Peter Williams – Coming Out

“I didn’t hide.”

When I was 16 we moved from one part of the New Haven area to another. I joined this Girl Scout Troop, which turned out to be about 50 percent of young women who were exploring the possibility of lesbian identity. It was really interesting. We were the “rangers,” who did all kinds of outdoor activities; the people who were non-lesbian-thinking did the normal home-ec and whatever Girl-Scouty things. That ended up blowing up in about a year later, because one of the young women [in the home-ec group] was interested in one of the lesbian women, [who] wasn’t interested in her. [So,] she went home and told her mom that half of us where queers, or lesbians, or whatever. Then they broke up the troop basically. And they notified the school district [about] that. So, people who had lockers nearby or classes [together]—they split people apart in school. Now, when we graduated two years later, and got meeting older lesbians, and going out to functions and stuff, some of the same women who were running the greater New Haven Girl Scout Council were at those functions. But they were afraid to be outed. A lot of people just faked it, you know: got a boyfriend, went out, did this, did that, especially after that incident—so that there was no trouble.

I ended up getting kicked out of [Bates] College for being a lesbian. I didn’t hide. Apparently, the rumor was out that I was a lesbian and someone walked into my room. This was ’64. There were no locks on the doors. There was no assumed privacy. [Another student] walked into my room in the middle of the night. Then [she] went and woke up the house mother.

[Then I] had to spend three hours—or however long—driving home sitting between my parents, as they argued back and forth as to whose fault it was. They basically went back and forth as to whose fault it was that I was lesbian. That was not an uncommon thing for them. They had this ongoing thing that, if something were wrong with one of us kids, it was all the other person’s fault. It was like I wasn’t raised right, so I turned out to be a lesbian. Or I wasn’t forced to date. It was just like back and forth, back and forth. My dad was an absent father, so therefore it was his fault [according to my mother]. It was more just the blame game thing than anything else. “It’s all your fault,” you know. “You did this.” “You were . . .” The ironic thing was, I had a best male friend in high school. We weren’t boyfriend-girlfriend, but he was a best friend.  My mother told me I couldn’t let him walk me home from school, because what would the neighbors think?  He was walking me home from school every day. Well, we were just friends. But imagine if we were really interested. I mean, what kind of message was she giving me?

Essentially, my mother put me under house arrest, saying that if I left home before I turned 21, they would call the cops on me, because it was illegal. I was on a list of women who were known lesbians in the greater New Haven/Hamden area. [The Hamden police] had gone to my parents’ house when I was 18 and told my parents I was on this list, because a girl friend of mine had run away from home. She was 16 and her girlfriend was 21. They gave her the choice of going to juvey hall for being a runaway, or telling them all the lesbians she knew. Then they visited all those parents’ homes.


Sources: Interviews with Laura S. Hodgman on 9 November 2012, 3 December 2012, and 20 February 2014.