Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Love Is Love



Mary Cheney, the daughter of the lawyer-shooting vice-president, has a book coming out about her life in politics. She is doing the full press publicity tour including ABC News, People, Vanity Fair, etc. Inevitably the topic comes up about how she reconciles being a lesbian in the political party that is trying to make gay marriage a campaign issue when she clearly disagrees with the policy. I would hesitate to call her a Log Cabin Lesbian, but that clearly is what she is.

An article in the Washington Post by Jennifer Frey points out, perhaps too subtly, the irony that Mary Cheney who has been married (her word) to Heather Poe for over 14 years is nearly invisible when in the same green room with Nick Lachey, who has made a stunningly well publicized mockery of the institution being denied to thousands of very committed same-sex couples.

The article further summarizes Mary’s very brief coming out to her parents story:

She was 16. She and her first girlfriend had just broken up. She skipped school, crashed the car, came home and decided it was time to just do it. Mom cried ("Your life will be so hard") but quickly came around. Dad said he loved her and just wanted her to be happy. The end.

I find it interesting that Mary Cheney, and her parents, knew was she was a lesbian since she was in high school or before. The high school years are very emotionally tough times for people, particularly for those establishing a sexual identity that doesn’t square with the conventional expectations. Sometimes people try on a lot of roles that don’t seem to fit until they can become comfortable with who they are.

I know that because in high school I dated a girl that in all hindsight I now know was lesbian. I don’t take credit or blame for this (although a certain amount of teen-age awkwardness on my part couldn’t have helped matters), since I know sexual attraction doesn’t work that way. We met in English class (where I met nearly every girl I dated in high school) and had homeroom together. She was funny and always smiling. Her family had moved from Texas and she didn’t know a lot of other people in Florida.

She was a big fan of Kris Kristofferson and was impressed that I knew he wrote “Me and Bobby McGee”. I had my dad’s exhaustive pirated country music collection to thank for that hook. Being from Texas, she was also a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, but I barely knew half the players she had posters of on her wall. She was way more athletic and sports-oriented than I ever was.

In the fall of my junior year we started to go on the typical high school type dates, football games and movies. On one date, we went to a mall sporting goods store looking for a gun rack for her brother’s pick-up. I didn’t find gun-rack shopping odd since there were a lot of pick-up trucks and gun racks and even a few Confederate flags in our school parking lot. Our high school band drum major knowingly and ironically kept his marching baton in his gun rack.

The most interesting date I ever had was one Friday night when we got back to her house from the movie or whatever and she got all excited because her brother’s truck was in the driveway. He had gone on a hunting trip and was supposed to be away until Sunday. Sure enough, he was back early because he had bagged a buck and had it hanging from a tree in the back yard of this suburban cul de sac house. I spent the rest of the evening watching the entire family gut and dress that deer, wrapping everything in freezer backs for weeks of meals of venison. While I knew other hunters and had eaten venison, I had never seen this part of the process so up close and personal before or since.

I tried to be a good potential boyfriend. When she had knee surgery, I bought some flowers and visited her in the hospital. That cheered her up because the knee operation had ended her career as a softball catcher. Rather than give up the game, she took up coaching some youth leagues and loved telling me stories about her girls at practice. At one point, we had an awkward conversation where she wondered if she came off as too “butch”. Being romantically interested in her, I tried to reassure her she wasn’t, but there had to be a grain of truth in there. We eventually just drifted apart, but always stayed friendly.

In our senior year, we had the same homeroom still, but she spent a lot of time giggling and talking with another girl in our homeroom that was clearly very butch. These two worked the same shifts at the local ice cream place, and I would always say “hi” when I went through the drive-thru. Any potential relationship between those two didn’t even register with me because I had moved on romantically and was dating my future wife by then.


She wrote a very sweet note in my high school yearbook and perhaps the word “smart” is code for “straight”. Or not. I was a bit of a geek in high school and a lot of other people wrote similar things. In retrospect, clues about our incompatibility should have been falling on me like anvils. She never really “came out” to me and she didn’t owe that to me since it really didn’t matter at that point. We dated, broke up, and stayed friends. Nothing more to say or do. I haven’t seen or heard from her in over twenty years since she doesn’t attend any of the high school reunions I make a point of going to, but I hope she has found love and happiness. We all deserve that. Love comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Mary Cheney knows that, and her father should too.

17 comments:

colleen said...

I hope it's getting easier and easier to come out sooner these days. I enjoyed the story.

Josh said...

Your story makes it sound like your guess was right, but I'm guessing that in the context of that yearbook signature, "smart" is actually code for "not a jock" (she sounds pretty jocky).

I was going to ask why you blanked your name in that scan ... and then I realized that even though I feel like I know you from reading your blog and your posts on my blog, I don't actually know what your name is! Ha.

jf

yellojkt said...

A friend of my son’s (sophomore in high school) appears to be discovering her sexuality. It makes it awkward for him since they have both had crushes on the same girl. I used to think she had a crush on him, but that is clearly not the case. I’m not sure if her fairly conservative parents know or care, and even though we are friends of the parents, we aren’t about to bring it up on our own.

Other lesbian girls he knows are completely upfront with it and bring dates to group outings and everything. My son goes to a very diverse high school in about all aspects.

