As I left the scene of GLO (Girls’ Lunch Out) this afternoon, I was hailed by a church friend I’ve gotten chummy with over the past season. It was interesting to see each other “away from the Establishment,” as he put it—interesting because he was in the mood to pour out some personal information, and I was in the mood to listen. Among other things, he talked about being gay (“You knew I was gay, right? Couldn’t you tell? I mean, didn’t you ever wonder?”) but quickly corrected himself and said he didn’t like to use that term because it tries to define who he is rather than simply what he feels, which is “same-gender attraction,” a passion he’s decided he no longer wants to indulge. He’s been clean, so to speak, for two years and some change. We knocked knuckles in celebration. Hey, we all have something we need to keep a lid on, he said, in essence.
He told me that he’s finally finished with trying to “do women”, and that being gay (the term remains for him a convenient if misleading shorthand) isn’t a bad thing. It isn’t wrong to simply feel what he feels. Feeling isn’t doing. He can be righteous; he can be close to God, and he’s relieved he doesn’t have to get married to achieve that. He’s moving to San Francisco in six months. I’m sorry he’s leaving. He said he needs to go somewhere he can make an actual living writing about art and culture. How will going there be for you, I asked, considering your resolve to abstain? He thinks it will work. He just has to get prepared in other ways, like laying aside the self-medicating he does to soothe his mental illness and loneliness. If he can quit “hitting the bottle” and get himself together and ready, he knows he can handle it. He has friends. He has a fabulous dog, “the dog of my life.”
He confessed to me that while he was still trying to do women, he spotted me at church and asked a friend’s wife, “Who is that—the one who looks like a university professor?” (Explaining to me: “I don’t like floozies.”) I was the one female, he said, who really did it for him. “But then, there was your husband,” he said, “so I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” I already knew he loves the actress Isabelle Huppert and that I remind him of her. (“She doesn’t even have to speak because she can communicate so well with her eyes.”) He told me that the woman who does it for him most of all is NBC’s Ann Curry. If he could get Ann Curry, things would be different. He stayed up all night once last week watching her on YouTube.
When we were about to part company I told him I was going to stop in to visit a friend downtown, someone I thought we both knew. “Is he cute?” he giggled. The name I dropped didn’t ring any bells, so I described the fellow as being slightly teddy bearish. My friend laughed at this, telling me there is a whole classification of gays called bears and described several of its subsets—almost too much information. He vehemently warned me away from Mister Bear pageants, and pride celebrations. “People take their kids to those! Children shouldn’t see some of that stuff. You shouldn’t see it. Nobody should. It’s way over the top.” His eyes grew strained as he spoke.
He feels that the Church is actually enlightened about gays, compassionate. He praised a talk by Apostle Jeffrey R. Holland. He is grateful, and hopeful. I am astonished by all my friend carries through life. I love him more than ever for this greater revelation of his intelligence, endurance, and faith. I understand deep wounds, the need for behavioral lids, and the surrender of certain aching dreams, but—honestly?—I have no idea. “People have been telling me,” he said, “‘Hey, man, I voted for you—I voted for Proposition 8!’” He shrugged at this, laughed ironically, and looked into my eyes, perplexed. “‘Why?’ I ask them, ‘I don’t want to marry a guy! Marriage is . . . marriage.’”