Not Eudora   By Harry Welty
Published July 19, 2002

Selected Scenes from my Queer Life

1960, Age 9 - My neighbor's junior high boyfriend calls another boy a "queer." I'm astonished by the target's humiliation. I ask my Mom what "queer" means. She tells me a story.

My Mother's best friend, Jane, fell in love with David. Jane's parents disapproved of him because he was Catholic but their disapproval only drove her into his arms. He became a Catholic after seeing Bing Crosby portray a fatherly priest in the movie "Going My Way." David and Jane's marriage ends in divorce, but not before a daughter, Michelle, is born. It turns out that David's need for spiritual acceptance stemmed from his homosexuality. He was drawn to boys not girls. That is "queer!"

Summer 1969, Age 18 - I read a remarkable story about a riot in New York City. Homosexuals, now calling themselves "gay" have rebelled after repeated harassment by New York's infamous vice police. "Stonewall," named after the gay bar that was raided, gives birth to the modern gay rights movement.

Summer 1969, Age 18 - I spend a late afternoon riding my bicycle around town. I've been contemplating the moon which has two men on it for the first time ever. In the magic of the moment I sing a civil war anthem while I ride by the house of a young woman sitting on her porch. She teases me about singing the refrain: "I try to cheer my comrades and be gay." She asks me if I know what the word "gay" means. I try not to look embarrassed.

Fall 1969, Age 18 - Although I am an ignorant college freshman I run for the Student Senate. At a candidate's forum an older student sitting next to me asks me who I am. He smiles when I tell him. His residence hall bought my Dad at a charity slave auction to give them a party (non alcoholic). When the forum begins one of the candidates starts pontificating. With three quick questions my seatmate reduces the know-it-all to a lump of sputtering stupidity. My turn comes to answer questions. My knees quake but I am spared. The interrogator will become the only person I've ever met that I regard with anything approaching awe. He's as queer as a three-dollar-bill.

1971, Age 20 - I become a summer intern for our local Congressman. I move into a seedy townhouse a short walk from the Nation's Capitol. I borrow a cake pan from neighbors. When I return the pan I am invited over for dinner and a cocktail. I discover that fresh tomatoes with a little salt are really tasty and drink my first martini. My neighbors are the first wave of new residents who are gentrifying the neighborhood. I suspect that they are gay. I am invited back and find myself among five urbane men in their thirties. One is an internationally famous premier danseur, a male ballet dancer. He regales us with stories about how as a young man all the ballerinas tried to bed him for good luck. The men find this story of heterosexual promiscuity very funny.  I excuse myself from the gathering after one of the hosts, who had been petting a kitten, begins petting my thigh.

Before I return to school the neighbors ask me if I would like to house-sit for them next summer while they are abroad. I think they have surmised that I'm not gay. I tell them I'd like to. When I mention this to my Dad he strongly discourages me because the homeowners are gay. I drop the idea.

1981 - Age 30 - A hometown radio personality is murdered by a man he made a pass at.  The dead man was a friend of my wife's sister and her fiancée. They are outraged by the imposition of a measly seven year sentence. The murderer is out in three. My daughter is born.

1982, Age 31 - Duluth overwhelmingly defeats a "civil rights" ordinance which would require landlords to rent to gays. I tell my Dad that I'm inclined to oppose the ordinance. I feel bad that conservative Christian property owners could be forced to rent to open homosexuals. My Dad asks me why gays should be denied access to housing. I am ashamed.

1993, Age 42 - I befriend a young gay activist and ask him about newspaper accounts of his harassment in high school. A few years later he will feud with a city council candidate who brags about having helped kill a gay sailor back in his navy days. The boast is untrue.

1994, Age 43 - I visit the activist in jail. He has been accused of having sex with a gay minor. Charges will eventually be dropped. He gives me some records for safe keeping. I never see him again.

1994, Age 43 - GOP activists are outraged that Governor Arne Carlson has addressed a meeting of Gay Minnesotans They deny him the Republican endorsement. He wins the primary and general elections anyway. I am Carlson's Duluth campaign Chairman.

1997, Age 47 - My 16 year old daughter defends a gay kid from several bullies at her school. I'm so proud.

2000, Age 49 - I run for the State Senate and receive the endorsement of the Minnesota Log Cabin Club. Its a gay Republican organization. They feel the incumbent DFLer is unsympathetic.

2001, Age 50 - I have been on the School Board for five years. A court makes the District pay $200,000 to one of our former students whose peers harassed him for being a homosexual while he was in school. We didn't protect him.

2002, Age 51 - My mother reports that Michelle, and her Father, and his "partner," are very good friends.

2002, Age 51 - I seek the Republican endorsement for the state legislature. I am asked what I think of "domestic partner" legislation. I tell the delegates that gays will not go back in the closet and that it is time they are given some legal recognition. My opponent says that he thinks gay rights legislation is "reverse discrimination" against heterosexuals. He wins the endorsement.

Welty is a small time politician who lets it all hang out at: www.snowbizz.com