A Writer’s Diary Entries From Mid-November, 1996
by Richard Grayson
Wednesday, November 13, 1996
7 PM. After sleeping very soundly for several nights in a row, of course I would get insomnia before a workday. I actually dozed off around 1 AM and woke up about half an hour later, following a dream in which I was so exhausted by insomnia, I could not stand it.
On the other hand, when I found I couldn’t fall asleep, I did get out of bed and read most of last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. And I wasn’t tired today – perhaps thanks to two cans of Diet Pepsi – until just before 4 PM, when I started to get very fuzzy, so I came home from work and lay down for half an hour.
Still, I had the best hair day I’ve had in a long time, thanks to a lucky break with gel and the blow dryer. How come I can’t get my hair like this every day? Well, I don’t know what I did right, for one thing.
I wore dress pants, a pressed shirt and a tie for the 11:30 AM panel with Shirley Ayers. This is, as The Docket noted, “Pubic [sic] Interest Law Week” at school. (Nobody in the office noticed the typo at first, but then neither did I.)
Liz and Russ were appalled when I showed them how badly my Nova student who’s a Dixie County School Board member writes, but Jon said the man’s paper was actually above the writing ability of most Florida legislators. I guess a former Speaker of the House should know.
We tried to get an appointment with the Lieutenant Governor for next Wednesday, but Linda called and found that MacKay will be out of the country then, so we’ll have to arrange a different date.
I told Jon that Mom said a lot of people in Broward County want Attorney General Butterworth to run for governor, and Jon said that he’s very popular in Broward and is a nice guy – as is another contender, Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson, who ran against Chiles in the 1990 primary.
I made a decent presentation on the panel discussing fellowships with Shirley and Bettina, who talked about her own legislative internship. Unfortunately, all the students were in their first or third years and thus aren’t eligible for the CGR Florida Bar Foundation fellowships.
I didn’t do any New Jersey Online work today. On the other hand, I did create and print out the take-home assignment in The Individual and Society that I’ll hand out to my students on Saturday and the final in-class essay topics for December 7.
I did the latter today because tomorrow I have to fax both to Jimmie, who’ll be unable to attend the final two classes due to work. There are still two guys in the class, Mark and Tommie, who haven’t handed in any of the three papers everyone else has done.
This past weekend the computer guys at UF Law really screwed up. They erased some of the functions on my e-mail, which is why my mail wasn’t being forwarded. I think I fixed that problem myself, but late in the day Linda discovered that our outgoing Internet mail wasn’t getting to its destinations.
I sent myself some e-mail to Delphi, and sure enough, as of tonight I didn’t get it. This means my e-mail to Ronna and Kevin didn’t go out or wasn’t delivered.
Today’s Alligator had a lead feature on gay students, and one article focused on this adorable couple, a 25-year-old guy and a 20-year-old, who are both from small towns and attempted suicide in high school. It’s really nice to see young gay guys out, happy and together.
It was also nice to read the many posts on the GayJews list; even if I rarely participate, I do get a nice sense of community from the list.
It’s supposed to warm up a little tomorrow, and I can’t wait. I was very cold when we did our panel for an hour in a classroom.
I congratulated Cari on her engagement and then complimented her on her ring, of course, even if they all look the same to me.
Well, I find myself fading out now. I have that lack-of-sleep headache behind the eyes. Hopefully, I’ll revive soon because I know I won’t be able to fall asleep this early.
Friday, November 15, 1996
6:30 PM. The Human Rights Council community forum is in an hour, and of course I want to go.
Last night I woke up at 2 AM and started ruminating about my leaving Gainesville and how scared and uncertain I am.
If I’ve become fixated on my sleeping habits, it’s because they seem to me a good indicator of my emotional state. But this kind of anxiety is to be expected, and I’ll have more of it over the course of the next six weeks.
This morning I put on a sport jacket and tie and went into the office for half an hour, but as the computers weren’t working, I soon left for downtown.
I didn’t tell anyone at CGR that I was going to the courthouse, but I assume that people guessed after reading the paper’s articles about the hearing on Amendment 1.
It’s not that I don’t want to be more “out” at the law school, but I find it very upsetting to deal with homophobia.
Case in point: Midori Klein, whom I went all through law school with, sat behind me and Barbara in the courtroom. Apparently she works for the court system. Anyway, we chatted pleasantly about the law school before the hearing, but after it was over, as I was – naturally – heading toward the men’s room, I made the mistake of saying, “Real Con Law in those arguments, huh?”
She replied that she was impressed by the guy from the right-wing legal foundation bringing up Scalia’s dissent in Romer v. Evans, which she found so “logical.”
