Chapter Nine Installment Twenty-two
It doesn’t matter who called whom. “It’s okay,” Buddy said after Albert apologized. “We have a lot of catching up to do.”
“It has only been two weeks.”
And they started off where they left off Only this time they talked more about their hopes and dreams. So the two men became more intimate in a non-sexual way by talking about what they wanted in life, though they both were well on their way.. For the first time in many years Albert didn’t feel like he had to offer advice. They listened to each other and talked about their hopes and dreams and in the process that shared ideas, and little by little got to know each other.
There were many things they talked about, and their best ideas involved action and activism. It may take years of determination but they talked about doing something about prejudice, prejudice and what it meant then to be gay. Why, weren’t they accepted as gay men? Why weren’t gay men accepted? Why did they have to hide? Why did they have to go dark theaters showing gay porn to find companionship with like-minded men? Why? Why? Why? Why couldn’t open about who they were?
Even for Albert to talk about it took a lot effort, a lot of course, or so he thought, even with Buddy. What would it take to change everyone’s minds about being gay? Why not? There would always be those who would show hostility. There would always be those who would show prejudice.. There were always those … yes, those ignorant bastards. But there wasn’t much one could do about ignorant bastards. At first, people would feel very nervous, and there were reasons for it. To begin with … prejudice was a learned response. So, at first, people may feel awkward. Yes, they needed to be prepared for awkwardness.
Black people who lived for so long under the shackles of Jim Crow were finally making their voices heard. They were demonstrating, marching, but this was before Stonewall. This was before MLK. This was before LBJ.
Skilled as activist or not, there were a few gays … very few of then … who defying laws (many were taking chances because they didn’t have a choice). Some of them were arrested. And it wasn’t only in Texas.
By then a core group of gay men met occasionally in dark shadows, and Albert wished he could organize such a men’s group in his church. There were men’s group that focused on other things. There were other men’s groups meeting in his church, but a men’s group for gay men. Albert knew it wouldn’t fly. It was too soon. He knew it was too soon and wouldn’t fly. He wouldn’t even … even come out of the closet out of fear … out of fear … out of fear of losing his job. Having a men’s group for gay men, as far fetched as it seemed, was something Albert thought about. His church had groups for alcoholics and drug abusers, so why not a men’s group for gays. Of course, Albert knew why it wasn’t possible. He knew the consequences quite well. He knew what the reaction would be.
The greatest asset that came with attending a group was a support system. Without a support system people felt alone and rarely had anyone they could talk to about their inner feelings. ; and without a support system many gay men felt alone. Many gay men didn’t have anyone they could talk about their inner feelings. What Albert knew as the importance of a support system. He had always encouraged people to talk about their inner feelings.
Establishing a support system often presented untold challenges for gay people. It was especially had then before Stonewall and the movement that followed it. But people like Albert and Buddy carried on, although it often it involved rejection in one form or another, because of prejudice. Some people faced rejection, while a great number of gay people lived secret lives.
Buddy and Albert began spending more and more time together, so much time that it took Albert away from his church. Because of this, too, members of his congregation began to notice his absence and even began to talk among themselves. First a separation and then longer and long absences. At first many members assumed that Albert was spending more time with his children, or they hoped that that was what was going on because word finally got out that Alice and their children were now living in San Antonio
A year or so later, once it became public … very public indeed … once their minister lost his church because he was gay, some of them rallied around him. Still others, inspired by old prejudices, and religiosity, found ways to spite him. And while this problem was never completely eliminated it would never be as virulent as it was then.
As time went by moral at the church went down and as the drama played out everyone took one side or the other. And while few members of the congregation were interested in confronting Albert directly … they considered it the bishop’s business … each of them had an opinion.
Albert and Buddy, meanwhile, continued to see each other. They continued to talk and meet, drink tea and eat pie in the same coffee shop as often as they could. Needless to say, at first Albert felt uncomfortable … not because he felt uncomfortable around Buddy but the coffee shop was a public place. This may seem silly, but to Albert it was a safe alternative to going to Buddy’s place. While before Albert hadn’t hesitated going to some stranger’s place to have sex, now he felt hesitant about going to Buddy’s place. He still found Buddy to be hot, but he felt hesitant. What made Buddy different. Albert found a communal spirit in him. They found a communal spirit in each other. But within six or seven months that would all change.