Christopher Lawrence – Coming Out

“She asked for Stonewall!”

By the time I got into junior college, I had came out. I sort of came out on this guy from Seattle. I came out all over him. Poor guy! He was gay. He was completely out and quite well-known in the gay community in Seattle. When I realized he was gay, I was just all over him in public.

When I came out, I was very confused. I mean, I saw all these men around! A lot of them were very effeminate, because stereotypes were running heavy. This is the time when all the bars still had their windows painted black, so that you couldn’t see in. And [the bar owners] were paying the police, so that they wouldn’t beat up their customers. If they didn’t pay, then, when you walked out the door you could easily be absconded or beaten up by the police. It was protection money. In fact, there was a big scandal. It was exposed, and Mayor [Joseph] Alioto of San Francisco came up and ran a big investigation. They couldn’t even do it from within the city. They had to bring somebody else in, and they changed all that. Suddenly, you were able to go in. This was right after Stonewall.


I kind of went back into [the closet at one point,] because of stuff going on in the community, and business, and I tried to not be too obvious. But I really can’t be “in-obvious.” I’m kind of flamboyant. I don’t think that makes extremely effeminate, but I’m pretty flamboyant. I don’t think most people’s gaydar would miss me.


A lot of straight people don’t really have gaydar, but I always just announce it to the neighbors when I move in. I don’t usually have to say, [“I’m gay.”] I say, “My partner Kevin is . . .” or, “Lance is my roommate, but he’s straight.” I do it that way. I’m right up front, right at the beginning. It’s how it is. And then we started doing with the “fly your [rainbow] flag on Fridays” campaign. After several months of trying to remember to put it up on Fridays and remember to take it down, I thought, “Fuck that! They all know I’m gay. I’m just putting it out there. [Laughs.] Then it’ll be out on Fridays.” Then, the guy down on the corner started putting his out on Fridays. And he’s straight! He goes to our Pride stuff. I pretty much made good friends with all my neighbors.


My mother and father were separated and divorced by [the time I came out], and my mother was remarried. Neither of them came to my wedding with Anthony. That was a real point of contention for me. It took me a long time to forgive my father for that. I didn’t need to forgive my mother because she was being subservient to her new husband. Who was very good to me, but did not come to the wedding. Although they were invited and they were sent an invitation: lilac, don’t you know. [Laughs.] They did have trouble accepting it.

My mom finally saw a “Discovery” program that demonstrated to her what I had been telling her: that it wasn’t a choice, but this is just the natural orientation. After that, she was pretty much okay with it. She doesn’t like me to talk about it really loudly. You know, we’re in Twin Falls and I started talking about it, my voice was louder than she liked. She liked to me to be a little quieter. But that’s just more about not sharing your personal stuff than anything else. Just not being loud. I’ve always been kind of boisterous. She’s actually admitted to people that I‘m gay when they’ve asked her. It’s a huge step for her. Of course, the rest of my family, they’re praying for me. They’re sure I’m damned to hell.

One of my cousins [is also gay]. We grew up together. She lives in Montana and she asked for a Stonewall for her graduation present from high school. And nobody in the family figured out she was gay. [Laughs.] She asked for Stonewall! Twenty years later, I was saying, “Mom, I can’t believe none of you knew. She asked for Stonewall!” [Laughs.] She and her partner went to the woods in Kalispell. They built a cabin; they built the cabin out of logs, from felling the trees.

I don’t associate with my [other] cousins. I don’t associate with any of those families if I can help it. They’re all rednecks. In order to find the ones who are worth being around, I have to wade through . . . Remember these are farm people, so they have lots of kids. So, big families, and that means I have to be around a lot of people who have issues around homophobia, who are talking about their way of Christ being the only way to God.

I really avoid much contact with them. I answer their letters, I talk with them on the phone occasionally—some of them, just a few of them. I occasionally, every once in a while, go to a family reunion, so I can spend some time with my dad, and make sure that he sees the rest of his relatives all at once. I missed it this year, but I usually do that. But, you know, it’s like I’m surfing on top of very troubled water. It really takes a lot of energy for me to want to be there, and to be there, actually. I have sat and listened to my cousin . . .

When I was down in Twin Falls a few months ago, to visit mom, one of my second cousins was talking with such horrible disrespect for the officers that he protects in the Army in Iraq. And he is wearing a T-shirt that says something about some race car driver who’s just a faggot. “Ain’t no faggot like so-and-so.” I’m sitting there and I’m just holding my tongue, and thinking, “Why do I even come to these places? There’s nothing here for me to do. These people are not open, they’re not going to be open, they already see me as somebody that is not quite right.”

I know these are my perceptions of their perceptions, but what I do is I make sure that they know about things that I do, that I organize these Pride things. I make sure that people who talk about those things know that I do it. I figure if anybody has the guts to contact me, they can. I know that I have gay cousins, besides the one that I’m so close to. I don’t know them. I just know that they’re there. I mean, the statistics [suggest there are others].


Source: Interview with Maureen Nickerson, 8 August 2007; audio held in the Museum of Arts and Culture; transcribed and edited by Laura S. Hodgman.