when i came out things were not as they are today.
i came out in a crisis.
in 1992 great numbers of my community were dying
for the government
to do something
the disease of AIDS was called a just punishment by god for our sinful behavior.
although that year did see progress in the election of president clinton, it also saw the repeal of lgbt discrimination laws in maine and florida, with colorado voting to ban all such laws in their state completely.
i was sure that my father would take issue, conservative republican that he is.
he didn’t, though.
in fact, he surprised me.
“well, you know your uncle carlos is gay.”
“you never thought anything of the fact that they always had only one bedroom?”
i had always thought bob was one of the brothers.
i grew up calling him “uncle.”
but no one ever said the word, “gay.”
i remember going to a family function not long after.
i knew my uncle carlos would be there
and i wanted to tell him
to let him know
to reach out.
it was a different time then.
so i wore my rainbow necklace, five metal triangles, all different colors of the rainbow.
over a shirt and tie, of course.
when he saw them he asked facetiously,
“and what are those, mandy.”
“i think you know, uncle carlos.”
they had always lived away from los angeles, for the most part, making their home in san miguel de allende, mexico.
whenever they would come to town, though, i’d make a point to see them.
we’d sit in my aunt josephine’s living room for hours
my uncle carlos asking me about my life
bob and i talking about literature
and me asking what is was like for them
way back when.
|my uncle carlos is wearing the choice plaid pants, bob is seated in the middle in the black shirt, i’m in drag holding a tiny instrument.|
bob and carlos met in 1955, if i remember correctly. bob thought he was too young, but carlos persisted. their first date was at a carnival in l.a and they were together ever since.
bob was older, born in the twenties, i assume, because he served in world war ii.
i’d ask him about living in new york city in the fifties
and he’d tell me stories of the literary salons he’d attended in the village
how the lesbians were always angry
and many of his friends drank too much.
he talked about living in the shadows,
the consequence of the fear of discovery.
they were together until bob’s passing a few years ago
and although they were devoted to one another for fifty years
they did not have the right to legally marry.
we have come a long way in these last twenty years,
an seemingly insurmountable distance from the day that bob and carlos first met.
i smile, too, knowing there is another of us in the family,
the next generation.
and although i am skeptical
i can only hope that this will mark another mile in our journey of progress,
the strata for those who come next to build on.