Gay in a Mighty Straight Time

Back in my teaching days, Dottie was a girl in my English class, different in ways I could see made her proud, an athlete in a time when girls mostly primped, an honest person who admitted when she hadn’t done the reading. She hadn’t done the reading quite a lot in fact, ditched school a lot too, still in mourning  over the sudden death of the dad she so adored. In the years after high school when she realized she was gay, her life began to blossom: she played on a softball team, worked as a nurse’s aide, and fell for a woman who worked on a suicide hotline. At one point in the 80s she moved in with us and taught our little girls how to safely climb of stairs in their floor-length Strawberry Shortcake nighties. She was wiser than I will ever be and when she died young, like her dad of an inherited illness, we all missed her so, godmother as she was to our youngest child.

Back in my teaching days, Barbra was a girl NOT in my English class who came anyway, though not even enrolled at the school; just came and sat in the back of the room, listening and sometimes asking questions. Barbra knew she was gay from the get-go, I’m pretty sure, though she didn’t date as far as I know. She went stag to the prom in a tux though and a brave thing that was in the spring of ’74. The summer following she got her GED, joined the Army and came home from Basic Training alive with excitement to tell David and me all about it.  We lost track of her for a while but in the late 90s there she was in San Diego, with a degree in Molecular Biology of all things and a Master’s on the way. For some years she ran the big  AIDS Walk there and is today a part of the administration at UCSD.

I think of them both oh I think of them all the time and how lucky I was to have known them when I was just embarking on adulthood myself. If you can now, watch this very-short performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles. Watch it even if you’ve watched it before. Note the most touching part of all when the families join in during the final 60 seconds and think a while about what it means to have a family; and allies; and companions on the journey.



10 thoughts on “Gay in a Mighty Straight Time

  1. Thank you, Terry–so many of your columns could be “by-lines” for the Winchester Multicultural Network with their words of tolerance and inclusivity, building a community of social justice by simply setting out life’s experiences.

  2. Thanks, Marotta for posting the video and for “pulling for” this lesbian during those rough teenage, high school days in 1974.
    And for those who are passing through those rough times now – It does get better. You are not alone. Reach out to our community. Stand tall, walk proud, and hold tight to your dignity and dreams.

  3. Thanks Terry! You have inspired me and my family my whole life. Thanks for the loving words and encouragement that you provide with your column. And thank you for continuing to fight for the right to love and be loved.

  4. DEAREST TERRY,

    I APPLAUD YOU FOR “TELLING IT LIKE IT IS” I, TOO, HAVE GAY FRIEND WHO I DEARLY LOVE. WE TEND TO MAKE JUDGMENTS WITHOUT EVER GETTING TO KNOW THE PERSON. AS MY MOTHER ALWAYS SAID “THERE ARE GOOD AND BAD IN ALL KINDS.”

  5. Hugs, Terry. I love the way you write — how you say what you have to say — you are an inspiration in oh so many ways. What a wonderful thing our lives crossed, if only up close and personal for a few days. I made friends with you, Mike Ball and Suzette Standring that weekend, and what goodness you have all brought me! How did I get so lucky? Thanks be to you.

  6. Here’s to the teachers that save so many young lives with their kind and compassion hearts. Check out Amy Ray’s song, “Put It Out For Good,” about a gay high school kid’s experience in a slightly later era. She nails it perfectly.

  7. Hey Terry, Great to meet you last week — and now here I am on your site, loving your blog. Especially this post. What a wonderful video. I can’t believe we were neighbors all those years in Winchester without knowing each other, or even knowing that we’re both Smith Alums (just discovered that today, on their new website). Anyway, hello, and now we are neighbors in blog-land! Katrina

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