Table of Contents
The Body Politic, Issue 39, December 1977/January 1978
There’s a painting in the foyer of my YMCA. It’s a dedication portrait, the kind you still expect to see in banks over an “Our Founder” plaque, except that banks have pretty much surrendered to the framed fabric school of interior design. Not so trendy, the YMCA. The ones I know still rely heavily on dark wood veneer and respectable oil paintings like this one of C J Atkinson, “Leader in Boys’ Work.” Or so the dedication reads. It continues: “…here he realized a dream of his young manhood in the building of a community in which boys learned to do by doing.”
He worked with boys, did Mr Atkinson. He cared about them, worried about their welfare, worried more about the ones society didn’t seem to have much of a place for, and finally arranged for the construction of this building, a sanctuary — at least until recently — for boys, for young men, “a dream of his young manhood.”
I think I know something about C J Atkinson. I think he was a pedophile.
I don’t know for sure, of course. If I did — if anyone else had — there wouldn’t be an oil painting of the man gracing the foyer of a building belonging to the Young Men’s Christian Association.
But I do know what he did. I know, at least, why he was celebrated. He loved boys. He had dreams for them. He made them his life’s work. If you are what you do, C J Atkinson, benefactor and “leader in boys’ work,” was very much a pedophile.
It’s not a good word. The Greek origin, “lover of boys,” is nice enough, but it’s a clinician’s word; it’s like “homosexual,” only worse. “People use it as a label for a disease,” says Simon, one of the men we shall meet in this article, one of the men who says, “I’m gay, but I like to be called boy-lover. I like the word ‘boy.’ It’s strange… whenever I even see the word boy….”
We’ll meet Simon and others like him because what they do is important. Like C J Atkinson, if they are remembered at all, they will be remembered for what they do. Not for what they are, not because they are “nice people.” Niceness is not enough. No, Simon and Barry and Peter and thousands of others like them will earn the esteem of their community for the work they do with boys; they will earn the affection of their associates and friends because they have lived honest and loving lives, have formed meaningful and responsible relationships.
If they don’t get caught.
What do they do, then? What is it like — a loving, sexual relationship between a man and a boy? If you read the papers, this is one picture: a psychopath draws a circle of hapless boys to him and after months of wild, degrading sex he murders them — the Houston story. Another: a pathetic man incapable of forming meaningful relationships with adults finally turns to children for his social/sexual outlet — basically harmless, but pathetic and obviously in need of help. Another: a group of well-placed and usually wealthy citizens make clandestine use of a well-organized “boy bordello,” one that recruits runaways and waifs and makes big money by selling their sexual favours to the well-to-do.
Those things happen. But they happen less often than wife-beating, or the battering of babies. Psychiatrists see far, far fewer young people from man /boy relationships than they see boys and girls unable to cope with the strains of their happy homes.
The media equate boy-love and child molestation. And they use that equation as a weapon against all gay people. Children are molested when they are physically or psychologically coerced into a sexual act, and that sort of thing is almost exclusively a heterosexual preoccupation. “Homosexual offenders against children almost never used force, but… heterosexual offenders against children often did” — the admirably clear and succinct conclusion of one American study. The same study noted: “Abuse is the major killer of children under two, and (intentional) neglect occurs ten times as often as abuse.” And Barbara Chisholm, project director of the Canadian Council on Children and Youth, has said that as many as fifty percent of girls now in training school may have been subjected to initial rape by their own fathers.
Boy-love is not child molestation. Boy-love is C J Atkinson. Boy-love is Simon.
Simon is thirty-three. He is, I suppose, exactly the person that families worry about. He is a primary school teacher, and an active member of several social service agencies that deal with children, including Big Brothers. He has taught for ten years in four different schools and has formed sexual, loving relationships with boys in each of those four schools and in each of the service organizations of which he is a member, including Big Brothers. He has never been caught.
Simon is tall, genial, getting a little soft around the middle; a generous, rather private man with few close adult friends and a much wider acquaintance among the young. His lover, David, is twelve and in Simon’s class at school. David writes poetry to Simon:
You are a friend that I love forever.
I will care for you,
And if we must to part
It would break my heart.
So let’s stay together,
And be friends forever and ever.
With love, from David.
