Pride Month — Historical fiction?

Just the other day, one of our loyal readers caught me in a parking lot and commented on the Pride Month series of stories appearing daily this month in lassennews.com. He said he enjoyed reading the stories, but he had some questions he just had to ask.

The reader told me how much he liked the book used as the basis for the movie “Field of Dreams” — how the characters in the book are former professional baseball players from the Chicago White Sox who allegedly rigged the 1919 World Series, including Shoeless Joe Jackson. The reader said he thought the characters in my Pride Month stories were like that — stories I made up about real people. They were, in his opinion, historical fiction. Besides, he also wondered out loud — how many gay people could I possibly know?

I assured him the stories are real and truthful to best of my recollection. I did not make them up. They are not fiction. Of course, I’m reminded of a conversation had by students and our professor in a graduate seminar I took. The professor said we should always consider autobiography to be fiction because the author always will embellish the high points in his life and play down or completely ignore the bad things. I don’t dispute the obvious truth of that observation. But these stories are not about me. I am the observer and the storyteller, sure, but they’re not stories about me — they’re stories about the gay people I’ve known.

How many gay people could I possibly know? I don’t really have a good answer to that question. I grew up in the Tower District in Fresno and that truly is the gay part of the city. If you spend just a few minutes there, you will encounter gay folks of every persuasion. Lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, maybe even some drag queens and transgender folks like the character in the famous Kinks’ song, “Lola.” If you don’t believe me, I challenge you to go spend an evening in any Tower District bar. You will encounter ‘The Gay,” I promise.

Since something like at least 11 percent of the nation self-identifies membership in the LGBTQ+ community, I suspect our reader knows many gay people, too. I suspect because even today in 2024 there is such a negative social stigma associated with being part of that community, many do not let their gay flags fly freely.

Last year right here in Susanville, some members of the community tried to remove books with LGBTQ+ perspectives from the library. Lassen Family Services fell victim to hate-crime vandalism for flying a small rainbow flag at the top of its building. Participants in a march to city hall supporting a Pride Proclamation from the mayor were yelled at and demeaned by passersby on Main Street.

Despite all the anti-war sentiment that arose during my youth, all someone who didn’t want to go to Vietnam had to say was they were gay, and the Army wouldn’t take them. It was that simple. I don’t know anyone who did that because they feared carrying that gay marker around with them for the rest of their lives. If you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community that’s a reality that never goes away.

Let me put it this way. I struggled when I got into recording music digitally because I love that old analog sound so much. I was talking with a friend who’s a professional recording engineer, and he told me, I needed to get over “my analog preferences.” Besides, he said, digital recording may be different, but it’s really just the same.

If I had an intention in writing this Pride Month series, I guess that’s it. The LGBTQ+ community may be different from the rest of us in their sexual preferences, but in the final analysis, they’re really the same as the rest of us, sharing and enduring all the all day-to-day battles with which we all struggle.

As far as I’m concerned, we’re all human beings sharing this beautiful bit of creation, trying to make our way as best we can. There’s nobody here but us bumbling bozos. And some of those bozos happen to be gay.