Jim Andris, Facebook
National Gay Blue Jeans Day In The Sticks
by Jim Andris
[Note: This is a true recollection of events, written by Jim Andris on April 14, 1978. He decided to use pseudonyms, however, to protect the privacy of the individuals referred to in this account.]
I am an assistant professor of education at Southern Illinois University. In the vernacular of the ads, I am a gay white male, 39, masculine, cleanshaven, blond, brown eyes, 160 lbs., and 6 ft. tall. I have a lover of four months duration who also teaches in college. I like to disco or socialize with my friends. I cook and play the piano for entertainment and love to see the latest movies. Much of my life is very typical.
There is one thing that sets me apart from most gay guys, though. I'm a sometime gay activist. So far as I can determine, I'm the only one on a campus of 10,000 students and 600 faculty. In the past we had a student gay group here, but it withered and died due to internal feuding, lack of positive leadership, and the generally conservative attitude here in southern Illinois.
I try to keep up on the latest news of the gay community by reading the Advocate, Gay Sunshine, and Fag Rag. I also belong to the National Gay Task Force and the Gay Rights National Lobby. In the last Lobby newsletter, I noticed an announcement that Friday, April 14 was National Gay Blue Jeans Day. The newsletter said, "The idea is for campus gay groups to announce and publicize locally that on April 14 lesbians and gay men on campus will wear blue jeans all day to demonstrate gay pride and self-affirmation. Of course, not everyone will, and some non-gays will wear theirs 'by mistake'--but that's the 'beauty part.' On the individual level each person who knows about the event will be forced to make a conscious decision about something most college students (and many faculty) do automatically, and as a result will have to consider what it's like to be a member of America's most discriminated group."
I decided to do something about it. I went to the student newspaper and placed a series of ads during the week before Friday. They were ads like "Friday, April 14 is National Gay Blue Jeans Day," and "Someone in your life is gay." The Alestle sent a reporter and photographer to interview me. At first the interviewer asked some very penetrating questions about why I was doing this thing. Was I a self-appointed spokesman? What effect could it have? I felt somewhat nervous and was concerned about how the interview would go.
As it turned out the article was a rather good one. The reporter painted a picture of my small office with its Bill of Rights poster, of my opinion of some of the recent wins and losses in the gay struggle, and of the need to educate people about each person's right to choose their own life-style.
I had planned to leave it at that. I thought it took a lot of strength to publically identify myself as spokesman for the gay community. But I could not sleep that night. Something was churning away in the back of my mind. Once I woke up with my heart pounding. I had been dreaming of walking across campus announcing to everyone that "Today is National Blue Jeans Day. Gay people will be wearing blue jeans today!"
I slept fitfully the rest of that night. When I awoke, I discovered that I had already decided to do what I had dreamed of. Suddenly slogans that I had never heard before began popping into my head. "Gay is ok." "Say it out loud, gay and proud." I was wired with energy. I went for breakfast and planned my strategy. I would start in my own office and gradually work my way around the offices of the School of Education. Then I would go to the classroom building and the student union and talk to students. Finally, I would end up at the Vice-president's and President's offices.
Suddenly I felt as though I really believed what the ads I had placed were emphasizing--I felt pride and self-affirmation. I started with my office. I merrily announced , "Today is National Gay Blue Jeans Day."
Nan asked , "What's that all about?"
"Today gay people will be wearing blue jeans as a sign of pride."
"Oh no., I didn't know! I've got blue jeans on."
"Well, it's ok if straight people wear them too."
Hank said, jokingly, "Mine are brown; does that count?"
"No, just blue jeans."
I was off. I strided out the door and down the hall to Psychology. Now a problem presented itself to me. Should I go in and just announce it to the air, or should I try to make contact with the professors, who are generally insulated in their offices? I decided that the secretaries shouldn't have to bear the brunt of my breeze, and that anyway, there was a liklihood that they wouldn't pass the message on. I entered the office. A middle-aged secretary, a male graduate student in blue jeans, and a female student worker in a skirt looked at me.
"Is the chairman in?"
"No, he's in a meeting."