Kids are not usually romantics, according to Simon, and that is one of the reasons he finds the relationship with David so deeply moving. I asked him how it began. “He liked me, used to come by and visit. We used to lie on the couch together, I at one end and he at the other, with our legs together. But some of the things he did at first were quite touching and quite unusual and I have to tell you about them. We used to sit there and he would do things like just lean over and lick the bottom of my throat… I was dumbfounded and I said, ‘What are you doing… stop!’ But I didn’t want him to stop. And all on his own he would take my fingers into his mouth and roll his tongue around them… it would just drive me up the wall. Then I would do it to his fingers and on one occasion I did it to his toes… that got him aroused. But this was before we’d been naked in front of each other, and all of this was without his being told what to do or asked to do it. Any gay person would have been overwhelmed by him.”
The relationship seems on an even keel now. “I think it will last like this for quite a while,” says Simon. “We satisfy each other. He satisfies my needs, not my desires.” But like many relationships, it had its moments of strain. “At one point it cooled off a bit for a period of weeks, and I was very hurt and depressed. I had a talk with him and told him he was really hurting me quite a bit, and though I didn’t expect things to be always the same, I didn’t see any reason for his being so cold and distant. There were a couple of occasions during the conversation when I couldn’t speak anymore and I had to get up and leave and when I came back he said, ‘I didn’t think it meant all that much to you.’ And I said, ‘It’s not the sex, it’s what you think of me. It’s the affection you used to show me that I miss.’ Since then, he’s just completely warmed up, and though he’s still cool at school, when we get out on our own he’s completely relaxed.”
I asked Simon why he thought the coolness had developed.
“I think he was genuinely a bit troubled about some of the things he’d done. He’d gone down on me. And perhaps I was a little aggressive and tried to kiss him on the lips, which is something he didn’t want. But it seems to be settled. I suppose now we have more fun than sex… we both undress, and bring the mattress out here in front of the TV, and we eat and wrestle and giggle and blow into each other’s bellies and generally laugh and have lots of fun. And that’s really more pleasurable to me than having sex… because there’s so much affection.”
I wondered about teaching. Is it wise to have your lover in your class? Could one possibly avoid just a little favouritism? Simon thinks so. “If the boy I’m having an affair with does something wrong, I tell him off just like anybody else and he gets marked just like everybody else. If anything, I’m probably a bit harder on him because I want him to do better. And he makes sure that I don’t treat him any better than any of the other kids. He’ll act a bit cool sometimes… but I accept that. It makes him feel more secure with his peers. I mean, there’s a lot of pressure not to be teacher’s pet … and listen: l’m a popular teacher. I’m usually one of the most popular teachers in the school. I understand the kids, sympathize with them. My principals have always remarked on my special relationships with my kids in their reports on me. A few have even suggested that I have a little chat with some of the teachers that didn’t seem to be doing so well. If they only knew my method!”
But then Simon’s classroom methods aren’t that traditional either. He’s fed up with what he calls “a glorified baby-sitting service… that seems to exist to keep the kids out of the parents’ hair. The schools aren’t doing what they should be doing. They aren’t teaching kids to live, they’re not teaching them to think, and they’re not teaching them to consciously relate to each other. You can’t learn anything in the classroom anyway — except how to regurgitate information. They should be out in the factories, they should be seeing how other people work, seeing what it means to earn a living, seeing how institutions work, how the courts work… how businesses work…. You know how incompetent kids are when they first get out on their own. I was the perfect example — as soon as I started earning a living I went straight into debt. Been there ever since!”
For Simon, of course, teaching goes beyond the classroom, and he’s willing to admit that his affairs with these boys form a kind of sex education. In many cases, it’s the first time many of them have a chance to talk openly about something which is changing their bodies and minds in ways they’re not sure how to deal with. “I remember talking to one boy years after we had our affair. He remarked that it was good for him, that it gave him a lot of confidence with girls. In fact, he thanked me for it. Before me, he was afraid and reluctant and didn’t know much about sex, but through our relationship he learned quite a bit about his own body and what he could do. It also liberated him from the idea that sex was a no-no — which is what he’d been taught. I tried to relieve him, as I still do with my kids, of feelings of guilt that I went through. I try to get them to realize that this is a bodily function to be enjoyed, and nothing to feel guilty about.
“As well, I’ve never gone to bed with any kid that I haven’t formed a friendship with. I just can’t go out and seduce a kid. There has to be affection. I can honestly say I’ve never gone to bed with anybody that I haven’t felt a great deal of affection for. Sex has always been part of friendship, of romance, of a love affair. I’m just not capable of going out and picking up a kid and sucking him and screwing him and paying him. If I did something like that, I would feel guilty, I would feel emotionally upset.”
