Before I continue on this journey that I started last month, I would like to thank those of you that commented to our editor, Jeff Walsh, on not only this article, but on my poem, "The Child", as well. He was kind enough to forward your comments on to me. And now Part Two.
nothings been the same
so are you gay
are you blue
thought we both could use a friend
to run to
The University of Kansas, which is smack-dab in the heart of rolling green Lawrence, Kansas, has a huge volume of student organizations, one of which was Gay and Lesbian Services of Kansas (GLSOK). They have since changed their name twice to what is presently known as KU Queers and Allies, or Q&A.
This organization is famous for putting on a local pride week in early April that could show some other small communities a thing or two about gay awareness. An event that was scheduled back in 1992 was the Kiss-In.
Basically, this was more of a friendship circle where various gays, lesbians, and bisexuals would hold hands for a period of time, would say a few words, and then kiss the person next to them lightly on the lips or on the cheek. A fairly innocent event, indeed. Of course, any event with the title "Kiss-In" is going to attract quite a bit of attention. Many students thought they would be seeing some fag freak show complete with open displays of sex right in front of anybody that cared to watch. Needless to say, there was quite a crowd of spectators. Oh, yeah. There were quite a few media representatives, too. Radio, TV, newspaper, you name it. And a photographer. After what wound up being an innocent gathering during the lunch hour (to many thrill-seekers' disappointment), a photojournalist by the name of Kristen came up to me and two of my friends and asked us if we would pose for a picture for the University Daily Kansan, the student newspaper.
We thought, sure, what the hell. So, we gave her our permission for the shoot and the use of our names. Kristen shot a picture that featured myself on the far right hand side peering over the shoulder of one of my friends in the middle of the picture who was kissing our other friend at the left-hand side of the picture tamely on the lips (are you still with me?). I know exactly what this photograph looks like because I still have a copy of it.
It appeared as a three inch by eight inch picture on the third page of the Kansan. It was big. The picture accompanied an article about the concept behind the Kiss-In (i.e.: being able to express your feelings in public, blah, blah, blah). After reading that particular edition of the UDK, as we called it, my friend, Mike, quipped, "Hey, Patrick, wouldn't it be funny if someone sent a copy to your dad?"
Someone did. To this day, I don't know who. It was mailed an a plain manila envelope, addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. D." at my home address in Wichita. This does not take a great amount of genius as all home addresses of KU students are published in the student directory. There was no return address on the envelope. Not even a note attached. Just the article. This person or persons clearly did not know me as I have never known my mother, hence, there would be no "Mrs. D." This hate-action would prompt GLSOK and the University Daily Kansan to conduct an investigation into the matter. It is the Kansan's policy not to send copies of newspapers home to parents that feature their children if the content should be controversial in nature. If it turned out that a campus organization were found responsible for the mailing, a lawsuit could ensue for all kinds of things. However, nothing was ever found.
What WAS found was a message on my answering machine late at night from my father telling me to call him immediately. I called him back in anger just because he had annoyed me by calling. You must understand, he and I just didn't get along well. My father answered the phone. "Yeah, I got something in the mail today," he said, "A picture of you. Some Kiss-In thing. You want to tell me what this is all about?" Immediately, I started pulling rabbits out of my hat.
"It was nothing, Dad, some of my friends are gay, and I was just there to support them."
"What about your friend, Mike, is HE gay?"
"Yeah, sure. I have a lot of gay friends."
"Are YOU gay?" he asked with mixed awe and rage.
By now, I was pissed. Pissed at my father in general. Pissed at the fucker who sent him the article. "Yes, Dad, " I said in as civil of a voice as I could muster, "As a matter of fact, I am."
"You are coming home," he said quietly.
"What? What are you talking about?"
"You need to be here in Wichita. You have obviously been brainwashed by your 'friends'. I'm pulling you out of school and bringing you home so that you can get the proper care when you get sick."
Sick? The man thought that because I was gay, I surely had AIDS.
"Dad, I am not sick, I do not have AIDS, I am just gay."
"You are coming home. You are going to see a doctor, and you are getting tested."
This man was insane.
"I am not coming home! This is ridiculous! I am just fine! I will NOT go back to Wichita."
"Then I'm going to tell your grandmother."
Bam! Just like that. Blackmail. And the worst kind. I love my grandmother dearly. I was not about to give her a heart attack with the fact that I am gay. This was beyond low of my father. It was downright cruel. I felt I had no choice. At the end of that spring semester, I moved back to Wichita.
And I moved into my own place, too. There was no way I was going to live with my father. I would have killed myself first. Immediately, he demands I get an HIV test. He drags me down to the Wichita-Sedgwick County Health Department and waits with me during the embarrassing proceedings. You must understand, I have been tested there before of my own free will. I even think the nurse recognized me... and the pained anguish on my face, too.
"I want to be in there when he gets tested," my father demanded, "I want to be certain." The nurse promptly informed him that it was against State law for anyone but the nurse and the testee to be in the room where she would draw my blood. My father was furious, but finally agrees to wait in the waiting room (so that's why it's called that... and the restroom is for resting?). So they do the test and tell me what I already knew, that it would be two weeks before the results would be known. My dad was furious at that, too, because he had to know NOW. So the two weeks came and went. Then I did something natural: I went and got the test results from the health department. My father was even more furious because I had gone there "behind his back."
Without him. No wonder, then, that the test results were negative. I had obviously done something to screw them up. I must have changed the test results somehow. I wanted to kill my father. Luckily, after much drained arguing, I managed to convince him that, yes, the health department document was the honest-to-god's truth. That didn't stop him from making his next move by setting up an appointment for me to see a shrink. One that HE chose.
In August, the conclusion of my coming out story including the shocking news of the psychiatrist and a call from the Washington Post. Oh yeah, and what finally happened with Grandma.
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