I thought to myself that since this was Friday, probably fewer faculty were going to be in. The office looked quite bare.
"How about some other faculty member in charge?"
"I'm sorry; no one's in just now."
I gave my announcement. The graduate student leered; the women looked uncertain.
"Pass it on," I said.
Another office, this time Instructional Technology. A similar announcement. Smiles on the secretaries' faces but no comment. An older professor that I know says, "Well, I don't have mine on," with a smile. Maybe he thinks this is a joke.
On the second floor I approach a group of young women in blue jeans. "Today is National Gay Blue Jeans Day," I say, smiling.
One woman averts her eyes, the others look incredulous. As I walk away I look back. They are snickering, talking among themselves, and casting hesitating glances my way. I feel good.
Now back to the office scenario. The secretaries generally act somewhat, befuddled, but determined to carry out their secretarial duties. I talk to Mahon, a professor of secondary education, with whom I've had many conversations.
"I think you're doing a very healthy thing."
"Glad you approve."
"I think it's ok to be assertive as long as you don't flaunt it."
"What's flaunting it?"
"When you say 'Pay attention to my thing, but don't pay attention to yours."'
"Yeah. I'm saying that it's ok to be gay or straight."
On to the Dean's office. The Dean is in conferences all day and the other deans are out of town. Dot takes my message, but she doesn't look at me any more after I tell her what my purpose is.
"We saw your article this morning," is the icy reply.
On to another department. "If ever there was a group of homophobes," I think , it's these guys." John is sitting at the secretary's desk. This is the man whose wife told me at a party years ago that she thought it was disgusting how the blacks were moving into her community and ruining it. John looks like a younger Vincent Price, but you'd never catch him doing Oscar Wilde on TV, as Price recently did.
"Are you holding down the fort today, John."
"Yes," he says with a smile.
I make my announcement. His expression grows withdrawn and defenses visibly creep into his posture.
"Well, I'm definitely not wearing blue jeans today."
"It's ok if straight people wear them today too."
"Well, I'm sure none of my friends are wearing them."
As I breeze out the door, I yell, "Ten percent of the population, you know, John!"
Counselor Education is next. The chairman, Dan, is a cocky banty rooster of a man, but friendly. Joe is a puritanical type. Dan is chatting with Cal while leaning against the doorjamb of Joe's office. Cal sits at the student worker's desk. I know Cal to be gay; I've been at parties with him. Dan and Cal look at me. I make my announcement.
Dan doesn't know what to do or say. He disappears into Joe's office. Cal says, "You're the only one who's doing anything about this." It's a genuinely quizzical, yet appreciative comment. Cal and I chat for a while about the fact that he is not being rehired the following year. Joe peeks out the doorway and sneaks a look at me. I smile. He ducks back into his office.
"Well, I must be on my way!"
"The Force be with you," Cal says.
"I think it is." I reply.
Now I decide it's time to do a little campaigning in the classroom building. I go around to various groups of students and also to individual students who are lounging or studying in the main hallway. Most of them have blue jeans on. I present myself to them and Make My Announcement. Most of the students are embarrassed and look away. Some of them look at me with a smirk on their face.
"Lesbians and gay men will be wearing blue jeans today as a sign of pride and self-affirmation." One woman, whom I strongly suspect is a lesbian, says, "We know."
I'm not getting much reinforcement for this activity, but I feel I should continue if only to see just what this experience will bring.
I continue on to the student union building. I chat for a while with one of my students, just a general friendly chatter. Then I start making the rounds of the main lounge. Again the same reaction. Some of the students look pained, some snicker, some look embarrassed and avert their eyes. Perhaps it's my imagination, but it seems that the young men with blue jeans are especially threatened.
No student has yet offered a word of encouragement. (one of my ads had read "Make friends with a gay person today.") Now as I make my announcement to a group of young men, I encounter the first overt hostility. One of the three men introduces himself as brother Joe. He is a dark, thin, tall man with a moustache, and it quickly becomes apparent that he believes he has the truth and that it is different from mine.
"Brother are you saved?"
"Yes, I am."
"You can't be saved until you renounce your sinful ways."
