Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Friday, June 8, 2012

In response to Gawker's 'Mormon Gay' post

Quick explanation: someone asked in this post on Gawker  how one could reconcile their own religion with their own sexual orientation (in this Gawkerian case, the religion is Mormonism, and the orientation is gay. Added bonus is that the gay guy is happily married to a woman. Hi ho.)

I knew a guy once. He recently died of a brain tumor. He was a music professor at a university in my hometown, and he loved religious music. One year I drove with him from AL to a Chicago suburb because he'd asked me to go with him to pick up a pipe organ he'd purchased off of eBay.

There's a point to this story, I promise. I also promise not to make (m)any puns about 'organ'.

The plan--which we pulled off--was to drive to Chicago, pick up the unassmempled pipe organ, and drive back. We'd sleep in the truck (we did, in a parking lot of a church) for a few hours. The whole trip took a little over a day.

During the trip, the Professor told me he was bisexual--not a big surprise since he had the usual mannerisms, showed up at my apartment in a tight white T, cut-off shorts and Doc Martens (it was the late 1990s). He also told me he loved his wife. He also told me he was planning on doing a local production of 'Jeffrey,' the play by Paul Rudnick. Community theatre. Believe it or not, it happens in AL, and believe it or not there are portrayals of same-sex kissing, and all that, in AL.

I've since left the South, but I will say this: not everyone down there is worthy of the scorn heaped upon them by Nor'East libs.

So the Professor, during this long drive to Chicago, told me he was bi. He was planning to do a production of 'Jeffrey', a play about being gay. He told me he wanted to cast me as Darius (the character played by Bryan Batt 'Sal' from 'Mad Men' in the movie). He wanted to cast me in this role because of my 'kindness and empathy.'

Go figure.

The Professor talked to me about his wife and daughters. One of the daughters was pregnant and still in high school, and both he and his wife were determined to give their impending grandchild a good reception. I told him it was wonderful that both he and his wife were welcoming the child--my own grandparents were not so welcoming of me when I'd popped out. Then asked about his attraction to men.

"I have two hands," he said. "I sometimes use them."

During the trip, he talked about the pipe organ we were off to buy.

"I'm planning to build a shed," he said. "I'm assembling the organ in a shed, and hope to hold concerts for anyone who wants to show up. I'll play Monteverdi and Bach. I'll play orchestrations of [ancient religious composers I can't remember anymore]. And we'll have my grandson there."

He said that. Driving along the highway to Chicago. He said he'd have his grandson there, and his recently de-pregnated teenage daughter, and I realized the organ was more about affirming his devotion to God before all of his peers than it was about playing it in a shed.

I rode to Chicago with him because I was young and it sounded like a fun way to get out of Alabama for a day or two.

It was fun, in a way, but in another way it wasn't. I liked the Professor, and considered him a friend, but I was also wary of him--just a few weeks earlier I'd invited him over to a house I was housesitting.

The house had a pool. He'd dived into the water, shucked off his shorts, and skinny-dipped.

Certainly I was a known gay by then, in Alabama. I was also young, or stupid, or whatever. It was both obvious that he was coming on to me as he swam around the pool, and not obvious. The thing about being openly gay in places like Alabama is that you must be two things: openly gay, and aware of those who want to be openly gay. It's like going through a fun house twice--first time alone, second time with a friend.

The first time you scream. The second time, you grab the hand of your friend, and anticipate.

Southern people, even the open-minded ones, have a remarkable capacity to both scream and then anticipate reality. It was in the pool that the Professor drew attention to his possession of dual hands.

"I have two hands," he said then.

"I have two hands," he said again, when I asked him about his bisexuality as we drove to Chicago. To get a pipe organ. He'd found online.

The Professor tried to talk me out of being with the man I was dating back then. "He's bad," the Professor told me. "I can tell you stories." And then he told me stories, and I continued dating the guy anyway.

And the Professor continued to be married to his wife.

I heard much later, he left her for a bit. He met a man, and the two men had a fling or whatever, and the production of 'Jeffrey' never happened. What did happen was that the Professor talked to me less and less after the trip to Chicago, and what didn't happen is the shack he wanted to build and the assembly of the pipe organ he bought. What did happen was that he continued to teach religious music until he couldn't teach anymore.

He went to church every service, and spoke often about the wonder of God, a wonder I have never shared. He encouraged me to just 'use two hands'.He died of a brain tumor, without the shack and the organ.

He liked religious music, and he loved being music director for various community productions of shows, and he talked about his faith--which I didn't get--and his grandson. And that was his life.

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