David Bruce: Homosexuals Anecdotes

• On October 11, 2008 (Coming-Out Day), a Daily Kos reader who is a PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Mother and who posted using the name “1864 House,” wrote about how she acquired two gay sons. Her two straight daughters were the results of hours of birth pains, but her two gay sons were not. Her first gay son (her daughter’s best friend) became hers after he came out at age 16. The PFLAG mother writes, “He didn’t talk about his situation at home too much, but we weren’t surprised when he went home one night and found all his belongings in black plastic trash bags in the back yard. […] The only logical response was to put my arms around him and ask, ‘What color do you want to paint your room?’ He chose purple. And we chose a son.” Her second gay son became hers when her first gay son brought home a gay boy (“R”) who was on the streets. This second gay boy was thinking about buying a bus ticket to San Francisco, hoping to be lucky enough to find a place to stay there. The PFLAG mother writes, “We talked to R and convinced him to stay with us for at least a couple of days so we could help him figure out a better, safer plan. He ended up staying for five years, until he moved to the Twin Cities to finish school.” Now, all of her children—two straight daughters and two gay sons—are in their late 20s and have moved from her home—and she and her husband are still active in promoting acceptance of gay people. She concludes, “I am proud to say that someone I love is gay.”

• In 1983, during Thanksgiving weekend, Catholic parents Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata discovered that their oldest son, Jim, a sophomore in college, was lonely. He told his mother, “Mom, I’m lonely. I’m lonely for another man.” This was how Mary Ellen realized that her son was gay, and she told him that his being gay didn’t matter and that she loved him. He asked, “Then why are you crying?” She replied, “I don’t know.” His father didn’t know much what to say to him. He asked, “Are you sure?” and “Can you change?” Then he remained silent, wondering if his oldest son could be gay and still be a Catholic. As it turned out, Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata took a long time — nine years — to be comfortable while being open about having a gay son, but eventually they did become comfortable. In addition, they rejected neither their son nor their religion. In fact, Mary Ellen wrote a book titled Fortunate Families: Catholic Families with Lesbian Daughters and Gay Sonsabout Catholics learning to be open about having gay children. Together, she and her husband founded a group called Fortunate Families to help Catholic parents with gay children. Casey and Mary Ellen Lopata believe that their family has been fortunate in having a gay son, and they believe that having a gay son has made them better Catholics.

• Celebrity publicist Howard Bragman has helped a number of actors and athletes to come out of the closet. One of the actors was Dick Sargent, who played the second Darren on the TV sitcom Bewitched. After Mr. Sargent made his decision to come out, Mr. Bragman arranged for Entertainment Tonightto interview him. This made Mr. Sargent laugh because he figured that Entertainment Tonightwould not be interested; after all, it had been years since he had been on TV. However, Entertainment Tonightwas interested, and after the interview appeared Mr. Sargent received many, many letters thanking him for coming out of the closet and living his life honestly. In addition, he started getting a lot more acting jobs. Mr. Bragman says, “Typically, when actors come out, good things happen. In fact, every person I worked with who came out ended up happier in their new life.”

• If you are a gay boy, having a lesbian for a sister can be advantageous, and vice versa. World-famous Barney’s window-dresser Simon Doonan grew up knowing he was gay, and his sister discovered that she was a lesbian later in her life. They often traded gifts. He would say to her, “I’ll give you this toy airplane if you’ll give me your plastic lacy parasol.” And she would say to him, “I’ll give you my golliwog, the one in the gingham dress with the two rows of rickrack on the hem, if you’ll give me your toy shovel.” While they were kids, they played Robin Hood and Maid Marian. She was Robin Hood, and he was Maid Marian.

• Both comedian Amy Poehler and singer Liza Minnelli have huge gay fan bases. Ms. Poehler and a pregnant friend saw a concert by Ms. Minnelli and afterward they visited Ms. Minnelli in her dressing room. Ms. Poehler says, “I told my friend, who was pregnant at the time, that Liza had to bless her baby so that it would either be gay or be a big supporter of the gays for the rest of his or her life.”Ms. Minnelli agreed. She put her head down by the pregnant friend’s belly and sang a couple of slightly altered lines from Cabaret: “What good is sitting alone in your womb? Come hear the music play!”

• Len Evans, a publicist for Project Publicity, came out to his mother on a Thanksgiving Eve. He and his mother were watching an episode of Will and Gracein which the gay character Jack is trying to hide his gayness from his mother, and his friends Grace and Karen are pretending to be his girlfriends. Len’s mother turned to him and said, “This show reminds me of you and your friends. Is there something you want to tell me?” He then admitted that he was gay. He says, “She hugged me and said she had been waiting for me to tell her for years. I guess it’s true that a mother always knows….”

• “I grew up in San Francisco. I know many same-sex families. I tell people, ‘They raise their children the same way you do — they love them. There are many kinds of family, not just the Norman Rockwell kind.’”—comedian Robin Williams.


