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LETTERS:

A Family Portrait

By CHRIS DOUGLASS

DEAR GEOFF,

I told you last time we talked over the phone that I was

thinking ab.out doing an article on gay brothers. I don't

know exactly what it is that is unique about gay brothers

that has any impact on gay liberation as a political/personal

movement. I don't know if that is important except for

the purpose of writing this article. For that matter, why did

the thought even pop into my head. What is it that I

wanted to say. That is, by writing this article, what feel–

ings did I have that I wanted to get in touch with. I'm not

going to write about gay brothers. I'm writing this to you.

You are my brother. That is I grew up with you.

You are my brother. That is, we are involved

in the same struggle.

How do I deal with .that. How do we deal with that.

Here are some feelings I want to get in touch with.

I think you have felt, because you are older perhaps,

that you are responsible for my being gay. Have we, have I

ever talked about this? I know I've said, "Of course you're

not" but now I feel differently. Yes, you are responsible to

a large extent for my being gay. Can I ever express the love

I have for you for allowing it.

When I first heard Mom and Dad talking about their

eldest son, when you first told them you were gay, you

were very young, not more than 12 or 13, and because of

what that meant at the time you felt you should see a

shri"nk. Precocious. And thanks be that our parents were

scared enough about shrinks on one hand not to send you,

on the other to know what anguish you went through when

they just wouldn't listen to your feelings. They were scared,

and knew that made you even more anxious, guilty

and ....

AT THE TIME, I was the proverbial little brother who

went through his oJder brother's desk drawers; letters,

sketch pad and all. But I think I did so with a relentlessness

that even you may not have realized.

And what was the reason. We know that children, even

before they know what the word homosexual is, know

what their feelings are. Communication between us was

distant. And was that because you were so threatened by

my insistent probing, and what it meant. How it reminded

you of your own predicament. If it had an adverse effect on

you, I think it had for the most part a good effect on me. I

found the male nude drawings in your sketch pad, the .

magazines you were able to muster up the courage to buy.

Even the most innocent magazines become a terror

something to be kept hidden away from parents. But little

brothers find, and I found them. I found your diaries,

journals that described in circumspect detail the terror of

your discovery about yourself. You knew by then the

word, homosexual, and all the hate that went with it. I

didn't know the word. I knew my brother.

Thinking back on some of the things you wrote in your

20

journals, I know that they were so obscure that only, THIS

IS IMPORTANT, only another person with the same

emerging feelings could understand what lay behind the

words. I too was homosexual and so I could read between

the lines.

When you realized you were gay, you were alone. I

didn't give you support. When I probed through your

private world for the answer of what it was that set you .

apart, I found the feelings. And found that those feelings

were mine. My frantic searches through your letters, books

and all were what kept me from being alone. When I began

to feel those first feelings of love and physical longing for

another man, and knew that all of society told me that was

wrong and perverted, I was not alone. I knew that another

person felt the same way. I knew it clear and beautiful and

plain, that my brother felt the same way.

I could not add to the lack of communication we

already had at that age by admitting how I had invaded

your privacy. And every time I felt for another man it

brought me less pain than joy. First of all, it brought into

my life a commonality with you which I never had. And ·

secondly, it helped me to believe that what I was feeling

· was not wrong. How could it be. Geoff felt the same things.

A FEW YEARS LATER. Remember you came home

from your first term at college for a visit. I was in high

school. And that summer had fallen in love with a boy that

lived a couple of hundred miles away. We kept up

correspondence. I heard from him about once a week. And

1

carefully tore up his letters into what seemed a thousand

pieces and buried them in the garbage (remember guilt, fear

of discovery. He was thrown out of his house when his

parents found one of my letters).

You and I went for a walk. Both of us to have a

cigarette. We had gone a few blocks when you pulled the

letter I had received the day before from Tom out of your

wallet. It was carefully pasted together, at least a hundred

pieces of it. Two pages. My first reaction was, my god what

feat. And then I was angry and hurt that you had spied on

me. Then I remembered my own past intrusions on your

privacy...and I remembered why it was necessary. You

tried very hard to show me that you weren't shocked or

angry by the discovery of the love letter. I have still in my

mind the image of your smile and of my smile as we looked

at each other and "admitted" our own common feelings.

How it was. The first time. We were brothers. We could

share. And it was the elimination of our "aloneness." You

left to go back to school. All too soon. And you became to

me more than ever a hero. Someone without faults. And

that meant that I again overlooked any of your pain. And

only kept grasping at that commoness within us. I made

you into a cult, and reduced you as a person because of it.

Perhaps that is how I handled my own guilt.

When GLF was starting. When you and I talked about.

some of the things we both went through in our

consciousness raising cells, I can remember telling you that

I didn't feel as much self-hate as you said you had gotten

in

motive