“You found that logical?” I said.
I should have left it like that, but I went on about Scalia, becoming far too agitated, until I finally said, “Basically, I think he’s a Nazi,” turned on my heels and quickly went to the men’s room.
Afterward, I had trouble keeping from replaying my anger as I thought about it – and I know angry feelings like that can (literally) make a person ill.
Even now, as I write this, I have to take a deep breath, and I don’t want to write anymore about the insignificant Midori Klein – who’d said earlier, “I heard you wrote a book” – because it will only get me stirred up to no purpose.
Suzanne Goldberg, joined by Larry Turner and a woman from a New York City firm, presented the case for the plaintiffs, naturally arguing that the Alachua County amendment is similar to the one that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in Romer.
The county attorney, Mary Marshall, did a decent job of trying to distinguish the two amendments, but she wasn’t very forceful, probably because she was only doing her job.
The true believers – the interveners from the foundation and the local right-wing homophobe Robert Edewaard – were more emphatic, going so far as to cite the detestable Bowers v. Hardwick and contrasting Scalia’s “logical” Romer dissent with what they called the “emotionality” of the six-justice majority in that case.
It was hard to tell from his questions if the judge, Rick Smith, a middle-aged, grey-haired white man, got it. He talked a lot about the differences between representative government (the amendment cuts off gays from redress by the county commission for discrimination against them) and governing by referendum (the defense argued that gays can still re-amend the charter by majority vote).
To my mind, Romer and equal protection jurisprudence mean that you can’t cut off any avenue of access to the political process by a disfavored group.
In any case, the judge did not rule on the motion for summary judgment – or on the defendants’ cross-motion.
After the hearing, I spent a lot of time talking with others: Barbara, Marcy, Bob, Craig and that guy in the wheelchair whose name escapes me, as well as to Patricia Lassiter and Margaret Epps.
As I wrote in an e-mail to Elihu later in the day, being in court made me realize how stifling it is to be in a small town, where I knew just about all of the three dozen spectators: the Christian Coalition/Concerned Citizens homophobes as well as the gay people, the lawyers, the politicians, and the TV and newspaper reporters, like Beth Kassab from the Alligator.
It turned blustery, windy and chilly – as if it’s going to snow. This afternoon I accomplished little in the office other than reading the newspaper and dealing with routine chores.
Well, time to get dressed and go out into the chilly night.
Saturday, November 16, 1996
4:30 PM. I just got home after teaching my Nova class, and I had a good session, although my students tend to get me off-the topic with discussions about the Electoral College and welfare. (God, do they buy into all the myths about the poor.)
I was also disappointed not to get any response to Cornell West’s Race Matters. (With Tamara and Jimmie out, Tommie was the only black person present.)
Last evening’s HRC forum made me feel a lot better, and yes, I do feel part of the GLBT community – even if only a very small percentage of it, mostly older lesbians and gay men, showed up.
It was nice to see the few younger people there. I ended up sitting next to Suzanne Goldberg and her pro bono partner, Jacqueline Charlesworth, from Paul, Weiss. It’s nice to be able to talk to them as a fellow lawyer and as a Lambda Legal Defense member.
(Lambda’s latest bulletin, available last night, came in today’s mail.)
Craig related the history of the county ordinance and its repeal and the passage of Amendment One in the 1994 election.
Suzanne spoke for about an hour, first about the Morris v. Hill case and then about the Romer decision, its impact on anti-gay initiatives and on its historic significance for us in general.
People asked wonderful questions on other gay rights issues, including Baehr v. Miike and same-sex marriage, the Defense of Marriage Act, the military cases, and adoption and child custody.
Margaret Epps, impressive even in defeat as a county commissioner, spoke briefly. Clearly, she will always be a hero to the gay community here. It was also nice to see City Commissioner Pegeen Hanrahan there for us.
Abby and Helen were present, along with Chuck Floyd and other plaintiffs in the suit, and of course Bob, Tim, Craig and me, as well as a lot of people I know, some only by sight.
7 PM. Yesterday I neglected to mention that – probably foolishly – I answered another ad on the Matchmaker.
That’s who called me when I stopped writing the last entry: the guy whose ad I answered. He said his name was Luis, that that was really his name, and I believe him.
But after a long and ultimately frustrating conversation, I understand that in answering Luis’s ad, I was again unerringly picking the kind of guy who will never respond to me.
Probably that was precisely why I responded to Luis’s ad.
When I told him how old I really was, he was upset, not at my age, but at the fact that I’d first told him I was 35.
