Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Got That Funny Feeling Again

Bill and Ron Milton, Delaware -  2011

Today I got that "funny feeling" again.  Three times in my life I've gotten this "funny feeling." 

It is hard to describe this "funny feeling" but I'll attempt to do so now.  Have you ever read about those near death experiences in which the soon to be deceased see the "light" at the end of a long tunnel.  The light is always described as emanating a feeling of total love and acceptance.  The feeling is one of comfort and peace.

Maybe it is a stretch to describe my feeling as heaven but I don't know how else to describe it.

The first time I experienced this feeling was on a cold February night in 1963.  I had just completed a three years in the Army working at the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland.  During that time I had to keep my homosexuality totally in the closet because I didn't want to lose my top secret clearance and get kicked out of the Army, which is what they did in those prehistoric times of the Fifties and Sixties. 

Bill and Ron Pennsauken, New Jersey - 1964

After returning to my home in Downingtown, Pennsylvania I took a bus to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to spend a weekend with my friend Sal.  Sal was a cook in the Air Force also stationed at Ft. Meade.  His tour of duty ended a few months before mine.  Sal was also gay.  Visiting Sal was my "coming out party" so to say. Sal and his friend Howard were going to take me to my first gay bar.

Of course I was very nervous.  I didn't know what to expect.  Sal lived in Elizabeth, a suburb of Pittsburgh.  That cold Saturday night we were going to visit a small local bar in the nearby town of Clairton, which was the hometown of Sal's friend Howard.

The straight part of the local bar was downstairs in the main entrance to the building.  The gay bar was accessed by a fire escape in the back of the main building.  We climbed the fire escape to the gay bar.

As we entered the darkened bar from the metal fire escape steps, butterflies were swirling around in my stomach.  The first thing I saw after my eyes adjusted to the darkness was male figures slow dancing together to a jukebox record.  I forget the name of the song but I will never forget that sight. The wild butterflies in my stomach disappeared immediately and were replaced by a calmness and warmth.  I was "home."  I no longer felt ALONE.  I no longer felt like a criminal in hiding.  I no longer felt the heavy oppression of shame of being homosexual.  There were others like me and they looked normal!  I didn't see one man dressed as a woman.  The sight of those men slow dancing that night in that small town bar in Clairton PA opened a whole new world to me.

Ron and Bill Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - 1974

The second time I experienced that funny feeling was the first time I visited Provincetown, Massachusetts.  I had heard a lot about "P-town" as the gay resort destination of America.  I was curious and decided the summer of 1974 to take my vacation in Provincetown.  I wasn't as nervous this time. 

From my first experience in 1963 to this time eleven years later in 1974, I had been a regular weekend bar hopper to the most popular Philadelphia gay bars.  I was also in a committed gay relationship since 1964.  This July weekend in 1974 my good friend Bob and I were going to see what all the fuss was about in P-Town.  We weren't disappointed.

We made the twelve hour trip in Bob's pickup truck driving from my center city home in Philadelphia, PA through New Jersey, New York, Mystic, Connecticut and then finally to the tip of Cape Cod where Provincetown is located.

Ron and Bill Downingtown, Pennsylvania - 1978

We arrived in town on Commercial Street on a Saturday evening.  P-town was packed.  As our truck inched it's way through the Saturday night crowd, we realized we were at someplace special.  Walking, strolling and laughing in the streets were all kinds of couples.  Straight couples, men and men couples, women and women couples.  Everyone was so relaxed.  For the first time in my life I felt the tremendous burden of oppression lifted from my being.  This must be what straight people feel like all the time!  Freedom!  Now we knew what all the fuss was about in Provincetown.  Every summer from that date on I spent at least one week of my vacation in Provincetown, ending in my last visit which lasted three weeks in 1986. 

Today was the third time I felt that special "feeling."  This was when I learned that President Obama announced publicly that he supported marriage equality.  In other words, he fully supports same sex marriage.

I never thought I would experience this feeling again but I have and it feels damn good. 

Maybe, just maybe in my lifetime Bill and I can get married for real.  Not any of this civil union or domestic partnership second- class make-believe marriage but a real marriage.  You know, just like the straight people with all the benefits, protections and respect.  If and when then happens I will have realized my life long dream that only a few years ago I considered impossible during my lifetime.  Bill and I will be married. 

Bill and Ron Milton, Delaware - 2011

In a few months we will celebrate our being together for forty-eight years.  Maybe by the time we celebrate our 50th anniversary, during the second year of the Obama administration with a Democratically controlled House and Senate, Congress will repeal DOMA.  

The question is not "Is it going to happen?" but "When is it going to happen?" 