Ed chimes in, "Repent of your evil ways and be saved."
"But I have repented of my sins."
"Do you read the Bible?"
"It says in the Bible that homosexuality is wrong; it's wrong to be effeminate."
"I don't believe that's in the Bible about being effeminate."
They hunt through their Bibles. Joe extends his Bible forceably under my face with his finger pointing to Galatians. He reads a long list of sins.
"I still didn't hear anything about being effeminate."
He points forceably to the word 'unclean'.
"Homosexuality is unclean," he says.
"Well, I don't accept that."
They continue to repeat, in various ways, their charge that I should repent of my sinful ways. They ask me if I'm born again. I tell them that I'm saved, but I don't know about being born again. I put my hand lightly on Joe's shoulder and say, "My friend, Christ says, 'Judge not, lest ye be judged."
He draws away from me and says, "You're not my friend!"
"Well, that's your problem," I reply.
I'm feeling very much like this is a standoff.
"I don't believe that Christ would say all those things."
"Well, you better repent, Mister. That's all I can say."
Joe sits down and turns to reading his Bible. Ed with the piercing blue eyes has already given up on me. There is a third very heavy, redfaced crusty looking man in a blue jeans outfit who seems to be hanging around the two but saying nothing.
As I part I say, "And you, my friend, had better stop preaching hatred."
That exchange left me with pounding heart, but not feeling down. I decide to go see the President and Vice-president. On the way I stick my head in a group of about seven black students and say that this is National Gay Blue Jeans Day. One black girl says, "Yeah! Wha's that all about?" I tell her.
A good-looking, tall, black dude says, "Hey, man, I can dig it. Can you dig it?"
Neat smile. The black students are definitely more at ease with me.
Now I head for the Vice-president's office. He isn't in. I had decided to interrupt no one in the course of business, so I make an appointment to see him. The same thing occurs at the President's office. I'm feeling fatigued, and return to my office.
I haven't been there five minutes when I receive a call from UPI.
"Mr. Andris, this is Frank Nacht of UPI. I understand you've put a series of ads in the school newspaper there for a National Gay Blue Jeans Day."
"Yes. Would you like for me to explain the point of that day to you?"
"Yes, I would."
I explained to him.
"How did you find out about this?"
"I belong to the Gay Rights National Lobby, and I read about it in their latest newsletter."
"Do you know if there are any other gay groups in the area?"
"I believe there is a group at Washington University called the Gay People's Alliance."
"I thought there was a group there at SIU."
"There used to be a group called 'Students for Gay Liberation', but it no longer exists."
"Do you know why the group has become defunct?"
"No., I really don't. I have some hunches, but I'd rather not say. Actually, I knew exactly why the group had died. But never cut a gay brother in public, I always say. We have enough shit to deal with.
"I know Steve Peller," the UPI guy says.
"Yes, I believe he was a past president of SGL as was Jack Sorenson."
He pauses here, apparently expecting me to comment on these people, but I do not.
"Well, now let me check out these quotes here, Mr. Andris."
"You are Jim Andris., 'A,' 'N,' 'D,' 'R,' 'I,' 'S,'
"And the purpose of this day is that 364 days out of the year, when two people meet they usually presume that they are straight, and this is one day in the year when the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak, when straight people find out what it's like to have people presume that they are something which they are not."
"That's not word for word, but you've got the concept exactly right."
"And that's the Gay Rights National Lobby."
"Thank you, Mr. Andris, for your time."
Now I decide that so much is happening to me that I had better write some of it down. So I sit down at the typewriter and begin this story.
Suddenly, the three young men with whom I had the discussion on the Bible come to my office. Brother Joe leads the pack, with the heavy man sort of hanging in the background. Joe clutches his Bible in one hand, and a piece of paper with Bible verses quoted on it in the other. I look at the sheet of paper. It says in big print:
"(Romans 1:27) MEN BURNED WITH LUST FOR ONE ANOTHER! SO GOD GAVE THEM OVER TO A REPROBATE MIND! 1 Corinthians10) (EFFEMINATE), AND (ABUSERS OF THEMSELVES WITH MANKIND) Galatians (5:19-21) Works of the Flesh I.E., LASCIVIOUSNESS means Filthy, WANTONNESS (sexually loose) (ACTS 3:19) REPENT! AND BE CONVERTED (To Jesus) ACTS 2:38."
