Being gay in old-time Phoenix
If you're gay, I apologize in advance for my presumption of trying to write this. But gay people are, and always have been, an important part of the story of Phoenix, and in my opinion they deserve recognition, and in this tiny way I want to add a little bit. I'll tell you what I know.
As someone who actually looked a bit like Jerry Seinfeld in the 1990s, slender, well-dressed, I was often taken for a gay man. Not that there's anything wrong with that! And since I came of age in Los Angeles (in my twenties), I absorbed much of the Southern California sensibilities. If you've lived there, you know. So when I moved back to Arizona in 1989, I was kind of puzzled by the attitude towards gay people. They hid.
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As you can imagine, this hiding and pretending led to a lot of confusion. I was used to people being more straight-forward about their sexual preferences (and if you lived in Southern California, you really know!). So in Phoenix I learned to play along with people who insisted that their roommates were just roommates. I worked with someone who said that his partner was his butler. Maybe that was a joke? Anyway, you had to pretend that no one was gay. That was the game.
When I started working at the Art Institute of Phoenix, my boss assumed that I was gay. Slender, well-dressed, single, working in the art field. When my gorgeous girlfriend showed up during one of my classes on my birthday, my boss was genuinely shocked. And it had to do with the hiding game that gay people had been playing in Phoenix for so very long.
I've known a lot of gay people in my life. Some have been great, some have been stinkers. And in a long life I've learned that there's no such thing as "gay-dar" (which is the idea that gay people have some sort of magic radar that tells them who is, and isn't gay). Nonsense. In my experience gay people are just like anyone else. They have no ability to read minds, and they're just attracted to what they're attracted to.
The story of Phoenix is made up of the people who live there. And that's everyone, saints and sinners, heroes and vagabonds. In my journey of exploration, I want to see everything, and learn everything. If this worries you, I'm sorry that you feel that way. If you agree with me, then I recommend doing this along with me to enhance your life, and make you feel better about everyone in the world, including yourself.
Posted by Brad Hall