Working for a stellar LGBT publication is the capstone in a gay journalist’s career
I clearly remember the moment I realized I’m gay. Years ago (OK, decades ago), I was sitting in seventh grade English class, feigning interest in the complexities of adverbs and the horrors of split infinitives, when it hit me.
For months, thoughts about my male friends had been swirling in my head, heated to a nuclear level by 13-year-old hormones, and I didn’t understand why I was having them. At first I blamed it on public schools. Certainly, I had never had lascivious fantasies during six years of Catholic school. Who would dare? It had to be the tawdry, lawless curriculum public schools are known to embrace that had hijacked and sullied my virtuous parochial school mind. Yeah, that was it.
And then the mystery unraveled. Sitting at my desk in my knock-off Greg Brady bell bottoms, the answer moved through my mind like an advertising banner trailing a plane. “You’re a queer.” How could such explosive words have come to me so quietly? I thought about fainting, but that would have proved the accusation and messed up my hair.
Queer? How was it possible? I played football, baseball and competed in rodeo. I’d had a girlfriend since the third grade. Sure, I secretly hoped Santa would mistakenly drop off an Easy Bake Oven for me, and I had noticed in that year’s Miss America pageant that Miss Iowa’s foundation was an autumn when she was clearly a spring, but queer? No way.
But it was true, and years of denial and trying to change began. It wasn’t easy being gay in a small Texas Panhandle town during the ’70s. The cold air of religious teaching collided with the warm currents of my heart’s desires, whipping up hurricanes of confused emotions. In Panhandle parlance, I didn’t know if I was washin’ or hangin’ out.
My 20s were turbulent, full of antics that would have done Liza Minnelli proud in her most dysfunctional days. It’s beyond tragic what is done to gay youth. It’s criminal. I felt enormous guilt for being gay, and it didn’t help when I was kicked out of the Air Force after serving for three years.
My crime? I went to a gay bar in San Antonio, and someone reported me to the Office of Special Investigations, the Air Force’s gestapo. I fought the discharge proceedings, but the military machinery doesn’t stop once someone hits the start button. Two weeks after OSI received word I had been in a gay bar, I was out on the streets. My commander’s last words to me were, “How soon can you get off this base?” It was a blow to my already suffering psyche.
Fortunately, I’m made of strong matter, and I slowly pieced together the truth: Being gay isn’t a sin, it’s not a choice and it’s OK to wear white after Labor Day. I’m still ticked off at the Air Force, but the uniforms were ugly, so maybe getting kicked out was a good thing.
Through the decades, the LGBT community and I have seen quite a few changes. Brave people, fed up with the bigotry and accompanying violence, struck back. The gay liberation of the ’70s almost evaporated during the grim years of the AIDS epidemic. But we trudged on. We have never been, nor will we ever be, beaten.
This new chapter in my life as senior editor of Dallas Voice is as much a personal triumph as a professional one. There are jobs — and then there are dream jobs. Certainly, my years working in mainstream media were rewarding, but taking a position with a premier LGBT publication is like a fashionista going from managing women’s wear at Wal-Mart to working at Chanel. This is as good as it gets for a gay journalist.
It is my hope, that as a staff member of Dallas Voice, I can contribute to the advances our community is making not only in Dallas but in the world.
We’ve made a lot of progress. Lesbians and gays no longer have to worry about being kicked out of the military, and more states are allowing us the birthright of marrying the person we love.
But there’s still work to be done. You can count on me to stand on the front lines with you when the opposition comes at us, and you can count on me to remember the voice in Dallas Voice embraces all of us.
Let’s never forget where we’ve been — and never lose sight of where we’re going.
Steve Ramos is the senior editor of Dallas Voice. He can be contacted at email@example.com.