Gratitude’s a great attitude any day of the year.


Every morning I wake up grateful, now that I’ve realized how blessed my life has been and is.  Somehow I seem always to have chosen the right circles or environments for acceptance as a gay man.  By sheer luck, as a youth I stumbled into New Orleans’ French Quarter, a gay haven back then in the early 1960’s (and now a gay Disneyland).  In my later years in the enlightened worlds of academia and arts administration, the question of one’s sexuality was usually immaterial, though in some situations it could even be a good credential.  I truly appreciate these blessings.

In my long gay life I’ve experienced only one truly homophobic incident, which happened in the French Quarter 1963.  In the late afternoon my Colombian lover Alphonse and I were walking up Royal Street.  I was pulling a red wagon full of a little girl Mumu (3), and her brother Krell (6) strolled along beside us.  Across the street, three ball-capped teenaged boys walking the other way saw us and started shouting, “Queers!”  Now in my experience, this sort of thing simply didn’t happen in the Quarter.  Alphonse and I stared at the boys, stunned, but Krell yelled back at them, “Assholes!”  Then he dropped his shorts and mooned them.  But that wasn’t the incident.

When I’d strolled home that evening and was sitting on my patio reading, I heard the doorbell ring and walked down the carriageway to answer the door.  When I opened it, the three boys burst in and attacked me.  They left me on the floor with a cut eyebrow, a broken nose, and one of their ball-caps.  In bloody shock, I staggered the block over to Lafitte’s in Exile where a (hot) friend chivalrously ripped up his T-shirt to bandage my head and helped me to the hospital.  That’s my war story.  The bridge of my nose is still crooked.

There was however another incident of physical aggression in my New Orleans years, anything but homophobic.  One night on my jubilant entry into the Gin Mill, a depraved Greek sailor bar, I was welcomed by an aging, heavily made up queen called Miss Kitty, who leapt up from her barstool snarling and ran at me with a knife.  Several valorous sailors snagged her and tossed her out onto Decatur Street.  Then they bought me an ouzo.  I felt rather sorry for poor Kitty, but she just wouldn’t forgive me for making off with that young sailor Pteros.  Ah, lecherous youth!

Comfortable in my charmed gay life, I bleed for our gay youth still being bullied and persecuted by ignorant classmates, brutalized and killed by mindless bigots, for anyone fired from a job, kicked out of an apartment, or ostracized by heartless family and friends—just for being gay.  And it’s a special torment for me to read about the persecution of gays in places like Russia, Uganda, and even North Carolina, about our countless victims of hatred and violence throughout history.  Let me cite a little known event to curl your hair.

The seminal New World historian Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616) attested in “The Royal Commentaries of the Inca” to several horrendous instances of slaughter of gays by the Incan rulers throughout their empire, including an oddly humanitarian holocaust in the Chincha valley:

“General Capac Yupanqui was severe only with the sodomites, who, alas, were very numerous there:  He had them all assembled and burned alive, after which he had their houses razed to the ground, their fields destroyed, and the very trees they had planted dug up by the roots.  Had it not been inhuman to do so, General Capac Yupanqui would have had their wives and children burned at the stake as well…”

Alas, indeed.  The wives and children were humanely taken into slavery, female sodomites not being considered quite as evil, I suppose.

We gay folk in this country nowadays really do have some real reasons to give thanks.  Compared to other times and places, we’re well on the way to achieving our “unalienable rights” to Life and Liberty.  It remains to nail down our unalienable right to “the pursuit of Happiness.”