By Polly Kellogg
I sobbed in the car as I was driving to the Capitol for the gay marriage vote. My tears were about my lifetime of amorphous gay pain that was suddenly safe to feel and let out. On the Capitol steps, I ran into Patrick Scully, who reminded me of a gay speakers bureau I offered to the public schools 1978. It attracted the attention of Jerry Falwell’s national evangelical propaganda mill. The schools cancelled it, and in this process I had to testify at the Board of Education to explain that our speakers bureau would not recruit or molest children. I felt alone and on trial, and the fear dampened my politics for years.
In the hours of waiting for the vote, I was surprised that everyone I talked to wanted to tell stories about the hard times. A straight acquaintance described the recent suicide of a middle-aged man trying to deny being gay. A cheerful man I’d never met volunteered that he’d had shock treatments in the 1960s and then went through seminary in the closet. A woman described a mother’s coming out on her death bed to her children. In the afternoon, after the Capitol was emptying, a woman sat in the glorious sunlight on the steps and told stories of being humiliated for her androgyny. It was very clear that the relief of this cultural shift is allowing us to process pain we have held inside for many lonely decades. Now it wants to come out in the sunshine.
We have a collective history of tremendous cultural abuse and it needs our collective attention. Sharing stories honors our realities and is guaranteed to release new energy. Also if we don’t want decades of backlash to this vote, as sadly happened with the legalization of abortion, we need to let others know how difficult society has made our lives. People need to know in their guts why this was the right decision.
A project to begin on-going gatherings to share stories has already begun. The Facebook event says “TELLING QUEER HISTORY is a series of gatherings based on sharing stories in an open, informal, and participatory format…The goal is to exchange our personal stories in order to add to the collective history of queer folks.” The pilot was June 9 at Madame of the Arts, 3401 Chicago Ave. S., and more will be happening. Watch for a Facebook group and contact firstname.lastname@example.org to join and to help shape this project. If you have other ideas, contact her or me, email@example.com (I’m a retired Minneapolitan). We need many discussion groups like this, also writers groups and video projects to collect our precious history and release our precious tears.