I wondered if any kid had ever made the first move.
“Yes, one fourteen-year-old I had in a grade eight class. We went camping one summer and I tried a few things but nothing obvious and he d idn’t seem interested, so I just dropped it. A few months later he turned up at my door one night and said, ‘Do you remember the things we did last summer? Well, let’s do them again.’ And I said, ‘I don’t believe it.’ He said, ‘I mean it,’ and I said, ‘You’ll have to prove it.’ So he stripped. And that was that for the winter!
“The whole thing made a real difference to him. He began to talk easily about masturbation – – he’d say, ‘Boy, I had a good one this morning,’ and he seemed to have no guilt feelings. Although he did before. He was from a very strict family.”
I envy Simon that easy rapport. Kids are an uncomfortable challenge to me. When I’m with them I feel either condescending or oddly negligent; I suspect they find me either pompous or uncomfortably strained. We do not meet easily. For Simon, they are the most casual of meetings. They are neighbouring tribes, he and his boys, and their rambunctious energies still draw echoes from him.
“I can have as much fun with a kid running around in a field as I did when I was fifteen or sixteen. We go camping, we go downtown, we go to the Arcade, to movies, for rides on our bikes, we buy records and come home and listen, we bowl, we watch TV, we fuck. Actually, I’ve only really bum-fucked two kids. One of them asked me to, and the other indicated that he wanted it. They didn’t like it all that much, but it seemed an experiment that they wanted to try.
“A lot of my relationships with boys have not been all that sexually satisfying to me. Especially with the pre-pubertal kids, there’s never been anything really sexual. Mostly just affection, care. Anyway, I don’t find pre-pubertal kids all that exciting — it’s a physical pleasure of the hugging, cuddling kind. And it’s an emotional pleasure too. I never felt any guilt about the fact that these were kids — I worried about being caught, that’s all. And I’ve never wanted to be different than I am. I’m content. I just want to liberate my kids a little bit and help them find their own sexual direction. Help them realize their sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of.”
If the word for Simon is romantic, the word for Peter is cool. He’s rich for one thing, and that’s always cool. Not rich in the way of smart young things winging their way noisily from “in” resort to way-out film festival and back. His is new money, and it resides quietly on the fringes of Rosedale, which is about as cool as new money in Toronto gets. Peter is forty-eight, trim and attractive. He has a swimmer’s body and he’s a meticulous and casual dresser. He runs his company with the same generous aplomb that characterizes Peter the host, very much at home in what is always an inhumanly meticulous townhouse. Thanks, in this case, to the “help,” which has its own apartment below stairs, and which it is also very cool to have.
I suppose we ought to be enemies, Peter and I. Young money meets young radical. But we aren’t. I like him, even when he answers my question about how we can change the way society and the law view boy-love with “I don’t see that I’m willing to make much of a contribution in that direction. I suspect there’s no cohesive group that shares any thoughts or experiences…. I see myself very selfishly satisfying my own needs by zipping off to Morocco twice a year and filling in the time here with whatever little delights I can scrape up.’ I remember that there isn’t a pedophile movement in Canada, and Peter is saying very much what I would probably have said had I been out of the closet back in the mid-Sixties before the gay movement gave me the chance to change my way of thinking. I think I would have had an “I’m all right Jack” attitude because anything else would have been too frightening to contemplate — anything else would have had to have been done alone. A pedophile movement would be more difficult to organize, would have more perils and pitfalis, than almost anything else I can think of. Neither Simon nor Peter expect to try.
I wondered how Peter met his boys. He did not have the kind of job which would put him in daily contact with them.
“With boys you have to impress them at first, you have to call attention to yourself. I do it with a big car, or a deep tan, or an ability. I used to be quite skilled at diving and I would have all eyes on me all summer. It’s not the only way, of course. I’ve picked up boys in theatres. You sit down beside them and start making comments about the movie, and then you might say ‘here’s a quarter’– now it would have to be a dollar — ‘why don’t you get us both a coke.’ Then there’s a long, long period of courtship, talking, driving around town, having a hamburger. And it might never happen. There were lots of boys that I would have loved to make advances to and never did. Or it might take several months. Relationships that were budding in the summer would mature in the depths of winter in a car parked in a secluded spot in the snow.”
For Peter, as for Simon, it is the relationship that matters. So much so, that he is still in contact with many of the boys he began having sex with ten years ago and more. Many are married now and have children of their own, but they have no regrets about what happened with Peter, and see nothing odd about looking him up whenever they’re in town.