My initial lying about my age freaked out Terence, too, so I should have known better than to ever do that again.
Luis is not only deeply closeted, but he also kept asking me if I’m effeminate, querying whether I gesture with my hands a lot, or if I met him in the mall, would people immediately know I’m gay?
The more I think about it, the more vexing it is and the angrier I become.
Luis is 27, a nurse, Filipino. He came to the U.S. alone and lived with his aunt in South Ozone Park while he worked in Brooklyn. A year ago he answered a classified ad and got a job at Shands.
Luis doesn’t have a car, doesn’t go to bars, and seems very uptight.
He let me talk about myself, which I’m more than happy to do, and initially we had a pleasant conversation about various topics.
But when I told him I wasn’t promiscuous, he scoffed. “I know what gay people are like,” he said.
“You don’t know me at all,” I said.
Then he started in with all his questions about whether people would immediately know I’m gay if they saw me in public with him.
I had to go to the bathroom and was hungry for dinner, so I got off and we left it at his calling me if he feels like it. He works the 3 PM–11 PM shift, so our schedules don’t match.
I guess I was just lonely and horny and figured I could meet a guy, lie to him about my plans to leave Gainesville – because he probably would be lying to me, too – and just have some kind of casual sexual relationship until I moved away without ever getting involved emotionally.
But what I discovered – and maybe this is the important thing – is that I couldn’t get out of the habit of treating the other person like a human being, not just someone to have sex with.
On the phone, even when his questions upset me, I found myself wondering about Luis’s needs, his intellectual capabilities, his emotional life.
And I couldn’t stop myself from wanting love and some kind of emotional commitment, if not anything long-term.
Now I’m going to think about this guy even though I know he’s the last person I should ever get involved with.
I wish I’d told him not to call me again. If I’d done that, I could feel a sense of closure and less helplessness and lack of control.
It’s interesting what I learned about myself tonight. I learned something about Luis, too, but there’s not much point to that, is there?
Sunday, November 17, 1996
It’s 2 AM and I’ve just woken up and started thinking again about my conversation with Luis.
I’m aware of Martin Seligman’s discussion of why it’s bad for people to ruminate, and I know how futile and self-defeating it is to keep turning something over in my mind only to become increasingly angry. So I thought I’d write down my feelings and thoughts now even if it is 2 AM.
Last night I couldn’t even concentrate on reading the newspaper. Finally I decided to leave another message responding to Luis’s ad.
Although I didn’t say what I wanted to say, I apologized for lying about my age and admitted that was wrong. Then I said that it seemed obvious that we were incompatible and there was no point in us talking again. I ended by wishing him well.
That was passive-aggressive, the only way I could have some control.
If it’s childish of me to want to reject him – what I did sounds so much like the head games that I’ve heard other gay men accusing their lovers or potential lovers of – I guess I plead guilty.
But by asking me all those questions and talking about what he perceived as my effeminate way of speaking, Luis touched a nerve. No homophobic straight person has ever been so rude to me.
More importantly, I came to understand that I was very angry because I saw in Luis’s rejection of effeminate behavior the very attitude I myself have probably had.
It made me feel very guilty about the night I panicked because Terence was not only dressed in a stereotypically “gay” way – last night Luis asked me if I wore bright colors – but his friend, a drag queen, wanted to come along with us to a party where I’d be with my friends and other highly educated gay people. I was concerned about being associated with such effeminate working-class guys.
It wasn’t only that, of course, but the point is: Luis is a homophobic gay man, and so, to a certain extent, am I. It’s always quite uncomfortable when one’s own naked prejudices are exposed.
I actually prefer (am more attracted to) guys who are a little fem, yet I’m also, in some way, embarrassed by them – and I have no right to be.
I feel ashamed of myself for that, so I’ve displaced that feeling with anger towards Luis.
In a crazy way, I should be grateful to him for exposing my own homophobia. Luckily, I hate myself much less than Luis does, and I can analyze my prejudices.
Intellectually, I’m perfectly comfortable expressing solidarity with drag queens, for example, but I’m much less comfortable with them in real life.
Anyway, these are 2 AM thoughts.
4:30 PM. I’ve just returned from the office, where I used Netscape to surf the Web for over two hours. I have a pounding headache, a combination of eyestrain and lack of sleep.
I worked on the New Jersey Online project late last night – or early this morning – turning my Lexis files into URLs and comments that I placed in my jumbo NetGuide document.
Around 5 AM, I dozed off and had these brief REM dreams that were all messed up, like one image right after another: I get in an elevator and it lumbers down diagonally instead of vertically; I’m driving and the brakes don’t work so I crash into a wall; I’m wearing a business suit at a concert and someone in the crowd vomits on me, but I feel it was Luis.
