OK, I admit it: My idea of a perfect evening with my husband, Gary, begins that moment we turn off our phones and computers, put our dinners on trays, flop down in the living room, and watch a classic old movie (if it's my night to choose) or a big-budget thriller (if it's Gary's turn). Monday night we watched Advise and Consent, Otto Preminger's 1962 motion picture based on the 1959 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by the conservative, anti-Communist author Allen Drury. (Guess who chose that movie.) At the heart of this political thriller is the tragic story of "Brig" Anderson, a popular but fictitious U.S. senator who kills himself when he is blackmailed by colleagues for a "homosexual relationship" decades earlier.
Drury's novel was loosely based on the true story of Senator Lester Hunt, who also killed himself when a "homosexual scandal" threatened his family. In 1953 Senator Hunt's 20-year-old gay son, president of the student body at the Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Mass., was arrested in a police sting in Lafayette Park. Senator Hunt's colleagues threatened to reveal the son's "disgrace" if the Senator ran for reelection. To protect his son, Hunt shot himself with a rifle in his Senate office.
I was just 14 and already a news junkie when the "homosexual scandal" behind Senator Hunt's suicide was revealed in Drew Pearson's syndicated column, Washington "Merry-Go-Round." I was 19 when I read Drury's novel Advise and Consent, and 22 when I watched Otto Preminger's movie version. I don't remember reading a novel or seeing a movie with such a gripping homosexual subplot before Advise and Consent. In fact, I don't remember reading any book or seeing any film featuring homosexual characters (caricatures) during my late teens and early 20s. I was 30 when I saw William Friedkin's Boys in the Band and 31 when Visconti's film Death in Venice left me weeping in a Portland theater. I hadn't watched Advise and Consent for 50 years, but Monday night it all came back to me.
My youthful ideas about homosexuality and homosexuals were terribly misshapen by these early film experiences. It wasn't enough that my religious background misused the Bible to "prove" that homosexuality was a sin. It took Hollywood to make clear the tragic consequences of "giving in" to my "sinfulness": suicide (Advise and Consent), unhappiness (Boys in the Band), and unfulfilled longing (Death in Venice). Today I'm remembering all those miserable years that I believed the lie that my homosexual orientation would invariably lead to unhappiness, unfulfilled longing, and suicide. And I'm celebrating the fact that I am no longer a victim of the lie.
This truth, that homosexuality is not a sickness that needs to be cured or a sin that needs to be forgiven, has set me free. Now I know that God created us as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender and loves us exactly as we are. Don't listen to those religious people in your life who misuse the Bible to caricature and condemn you. They, too, are victims of the lie. The lie has been around for a long time, but it has no power over those who know the truth.
Let's set aside one day a year to grieve for the victims of the lie, living and dead. On that one day we could wear black armbands or ribbons, carry caskets, hold memorial services, fast, and pray that one day the "holy terrorists" who keep the lie alive will discover the tragic consequences of their ignorance and superstition. But on the other 364 days of the year, let's celebrate that our sexual orientation is one of our Creator's great but mysterious gifts that we can accept and celebrate with joy and integrity.