“I remember a couple of kids, they were brothers, probably ten and twelve, and I especially liked the ten-year-old. And when he got a little older, I made an advance, but he made it clear he didn’t want that — he said he didn’t want me to touch him there because it wasn’t right. And I said, ‘Allen, it’s not a question of right or wrong, but if you’d prefer not, that’s fine….’ Then he began to talk about his religious ideals and ethics, so I just retreated and didn’t bother pursuing it. His brother, on the other hand, turned out to be quite a swinger, and we had marvellous sex over a period of years until he got married. Even then, the night before his wedding, he wanted to see me. We stayed in the apartment they were going to live in, and I fucked him in his marital bed. By that time he was really older than I was interested in: he was probably twenty-one.
“I still see Buddy. He’s married, two kids. And he loves sucking me off. I don’t think he has sex with other men.”
Peter has a special interest in the detritus of heterosexual relationships, the unwanted or unloved boys, the boys from homes where the father is dead or has deserted. “It seems the more disadvantaged the child, the more he needs some stable, mature human being. And they’re looking for love as well. Typically, they are not very articulate and not very well educated, and I think I am often a positive influence. I don’t think John would ever have gone to university without my influence. We discussed that, and he agrees. He would never have placed the same value on his own personality if it hadn’t been for our relationship. I valued him far more than his parents did. I taught him self respect. I used to encourage him in school, we had a regular correspondence and he used to try and copy my style. He’s a professor now, married, two kids, divorced. I began having sex with him when he was twelve.
“And then, I think my relationships give all the kids a real appreciation for a perfectly valid form of sexual activity. It takes the threat away from it and gives them some kind of balance, more sense of objectivity than they would have otherwise.”
But can they choose, I asked Peter. Can a child actually choose to have sex with you when you have all the power and privilege that comes from simply being an adult?
“You can’t treat sex as a mode of behaviour totally different from any other mode of behaviour. One doesn’t worry about an adult buying an ice-cream cone for a child and thereby potentially turning him into an obese creature…. It’s another form of experience, like going to the movies or playing football or hiking. I’ve never felt that sex should be seen alone and separate as some ‘great experience.’ And I can honestly say I’ve never been tempted to use even the tiniest bit of influence I might have to get some kid to come through. If there’s the slightest bit of resistance, I’m not interested at all — I’m just wasting my time and that person’s time, and it’s silly to continue.”
What does sex between a man and a boy consist of? For Peter — as for Simon — not much, it seems. Not much, at least, in an age when raunchy experiment gets all the publicity: “My sexual needs are very simple. I don’t very often fuck somebody, though I like it once in a while. Most of the time it would be mutual masturbation, with some sucking. I prefer to be sucked: sucking doesn’t interest me that much, though I do it if I think it gives someone else pleasure. But mutual masturbation would constitute the largest single practice.”
And though the twelve to fourteen age bracket defines Peter’s prime area of interest, he is, like most of us, willing to experiment: “The youngest? Seven, I think. He wasn’t a very bright little fellow, but he just loved sucking. He used to come up to the apartment, and as soon as he got in he’d say ‘I want some wine.’ That meant he wanted to suck me off. And he learned that reference from a policeman. I’d asked him if he did this for anyone else and he said yes, there was a policeman in the neighbourhood, and the policeman told him that this was wine. We’d kiss, I’d suck him a little bit but he wasn’t very interested. He just wanted to suck me. He’d suck me to orgasm and swallow it. He had very sharp teeth I recall…. I decided to put a stop to that one, and years ago I had sex with quite an old man on the beach. It just seemed sort of exciting. And of course, the fellow I’m having quite a regular relationship with is in his late twenties.”
A simple question: had there ever been a time when he’s wished he hadn’t been a boy-lover?
A simple answer: “No, I’m crazy about lobster and there was never a time when I wished I didn’t like lobster. Why would one wish not to like something one likes?”
Don is a friend of Peter’s. He’s forty, looks thirty, could look younger if he lost ten or fifteen pounds. He’s married, and has a nineteen-year-old son. He’s unashamedly and unrepentantly heterosexual. A species I rarely meet socially these days, but Don is scarcely a typical example, and we get along easily.
Don met Peter when he was eleven and Peter was nineteen and in his first year as a very popular lifeguard at the local pool. They became friends and it wasn’t long before it became a sexual friendship and Don had his first orgasm in the change room at the pool. “It was very gradual — Peter just slowly got more physical with me until that day when he jerked me off. I felt a bit ashamed at first — my mother had always told me not to play with myself — but I really enjoyed it. In fact, I think I had a hangup about sex that Peter probably snapped. In any case, I was certainly masturbating myself within the month.
