Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Ordinary People

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Ordinary People

Article excerpt

With every passing day, America in 1997 is looking more and more like a far-left gay activist's nightmare. A revolution is taking place--but it's far from the revolution some of those activists envisioned. It's a revolution wrought largely by people who work in corporations, churches, the media, and other mainstream institutions. It's a revolution of lesbian ministers and gay Republican congressmen. And it's a revolution of--gasp!--straight middle-American mothers, who are among the most unqueer people on the planet. Eric Marcus was widely blasted for including white-bread heterosexuals like Abigail Van Buren ("Dear Abby") among the heroes profiled in his splendid 1993 book Making History: The Struggle for Gay & Lesbian Equal Rights; Robb Forman Dew's beautiful 1994 account of her son's coming-out, The Family Heart, was lauded by mainstream reviewers but trashed in the gay press--how dare this New England housewife try to tell anybody anything about being gay!

Yet we're living in a time when people such as Dew will be more vital to the gay rights movement than ever. They know exactly how a lot of ordinary Middle Americans think about homosexuality because they've been there themselves. Take, for example, my friend Sally Whitehead. Not so many years ago Sally and her then-husband, Michael, were devout fundamentalists in a small Georgia town. Sally, the mother of six sons, didn't know any gay people, but she knew one thing: Gays were creatures of Satan, guided by demons who hovered around them unseen and whispered words of corruption into their ears. She pursued godliness as her pastors instructed: She was unhesitatingly subservient to her husband; she observed the strict child-rearing guidelines set down in Dare to Discipline by James Dobson (the religious right's Dr. Spock); and, fearing the demonic influence of secular education, she "home-schooled" her boys, using teaching materials approved by fundamentalist authorities.

Sally's family was, in short, a model of family values as envisioned by Pat Robertson. Then suddenly it ended. One day in 1991, after 20 years of marriage, Michael told Sally that he was gay. As she writes in her new, memoir, The Truth Shall Set You Free: A Family's Passage from Fundamentalism to a New Understanding of Faith, Love, and Sexual Identity, "The world as we knew it ceased to be. "

Sally might have made Michael's life hell. …

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