Impetua said...

We had a couple of fairly out lesbians in my high school class... (I didn't come out until I was 22 and did not have a CLUE in high school, myself). I think in larger cities it's more and more common for gay kids to assert themselves these days. Let's hope the trend continues.

I once visited a lesbian friend who was dying of a massive infection secondary to treatment for leukemia. Her estranged parents came, they who had disowned her completely for years, and those poor people... they cried and hugged every single one of us weird, queer folk and thanked us all for being there for Anne when they couldn't. I don't know if they were changed in the long run as far as tolerance or acceptance goes, but I like to hope that they were. It's too bad they lost out on all those years with her.

My coming out was rocky but at this point my family is pretty cool about it. It has been 16 years more or less so I guess they have figured out it's not a phase. I think my experience is out of the ordinary, at least from listening to my friends.

There was some difficulty on my mostly absent father's side in a) understanding and b) accepting our decision to have a child, but now he benignly neglects her just like all the other grandkids so I guess it's okay. :P

Courtney said...

Her father should know better. Everyone should know better. There's enough misery in this world without creating more for foolish reasons like who someone sleeps with, which in the grand scheme of everything isn't any one's business but our own.

If someeone out there can actually explain to me rationally, and without quoting the Bible, how gay marriage ACTUALLY PREVENTS THEM FROM LIVING THEIR LIVES FREELY AND OPENLY, then I'll engage in the debate. Everyone deserves love and happiness. Who are we as a culture to say no?

TBG said...

I'll never understand how the folks who claim to support family values can be against gay marriage.

My son proudly told our congressman (Tom Davis, R-Va.) at the model Congress in his high school last year that he hopes 25 years from now people who were against gay marriage are as ashamed as those today who used to fight against civil rights.

loudfan said...

There were a handful of out gay kids at my high school -- this was back in the '80s. (I should note that it was a small, academically oriented magnet school, so there were no jocks.) I therefore assumed that if you were gay, you were out. During my entire high school career, I nurtured a huge, Luann-luvs-Aaron-Hill-style crush on a guy who never showed the slightest interest in me. Anyway, about five years after graduation, I found out that he had come out. He had kept his sexuality hidden because he was afraid of what his conservative family would think. I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if I'd known then that he was gay... I might still have felt rejected, but it would have been a lot better for my ego!

Mooselet said...

While I never knew any openly gay classmates in high school, my parents were friends with several openly gay people, both men and women, including a woman who was the middle school special ed teacher. Given the closed-mindedness of my hometown, I'm stunned there were never any repercussions. But because my parents were so open and honest, I've never thought twice about someone's sexuality. I decide to like/dislike people based on their personality, not who they are sleeping with.

J.Po said...

Amen, Courtney. And to those who, despite your admonition not to, might still quote the Bible, I might ask them to explain why they don't demand the total subservience of women to their husbands, why those who work on Sunday shouldn't be killed by stoning, etc...

Gypsy said...

I hope it's getting easier to come out these days, too, although when I hear about students having to fight to be allowed to bring same-sex dates to proms, I'm not so sure. Then again, at least they're fighting for that right.

Great read. I'm here from Michele's today, but I'll be back on my own.

Claude said...

I can't say that I've ever dated someone who later turned out to be a lesbian, but one of the coolest places that I enjoyed spending time was a bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn (NY). I first went there with an openly gay co-worker of mine. It wasn't a gay bar, but it was gay-friendly, if you catch the difference. People of all stripes used to come into the place and it didn't matter whether you knew the person next to you, the attitude in that place was always convivial. That bar is definitely one of the things I miss about working in New York.

None of the people I work or socialize with these days are openly gay (although if pressed to guess I could come up with a few names), and I think my life is a little poorer for not having that standpoint in it. There seem to be a disproportionate number of narrow-minded people in my immediate orbit.

In my head, though, it doesn't matter where on the Kinsey scale you reside so long as you're a good person in the end.

yellojkt said...

In the workplace or in social situations, I don't think there is anything about me that particularly screams gay-friendly and I think even lightly closeted people's instincts to keep their personal life on a need-to-know basis prevents greater awareness.

I can respect that.

J.Po said...

Might I add to my previous post another response to those who would use their "religious faith" as a weapon against those who don't fit their narrow view...a quote from the recently-departed Rev. William Sloane Coffin, "the integrity of love is more important than the purity of dogma." I have a link to a fabulous Terry Gross interview with Rev. Coffin on my blog...as a liberal Christian (this is not an oxymoron), I found it incredibly energizing.

dena said...

That was a great story.

I watched a little of MC on Larry King last night. Not sure of my thoughts on her since I didn't catch the entire thing, but she seemed rather confused and defensive. Again, I only caught a small portion of the interview.

yellojkt said...

I thumbed through Mary's book at Border's loocking for juicy stuff, but mostly she just defends her dad's stand that gay marriage should be a state by state issue. Which is a little disingenuous because how can a marriage become invalid just by moving? It would be chaos.

Marc said...

My school had started a "Gay Straight Alliance" club a years ago...many people were in the closet and in denial until the club was formed. It is amazing how there is no tolerance to this day. I heard gay kids who go to GSA are made fun of frequently. That's the price you pay for living in an uptight, conservative area.

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