I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1937 to a strict Catholic family. I have a brother five years younger, and a sister ten years younger. My parents are both still alive and still very much in love. My grandfather built our church. I was head altar boy, serving as page for the Archbishop on occasion.
I went to Catholic grade school and high school. I got straight A’s in math and science classes. It came naturally. I could read the textbook through once, and take the final exam. This usually got me dubbed “teacher’s pet,” and the school bullies often chased me around trying to de-pants me, etc. (Later on I sort of wished I had let them!)
I first became aware of my inner feelings at about ten, but thought I was the only one like that, so I only sneaked looks at other boys who attracted me. I always had the “hots” for Rich, a handsome Indian-blooded hunk who was in our group of buddies. I felt empty when his family moved across town when I was about 15, but we still went camping, fishing, bow and arrow hunting, and on overnight bicycle trips. On one of these trips, two of the guys slept in the other bedroom in the cabin, and I got to share Rich’s bed. I told him I wasn’t sure what was meant by “jacking-off” and asked him to show me. He laughed and yelled at the other guys what I had asked him in private, but then he proceeded to show me. It was never mentioned again, so I buried my feelings even deeper. To this day, I don’t know of anyone in my class or group of friends that was gay.
I graduated from high school with honors and scholarships and took the scholarship to General Motor’s Institute in Flint, Michigan. I roomed with another hunk just out of the Navy and also acquired a couple new friends I liked, but I still had no idea that gay life existed. After a couple years I got sick of school, took a leave of absence, and joined the Marine Corps. But my scholastic abilities put me in school again, even though I protested that I had joined to get away from school. They put me through basic and advanced electronics schools, then missile schooling, and tried to get me into the Academy, at which point I talked my colonel into sending me on a Mediterranean cruise to get away from it all. (I was still just sneaking looks at other guys, but going to bed with the girls.) During the cruise the captain told me to pick any two colleges in the United States, and they would send me to one through a new program they had (NESEP). Thinking it was a joke, I picked MIT and Stanford, and that’s how I got to Stanford in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Being a fairly well-developed and well-endowed marine with an off-campus apartment, pool, sauna, and new sports car, with full pay plus all expenses, I could get some of the hottest girls one could want, and for the first six months I rarely slept alone. Then one day, driving down El Camino in Redwood City with Bunny, she advised me never to go to “The Cracked Pot” because it was a queer bar. It took several tries, but one night I put on my dress blues, of all things, and went. Things were never the same again. I still rarely slept alone, but now it was almost always with guys. There were still girls occasionally, because when they found out what had happened, they insisted on trying to prove to me that it was better with them. This really frustrated my straight buddies!
I was so gung-ho, however, that at graduation I advised the Colonel I would not be re-enlisting, as I was gay and didn’t feel there was a place for me in the Corps. The Corps was for men only. He promptly told me not to worry about it, just to be careful, but I was sooooo gung-ho that I still said no. He then sent me to the company psychiatrist who put the make on me, and then I really did scream to get out. So they put me in charge of the guard company on Treasure Island for my last six months, where, among other things, I was in charge of locking up homosexuals for discharge!! I never did figure out the reason for that irony.
At this point, about 1963, I was very active sexually, being able to get almost anyone I wanted while working as maitre d’ and bartender in the most popular gay bars. I had two roommate/lovers, each for about three years, but my problem was that I could not fit my sexuality in with my Catholic upbringing. I couldn’t tell my parents. Finally I revolted, claiming to be a Satanist out of spite for the whole thing, and got thoroughly entrenched in sex and booze, but was never an out-of-control alcoholic.
In 1966 I met Steve through the roommate I was breaking up with. He is a year older and was raised a strict Seventh-day Adventist. His parents were very happily married and his father was head elder of his church till he passed away. Steve is a genius of a musician on the piano, organ, and as a tenor. He started playing for church when he was ten and had his own musical request TV program as a teenager. He attended Seventh-day Adventist schools and got his credentials in pedagogy (sounds vaguely nasty, but it means teaching teachers how to teach). He was married three years, but felt he was being unfair to his wife, even though they had a satisfying sex life, because he had known he was gay and been sexually active since his early teens. Steve came out at this time and got an annulment, but he was asked to leave the church or stay in the back and leave before the service was over so that nobody would see him. He moved to San Francisco, and his parents contacted a doctor to talk to Steve and “convert him back.” The doctor, however, told his parents that they had a problem, not Steve. We met just after he broke up with his lover of three years, still very hurt and angry at the church.
Steve went to Milwaukee with me to visit my parents, who completely accepted my coming out, telling Steve that they always knew I was different but wanted me to find my own place. I also met his family, and both families completely accepted us — parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nephews — it was great! Steve’s father did insist, however, on praying for us. He was the holiest man I have ever met. We started attending San Francisco Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. I fell in love with the teachings and was baptized in 1972, but went overboard on preaching to everyone.
Steve and I almost broke up. I decided to drop religion, and we once again became verrrrry sexually active. At one time we tallied over two thousand experiences apiece. And we grew the best pot in town. We did, however, always hold God up there some place, and we talked to a lot of people about His Word. We adopted a few kids who had had hideous home lives and needed a “family” and a home with love in it. They still call us their parents. Two are gay, two are straight. Our closest friends are straight women — why, I don’t know — but they are truly friends.
In 1996, after years of praying, Dr. Wong really pushed for Steve to help out as organist at San Francisco Central, and we met Pastor Darrell Leamon. They made it easy for us to attend, got us involved, introduced us to very loving elders and members, and we quickly started to feel at home again. However, I could see and feel that Steve was frightened at the possibility of being hurt again by the church that had hurt him so deeply before. I desperately wanted to accept the pastor’s offer of re-baptism but told him I could never put Steve in that position again. To this day, I’m sure neither Steve nor I know how many groups were praying for us. One day Pastor Leamon simply advised us of the date for our re-baptism, and that was in February of 1997. Steve is minister of music and I am head of the audio-video ministry. Such a smart pastor and loving congregation!
Throughout this process we both had an unspoken fear. Funny how, after thirty years, you can just sense each other’s feelings, fears, and thoughts. We never spoke of celibacy because we didn’t want to lose each other’s love, but neither did we want to chance losing an eternity together, praising God for all his blessings. To this day, we have never spoken to each other of this directly, but we did pray for God to take over our lives, and He did. Today our love is more meaningful, and precious than ever. In fact, it is downright scary how real God is, and how powerful prayer is. I have been conditioning myself to simply talk to God about it whenever I start to do something or look for something or anything. Nothing is too big or too small for God. Steve was amazed that he didn’t even realize I had been laid off from my job last October. It turned out that the church needed my services quite heavily that month, and then I was offered a better job immediately thereafter. I was even more amazed that I didn’t even worry about it. It’s been the same with a couple of other critical problems since that have simply worked out for the better, not to mention the hundreds of little things, and the peace and joy of living for God.
Editorial Note: “Duke” was (2000) heavily involved in the Gay and Lesbian Ministry of the San Francisco Central Seventh-day Adventist Church at the time of this writing. Unfortunately, church politics killed that ministry in 2004. After Steve died, Duke moved to Clear Lake in Northern California and established a business there. The pastor and congregation fully accepted him there as “out” and celibate.
Question to the author; I’m in a very similar situation and have been convicted by the Holy Spirit that celibacy is a blessing but my partner is still struggling as he typically asserts that our love must have a physical component as well. Any advice on how you got through that?