All in the Family

by Louie Crew

First appeared in Barb March 1976: 2, 14.

© 1976 by Barb; © 2004 by Louie Crew

"Where do you queers come from?" It must be the most frequently asked question Gays face when we have dialog with the nongays of our community. "Is it (and how easily we are reduced into its!) inherited or learned? "Were you born funny, or made funny by some older gays?" Or as an otherwise responsible sociologist at my college said to me, "Louie, come on now, you know little boys are turned into punks because their punk uncles or punk fathers or punk cousins sneak and fondle their genitals when they are very small! Why I have seen it happen!"

In all this muddle of nonsense and sincerity the one most obvious fact about lesbian and gay etiology is always ignored: lesbians and gays come out of heterosexual unions. If it were otherwise, lesbian and gay sex in the last year alone would have had the world literally bulging at the seams.  Lesbian and gay sex is the only birth control surer than Ortho®.

Lesbians and gays are already members of the family, members of all families if family includes first and second cousins. Any statement that maligns 20 million lesbian and gay Americans also maligns our 40 million parents in their heterosexual union. Now that's a big load of bad-mouthing.

Those lucky enough to have been out of the closet early were spared much of the open expression of homophobia, particularly in the forms of queer jokes and the like. We who passes as straight often had to pretend to be distracted or otherwise inattentive when our people were the object of scorn. And when we passed successfully, we got an ear full.

But what we got far more than I realized when I was busy passing was a false sense of our measure as human beings in the eyes of our nongay friends. I remember the years in which nongay couples were intrigued by my friendship and were delighted to have me drop by, the years in which nongay students readily sought counsel, particularly about their writing, about ideas, about intellectual goals and ambitions. Of course, they had heard rumors, but the rumors had also confirmed that "he keeps it a big secret" and "he's not about to do anything"; so coming around had the contradictory pleasures of seeming vaguely risky but also being as safe as possible. Meanwhile I thought these persons were genuinely interested in the intellectual intercourse in which I invested much loving energy.

Let straights know for certain, and watch them move away. In some ways, it is an immense blessing no longer to have to pay intellectual nursemaid to a bunch of straights who were looking for some kind of safe freakish puppet to entertain them. At least the few people who come now have to run enough risk of their own reputation to be solidly worth my investment of loving, intellectual energies. But I would be fooling no one if I denied my bitterness in the discovery that people, particularly straight ones, have a special monopoly on phoniness when they express their interests in other persons.

"Louie, the faculty here do not object to your being gay," exclaimed one of my nongay associates recently, "but only to your stressing it all the time. Why they're perfectly happy to allow M____, S____, and A____ to be lesbian or gay and make no complaint about them."

"But how do I 'bring it up'?" I asked.

"Well, for one thing, you're always mentioning Ernest. And you talk about lesbian and gay literature...."

"But you're always mentioning Don, and you talk about black literature."

"But that's different."

This sequel came not out of a casual relationship, but out of an association of over two years, one in which we had both been entertained and had entertained on several occasions, one in which I had wrongly divined that we were really being related to as friends who are gay rather than as gays who are trying to be friends.

On a similar occasion a good nongay friend of ten years duration took us out to dinner with her boyfriend, whom we had only met. The two are journalists and talked at length about gay journalism, a subject in which I have I have a professional as well as personal stake. I thought we were being heard as companion journalists merely writing out of our different experiences. When my lover and I left early, I was delayed at the cash register, and decided to return to say good night again. Inadvertently I stepped into the scene when our host was saying to his friend, "Did you get the feeling talking with them that you might be something of a queer too?"

I do not believe that I have a right to teach black students if when they are out of hearing I am even inclined to want to refer to my "N___  students." So think of them is to deny them their intellectual vitality and their status as children of God. My use of N___, especially in a private situation, would signal to the world that my public posture of concern is phony.

Someone who generalizes about "those queers," even if "those nice queers," when we are not around is positively dangerous for us to be around. Such persons are certainly dangerous to let loose on the world because we have no guarantee that they won't father or mother yet another lesbian or gay child. No one should engage in intercourse heterosexually who cannot say in advance that she or he would love the child that may be engendered. Otherwise we're stuck with the ancient immorality in which straights have specialized, namely trying to seduce their nongay children into sexual identification that violates their individual integrity and sense of completeness.

Bitter, yes. But separatist? Not at all. It makes no more sense for me as a gay persons to isolate myself from straights and live in a ghetto than it would for me as a little boy to try to run away from home. The gesture might feel good for the moment, but coming home again would be far too embarrassing to risk repeating the action. We adult lesbians and gays are already at home, already members of all the families; and we have only ourselves to blame if we persist in trying to keep this gloriously beautiful and self-affirming fact a deep or dark secret.


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