Now Joe begins his harangue again. He points to the First Corinthians passage and at the word 'effeminate.'
I take the Bible in my hands and read the passage aloud. "I guess the Bible does mention effeminate , I admit. Obviously, it's a bad strategy to question these bigots' literal knowledge of the Bible.
They continue to press their scriptures upon me.
Finally, I say, "Ok, you guys, now I've listened to you. Are you going to listen to me?"
Joe somewhat reluctantly agrees to listen. I tell them that I am saved, that God has reached down a hand and held me, and that I have felt the peace that passeth understanding.
"God loves me, and I know it in my heart."
"There's lots of people, brother, that God loves, who aren't going to enter the kingdom of heaven."
"Well I believe that I'll be there with you guys so we can continue our discussion there. I also think you need to stop preaching hatred and to stop judging people."
"I judge, brother, and I stand ready to be judged."
"And I don't judge, but I stand ready to be judged, too."
I have to leave for my appointment with the Vice-president. They follow me out in the hall.
Brother Joe says, "You know what you were saying about that Jesus would never say anything like the quotes we were showing you? Well, the whole Bible is the word of God, and Jesus is God. Jesus is the Word. Do you believe that?"
"I don't know. It's never been put to me before."
Ed says, "C'mon, we got to get to the Ozarks." The fat man nods. We're just at a fork in the path and go off in different directions.
I yell after the three guys, "You all have a good weekend now, and come back and see me some time."
"I'll pray for you," yells Joe.
"And I'll pray for you, Joe." I wonder how Joe would react to the gay congregation at MCC praying that all the bigots will see the light.
Now I'm headed for the Vice-president's office. I meet a notorious student senator in blue jeans and make my announcement, looking at his jeans. He half smiles, half smirks and says, "Other people are wearing them too, you know." Another student senator who I have given a ride to school on occasion is standing there. He fancies himself to be quite a politician. He won't look at me but is snickering to two young women.
"Hi, Glen!" I say forcefully. He still won't look, but I see the back of his neck rise and turn slightly toward me. The two young women eye me suspiciously.
I duck into the Black Students' Association and proclaim National Gay Blue Jeans Day. One of the black women says "Why you makin' such a fuss over it?" I start to leave and then decide not to.
"If anyone should understand oppression, you people should."
"We got more problems than you do."
"We'll never get anywhere if we fight about it."
Just then a former student of mine grins over the top of the office partition. "How you doin', man?"
Hey, Clarence, what's happening? You weai-in' blue jeans today?"
No, he laughs , I wearin' green jeans. I watched Captain Kangaroo today. But we don't know about Larry here."
Larry grins and comes out from around the partition to expose his blue-jeaned body. Everybody laughs.
Now I enter the Vice-president's office. He's very cordial, and asks me to be seated.
"I won't take much of your time. I just want to explain the purpose of my activity." And I explain to him.
"Certainly," he says, with some warmth, "if on a university campus we can't come to some understanding of this kind of problem, then it's a sad situation."
"Well, if you talk to some of the students and faculty, you may find not such an understanding attitude."
"I'm sure that's true. I think you're a very courageous person for speaking out this way."
"That's not the point of what I'm doing. This is a very important rights issue. I just wanted you to know the purpose of my activities, so if you hear negative comments about what I'm doing, that I'm sensationalistic, or publicity mongering, you can educate these people to the real purpose of the activity."
"I understand. But that's what courage is. Standing up for what you believe in in the face of adversity."
I get up and thank the Vice-president for his time.
I'm feeling very tired, but convinced that I have done what the situation required. I return to my office and sit down in the chair outside my door, where Jenny, my department's secretary, is working. She's an attractive young woman of twenty three.
She says, "You've had quite a day, haven't you? How did your talk with the vice-president go?"
