When I die, I hope my obituary doesn’t read: She leaves behind her friend. Because that would be a lie.
I hope society allows me more. It breaks my heart when I read veiled connections in obituaries. My mate, for it is my chosen word for her, is much more than a friend, just as a husband is much more than a friend to his wife.
I understand because I live it, day in and day out, for 22 years now, with her.
I half joked with my mate about putting our faces in the anniversary notices. She feared the hate mail, the hate calls, the hate. As I write this, that fear still spins in the pit of our stomachs.
Will I send this to the Bangor Daily News? I almost tear up thinking of the horrible words hurled for decades, the dreadful actions of people who don’t know us. I want readers to know: There are millions of us, but most of us sit back quietly. Who wants to make themselves a target for the misinformed who stand with their feet in solid concrete?
I became a target of hate one night in the 1980s when I left a dance in a grange hall on a country road in Laporte, Colo. It was an open dance for the lesbian and gay community and their supporters. Like any dance, it was pure fun until a friend and I decided to leave. Two friends had already left; we didn’t know they were cowering in the truck that we headed for, down the darkened road.
As we rounded the corner, away from the lights of the hall, a man with a bullwhip and short cut of a 2-by-4 suddenly began to chase us. He slammed the lumber onto every car’s side-view mirror along the road as he ran after us. I saw the shadows of another man and two women watching from the dirt shoulder. I heard their laughter.
We barely made it in, shocked to see our friends hiding on the floorboard. We locked the truck’s door as this violent man pressed his face to the driver’s side glass where he told us what he was going to do to us. We pulled out and barreled down the road, where I got out and ran back into the dance to yell about the man outside. Many men and women ran away.
I never reported the hate crime because there was no law to protect us. He most likely would have had to pay for property damage to the cars. This violent man was misinformed about the lesbian, gay, bixesual and transgender community.
I felt compelled to become a police officer, as I knew I had the mind, street sense, morals and physical fitness. I applied in the early ’80s to the Loveland, Colo. police department, where I aced the written exams and orals. All three interviewing officers congratulated me on being their top candidate. I felt proud and reassured. All that was left was the polygraph test.
I’d have no problem, I thought. I was honest, raised by working parents and a Catholic institution and public schools. I’d worked before, during and after college. I was lean, healthful, personable and attractive, my hair in a full-length braid.
The polygraph started with basic questions, no problem. Then my face flamed up when the man giving me the test asked, “Have you ever been in a homosexual bar?”
I said yes. He didn’t ask another question. He just stared at me. I waited for what seemed a long time, then finally said, “I’m gay.”
He still didn’t say anything but gave me a look that clearly said: You’re not for us. I waited for a word. Nothing. I said, “I guess that’s it then?” He said, “Yes, I guess so.” He unhooked me from the machine.
The moment erased my test scores and potential, but I didn’t cower or turn away from him. I said I’d meet face to face with the lead officer to withdraw my application in person. It was the professional and decent thing to do. Even if they weren’t.
When I went to his office, the man barely looked up from his desk. Back then, this man was misinformed about the gay and lesbian community. I left defeated. I was hoping he’d say who I love made no difference, but he had no words for my defense. He seemed embarrassed I was in the room.
For how many more decades does society get to remain misinformed about the most personal aspect of the LGBT community? If my mate and I want to get married it should be our civil right to do so.
I have been in an immensely committed and caring relationship for nearly 23 years, yet I have no protection under the law. I have no certificate that protects her or myself upon death. Either of us can be dismissed by family, hospitals or lawyers as “just friends without rights.”
Frances Drabick lives in Eastport.