Gomer Pyle got married. The Seattle Times reports that Jim Nabors, the actor and singer best known for his portrayal of Gomer Pyle USMC, recently visited Seattle where he and his long time male partner took advantage of Washington’s new gay marriage law to legally wed. I don’t believe that I had ever heard before that Nabors is gay. Having come of age in an era when the only gay men most folks encountered were drag queens (rather the antithesis of the big butch Marine) the news of Nabors’ gay wedding struck a chord with me. A bit of Googling revealed that Nabors is an honorary Marine. He is pictured at ceremony in Hawaii in 2007 when the U.S. Marines promoted him to the rank of honorary corporal. I can’t help but wonder if the Marines, who praised Nabors for his lifetime of service and embodiment of Marine Corps ideals, were aware of his sexuality.
Were Nabors canine rather than human, I feel certain he would be not a tiny chihuahua but a huge St. Bernard–clumsy and goofy and very friendly and lovable. I do remember watching Gomer Pyle on television as a child, and I was aware of Nabors’ prolific career as a recording artist, although I can’t honestly claim to have ever been a big fan of his singing. (He does have a beautiful deep voice, but I was much more into rock and pop styles that became popular well after his hey day.) It appears as though Nabors (who is 82 years old) has been retired from show business for some time. It sounds as though he and his husband have lived quietly in Hawaii for many years now, no longer monitored by the paparazzi and gossip mongers who so relentlessly track celebrities.
I started working on a new short story. I was reading the newspaper and getting very agitated. Ron remarked that my distress was painful to watch and gently reminded me of the advice I’ve previously given him– to write about what’s bothering you. It’s good advice, even given back. I strongly suspect the finished product will not be worthy of a gold star, though I suspect I will probably publish it in this space. And who knows but that someone may read it. And agree. Or disagree. Or be pleased. Or pissed. Finally today my thanks to A A Tech who suggested today’s words.
Warning: I break my own rules and get political in this post. If you don’t want to read about my politics, why not visit someone else today.
I find myself wondering if perhaps I am the only gay man who wasn’t quite moved by President Obama’s recent statement of support for gay marriage. I have had two long term committed relationships. My late partner Joel and I were registered as domestic partners (it enabled us to get on each other’s health insurance at work) for many years until his death in 2004. My current partner Ron and I emphatically do not wish to marry, as it would greatly reduce our income (from Social Security disability benefits).
While as a matter of civil rights I strongly support gay marriage, for myself I frankly do not want a legal marriage. For nearly fifty years now I have been a sexual outlaw of sorts. Literally until 2003 when the Supreme Court finally invalidated all remaining US sodomy laws. And in a mythical or poetic way, I still consider myself something of an outlaw, and regard my huzband and our family as question of our choices in a creation that we ourselves make every day. I understand I think at least partially the desire so many homosexuals feel these days to be legally married and as respectable as anyone else. But that wasn’t really a choice for me growing up and at this late date, I find myself unwilling to let go of my inner outlaw and settle responsibly into the middle class.
Honestly? I found little to celebrate in Obama’s remarks. I agree with the commentators who are stating that full acceptance of gay marriage is inevitable. And certainly, that is I think as it should be. Given that younger people support gay marriage rights at a very high rate, Obama’s coming out in favor of gay marriage seems to me simply a political calculation, a way of putting a divisive social issue into play to energize his core supporters. It is true that gay and lesbian Americans have seen our rights expanded greatly during Obama’s term in office. But so often it seems as though all progress on gay issues comes in fits and starts, three steps forward then two steps back. If it serves to energize and motivate younger voters, Obama’s marriage moment may prove to have been a bit of good politics. Though I frankly wonder how much play the issue will get as the campaign continues and so many more pressing issues vie for our collective attentions.
When I think about it, I realize I’ve always been a sort of outlaw. I remember as a teenager in the early 1980’s learning about sodomy laws (boy that’s a term you don’t hear much anymore) and being outraged and horrified to discover that sex between consenting adults could be illegal. While I was certainly glad when the Supreme Court in 2003 struck down all of the remaining sodomy laws, including in my native Louisiana, I have to say that I never let the fact that it was illegal stop me from having sex in any way I preferred.
I’ve mentioned before that Ron and I don’t want to get married, even
if when gay marriage becomes legal here in Washingon state, either in June or after the November election if those who are opposed to my civil rights succeed in forcing a ballot question. I have not previously answered, when asked why we don’t want to get married. While I fully support marriage equality and would fight for the rights of any two consenting adults to enjoy the full benefits of marriage, the fact is that for over forty years now I’ve gotten accustomed to being a sexual outlaw. I’m glad I’m not illegal anymore but I have no desire whatsoever to participate in a social form which I do not believe would confer any real benefit upon me or my huzband, given our particular circumstances. (Ron and I are both on social security disability. Were we a heterosexual couple, we would be foolish to marry since doing so would significantly lower the amount we receive each month.) And I know in my heart that no piece of paper could make our relationship any stronger than it is. I also don’t believe we could possibly love or cherish each other any more than we do, regardless of whatever some politicians may think of us or our relationship.
I am grateful to live in an era when young queer folk (gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans-gender-ed) continuously hear the message “it gets better”. But frankly, having been an outlaw all my life. I have zero interest in joining the ranks of the respectably wed.
In reading Holly’s blog post the other day, I realized that she was absolutely right when she called me a “rebel”. I’ve come to realize that rebel is a good description of who I am and who I always have been. I think I’ve finally become enough of a writer to put the years when I lived in the Boston area and wore a button very similar to the one pictured over my right breast for about ten years into the perspective of a difficult chapter in a story that while it was never a fairy tale, is ultimately a story of courage and winning and not the early brutal death that was foreshadowed in around chapter 8 or 9.
I’ve always been a writer and I’ve always been gay. I think I knew the first of these things around age 8 when I took first place in the 4th Grade English Essay Contest at elementary school. The second I’ve known since about age four when I saw a picture of a middle aged, hairy man– naked with the most remarkable twinkle in his eye that I spotted in a stack of old Playboys my father had not really hidden. Both of these things are intrinsic to who I really am. They are perhaps often more important things to know about me than my wallet name. Not that I am trying to hide behind a mask. Not any more so than any copy/paste social media rockstar whose cheerful face pic showing his handsomely well-shaved face that hides more secrets than Hades. I am all about being genuine and being me online. And smart enough to know that this hairy faggot will be better served most of the time by a bland, familiar image that I’ve worked very hard to make come to stand for my real world integrity.
I’m always trying to get clients to understand that while the advice they have been following is not actually WRONG (“your face picture should be your avatar Everywhere on social media”) it’s not actually applicable to your particular situation. Any third grader should know that double negatives are incorrect. As a precocious 4th grader I used just one (my teacher wrote in red pencil– ‘double neg– but it’s for effect +++’) and took home the top prize trophy. That I spent years talking to everyone I met about AIDS and gay rights does not make me feel as though I ‘wasted my years’. The fact that Ron and I could legally get married in June if we chose (we don’t) it seems to me is a pretty huge thing to take away from those rather difficult and challenging years.
And if parts of this post don’t make all that much sense to you, I can only urge you to stay tuned. Next year, after I have published 366 blog posts in every day of 2012 I’m going to edit those blog posts and some of those comments into a commercially successful book. Please, I beg you. KEEP READING. All plotlines WILL get neatly tied up and the catharsis on the last page will be HUGE. STAY TUNED!!
Alan Jobe is the author of Walking Down The Avenue and consults with #indie writers and entrepreneurs about social networking and self-publishing.