by David McLeod
Jacksonville, Wyoming may not be the first place you'd look for an LGBT Alliance to form. How will the community, the churches, and law enforcement respond? And how did dragons, elves, and magic get involved, anyway?
The Alliance is Formed
Everybody was looking at Larry; Larry was looking at me. I gave him the pilot's signal to "pull the chocks" and allow the plane to taxi for takeoff. Larry understood what I meant: get on with it. He grinned, glanced at the papers in his hand, and started talking. "Hi, everyone, and welcome to the organizational meeting of the Jacksonville, Wyoming Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Alliance. We are going to be the most inclusive club in Jacksonville and perhaps the most tolerant of differences in sexuality, race, ethnicity, you name it."
"Yeah," a girl sitting at a table with two others said. "If you're here for Bible study, you've come to the wrong place."
Larry looked around as if for support. He appeared nervous. He needn't have been. "Lucy, hush and let the boy speak." That came from a woman at the next table.
Larry smiled and nodded his thanks to the woman, and then continued. "My name is Larry. My partner, Paul, and I were outed two years ago. We're only sixteen, and maybe you want adults to lead this group. Anyway, we figured that we'd get the meeting started, talk a little about plans and goals, and then–toward the end of the meeting, after we've gotten to know each other–elect officers.
"There are three rules." He paused and looked at the papers he held. "Yeah, rules. First, just because you're here doesn't mean you're lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgendered. It could mean that you're a friend–"
"Or an Evangelical spying on us," the girl named Lucy interjected.
"Lucile, if you interrupt once more, we're going home." The woman's voice was sharp.
"Yes, Mama." Lucy crossed her arms and pouted. It was a cute pout, and it was pretty obvious she didn't mean it.
Larry looked at his papers, again. "Thank you, ma'am. Anyway, Rule One is, don't jump to conclusions, and don't even think about outing anybody. If you do, you're out–out of the club and, as far as I'm concerned, out of polite society. You're shunned.
"Rule Two: we are tolerant, and we don't use hateful language. Don't call anyone by any hurtful words. If you want to out yourself and say you're queer or whatever, that's okay. But don't say it about anyone else.
"Rule Three: If you're under age, don't say your last name and don't tell anyone your address, phone number, email, or anything else personal. Okay?
"Speaking of names, how about introductions? I'm Larry, and I'm gay."
Well, given that he was leading the meeting, and had a rainbow pin on his shirt pocket, you probably could have guessed that. It was about the only reason anyone would have guessed. Neither Larry nor I are anything like stereotypical. In fact, we're both so non-stereotypical, it was something of a miracle that we'd ever gotten together. We are both athletic and do some intramural sports, but we aren't jocks. We're in the school's flight training class and the flying club, along with about 60 others. We mostly wear blue jeans and T-shirts, just like 90% of the guys in school. And, like 90% of the guys, you'd describe us as clean cut. The other 10% included some Goth-wannabes, a few Emos with heavy-duty bangs, and two Hasidic Jewish boys.
Anyway, the colors of Larry's rainbow pin were bright. He wasn't the only person in the back room of the coffee house wearing a rainbow: I had one on the back pocket of my jeans and one on my backpack. There were a few other people wearing them; however, we were definitely in a minority. Well, the announcement was clear–friends, too, were welcome… Whoops! Larry was looking at me.
I stood. "I'm Paul, and I'm gay, and you probably know that Larry and I are partners."
The girl who had interrupted Larry stood. "I'm Lucy, but you know that, already. I'm a lesbian–now you know that. This is my mama, but you know that, too." She sat.
"I'm Beth," the woman at the next table said. She didn't stand up. "I'm here to make sure . . . well, I'm not quite sure why I am here except that Lucy is a minor, and I figured a parent ought to be here."
The introductions continued among the twenty people in the room. Some were laconic, no more than a barely audible first name. Some were, well, a little more…
"My name is Patrick. I'm not an Evangelical." The boy looked at Lucy and grinned. "I'm Catholic, and I'm tired of lying at confession. I'm tired of bein' told I'm going to hell because God made me different from other boys. I'm tired of pretending I like girls. I'm gay. I know I am, even though I've never even kissed another boy." His voice grew soft. Even those close to him had to strain to hear. "I never said that to anybody–I never even said that to myself." He nearly fell into his chair and put his hands over his face.
Beth reached him first. She sat next to him and put her arm around his shoulder. The boy looked up. "It's okay, Patrick," she said. "I'm not a girl; I'm a mama."
It didn't take long for Patrick to stop . . . well, I won't say, crying, because later on we got to know Patrick a lot better, and found out that he's not a cry-baby. Anyway, he stopped being upset, and Beth moved back to her table. The last couple of people introduced themselves. After Patrick, I was ready for anything, at least, I thought so. Then this guy got up. As soon as he spoke, he dominated the room. It was like god talking from the burning bush, or something. I kept expecting Charlton Heston to walk in the door looking for the Ten Commandments.
"My name is Sam Davis. My partner, Owen Santos, is working tonight, but he wanted me to introduce him, too. We're both deputies in the Jacksonville County Sherriff's Department. We're both out, too. The sheriff and the folks at work know it, and most of them are okay with it. The ones who aren't okay with it . . . they tolerate it. That's okay with us, and it's okay with the sheriff. We . . . Owen and I . . . don't flaunt our relationship any more than we hide it."
He paused. No one said anything. Like I said, his voice was so deep it rattled my teeth and probably everybody else's, too. "We found out that works best for us and for the people around us. You might think that the sheriff's department in a county that has a rough-and-tumble history of silver mining, cattle rustling, Indian wars, and hard-scrabble ranching wouldn't be a place you'd find a couple of gay deputies. On the other hand, maybe it is our history of hard work and community cooperation that makes us a more tolerant people than otherwise."
