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st.

Tarcissus

was

A

Sissy

By DANIEL SHAUNESSEY

I

t's June 1970. I'm really in a daze as I walk down

Market Street to the Greyhound station to catch a

bus from San Francisco to Palo Alto. Shuddering

visions torment me, and I want to cry for help but

know it's not time yet. My sweaty and shaky hand

clutches tightly $15 worth of Gay pornography that it took

me three hours in that fantasy-haven bookstore to get up

the nerve to buy. The realization of what that symbolic act

meant hits me with its uncomfortable revelation. I have just

admitted to myself for the first time in my life the single

fact that has accounted for many of my loneliest moments

and my loveliest fantasies. I'm a

homosexual!

But it cannot be, I tell myself, as with very shaky and

unsure steps I approach the station. I'm not queer. I'm

normal. I just won't let myself believe I'm some kind of

pervert. Two very attractive Gay kids, standing arm in arm

smiling at each other and then at me, hand me a leaflet. I

do not take it because I can't. The nerve they have to

"uncover" me. It must have been the books under my arm.

I certainly don't look queer! Walking only a few steps

further, I stopped and looked back. I'd realized that my

identity had been confirmed. I wasn't ready for those kids

yet. I remember having an impulse to run, or to cry and let

it all out, or at least smile. Looking back on that day, I

believe they sent a ray of sunshine into my life. They had

the courage I needed. I wish someday I could thank both of

them.

I had first heard about Gay Liberation a month prior to

my California excursion, in a radical newspaper published

at the University of Illinois called the

Walrus.

My

roommate, Nick, showed me the article, told me about Gay

Liberation, and said there was a chapter in Chicago. I was

pleasantly surprised that Gays were organizing. But

somehow I couldn't believe it. Gays were

supposed

to hide

like I was doing. Their coming out threatened me. Even

though Nick and I were very close, I didn't tell him about

myself.

We had been living for a year in a Chicago neighborhood

known as "Back of the Yards" made up of working class

Polish and Irish Catholics and were part of a local group of

radical organizers. I had grown up in the neighborhood and,

having completed eight years of seminary training, had

returned to organize.

The California trip and the

Walrus

article raised severe

contradictions in my way of thinking, conditioned by years

of Catholic education and working class mores. I was really

shook up and still unready and unwilling to deal with all

that I was feeling. But I was not alone here, for all of us in

the organizing collective sensed that something was missing

in our lives and we began exploring some alternatives:

discussions about communal living, male chauvinism, and

women's oppression, sex roles in a sexist culture, and

ultimately Gay liberation. I didn't tell anyone I was Gay

4

until a couple of months later, when after many weeks of

putting it off, I went to a Gay Liberation meeting. The

announcement was received well and I drew the support I

needed.

And now it's been about one year since I "came out"

and joined Gay Liberation. The personal torture of ten

years in a guilt-ridden "closet" didn't get erased very easily.

It took some time! Meeting people, sharing feelings and

experiences we had in common, the nightmares, the agony,

the loneliness. Understanding it. Doing something about it.

And it's still happening. Because for the first time in my life

I felt whole, that I could love and be loved. I felt proud and

respected myself. I felt Gay. I can't recall a time in my life

when I felt so happy and comfortable about myself.

I

am of Irish Catholic working-c:lass stock. My

grandparents immigrated from Ireland; my parents

are second generation Irish-Americans. Father was

a mail carrier for the Post Office until he retired.

Mother stayed at home and took care of four kids. We

could afford to live moderately, not rich, not poor. Like

many Irish Catholic youths, I had decided to study for the

priesthood and I began Quigley Preparatory Seminary in

Chicago as my first step. I'd wanted to be a priest since I

was ten. I wished to serve people, be close to God, have a

meaningful relationship with Jesus. But I had to deny

myself a lot of things: I couldn't date, have sex, or get

married. This separated me from my peers, but that was OK

since I had no desire for that stuff anyway. But it also

meant that I couldn't get close to my friends, have

emotional feelings, or fall in love. The seminary called these

relationships

particular friendships,

things a priest must do

without. A seminarian could be close only to God. We just

weren't

supposed

to have emotional feelings toward others.

So I went to Mass and prayed my rosary daily, and for a

while, I liked it.

My indoctrination with Catholic norms on sexuality was

successful in that it taught me to sublimate and repress my

emotional feelings, and hence much of my developing

personality. We learned in religion class that sex was a

necessary evil that produced a necessary good: children. It

was distasteful and dirty, sinful to participate in unless you

were married, and something seminarians weren't to discuss

with each other, but only in the confessional. The sole

purpose of marriage was the procreation of children. The

only acceptable sexual model was heterosexual sex. And

the only acceptable sexual relationship was Christian

marriage. It was just that simple.

I've masturbated since I was thirteen. The religion books

called it the sin of "self-abuse." It was a mortal sin

{equivalent to murder). You could go to hell for it. During

my teens, I'd go to bed afraid to fall asleep, fearing God

motive