Who’s wearing the same dress?

supremesWhen I was in seminary (yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus), I took the course “Existential Theology.” I took it because the professor was too hot—a Methodist preacher/academic (at what back then was called STC—the School of Theology at Claremont, California). He must have been from Texas. He wore jeans (blue, of course, because that’s all there was then—either Levis or Wranglers) a tan corduroy sport coat with bolo tie, and expensive Western boots.

That was the semester STC gave me the boot because they found out I was gay, found out in a most unfortunate manner. My then-wife was none too pleased, either. Remember, this was 1968. Stonewall was still a gleam in some drag queen’s eye, and all us faggots who wanted anything like a career (especially in the church) were, if not closeted, at least married or putting up some kind of front.

That was not the beginning of the ruination of my life. That had already happened in a way that I will never write about. I do have some boundaries.

My life was disjointed—pun intended. My wife was a brilliantly successful high school English, journalism, and drama teacher—this was back in the day when teachers were expected to be creative and energetic rather than burdened with absurd Republican rules about giving tests and being “accountable”—so we had a steady income. I, on the other hand, was a part-time church organist (a job which saved my life and is yet the most creative and satisfying position I’ve had). After the Theological Boot, I had jobs I hated. Baldwin piano salesman. Printer in the in-house print shop at the now defunct Kaiser Steel plant in Fontana. Mind-numbing work I could pursue only by living in fantasies in my head while I was on the job. I had that Kaiser job because the husband of the secretary at my church was a supervisor there and put in a good word for me even though she knew I was a queer.

The secretary at Christ Church (Episcopal) in Ontario was one of a group of us who, shortly after I got the Theological Boot, trooped to Los Angeles together to see Hair, the musical. If you saw that original Broadway production, you may not remember it the way I do. (If I’m wrong, someone comment and put the record straight—pun intended—but that won’t change what I’m about to say.)

In the original production (not in the movie) the trio of black women singing about “white boys” in the best song in the show—IMHO—wearing pink spangled dresses mimicking The Supremes moved and sang together. They stood as close as their harmony, swaying and dancing. The gag—the almost too slapstick trick—was that at the end they stepped apart and revealed their dresses were one huge dress.

That, and the fact that the cast came up the aisles naked at the end of the show (or was it at the end of the first act?) and I was sitting on the end of a row goggle-eyed made me crazy. I wanted to be naked in front of two thousand people (I was young and skinny then) or at least to stop having to hide.

The Supremes

The Supremes

My life as a half-closeted, half-ostentatiously-out gay man was, in those days, untenable. I was miserable, my wife was miserable, and I made lots of other people miserable (including my Dutch Reformed psychiatrist from Chino—but that’s another story).

Today the Supreme Court (only peripherally not to be confused with The Supremes) will hear the case that should somehow make sense of, give meaning to, liberate the memory of my life at that time. (My musings must be taken with a grain of salt because I’m not only a Tired Old Queen, but diagnosed with Bipolar II disorder which, I’m sure most Fundamentalist Christians believe all LGBT persons are.)

In spite of Chief Justice Roberts’s lesbian cousin, I’m prepared to have hopes dashed yet again.

I know, I know, I know. Change is in the wind and all of that. But five of the Supremes have, for most of their careers, worn the same spangled dress. Five catholic men, all appointed by “Conservative” Republican Presidents, will make the decision. ‘Nuff said, I fear.

But here’s the real kicker. Even if they make the “right” decision, it will be so bitter-sweet for me that I will hardly be able to rejoice. Oh, I will rejoice!don’t get me wrong!—for my younger gay friends. But nothing can bring back the life I’ve not had, epitomized by the Theological Boot. I’m not a victim, a martyr, or an accuser, but I will have to learn to rejoice. I don’t regret my life, and I’m not a spoil sport. But let’s be honest.

The Theological Boot

The Theological Boot