This is not a political post, but it does deal with things that are inherently political in nature, as issues in my life often do. If you are offended by this, my email list is probably not a good fit for you. But I wish you well even if you decide to unsubscribe from my list.
It was the summer of 1984. I was sixteen years old, and I was fleeing the scene of a crime, moving from Arizona to live in California with my father for a year.
The crime was being gay.
I had discovered my criminal tendencies two years earlier, when I had my first gay experience with another boy. We were both fourteen at the time. I’ve talked about him at length in other posts… suffice it to say that he saw something in me that matched something in him, and he took the first step to open me up to who I really was.
In 1984 in Arizona, gay sex was still technically illegal, even between minors. That would change in 1985 with an adjustment of the state’s sodomy laws, and in 1986 they would be wiped away entirely by the US Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas. But what I did with my body in the early eighties was clearly illegal under state law.
I didn’t know any of this at the time. All I knew was that being gay was wrong. It was disgusting and perverted and one of the worst things you could be, outside of child molesters and murderers.
I don’t know how I knew all of this. My parents never talked about it, and I don’t think they knew I was gay. I dated girls and made all the right comments, always policing myself, aware that one slip up could spell disaster and reveal my true, shameful nature. But it was in the air. There were so few people like me visible in the world, in the media, in our entertainment. And often those who were seen were punished for their crimes.
And so I was ashamed. Deeply, soul-torturingly ashamed. While I never once considered suicide, I did beg God to help me change, and sometimes berated Him for letting me turn out like this. Instead of an adolescence yearning for someone to love and imagining what that life might be like, I vacillated between desire and self-loathing.
It wasn’t until I came out seven years later, years after the Supreme Court declared to all the world that I was not a criminal, that my own shame dissolved like the falsehood that it was.
I met Mark shortly thereafter, and he was a staunch supporter of my campaign to come out to my family, to finally speak my truth.
Flash forward to this hot covid summer, and the Supreme Court decision that will take away the rights of millions of American women.
Since the decision came down on Friday, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word shame.
It’s what was used to keep me and millions of others like me in line, to box us gays and lesbians in to a narrow, heterosexual-acting life. It’s the source of uncounted destroyed marriages and ruined lives, and it was used on our queer community intentionally to force us to conform to what society wanted us to be.
I naively thought we were past all that. That the arc of time truly did bend toward progress. That the Obama years and the Obergefell v. Hodges case that legitimized my marriage to Mark meant we could stop protesting and go back to our boringly normal gay lives.
And now here we are.
I am not a woman. I will never birth a child, or have to go through the agonizing decision of whether or not to have an abortion. I can’t imagine the pain and sorrow this would entail, much less how much worse it will be now that the right of a woman to choose what happens to her own body has been stripped away, as if it were no more important than a discarded paper coffee cup.
But I see what’s going on here.
Before you can shame someone into doing what you want them to do, you have to make who they are or what they do into something to be ashamed of..
You see, if abortion isn’t really a right – if privacy isn’t a right, which is what all of these rights are founded upon – then it can be redefined as wrong, and therefore shameful.
I’ve read with growing horror the descriptions of clinics shutting down as soon as the ruling was released. Of women who jumped through all the hoops set before them by conservative governments to get an abortion because their child would be born with a crippling defect, or because they already had two kids and couldn’t imagine how they could care for a third, or because they were raped and couldn’t bear to give birth to their attacker’s child.
And the message being given to them is the same as the one that they forced on me when I was in the closet, all those years ago.
You are doing something wrong. You should be ashamed.
This won’t end here. There’s now a better than even chance, imho, that the court goes after contraception rights, same sex marriage, and maybe even the sodomy law decision next. After all, as Clarence Thomas made clear in his concurring opinion:
“In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold [contraception], Lawrence [sodomy], and Obergefell [same sex marriage]. Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.”
His meaning is clear: “We’re coming for you next.”
This Court, along with the Big Lie, form the gravest threat upon our Democracy and our personal liberty in generations. I am scared witless about it
But I will not bend. I will not give in to shame again. I will not forget my pride.
