Christopher Lawrence – Mentoring and Support

“You choose family.”

I think . . . all people find new family. They just don’t find see it is finding new family, whereas those of us who are estranged from our families do see it as finding new family. I think when you move away your own family and marry somebody, you take on their family. Or you take on the group of friends as your family, but they don’t see it that way. I think we have named it as “family of choice.”

I been very clear about that. Karen [Nielsen] and Bonnie [Foster] are my family. They are my family, and they are two people who have been as close to me as any family member has been, have protected me more than any family member ever has, [including] my mother and father. Have stood up for me, have nurtured me, have helped me, have rescued me, have done all the things that family does for each other. Have got me back on track. Have told me when I’m full of shit. Have, you know, have been there, as my family. I am very clear that, yes, you choose family. You do. Especially those of us who were gay. We actually learned to name it that. How else do you have a life? You live a very lonely life, if you don’t create a family. You do, and my life is not lonely. It is very rich. I mean, besides my dogs [laughs], I have wonderful friends. Most of them are lesbian actually. [Laughs.] I’ve always felt like I have an inner lesbian.

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When I first moved in, the house over there had a pastor and his wife, and their two or three kids living there. The pastor came over and met us. Of course I told him about [my partner] Anthony. Anthony by that time already had AIDS. He wanted us to come to his parish. The pastor’s wife, however . . . I never saw the kids. I found out the year later [the pastor’s wife] went over to visit [another neighbor,] Margo, who is the German woman who lived in Germany during World War II and saw all that crap. She went over and started talking to [Margo] about the two homosexuals who were living down here and how she was afraid to have her kids play out in the front yard. So [Margo] told me, that [she] threw [the pastor’s wife] out of the house. [Laughs.] This little old lady!

I was working and taking care of Anthony both. So I have to leave him here alone during the day. I’d bring him out so he’d get some light, put him on the couch so he could watch TV or play with the puppy and, you know, at least get some light and some entertainment. There were these two kids that lived up the street. They would come by every day. They’d yell, “faggot!” and “queer! I hope you die of AIDS!” and stuff like that as they walked by. But I was gone every day. Anthony told me about it and I kept trying to find them. They were coming over writing “queer” and “fag” on the car and stuff like that, in the dust. I told some of my neighbors, and they said, “The next time that happens, you have him call us. We will be coming out of our house at that minute.” [Laughs.] And it didn’t happen after that. Everybody on both sides of the block knows were gay. They either don’t care, or they keep their mouths shut, or they love us.

I have the one neighbor who’s moving out over here. She’s she is a devout, religious, Old Testament Christian. Of course, she talked to me about how I should repent everything, and she’s not sure that I had a Christ experience. She’s just shaking all the time, and scared all the time of everything. I’m sure doesn’t like having me here. I’m not the reason she’s moving. She’s moving to go back to Bible school in Portland so she can go back to China and convert everybody. Anyway, she’s the only one. Then the guy on the corner . . . I think . . . doesn’t like to talk; he’s not friendly to anybody. The woman who plays the harp is fine with me. Everybody else likes me. They come over and talk to me, watch the house when I’m gone, pick up my mail, and stuff like that.

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