Back in 1990 or 1991, I was out in San Francisco on a business trip. It was Friday afternoon, I was seeing my last customer, and I didn’t want to go back to the hotel and eat the same hotel food.
So, when I got done selling the guy whatever I was trying to selI him on that trip, I asked him where I could get a good, home-cooked meal without having to be invited into someone’s home.
He told me to go to the gay & lesbian synagogue in the Castro district, because after the Friday night service they had a pot-luck buffet where everyone showed up with some home-cooked food, and it was kind of like a contest to see who had prepared the best meal.
I stopped off at some deli, bought something that looked like I had prepared it at home and then joined the rest of the gay & lesbian congregation for a 30-minute religious service, followed by a 20-minute spiel from the rabbi, then followed by everyone trooping into the recreation hall for the meal.
And what a meal it was! I mean, these folks were really serious about outdoing one another for the best eats on the buffet. And nobody counted how many portions you put on your plate.
Now I’m standing there wolfing down my 3rd or 4th meatballs in wine sauce and a guy my age comes up, says ‘hello,’ tells me that he’s never seen me before at the service and asks if I’m new to town.
Obviously, he was a gay guy looking to get acquainted, but after I made it clear that I had come to the synagogue not to make a new friend but just get something to eat, we had a pleasant chat.
My new acquaintance was in his mid-40’s, born and bred in Brooklyn to religious parents and by the time he was in his early 20’s he knew he was gay. But he also knew it would hurt his parents terribly if he divulged his true sexual tastes. So, he left home, moved out to the Castro District and was happily following the open, gay life. Once a year he would go back to Brooklyn, spend some time with the family and pretend to be straight.
I have often wondered how many millions of men and women had to hide their true selves for the entirety of their lives. In the same way, I have often wondered how many women ended up in dead-end jobs because men managed, women typed. And it goes without saying that generation after generation of black men and women were robbed of their much-deserved ‘rights,’ time after time after time.