Instead, I will stand with women. I will stand with people of color. I will stand with immigrants and the lower class and all the other minority groups who are threatened by this right-wing extremism.
So choose a side. And then fight, because this country belongs to me and you as much as it does those who would try to force you back into shame.
To paraphrase a famous quote from Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the women, and I did not speak out—because I was not a woman.
Then they came for the immigrants, and I did not speak out— because I was not an immigrant.
Then they came for the queers, and I did not speak out—because I was not queer.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Or to put it more succinctly:
We stand together, or we fall apart.
9 thoughts on “Point of View: I Will Not Be Ashamed”
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so thankful for all who stood up to thee haters and bigots so others like my daughter could and can live her life openly and fully
Thank you, so much. You’ve said what’s been in my heart since Friday.
Thanks. I’ve had it all spinning around in my head too and this was my best attempt to get it down on paper in a semi-cohesive way… xoxo
I’m a long time subscriber to your site and just wanted to speak to you about what you do here. I’m from a time when things were seriously treacherous for anyone that was different. I grew up in the 60s and 70s in the very heart of the Bible belt. Anyone, no matter how they were different was someone to be shunned and avoided. Gay men and women were as evil as the dreaded communists and political liberals that protested the war. God fearing Christians were righteous and it was their manifest destiny to stomp out all the insidious behaviors perpetrated by perverts to destroy the American way of life.
It was ugly then. It’s ugly now. Like you, I had thought things were getting better for anyone with a different life. Just as you, I’m horrified to see how fragile our rights can be and how quickly they can be erased. Unlike you, I have no special blog or website other than a very minor amount of social media to point out some fundamental views about freedom. You do, and you’re working to make things better.
I can’t applaud this enough. It’s been said that all it takes for a person to change is having one person they care about need that change to happen. I have two sons that are gay and they need things to change. I need them to change and the fact is our country and our world need our politics to change. Thank you for working toward making those changes happen. Every story you tell, every book you write that shows how good change can be makes the world a better place.
Keep writing Scott,
I grew uo in the seventies and eighties in fairly liberal Tucson. I can’t imagine what it must have been like where you were. Your sons are lucky to have you… but I am sure they tell you that all the time. My message to you and to anyone who will listen is that we have to hang in there and fight this together. The time for infighting has passed. Keep up hope for change. xoxo –Scott
I grew up in the 50′ thru the 70’s in the south NC and MS and you could go to jail I do remember seeing list of names and sometimes they had photos of guys who had been arrested and most of them lost their job, their family if married and or parents and siblings for being gay and the killings of men for being gay. My father was a minster and he found out and till his death I could not have friends over and was forced into a prearrange marriage.
I was glad when they said we were normal not freaks but the harm had been done to this day I do not have a family. What I am saying I feel sorry for the youth who are gay because like us in San Francisco and other places had True Leaders for AIDS and who were as a community but there is no one now and to be honest we are going to lose our freedoms as the women have and African Americas to vote. I do hope soon American will open their eyes and see what is happening to our country. Sorry for the long message and Scott I do agree with you 100 percent.
This is your first blog post I’ve read, and I applaud you. Thank you for standing up for everyone. If more people did that, we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re facing.
I am a woman and I chose to not have children. Luckily, I live in a time where that is easy for me to accomplish. I’ve never had to choose my life over another’s but I absolutely believe that I should be in charge of my own body. The fact that random men (and a few women) get to say what I do with my body is disgusting to me.
White, hetero men should have no say over my body or anyone else’s, and the fact that they do is shameful. They are the ones who should be ashamed. I refuse to be. And I will always stand up for others, no matter what – even the white, hetero men who think it’s their right to tell people what to do (even though it makes me feel icky). It’s the only way we’ll grow as a society.
I support your views, 100%. The Constitution says, “We the People,” not We Christians. What is happening to our Democracy? It is being taken over by 30% of the people. What about the 70%???
I am so MAD, I can’t even express myself..
Thank you, Scott! I’m sharing this! (Summer of 1984 I was regularly breaking the law after work with the same lawbreaker!)
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