Dean Speaking On:
I’d Like You to Know
Identity and Awareness
Mentoring and Support
Spirituality and Religion
Spokane in Perspective
When I moved to Spokane my first job in social service was my internship at LCS [Lutheran Community Services]. I was supervising foster parents [in a] foster care program. At that time, I did some work with a therapist dealing with my sexual orientation. That was the time when I really acknowledged it to myself—not that I was at peace with it, or fully integrated it—but that is when I acknowledged it.
***[I perceived that] homosexuality was “wrong.” So going to see a counselor—or several—was to deal with, “I’m a good person. How can I be a bad person?” That incongruency: just to deal with that. It’s hard to be a good person and a monster at the same time. Unless you totally have a split personality and two separate personalities. I don’t fit in that classification.
None of the counselors, therapists, psychiatrists that I saw over the years ever tried to counsel me out of homosexuality. The one individual who was the most helpful on issues of sexual orientation was an MSW who also [had] a Master’s of Divinity, [who] was a minister before he got his MSW. Someone I have the greatest amount of respect for—[whom] I liked very much as an individual. He is since deceased. We went around and around about homosexuality. We talked about it in terms of the Bible, interpretations of the Bible, how that works, and putting things into context. You would think that it was all coming together.
I can do a great job of “yes, butting”: “Yes, but I hear that. Yes, but . . . uh-huh. Yes, but.” Finally he said, “Do you believe me? Do you trust me?” This was someone I had a huge amount of respect and idolation for. Idolation is probably the wrong word, but I really considered him a mentor. When I said, “Yes,” [he asked,] “Then why won’t you accept what I’m saying about homosexuality?” [Gestures with hands out, palms up.] And it was like, “Wow! Bu, bu, bu, bu, bu, bu . . . How can I yes, but that? Bu, bu, bu, bu, bu, bu, bu . . .” I spent some time thinking, and came to temporary acceptance at that point in time.
But still, I think I came to acceptance that homosexuality wasn’t a disease, didn’t make you a monster, didn’t make you a sex pervert, didn’t do any of those things that we hear about. With him, I reached the acceptance that homosexuality didn’t make you a bad person. I don’t think I had fully accepted that, “It’s okay for me.” I hadn’t completely bridged that [gap].
The other thing I hadn’t bridged [was] how I could be homosexual, even if it’s okay, in my line of work? How can I be an out homosexual dealing with boys? With adolescent boys? In my home? In the group home, where I’m staying 24 hours a day? Living? And I’m taking them to a cabin, where I may be the only adult with three or four boys for a weekend. That kept me from being able to be congruent with being a homosexual and [a caregiver for adolescent boys].[I’d think,] “Okay; it’s okay [to be homosexual]. But I can’t be [out], because this is my chosen career.” What would be the impact on the boys’ home if word got out? Would the boys’ parents be okay with their son living with a homosexual? What would happen?! I dealt with some very, very disturbed individuals, kids and adults. If I got one of them angry or offended them in some way, I could be very vulnerable. [The program could be vulnerable.] Those things all were very poignant. Very real. That reinforced my staying in the closet, even though I was increasingly coming to grips with, it’s who I was.
Even though I first did some acceptance in the mid ‘70’s, I spent thousands of dollars trying not to be gay.
Sources: Two interviews with Maureen Nickerson [c. 2007]; transcribed by K. M. and Laura S. Hodgman; edited by Maureen Nickerson and Laura S. Hodgman; held in the Northwest Museum for Arts and Culture. Interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 25 July 2013 and 12 September 2013.