“I began looking up in books, though, about homosexuality and wondering to myself if I was one, but I guess I never really felt I was. Peter and I used to talk about it a lot, and I would try to understand it all. He’s the only male I’ve ever had sex with — I never played around with kids my own age. And I guess we kept having sex on an infrequent basis until I was fifteen or so. Then I wanted to stop. I still wanted to be his friend, but I didn’t want the sex anymore, so I guess I avoided him for a while.”
They’re good friends now, though, and they see each other about once a month for dinner or whatever and, by the by, Don meets, on a casual basis, the only gay men he ever meets. He’s happy to admit it’s been an education for him.
“If it hadn’t been for Peter, l wouldn’t be at all surprised if I’d grown up to be an Anita Bryant supporter. But I just don’t have any of those crazy ideas about the typical homosexual waiting in a dark alley with candy to tempt some kid into the dark to fuck him. I know what happens. You know, I think it could have been good if the same thing happened to my son…. I think it might bring us closer together.”
He can’t take the final step though.
“No, I don’t think I’d want my son to be gay. But I can’t defend that. I guess it must be things in my upbringing… but if he came to me and said he was, and was sure of it — yes, I’d accept him.”
Less of an endorsement than I might have wanted, I suppose. But I think I can understand it. If I had a son, and he were growing up straight, I think I would be disappointed, a little grieved, even a bit resentful — but I think I could handle it. It is a mark of love to want for those close to you those things in life that have been splendid — and, yes, what there is of splendour in my life happens along with being gay. I’m sure Don feels that about being straight. And I sometimes think were doomed to feel about each other what one feels in a foreign country when everyone is, well, simply adorable but they all do everything wrong. Trying, but you can handle it.
Barry got in touch with me. He’d heard what I was doing, wanted to talk about himself, wanted to let me see how his relationship worked, and since I am not only an ordinarily curious individual but something of a voyeur, I said yes.
It was to be a weekend tenting in the woods. Billy didn’t live in Toronto. He was a farm boy, lived in one of those houses in the middle of a flat area with cows in it somewhere north of the city, and since Barry wasn’t known to Mom and Dad and crusty old grandpa he simply camped in the woods across the way. Billy, the boy he loved, the boy who loved him, came to him there out of one of those lazily large families where, thank heaven, not all of the kids are underfoot at the same time, and you don’t question too closely a twelve-year-old boy who has the good sense to be out of the house all afternoon and half the night. Not if the chores are done anyway.
Barry is a chatterer. Five foot five and rather impish, he has the chatterer’s ability to string together absolutely unrelated topics in a curiously coherent way — so though you feel you’ve been talked to, you don’t feel exhausted. And I didn’t as we barrelled down the dirt country road to be met, coincidentally, by Billy and two older brothers barrelling down the same country road in the opposite direction. There were great screams of “Barry!”, screeching to a halt and then they were shy because I was there saying things like “How do you do” instead of “Hi.” But they agreed to come and help us set up the tent.
They had fun. There was no doubt they were as thrilled to see Barry as he was to see them — that first great braying of his name out of their car window made that clear to me. The brothers were fifteen and sixteen, I think; they knew the score — Barry had had sex with both of them some years before, but with Billy it was something special and I could see that he got most of the attention. Nothing “romantic” — that would have been hooted, but when a wrestling match started it was clear who would be paired with whom.
I felt out of it. I mean sometimes I think farts are funny but I don’t think a lot of farts are funny. And it’s been a long time since I listened to people telling dirty stories. Or quarrelled over who could beat up whom. And I think it was probably then that I realized you practically had to be a pedophile to love kids — kids at their most outragously banal, kids when they’re not being “nice” the way schools package them for mom and dad — and me, for that matter. Not that it was all unremittingly horrible — it was easy sometimes just to be carried away by the sheer energetic nonsense of it all, particularly after we’d knocked off a bottle of wine.
I was glad to see midnight. The two older boys crept off home and we got ready to slip into our sleeping bags — in our underwear, though I could tell by the giggling that Barry and Billy had taken theirs off as soon as the flashlight went off. Odd man out, I lay there listening to the murmuring, the giggling, the occasional explosive snort. But it didn’t last long. And we were all asleep when the two older boys came back and moonhooted us outside the tent until they roused us and told us that Billy had to go home because his mom had discovered that he wasn’t just sleeping out in the back of the truck the way they’d told her. He was dressed and gone in a minute.