Suddenly, I'm aware of how I have gone through all the levels of the unversity today, talked to all kinds of people at all stages of awareness. I'm curious how Jenny, who I work with every day, and seldom talk with about personal concerns, sees my activity. After reporting back to her the basic conversation with the vice-president, I ask, "What do you think of all this, Jenny?"
She sits back in her chair, looking older and more serious than usual. "Well, you know I grew up on a farm. I went to the Catholic church. I'm basically from a very conservative background. The first time I heard you mention being gay, I guess I was shocked. But then as I thought about it, as I heard you talk about it, and as I typed some of your letters, I changed. I thought, 'Things are changing all the time, so why not."'
I was touched by the simplicity and humanness with which she spoke. "I'm glad you feel that way, Jenny, because we've had some fun times together, and I like you."
"Yes, we have, haven't we?" We continue to talk about new records we've been listening to.
I go into my office and sit down at the typewriter once again to begin setting down the very agitating events of the day. As I am typing, John, the man who had seemed so negative to me about the whole thing came nervously into my office. He closed the door.
"Jim, I hope I didn't say anything to offend you."
"Oh, I don't think so," I lied.
"I got to thinking about our conversation, and I said to myself, 'Well, I certainly hope I didn't offend that young man, because he's really got a lot of guts to be doing what he's doing.' I would have been wearing blue jeans today too, if it weren't that too many people would be hurt."
I thought he was just being patronizing with that last comment.
"Because God knows, we need people like you to speak out on this matter. I just have too much to loose by wearing blue jeans today."
Suddenly, I'm thinking, 'What is this man telling me? John Hatcher surely isn't confessing to being gay.' I'm very alert now and looking at John much more intently. Are those sparkles in his eyes tears? My God!
"There are a few people across the campus who are going to start speaking out on this soon. They just haven't got the courage yet. Goddamn, you've got balls! And I really hope I didn't offend you."
Now I start to search my memory for what the man actually did say.
"John, all I heard you say was that you weren't wearing blue jeans today, and that your friends wouldn't be wearing them."
"No I said that I'd look to see how many of my friends were wearing them."
Boy, had my biases clouded my memory and hearing that much?
Now John was on his feet and opening the door to the office. "We're not all single, you know! But there'd just be too many people hurt if I spoke up."
Those were tears in his eyes! I'm left sitting in a state of semi-amazement. I never dreamed that this man would have or admit this kind of background. This has been some day.
Now Amanda makes her usual energetic entrance into the office. Amanda is my closest friend at the University. She teaches in my department and we have astonishingly similar intuitions about what's right and what's wrong around this place. Jenny, Amanda and I frequently joke about things. Today Jenny says, "Jim's had quite a day today. Two guys were in his office trying to tell him that he's going to go to hell for being gay."
Amanda says, "Oh, how has your day been going?"
So I take her into my office and tell her what's been happening. She's immediately facinated by my story about John Hatch, and starts trying to guess who he is. I'm not in the mood to tell her, even though I know she won't spread it around. But she is insistent. I guess that kind of curiosity just goes with being a social scientist.
I'm reminded of the time three years ago when I was trying mightily to get the university administration to enunciate a supportive gay rights policy. The then spokesman for the president's office had fought me tooth and nail for several months, using deception to railroad a policy devoid of reference to sexual orientation through university channels. As I danced one night at a well known gay bar, who should I see cutting a grotesque figure on the disco floor but the president's man. After the dance he came over to me with a cheerful "Hello, Jim." We talked.
"I'm doing as much for gay people as you are, but in my own way."
"I trust you'll be discrete about this matter."
"I'll be as helpful to you as you've been to me!"
The guy who was with him said, "He's the biggest one down here! He was refering to my adversary.
Of course, I had no intention of revealing his secret to anyone. But Amanda had skillfully wrung this information from me. This time I was not as yielding to her questioning. I joked with her about the last confession that she had extracted and concluded, "Perhaps when things die down a bit, I'll tell you more."