I hope I live to see it.  

Ron and Bill 1965


  1. anne marie in philly8:01 AM

    I hope so too, honey. it's damn overdue!

    1. Anne Marie,

      Way overdue!


  2. As I've been saying, while grinning ear-to-ear, since yesterday, it is amazing to hear a sitting President tell the world that I, and my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, deserve equality.

    I'd always hoped it would happen, known it would happen, but when it did, I almost felt like crying.
    Except I was smiling too hard.

    1. Bob,

      Believe it or not, I got choked up myself. Tears (almost) of happiness.


  3. I too very much hope it will happen soon, Ron. However it develops, yesterday's announcement from Pres O. will surely be a landmark day - and ought to make it very difficult for any future Democratic presidential candidates to retreat from that stance. So that alone will be an advance. I'm sure your special 'feeling' was prophetic. In fact I'm already looking forward to seeing your wedding photos being posted here.

    ....and terrific pictures today too, by the way - again!

    1. Ray,

      President Obama made history yesterday. He took the leadership that previous Democrats were too afraid of risking (including Clinton). I have a new found admiration for him. As for our wedding photos, oh how I would love for that day to arrive while we're still alive. I don't know. Maybe.


  4. Holly7:35 PM

    I hope so too. It makes me very sad to think of just a few times of feeling 'home' and ok, for so long. My best friend (male) from age 11 on was gay, back in the early 80s there was no coming out for him. I kind of suspected but it was just another thing about him, like his hair color or his nose - it wasn't anything we needed to discuss because it just didn't matter to me. It wasn't until years later that I realized just how lonely it must have been for him, when he told me 'If it wasn't for you, I don't think I could have made it through high school.' He is so very happy now and I am so very happy for him.

    Wedding pics! We're gonna get wedding pics?? :)

    1. Holly,

      Growing up gay is very lonely. Ask any gay guy (or gay girl). We all have our challenges in life (well, most of us anyway), I just considered this my "challenge." I would have it no other way.

      Wedding pics? I hope so!


  5. Ron,

    Although i share you feeling that this is enviable and will happen someday, it is quite possible that Obama made it more difficult. He declared his view had evolved, but he took no real action. He kicked the ball down the street, saying this was not a federal issue, but the choice of the individual states. This is somewhat akin to JFK or LBJ saying in the sixties they have come to believe people of color should be allowed to go to school, work or live where they wished, but it is not up to the federal government , but the states. George Wallace would have applauded. Or Lincoln saying he accepted that people should not own other people so he was against slavery, but it was a state issue so if the people of Alabama wanted slaves that was their choice. If Obama had shown true leadership or guts he would have said he would propose legislation to allow this to happen on a national level. Now he has basically given federal sanction to those states that have passed legislation against same sex marriage. This could slow things up. Just a thought.


    1. Larry,

      You missed the whole point of President Obama's declaration. This is just the first step. Civil Rights wasn't passed overnight either. Obama made history be being the first president to publicly state his support for marriage equality and thus showed great moral leadership unlike the moral coward that Romney and his Republican cohorts are who publicly support discrimination and second class citizenship for some of our citizens. Romney and the Republicans are on the wrong side of history and will pay the price for that immoral and cowardly stand. I understand your viewpoint because you're looking through rose colored glasses that only sees the Right Wing Hate Obama viewpoint. Nothing, absolutely nothing Obama does would you approve of. I understand that and that's why I don't even waste my time arguing the point.
      I know what is right and I would rather have a president who publicly supports marriage equality rather than one who wants to keep me and people like me less than equal.
      As far as "kicking the can down to the states", consider this. Eventually there will be a court challenge that will end up in the Supreme Court of the United States and they will make a decision as to whether to permit states to continue discrimination against a class of its citizens or do the right thing and end this discrimination. Remember Brown versus Brown was a Supreme Court decision which ended school segregation even though many states (the South as usual) fought against it. Remember Roe versus Wade which made a woman's choice legal. Many still disagree with this decision but it is the law of the land. The same will happen with marriage equality. President Obama is doing the exact right thing now and is getting the ball rolling instead of kicking the can down the road.

  6. Great post, Ron. I know exactly what you mean about finally experiencing that feeling of belonging. It happened to me in Charlotte, NC, in 1976, as I walked into Scorpio, the local gay bar. Suddenly everything seemed to make sense!

    I love the photos you shared too. Great stuff!

    1. Jim,

      You know exactly what I mean by that "special feeling." It is such a good feeling too, rarely experienced but when it comes it is wonderful!

      Thank you for all your kind and supportive words.



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