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David Bruce: Homosexuals Anecdotes


Rugby legend Gareth Thomas is 6-foot-3 and 16 stone of muscle, and in 2005 he captained Wales to its first Grand Slam victory since 1978. Also, he’s gay. For a long time, he tried to live his life as if he were straight, but he was not able to. Eventually, he told his wife, Jemma, that he was gay, and they split up. On November 4, 2006, after a rugby game, he started crying in the locker room, and coach Scott Johnson asked him, “What’s up?” Mr. Thomas replied, “Me and Jemma have split.” Mr. Johnson then said, “Oh no, what’s happened?” Then he said, “I know what’s happened — I know what it is.” He had guessed that Mr. Thomas is gay. They went into another room, and Mr. Thomas confessed that he was gay. Mr. Thomas says, “After keeping it secret for so long, I felt a huge rush of relief.” Mr. Johnson then told him, “Right, I’ve got to speak now to three or four players in the Welsh team because you need the boys to surround you and support you. You can’t cope with this on your own.” Mr. Thomas sat in a bar, waiting for some of his teammates to show up and wondering what they would tell him. His teammates Stephen Jones and Martyn Williams showed up, patted him on his back, and said, “We don’t care. Why didn’t you tell us before?” Mr. Thomas says, “Two of my best mates in rugby didn’t even blink an eyelid. Martyn said he never had a clue, would never have thought it. I felt everyone was protecting me and closing in tight around me. No one distanced themselves from me, not one single person.”

World-famous makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin was a very out gay man. In interviews, he would mention his boyfriend and he would also talk about the problems that gay teens faced. Sean Byrnes, the stylist for covers of Cosmopolitan, was impressed by exactly how out Kevyn was in public: “He would take the subway to the studio wearing a long hot-pink coat! I told him he was going to get killed, but he didn’t care.” Instead, Kevyn simply said, “I’m gay and I’m proud of it.” Sean adds, “What he did for gay rights and gay youth was extraordinary.” By the way, gay youth do need help. Kevyn grew up in a homophobic area in which he heard the local Catholic priest rail about the evil of homosexuality. Young Kevyn was afraid that he would grow up to be either a rapist or a child molester. Instead, he grew up to be a good-deed doer, donating his make-up skills to celebrities who were raising money for good causes. By the way, Kevyn once gave a pair of fancy Chinese pajamas to a gay friend who was dying of AIDS. The hospital nurses helped the friend walk the hallways so he could show the Chinese pajamas to everyone. Of course, we should note that other people helped Kevyn. When he first moved to New York City to find success, he was severely impoverished and severely hungry. Kevyn was trying to be successful as a make-up artist, and some of his friends at Ford Models who knew of his plight used to take him out for expense-account lunches.

A drag queen named Ron remembers the 1960s when the police raided gay clubs in New York. Whenever a police raid occurred, an employee of the club would turn on a light to alert the patrons, who would stop dancing and start pretending to be straight. He says that you would throw your wig behind a chair and rip off your eyelashes, adding, “You would grab a diesel dyke and pretend she was your girlfriend.” At one raid at Greene’s Dance Studio in Brooklyn, other people ran, but Ron was wearing a very tight dress that made it impossible for him to run, leading to his arrest. He was dressed as Jane Russell at the time, and a photograph appeared in a newspaper with this headline: “Jane Russell is a Man.” Years later, he told the story to the real Jane Russell, who sent him a photograph with the inscription “To us Janes, God bless us.”

Singer/songwriter Levi Kreis is gay and religious, and he went through a long period of praying to be “cured” of his gayness before finally accepting it. When he had just arrived in Los Angeles, he went to see Del Shores’ play Southern Baptist Sissies, which is about four gay boys growing up in a Baptist community. At the intermission, he was crying because, he says, “I didn’t realize that my story was the story of other people. I was floored.” Sitting behind him was a man who asked him if he was OK. Mr. Kreis replied, “I don’t know who wrote this play, but it’s just tearing me apart!” The man then said, “I wrote it. Hi. I’m Del Shores.” Mr. Shores also said, “You can come back and see this play as many times as it takes you to put your past behind you.” Mr. Kreis says, “I think I went to see the play 36 times!”

In Great Britain, a radio show titled Writing the Century is based on the diaries and letters of real people from the fairly recent past. One episode focused on Steven, who in the late 1970s was an 18-year-old gay man whose best friends dressed like girls and used the names Chrissy and Gloria. One day, Chrissy and Gloria visited a jobs centre, and the interviewer asked whether they really thought that they would get jobs dressed “like that.” Chrissy and Gloria asked, “Like what?” The interviewer replied, “High heels and red plastic trousers.”

Financial guru Suze Orman is an out lesbian — now. When she was about 12 years old, the very first rumor that she was a lesbian surfaced. She denied it. Years later, in her first year of college, she knew she was a lesbian, so she went to the person who had spread the rumor and said, “Laurie, remember that rumor you started about me years ago? Well, that was true.”


