Scott’s History, Part 1

10 Jan

Scott and Mother

Scott, the Early Years

My friend, Scott, has asked me to write his story, so as to give his friends and others an idea of what it has been like for him to understand his identity as a gay man over the years. As he has said to me many times, no one would ever choose to be gay, considering the difficulties with which one has to deal. And, of course, most of life is about other things than one’s orientation and sex life, as I think the telling of his story will show.

He grew up in Richfield, Minnesota, a blue collar suburb of Minneapolis, in a ranch style house of the kind thrown up after World War II. His sometimes uncommunicative father was a train engineer, who worked up and down the Soo Line, and his mother was a housewife, who had graduated as the valedictorian of her high school class and taken a degree as a medical technician, but then worked only briefly. She was the person to whom he was the closest. He would often remark with some pride on her Irish ancestry, which included a horse thief who was hanged. He lived for opportunities to make her laugh. One of the few times I was with her, she commented that “he drove her crazy because he would wake up in the morning all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.” She recounted how much he liked being the bearer of bad news. It was clear that this mother and son had a deep connection. They both loved old movies and he often commented on the irony that she had a nervous breakdown while they were watching Clark Gable and Grace Kelly in Mogambo.

Scott was one of four siblings; the fact that he was fourth was never far from his mind. Once when I visited the family home, he took out the three baby books and showed how small his was compared to the other two. I don’t believe they had a baby book for Denise Noel, the third child, who had Down’s Syndrome and had to be institutionalized. His older brother, Doug, was a genius who read the dictionary when he was bored. Scott admired him, but other than liking to read, they seemed to have little in common. Julie, his older sister, and second in line, was a hard worker, who shone in the parents’ eyes because of that, but didn’t have the intellectual abilities of her two brothers. When they were in high school, she functioned at a higher position in the social order, a point that she reinforced by refusing to recognize him in the hall. The father was often cross with all the children, but he actually mistreated Scott by belittling him, a fact that his two siblings both recognized when they were older. Despite the father’s actions, Scott has remained respectful to his dad until recently.

He says that he knew only that he was different from other children his age, not that he was gay. Scott liked to play with dolls as a young child, unlike other boys, and developed a crush on William Shatner when he watched Star Trek. He had a close friend named Pete, a Beatles’ freak, who was bright and funny like him, but they were platonic friends, and Pete was definitely heterosexual. They simply identified as intelligent outsiders with their own brand of humor that they documented on a tape recorder.

Often at odds with his father, Scott took a strong liking to his grandfather, a man whom his father had never forgiven for not allowing him to see movies when he was a child because they didn’t accord with the grandfather’s fundamentalist Christian values. The grandfather was a talented carpenter, however, and Scott loved to go with him and learn the different skills involved in carpentry. One of Scott’s favorite possessions was the many-pocketed leather tool belt that he inherited, a belt that includes the items one would normally find on a carpenter‘s belt–a hammer, pliers, nails, etc and the many awls that his grandfather used to carve wood. Scott has passed this belt on to his brother Doug, who has more current use for it. His grandfather specialized in church sanctuaries, something that required artistic ability–he was more than just a carpenter. He took particular pride in the Salem Methodist Church and often took Scott to look at it. He was also sharing his love of the church in a way that was much more attractive than the route he had taken with his son. In addition, his grandfather was an all-around carpenter, capable of doing most things it takes to build and decorate a house. Scott didn’t have the skill to carve wood, but he was able to help his grandfather do simple tasks and hang wallpaper, a talent he used when helping me hang wallpaper in the upstairs bedroom of my South Minneapolis house.

The Methodist church the family went to was initially a source of strength for Scott. He had a fairly robust faith, and he hadn’t yet started investigating the scriptures with regard to his homosexuality. As he grew into his teens, he developed a beautiful baritone that gave him opportunities to sing at the church, thereby firming up his commitment to Methodism. However, the branch of the church he was introduced to was a fairly conservative one that pushed a literal interpretation of the Bible. More recently, he has had many questions about the Christian faith. If the Bible, as it was presented to me, has contempt for me, how can I be a Christian, he reasons? He went to my reconciling church in Minneapolis once, but although he admired the spirit, it made him uncomfortable. His faith didn’t have the elasticity of a belief that allowed the worshipper to look at the biblical stories as myths or fables, but maybe I am putting too much of my own spin on the situation.

To Be Continued


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