He sat down. It took a minute for the last person, a guy I recognized from the bookstore, to introduce himself. He joked that he'd come straight from work: "Well, not straight, if you know what I mean. But that's why I've got on this ridiculous blue smock that does not match my eyes, and a name tag . . . I'm Jeremy, and I'm gay . . . but you probably figured that out, already."
I was surprised, a little, at who was there and at who wasn't. Gary and Toby were there. They're both on the school soccer team. They didn't say one way or the other if they were gay, just their names. Evan wasn't there, even though I was pretty sure he was gay. He'd come on to me a couple of times. I tried to turn him down gently . . . usually, I said something like Larry and I have a date and I've got to run, or something. He'd never come right out and said he was gay, or that he wanted to . . . Oh, oh. Larry was talking again.
"The first thing to do is to decide what our goals and objectives are. I mean, why are you here? What do you expect this club do to?" He pulled up a flip chart, and gave a pretty good two-minute briefing on brainstorming. The brainstorming session was pretty much a flop, but Larry handled it well. He and I had already decided where we wanted the club to go, and we managed to get that worked in when nobody else said anything. We agreed–well, nobody objected–that our main goals were to open a student section of the club at Central High, and promote tolerance and harmony. I was okay with the first goal: it was specific and, I thought, achievable. The second one? I mean, why set a goal if you can't measure success? Pretty illogical, I thought, but Larry had insisted.
At the end, Larry was elected President. He didn't want the job. At least, he said he didn't, but he got elected, anyway. Lucy wanted to run for Sergeant-at-Arms: she wanted to be a bouncer, I think. Anyway, I suggested that the Vice President could also be the Sergeant-at-Arms, and she ran unopposed for that job. Beth, Lucy's mama, agreed to be secretary . . . another unopposed position. Deputy Davis was elected publicity chairman, and Jeremy got himself elected to plan a Halloween party. Larry and I hadn't planned on that, but Jeremy was so excited, and he got a lot of other people excited, too. We couldn't turn him down.
It was a pretty good meeting, and when it looked like a good time to do it, I made a motion to adjourn. Beth seconded it, and people started heading back to the coffee bar before Larry could hold a vote. I went up to him and kissed him, and told him how proud of him I was, and how wonderful he was. Then Gary coughed, and we realized we weren't the only ones left in the room.
"Um, guys, can we talk?" Toby asked. Something in his voice made me realize this was important, so I said okay.
"You guys stay here," Toby said. "I'll bring drinks . . . ."
He seemed so anxious to buy us something that I said Larry and I'd have coffee. Gary muttered something, and Toby left the three of us alone.
"Um, you guys . . . you're so . . . so sure of yourselves," Gary said. "I don't know what to say . . ." His voice drifted off, and his eyes seemed to be nailed to the posters of Juan and his donkey that lined the walls of the coffee house.
"Say, 'I'm gay,' " Larry said. "You are, aren't you?"
"How do you know?" Gary asked.
"I don't know," Larry said. "But why else would you want to talk to us? I mean, everybody in Jacksonville knows Paul and I are gay . . . You're not in the flying club with us, so that isn't it. We don't play soccer, so that isn't it. Paul? What are those words? Something facto . . ."
"Ipso facto," I said. "There's only one reason you might want to talk to us: you're gay, and you're kind of unsure of where to go from here."
Well, we had a long talk with Gary, and when he got back with the coffee, with Toby. It was a good night.
Larry and I lay quietly in Larry's bed. Our breathing and heart rates had slowed to something close to normal. The flush that marked Larry's face when he was tumescent had faded. We lay on our sides, face to face. Larry was enough shorter than me that his head was tucked below my chin. I had put my arms around him, and was holding him pretty tightly. Larry's arms were folded between our chests, positioned like King Tut's in his sarcophagus. "That was so good," I said. I could see my breath blow Larry's hair around.
"Yeah," Larry replied. "Incredible."
There was a long pause. Larry's breathing slowed. I thought he was asleep, but he stirred. "Would you like to have sex with Deputy Davis?" he whispered.
"Hmm? I hadn't thought about it," I said.
"Bull," Larry said. He was wide awake, now. "I saw the way you looked at him. Would you like to have sex with him? I wouldn't mind, you know."
I looked hard at Larry. The moonlight that came through the window was just enough so I could see that Larry's eyes were open. They appeared black in the dim light. "Larry, I love you. It's you I want to have sex with, every day for the rest of our lives."
"Only once a day?" Larry asked. I watched his smile move from his lips to his eyes.
"Yeah. Only once a day . . . and not at all during Lent . . . or on federal holidays." I answered.
Larry grabbed me and pulled us together. He tilted his head up, and kissed me. "But you were attracted to him, weren't you? His voice? He is really self-confident. And he really is a hunk. Not skinny like me . . . ."
I moved my hands down Larry's back, and cupped his buttocks. "These aren't skinny," I whispered. Even though it was invisible in the moonlight, I sensed the flush returning to Larry's face and chest, and I felt him swell between us.
It didn't take long for us to reach our first goal: a recognized, student section of the LGBT Alliance at Central High. The second goal? Tolerance and understanding? That wasn't going to happen anytime soon. When the school board recognized the Student Section of the LGBT Alliance as a school club, kids started disappearing. Their parents were noisy about it, too. Protests at school board meetings and letters to the editor made it clear why they had removed their children from the "cauldron of iniquity," as one put it, and were home-schooling them. The letters were filled with words like "homosexual agenda," "sin," and "contamination." There was even talk of building a separate, Christian school.
Oh well, one out of two wasn't bad, especially in Wyoming, no matter what Deputy Davis said about community cooperation and shared heritage.