I should have learned long ago that the phone Matchmaker is not a way to meet decent guys. In Gainesville, the healthier people go to gay bars. I don’t ever want to deal with self-hating gay men like Luis again.
When I’d told Luis he could call me at my office, he said, “Oh no. What would people think my relationship with you is?” As if I care what the secretaries or student aides think – and knowing them, they wouldn’t think anything, of course, except maybe be happy for me if I had a boyfriend.
In response to a college student on the GayJews list who said that Zionists were Nazis and that she couldn’t be an anti-Semite because she was Jewish, I posted “Confessions of a Homophobic Anti-Semite,” which will probably elicit a lot of comments.
But I did say that I was as ashamed of my feelings of prejudice toward Orthodox Jews as I am of my internalized homophobia, and I suspect I’m not the only one in the world who feels this way.
Today I feel crappy and bloated, but I’m going to cut myself some slack and be nice to myself. If I overreacted to Luis’ questions and comments, it’s became they trigger so many different feelings: complicity in his bigotry toward fellow gay people, some shitbird in my brain telling me that I’m no good, and who knows what else.
When I think of how my Nova students buy into the demonization of the poor, I understand better why poor people are so passive in the face of all the cutbacks and jeers. It’s because they also despise poor people, and the realization that they are poor puts them into that spiritual malaise, that depressive nihilism that Cornel West talks about.
God save us from the influences of the Virtucrats. What a weird planet this is.
Monday, November 18, 1996
4:30 PM. In a couple of hours I’ve got the biweekly Fellows meeting, which this evening is going to be at Mary Kay’s house. So in the interim I’ll veg out for a bit, lie down, listen to All Things Considered, and have dinner.
Last night I slept well. However, I awoke with the pain in my neck and shoulders that indicates I’m tensing my muscles during the night. I expect to have quite a bit of anxiety and tension from now till the end of the year.
My GayJews posting didn’t make it to the list because I tried to send it from my Delphi e-mail at home, so I responded to a short, pleasant note from Elihu with the story of my reaction to the conversation Luis and I had.
The further I get from Saturday night, the more my reaction changes from anger to sympathy for someone like Luis, who’s doomed to a lonely, unhappy life viewing himself as a freak and a monster.
Hopefully, one day he’s he’ll be able to get past his internalized homophobia. God knows why a male nurse living in Gainesville with all of his family in the Philippines or New York has to worry about being out here – at least to the extent of caring so much about what strangers think about him. Anyway, that’s his problem, not mine.
Liz and I met with Vernetta Walker of the Florida Bar Foundation at 10 AM. She was here today as part of her annual visit to check on the fellowship programs at the state law schools.
We didn’t have to impress her because our program is by far the best-administered and the one that gives Fellows the most valuable experience, but I talked us up anyway.
Vernetta is worried that the GOP legislature will make good on their threat to take over the IOTA (Interest on Trust Account) funds from the Florida Bar – and that could mean the end of the Florida Bar Foundation and all its money to help poor people.
Tomorrow in Tallahassee, the House is voting for speaker, and Linda Baldwin, an old legislative ace who knows the Capitol better than anyone, says it’s going to be a bloodbath.
The Republicans have 61 seats, the Democrats 59, but one GOP Cuban-American legislator, supported by another, is trying to get the Democrats to vote for him instead of their own candidate, Buzz Ritchie from Pensacola. The presumptive speaker is Dan Webster, a hardline Christian Coalition type.
Liz and I had to run from the meeting with Vernetta to the loan forgiveness program meeting, at which Trish presented her revisions to our proposal. We made further changes, and the document should almost be ready to go by next week.
While Vernetta met with individual Fellows from 1 PM to 2 PM in my office, I went home for lunch.
Katherine Bouma sent me the copy of the Osceola Sentinel in which I was extensively quoted on the front page and in a long continuation on the jump page in an article headlined “Ethics Issues Hurt Incumbents at Polls.” It always feels good to see my name in print, and Katherine said my input “really made the story work.”
Back at work at 2 PM, I met with several prospective Fellows who are unable to attend our information session on Friday and spoke to them about what the program entails. Getting to talk with students is one of the best things about my job.
I read the Times’ first section, did other stuff, and came home just now. Joel Deutsch sent the Triavil 2/10 generic that I’d ordered, so I have a supply for the next year.
I’m surprised that Susan Mernit hasn’t called to put pressure on me to finish the New Jersey Online Web Guide product.