The next day we talked. I mean Billy and I did after breakfast in a roadside restaurant. Barry went off to the can for longer than was really necessary and that had been arranged.
What did I discover? No startling truths, no insight into the human condition, not even any insights into this particualar relationship — though I think it became clear to me that it was a relationship, and a significant one. Billy didn’t talk like that. He said Barry was his best friend. He said he wished Barry lived in the country so he could see him more often. He said he like “fooling around,” which was their way of talking about sex, but he was shy about that and we didn’t get into it. And that was that.
So. I had trekked off to the country and found — a relationship. Seen what I’d been hearing about from Simon and Peter, seen two people drawing delight from each other’s company, seen two criminals at work. Let’s not forget that.
Let’s not forget that C J Atkinson and associates are criminals — the way we were before 1969, the way we still are if we try anything other than the things you can do with one (and only one) other individual over twenty-one and very much in private.
Anita Bryant won’t let us — or anyone else — forget it.
“Save Our Children, Inc” is the name of the game, although the organizers seem to be cynically aware of just what that means: “The molestation tactic was the thing that particularly got the headlines. We now know how effectively it can be used,” said Robert Brake, one of the top officials of that organization. Who wouldn’t want to save our children, after all, save them from things like the Houston mass murder horrors, save them from being pawed by nasty old men? That’s what molestation means to most people, it’s what the media encourages them to believe, it’s a belief “Save Our Children” does nothing to discourage.
They’ve added a refinement. Recruitment. Because homosexuals can’t reproduce, they must recruit.
Anita should know. Because recruitment is what she is all about. She wants our children. And, yes, they’re our children too.
She’s going to get some of them, and some of those are going to grow up gay, and some are going to grow up straight. If they’re gay, they’ll grow up miserable, hating themselves, their desires and their community; becoming mean, or robot-like, or blustering hypocrites because that’s what happens to love that’s taught to hate itself. And if they grow up straight, they’ll grow up proud to be Americans, secretly proud to be white, a majority that’s “quiet” because its soul is empty, in marriages that last and last because nothing is quite so binding as mutual distaste and suspicion.
Anita’s recruits. They’ve been with us for a long time. They tried to save our children from witches, and turned the middle ages into a charnel house of burning and innocent flesh. They tried to save our children from Jews, and almost succeeded through twelve years of methodical and monstrous savagery. They tried to save our children from communists, and sat with Senator McCarthy in judgment upon heroic lives trying to salvage some dignity, some integrity from that degrading exercise. Now they want to save our children from homosexuals. They want to save our children from us.
Yes, we have our recruits, though they are not, as Bryant would have us believe, legions of hapless children diverted from the straight and narrow by the corrosive touch of some predatory homosexual.
Don is one of our recruits. He’s not gay, but “when I’m with straight people and they say something derogatory or stupid about gays, I always try to turn it around, make them see they’re stupid. I can’t go as far as I’d like sometimes…. I’d be suspect myself and that would be hard to take. But I try.”
Simon’s students are recruits. If they grow up gay, they grow up rememberinging a loved role model, they grow up knowing sexual acts are not disgusting, they grow up with the possibility of coming out long before the early-to-mid twenties, the age when so many of us finally caved in, or came out.
If they grow up straight, they may not, like Don, do their best to defend gay people in the small ways he’s chosen, but somewhere in the back of all that bliss they fall heir to, they are going to know the Anita Bryants of this world are out-and-out fruitcakes. And maybe, just maybe, if they’re presented someday with a ballot which asks them to say a simple yes or no to civil rights for homosexuals, and they’re alone in a polling booth and no one can see what they mark, then, maybe they’ll remember what happened to them twenty years ago and vote the way they remember.
I have seen a photograph of Anita and family praying together before they go to bed — in pyjamas yet. Besides marvelling that anyone would consciously do anything quite so kitsch, I feel a real sense of sadness for those kids, down on their knees and huddled between momma and poppa Bryant. One or more of them could very easily be gay. And he or she would be the truly molested child.
Every homosexual has suffered that molestation. Every homosexual’s sexuality has been interfered with — impeded, strangled, diverted, denounced, “cured,” pitied, punished. That is molestation. And it has nothing to do with what Simon, Barry and Peter are doing.
They are the heirs of Mr Atkinson, “Leader in Boys’ Work,” community workers who deserve our praise, our admiration and our support.