The true epiphany? It came at 16 in of all places, the flower shop at Travis Air Force Base. My mother, the manager of the shop, asked me to work for her on weekends. (Actually, my mother asked me to work the same way the Europeans asked West Africans to work in the colonies, but that’s a future blog posting.) Along with Mom, the store was staffed with floral designers, two men trucked up from San Francisco.
I wouldn’t say they looked stereotypically gay, whatever that is, but at Travis AFB in the mid-seventies, they certainly stood out: clogs, earrings, longish, ethnic sweaters tied at the waist. Mom didn’t notice anything unusual about them (I later on discovered she was a closet fag hag, but that’s another future blog posting), but I did: they were my first introduction to gay culture.
And what struck me about them? They seemed so–comfortable with who they were. And they were as equally comfortable with everyone around them. They laughed at just about everything my mother said (which she loved to no end); they hauled box after box of vases and spray painted carnations a hideous baby-blue (which coincidentally matched the polyester pant suit my mother forced me to wear at the shop). They even tried teaching me how to tie huge bows for arrangements, a two-year endeavor that ultimately failed (however I was fantastic at dish gardens–so much so that they had to hide the ceramic bowls and peat moss whenever I worked). And everyone liked them, from the base commander to the woman who sold hot dogs in front of the base exchange.
Those two gave me the first inkling that I was going to be okay in this world–the idea I could be who I was and not only exist but thrive became a distinct possibility. And even though they never could get me to wrap ribbon into graceful contortions, I owe those two a lot.
There would be more reminders later on: working at the Castro Theatre, watching friends struggle with coming out, and crying for those facing illness and death. And at each time I was so grateful there were people out there who had the courage to be themselves.
So–thank you, gay people.
Why Librarians Are Going to Hell (The Series): librarygrrrl posted an eye-searing video on YouTube, featuring the “ACRL Pom-Pom Squad”–?? For the love of all things bibliographic, couldn’t they have practiced first?