arteejee

A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Sunday Morning Post (V.1 #18) - My Cousin Jimmy


It was summer 1987 when, armed with a fresh Master’s degree, I finally left home and returned to the city of my birth, Philadelphia.  I needed employment and, having outgrown the dead-end cycle of perpetual retailing in Northeast Pennsylvania, I was ready to start a career in a real vocation.  I lived with friends for that summer, then moved in with my aunt and uncle in the Academy Gardens section of the city.  There I got reacquainted with my cousins and really got to know my (second) cousin Jimmy.

At the time, Jimmy was attending parochial high school, well-versed in Roman Catholicism, and giving every indication that he wanted to pursue a career in the priesthood.  He was also, if you chose to believe the things he said, outrageously homophobic. Jimmy would talk about gays burning in Hell, and assert a hormonal excessive heterosexual attitude towards the opposite sex.   To be fair, he was still an adolescent male at this point and any remarks about the fair sex could usually be countered with the admonishment, “Down, boy, down!”

I wasn’t comfortable with Jimmy’s attitudes.   After all, I had known a few gays in college and found nothing wrong with them.  They were usually good company, very intelligent and witty.  I think, in Jimmy’s case, I attributed his attitude towards gays to perhaps traditional religious dogma and inexperience with the world at large.  

It didn’t occur to me at the time that perhaps his years in Roman Catholicism was giving him more world experiences than I could ever realize.  (‘Hi!  My name is Todd and I am naïve.” “Hi, Todd!”)

After a year in Philly, I moved on, stumbled into a career near Washington and finally got on with my life.  In the intervening years, Jimmy also matured.  He completed his religious education with a doctorate and came out of the closet.

We had a few clues over the years about Jimmy.  Once I caught up with him while we were both visiting Bloomsburg.  He was up visiting a boyfriend at the college.  At the time I thought, “Okay, great seeing you again,” and did not give it a second thought.  There was another chance encounter at a Pennsylvania Turnpike stop a few years later when he was traveling with a boyfriend. I don’t know if it was the same one from the earlier incident, but that didn’t matter at the time.  I just felt it was good to see him again.

I’ve thought about the issue of why closeted gays seem to have the most homophobic attitudes among people over the years.  Please understand, I never took a course in psychology or sociology, so I will admit that I don’t feel intellectually qualified to have an opinion on this, but here goes nothing.

I finally decided that this seeming incongruity between expressed attitudes and self-identity is nothing more than “doing as the Romans do”.  You blend in and adopt the attitudes and norms which are considered acceptable in society until you feel comfortable that you have found people who may be like or understand you and not so quick to judgment and condemnation.

I don’t believe that this chameleon effect is limited to the gay community.  Each one of us has most likely felt the need to behave like the rest of the world around us even as we knew that there was something about us (a belief?  a personality quirk?) that was out-of-sync with the world.  We all go through a period of trial, error and social experimentation until we finally either get comfortable with ourselves in our surroundings or find a niche into which that we can fit.

In Jimmy’s case, there is a happy ending.  Yesterday Warrior Queen and I had the honor and wonderful pleasure of witnessing Jimmy exchange vows with his longtime partner, Michael.  It was a beautiful day in the company of family and friends full of love and spiritual acceptance. 

We wish the couple many years of happiness ahead.

(Thank you for reading.  Okay, world, it’s time for you to catch up to us.)

7 Comments:

Blogger Mistress Maddie said...

I think you have stated very well your opinion on to why certain, and most times the most conservative and homophobic people end up being gay. I think I'm buying what you are selling. As hard as that can be to watch.

Sounds like you two had a lovely weekend and what a way to welcome in pride month. Are you two still getting the glitter out of your clothing and crevices? There had to be glitter right?!?!?!

Enjoy your memorial weekend!

May 26, 2019 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Congrats to Jimmy and Michael! I'm glad Jimmy was able to overcome the closet and live his life as who he truly is.

Homophobia in closeted gays is more than just "trying to fit in." It's an active attempt to throw people off your track, to pre-emptively make them think you couldn't possibly be gay yourself. It's a survival strategy against being found out and excluded/beat up/shunned/whatever. It's also an attempt to squash the dreaded homosexual feelings in yourself by adopting an extreme, judgmental condemnation of such leanings. It is self-loathing made manifest. And of course, being Catholic doesn't help. Many young closeted gays and lesbians are unconsciously drawn to same-sex environments despite any stated homophobic views -- the priesthood, the convent, the army, sports teams, etc. -- where they can live/work predominantly among members of their own sex.

May 26, 2019 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Nice that Jimmy finally found peace and acceptance within himself, and love/
That's all you really get in life.

May 26, 2019 at 1:23 PM  
Blogger Travel said...

Trying to fit the social expectations, and being true to oneself, is very complex.

May 26, 2019 at 2:39 PM  
Blogger Dave R said...

Blame that old, black Catholicism...

Happy Endings are always great!

May 26, 2019 at 5:37 PM  
Blogger Ur-spo said...

I too think you did a fine job. Internalized self-hatred all too readily translates into persecution of what you are trying to suppress and deny. There's many fancy words for it.
I'm glad his turned out well.

May 26, 2019 at 6:46 PM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you Maddie. I regret to say that this was glitter free event. Sorry.

Thank you Debra for mentioning "survival strategy". That was the term I was looking to use, but kept dancing around it.

Nicely put, Bob.

Thank you Travel. This is a struggle we all have to experience.

Yes, Dave R., drat organized religion in general.

Thank you, Spo. I think I actually felt joy(!) at the sight of my cousin exchanging vows. I don't often have this feeling.

May 27, 2019 at 9:09 AM  

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