I wish more people like Amanda were around here. She's quite a contrast to some of my other colleagues, who nervously enter their offices whenever the two of us discuss gay politics within their earshot. Or they change the conversation to "safer" topics such as food or family. (I'm not supposed to talk about my family, however. Gay lovers apparently don't count.) Some of these men teach human rights courses, but they can't carry on an intelligent discussion about gay rights. Kind of makes you think of Carter and his human rights program. Once when I suggested a gay course addition to the curriculum, one of these colleagues ran out of the meeting, dripping perspiration, and saying, "There's some things that just shouldn't be discussed in public."
But back to the present. I had just one more planned activity. It's time to visit the president. I enter his immense office. "It will be a few minutes, the secretary tells me. It turns out to be 35 minutes. About three years before I had held an office on this floor, sandwiched bbween the President and Vice-president's offices. I used to enjoy my lunch on the spacious patio which overlooks the campus. Now my office is in the basement of the most recently built classroom building with the crickets and spiders. I'm thinking what a nice environment these people work in. And of course, these are the "classiest" secretaries. Quite a contrast. The gay activist in the blue jeans from the damp basement and the president's secretaries with the $30 bouffant hairdos from the third floor. We eye one another like Emory and the fat lady waiting for the traffic light in The Boys in the Band.
At last the president comes out of his office. He's my age, and has my boyish charm. Where did I go wrong, I think. But I'm the model of comportment. I confidently ensconce myself across a huge table from him. We must be at least 10 feet apart. I think of the table with the ten foot torpedo under it from the movie The Spy Who Loved Me.
I give the president my spiel about turn about is fair play. The same one basically that I had given to the vice-president. He listens with his head slightly cocked to one side, his blue eyes a bit clouded over. This is probably the end of a long day for him.
Now I tell him, I want to share these letters with you. I think they document how bad the situation is here. This letter I wrote to the Board of Trustees, asking them basically if being a publically self-avowed homosexual was a consideration related to job performance. And here is their response, via legal counsel." He reads the letters I have handed him, his nose just slightly elevated.
I continue , "I am especially distressed with these last two sentences. First, they say that they cannot commit to a policy that self-avowed homosexuality is never related to any kind of job performance. This is morally offensive to me. Surely, the morally correct position is that self-avowed homosexuality per se is never related to job performance just as is self-avowed heterosexuality. There must be some other reason for making judgements about the adequacy of job performance, such as incompetence or morally irresponsible behavior."
"And secondly, they say, in what to my mind is a condescending tone, 'Please note that this answer is limited to cases involving the avowal of homosexuality only; the considerations are quite different when homosexual acts become the issue.' What am I supposed to think, President Jones? I assume that there is a moral code governing sexual acts; I can't for the life of me see what there is to choose between proper hetero- and homosexual behavior. You don't sleep with your students, and you don't engage in explicitly sexual behavior in public places where people may be offended."
Now it was the president's turn.
"First, Jim,let me say that I will never consciously commit to a policy that emphasizes heterosexuality over homosexuality as a valid life-style, or vice versa. I like the idea of judgements based on job performance alone. I also realize that being straight, I may not be as sensitive to these matters of discrimination as you are, and that I may unconsciously do something that is viewed as being insensitive.
"Second, on the matter of the Board's action, I think that their action is more a reflection that there are four lawyers on the board than a reflection of any discriminatory attitudes on their part."
The president was referring in part to the Board's recent decision to strike any mention of any category such as sexual preference or race from their general anti-discrimination policy. This action was in fact taken in light of a proposal by a student trustee that sexual orientation and marital status be included in the policy statement as protected categories.
I say, "I hadn't realized that, about the lawyers. That's very informative."
"They might have just as well stated that letter differently, in a way that said the same thing, but because they were concerned with what was legally protected, they had to be very careful. I guess you'd have to walk a mile in their shoes, and see these terribly complicated legal documents that they have to consider. But then they'd have to walk in your shoes to know how it feels to be gay."
"But the point is that they didn't say these things in a reassuring way," I reply.
"I want to appeal to you, as President, that you do everything in your power to educate these Board members to the problems that the gay community faces."
"That is within my perview."
"And one more thing. I recently talked with your newly appointed affirmative action officer, and I was very pleased with his attitude on this matter. I hope you will support an affirmative action plan which includes in the educational portion references to the ways in which discrimination against gay people is occurring."