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David Bruce: Anecdotes About Homosexuals



Pratibha Parmar, the director of Nina’s Heavenly Delights and other movies, finds her content in subjects such as lesbians, women and South Asians. She has a happy relationship with her partner, and her movie Nina’s Heavenly Delights tells a positive lesbian love story. She says, “In my own life I have a very happy, full relationship with my partner. I’ve had that for many years, and I know many other lesbians who do, so why do we always have to be portrayed as psychos or dysfunctional women? Why [are we not portrayed] just like anyone else? We fall in love and yeah, we go through our struggles, but also we have a potential to live happily ever after.” By showing positive portrayals of lesbians, Nina’s Heavenly Delights reflects reality. For example, in the summer of 2006, Ms. Parmar and her partner attended a civil partnership ceremony for two lesbians they know. She says, “The two women were both Indian, and they’d had their outfits made and embroidered in India. Both their families were there, their uncles and their aunts and their mums and dads and their nephews, kids running around. It was like a typical Indian wedding except that there were two brides. Now that is progress. That is change. So my film [Nina’s Heavenly Delights] isn’t just complete fantasy; things like that do happen.”

NBC News Washington correspondent John Yang is highly respected, very traveled, and completely gay. He could pass as straight, but he chooses not to, saying, “There are certain things about myself that are immutable, and some of them are obvious. I’m Asian. I mean, anyone who sees me on the air or hears my last name knows that. And in a way, I felt that I can’t pass as not being Asian, so why should I pass as being straight?” Many conservative politicians really don’t care if someone is gay, although you may not be able to tell that from their public pronouncements. After a conservative Republican senator (unfortunately, not named) read an article in which Mr. Yang’s sexual orientation was mentioned, he called Mr. Yang and said, “John, I saw that thing about you in the magazine. I just want to tell you it doesn’t make any difference to me. You’re still the best damned reporter I’ve ever dealt with.” The senator then asked, “I haven’t said anything wrong, have I?” Mr. Yang replied, “No, Senator. You said just the right thing.”

The TV series Xena: Warrior Princess boasted not one, but two, lesbian icons. Lucy Lawless (Xena) and Renee O’Connor (Gabrielle) enjoyed a relationship with a serious lesbian subtext. Attending a convention of Xena fans, Ms. Lawless appeared and informed the crowd that Xena had recently been voted the number-two most-loved lesbian icon in the world. She then asked, “Would you like to meet number one?” No fools, the crowd—mostly composed of lesbians—screamed yes, and Ms. O’Connor walked on stage—to more screams. Of course, both Ms. Lawless and Ms. O’Connor have male fans. After Ms. O’Connor’s character was voted the number-one most-loved lesbian icon in the world, she posted a message on the WWW thanking all of her female fans for voting for her. A number of male fans wrote back, posting messages that said, “’Wait a minute, we voted for you, too!”

On June 1, 2007, William Sledd (of youtube.com “Ask a Gay Man” fame) posted a video on youtube.com to celebrate Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. As part of the celebration, he asked other gays and lesbians to post videos on youtube.com to tell other people that they are proud—and in some cases to come out of the closet. (When Mr. Sledd told his friends in high school that he was gay, their reaction was, “We know.”) His video resulted in an outpouring of videos from gays and lesbians—and from their straight supporters. One lesbian posted a video response in which she spoke about coming out—at age 12—to her mother. Her mother was OK with it and told her, “I still love you.” For a while, the 12-year-old was unaware that homophobia existed in this world. As an adult woman, she says today, “How wonderful is that!”

Air America Radio host Rachel Maddow decided to come out of the closet in a very public way when she was a student at Stanford. In every bathroom in her residence hall, she posted signs announcing that she was a lesbian—by the end of 24 hours everyone in her residence hall knew her sexual orientation. The school newspaper even published an article saying that she was one of the only two out lesbians in the freshman class. Ms. Maddow says, “Funnily enough, only one other person was out, and she was not one of the many girls I was sleeping with.”

Like heterosexual couples, gay couples have stories about how they got engaged. In 2004, on New Year’s Eve, Amber and Carol were playing Trivial Pursuit with two friends. When the clock struck midnight, Carol knelt and tried to propose—she tried because in the middle of the proposal, Amber yelled, “You’re doing it now? It’s happening now?” Yes, it was happening, and yes, Amber said yes. Today, Amber and Carol share the last name of Dennis after getting married on July 4, 2006.

Among the dumb beliefs many people have held about gays and lesbians (about as dumb as the belief in the secret handshake) is that gays and lesbians wear green on Thursdays, aka Fairy Day. In the 1960s, this belief amused Nancy Garden, the future author of the lesbian love story Annie on My Mind (it has a happy ending!). She wore green every day she attended school because her school uniform was green.

The first National Coming Out Day for homosexuals was held on October 11, 1988. This day was chosen because October 11 was the date on which the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt was first shown, and because it is the birthday of Eleanor Roosevelt, a champion of human rights for all.

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