blockbuster novel published in 1947 was an expose of anti-Semitism in the upper crust of society. It was translated into thirteen languages, was an instant literary success, and perhaps was the most important work of Laura Hobson's distinguished career.
In the promotion of her book Ms. Hobson, an agnostic by faith but Jewish by origin, was the guest speaker at a prestigious Westchester County Country Club which, at the time, was totally WASP. In the pre-address chit-chat discussion of the book and its explosive topic, the impeccably coiffed matron who sat beside Ms. Hobson and who was the luncheon chairwoman leaned toward her conspiratorially and said, "You know some of my best friends are Jews." Ms. Hobson's reply was, "Yes, some of mine toomy mother and my father."
I've always loved that line and I've often wanted to use itbut with an appropriate adaptation. "You know some of my best friends are STRAIGHTmy mother and my father."
The fact that straights have trouble accepting and/or identifying with gays is no surprise to those of us who are gay or lesbian. And it's no surprise to Rehoboth residents who were around when CAMP Rehoboth was founded nearly two decades ago. But I have a theory.
I was reminded of my theory a week ago when I left a meeting of the Fort Lauderdale Writers' Group, an amorphous collection of men and women who meet regularly to critique each other's literary attempts. There were six or seven men in the group and an equal number of women but after the sessionno one spoke with me. Over the six months that I've been attending the group, four or five of the women have spoken with me on occasion, but only one of the men.
I've switched deodorants several times and I no longer wear my tight black leather shorts with a matching harness. Now my pink boa remains at home and I wear jeans and work boots to impress my associates with my masculine bona-fides. Seriously, I look like any of the other guys in the groupgray, balding, and a bit paunchybut they all know I'm gay. I told them so. At the first meeting I attended when I introduced myself to the group I mentioned that I write a column, Gay 'n Gray, for Letters From CAMP Rehoboth and briefly described CAMP Rehoboth and its mission.
My experience with the writers' group isn't, however, really new. I've long been aware that when I'm a token homosexual in mixed straight groups, women will relate to me better than men. In part that's because I'm more conversant on music, theater, gardening, and decorating than I am on MLB, NFL and NASCAR. But I think there's a deeper reasonwhich leads to my theory. Regrettably, I have no solid data to back my hypothesis. I only have my experience and the experience of other gay men I've spoken with.
Straight women relate well to gay men because they're not threatened. They know that a gay man isn't trying to get into their pants. Straight men relate poorly to gay men because they are threatened. Perhaps the threat is less a fear of sexual advances and more a residual memory of the blow job they furtively gave or received in the high-school locker room or a fragment of feeling from an unresolved crush on a scout leader or coach. Furthermore, straight guys are fearful that association with a gay man, even socially, might subject them to guilt by association. Perhaps the disease is catching. Someone might think that they are gay. Or, like Senator Larry Craig they'll have to publicly acknowledge, "I'm not gayI'm not!"
Having said all that, I can still say that some of my best friends are straight men. But in my experience, the only straight men who relate easily to gay men are guys who are totally comfortable in their heterosexuality. I'm no threat to them any more than I am to their wives or girlfriends. But there aren't too many males of that subspeciesheterosexual homosapiens comfortabulusaround. Many straight guys carry an unresolved tinge of lavender from an earlier time and when they meet a gay man who is comfortable in his own skinthey're threatened.
Now back to Laura Hobson. She was a feminist before feminism was a gleam in Bella Abzug's eye. Hobson refused alimony in the early thirties when she divorced after five years of marriage. She found alimony demeaning of her ability to care for herself. She adopted a son and then, after an unexpected out-of-wedlock pregnancy, she delivered a son under a false identity. Later, she adopted her biological son. She didn't want her adopted first son to feel less important than her biological child so she became the adoptive mother of her biological child in order to keep a level playing field.
One of her sons eventually came out as gay and Hobson had to personally face her own homophobia just as her protagonist in Gentlemen's Agreement had to face anti-Semitism. She incorporated that experience into her 1975 novel Consenting Adults.
Yes, some of my best friends are straight. I wish Laura Hobson were among them.
John Siegfried lives in Ft. Lauderdale but maintains close ties to Rehoboth Beach. Email email@example.com.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 18, No. 07 June 13, 2008