"I think that is an important input, and I urge you to put it in writing."
I didn't tell him that I had already put in in writing several times in the past four years, and as recently as last month. I sense that my time is growing short. One more whack!
"One last point. I think the Board is showing by its excessive concern with legality that it is not at all progressive. As you probably know, more progressive educational organizations such as NEA and AAUP have long since had a position against discrimination on the basis of sexual preference. I hope you will encourage the Board towards a position of moral leadership in this matter. This university system's attitudes appear to be quite unenlightened."
He looks like he is taking all this in. Now he is smiling a goodbye-it's-time-to-go-I-have-another-appointment smile, so I thank him and walk, spine erect, from the office.
I am now in a state of considerable mental exhaustion. I have become acutely aware of how difficult it is for one person alone to systematically defy an unspoken social convention: gay people just do not discuss their gay life or concerns with people in day to day interaction. I'd gained a hell of a lot more accurate information about people's reaction to this issue and to me by carrying out this difficult task.
From time to time during the day, people had asked me, "What is the general reaction to what you are doing?" Each time I found myself summarizing somewhat in this fashion: "The faculty has been generally positive and supportive of me as a person, but noncommital on the issue. The students are generally embarrassed or nervously amused and do not know how to deal with me. (The black students seem to be exceptions, being generally relaxed.) The administration was civil and politely reassuring. In no case did anyone indicate an appreciation of this as an important human rights issue, on a par with women's or minority rights. What positive support I did receive was almost invariably admiration for my courage, not support for my cause."
I went home to my lover that night. We don't agree at all on our responsibilities on this matter, but we have agreed to disagree. He wanted to know how my day went, and I told him. He gave me lots of support. He hugged and held me (which I really needed after that impoverishing day), and he told me that what I did was good, that somebody needed to do it, but that it wouldn't be him.
He also blanched when I told him that a UPI reporter had called me for a story and got my name. "That's as close to publicity as I want to get," he said firmly. "I don't want reporters snooping around our home." I could tell that he was very upset.
As it turned out, it was hard on both of us. He had also experienced upheaval and conflict at his job, possibly related to his sexual orientation, but more likely unrelated. We had three fights that weekend. The first fight was over what we would do Saturday. I expressed uncertainty about moving my piano in yet and he exploded. "You don't toy with us being together like that!" He was right about that one. The second fight was about my wearing a "filmy, fey" kaftan with the windows open. I suppose that one was a draw, since he wants privacy and I say "Fuck 'em if they don't like it they don't have to look." The word "fey" offended me, not as applied to me, but because it's a word of straight oppression.
The third fight was about the kaftan again, only this time I made the mistake of putting it on again in the evening. A friend of ours was visiting, and had commented with interest on the kaftan, lying discarded after the afternoon hassle. So I put it on to show Ken what it looked like. That was an innocent mistake. Tony was obviously disturbed. In the course of the ensueing discussion, I realized that he was worried that I might have a hidden desire to wear feminine things.
We have had discussions before about effeminacy. I always end up defending it as a valid life-style; he is uncomfortable with people whose attire and demeanour crosses gender stereotypical lines. However, after three fights, I had the sense that this was no time for a political speech, especially since he had specifically requested that morning that we not always be discussing political things. "I don't want my home turned into a political arena."
Anyway, I saw that there was a deeper issue under this one. He had picked me in part because I was sexually attractive to him. Since effeminate demeanour or clothing had a cold shower effect, I might be wise not to adopt it. And in my case, I have no deep stirrings or promptings in this direction, so I am not being untrue to myself if I avoid feminine clothing. In my anger, I had thrown the goddamn thing away. He perceived this behavior as vengeful, and we then hassled about whether I should throw it away or not. "This rag isn't worth our relationship," I protested. Also, I don't want our home turned into a boxing arena anymore than you want it turned into a political one."
We're still very much in love and very committed to one another. I've never felt so confident about anyone I've loved as I do about Tony. In the home department we're probably very average gay guys, although very lucky ones to have found one another. But there is one difference. I'm a gay activist. And I'm not exactly sure why.