The first time they came in, they were screaming at each other. There had obviously been a problem at home, and when they got to work it was still going on. I was having a particularly stressful night, so the boss put me on dishes. They come in the back door yelling and screaming at each other, like obviously a couple’s quarrel. They hang up their coats and both turn to me and say “hey sweetie, how you doing? You don't need to do those dishes; let me take that for you.” They were real people, nothing fake here. I was socially awkward. They were the people I felt like I could talk to.
I had a quiet boyfriend, C, and we got married young. (We were married for decades until he died.) You can’t talk anyone out of getting married, ever. Our parents tried; we were young, but we were in love. About 4 years later, I got pregnant while still working there. D called the hospital (before HIPAA) and wanted to know what’s going on and why nobody had told him. C told him what had happened, and I could hear over the phone D yelling “what the hell didn’t anyone tell me for?” and then yelling “A, they had the baby!” and A yelled back “what the hell didn't anyone tell me for?” They brought food and helped us paint and they became the unofficial godparents. We’re not really religious, but that’s how it happened.
I started getting panic attacks after G was born. I had gone to nursing school for 2 years so I realized right away that G was autistic. C worked nights, and I was all alone when the panic attacks were the worst. D said he stays up at night to pick A up from work, and he offered that I can call any time and even come over and spend the night at their place any time, and that sealed the deal. They adopted me. It’s kind of fun, because C’s family is just about as homophobic as they come, and pretty darn racist too. But C would say “well that’s D & A” and that would settle it for him. We just told them, they’re the godparents.
D & A had pensions, so they worked more or less for entertainment and extra money. D didn’t quit working till he was 85, 3 years ago, and he didn’t even want to, he had to, but he still does volunteer activities. D said early on of A that “this is my nephew, he came to live with me for health reasons”. I bought it; this was the story they told me, even though they seemed to be in a relationship, but it wasn’t any of my business. A was directly asked about their relationship once by a coworker and he replied “I’m not gay, but D is”.
One day, D and I were standing out in the yard, and I mentioned how the police were doing a lot of investigating when C passed away in our house, taking things out of our house here and there. D said they did the same with A, randomly took his stuff, even though A passed away in the hospital. D had had to get a guardianship to make decisions, and the head nurse was really great about doing it. He said "when we did that, they had to investigate to make sure nothing funny was going on", and followed that with “well I didn’t tell them he was my gay lover!” and then went on like he had said nothing. So it never occurred to me until after A passed.
They were happy together, they had a family together. If they could have been free to be more authentic together, how much more could they have had? They both professed to be Christians by faith, went to church when they could, when things went bad they’d pray about it - the best Christians I ever met were gay people. They were a pretty significant part of our history in this area, and people just aren’t aware of it.
Having grown up in a pretty bigoted part of Illinois and then moving here… My dad said if a gay guy hit on him, he’d punch the guy. C never minded, he’d say “thank you”. I was raised in the most liberal household. We didn’t have a word for “pansexual”, my dad wouldn’t have cared who I came home with, my mom said she didn’t care. My sister’s daughter said she’d come home with a princess or an actress or a beautiful lady who likes horses, and we didn’t care. My sister said she didn’t know who would catch her heart, she always knew she could swing both ways, and my husband said the same of me. N (my current boyfriend) is a big believer in monogamy; other relationships weren’t like that. C was the passionate love of my life, and he could have been a woman and I would have felt the same. We’ve always tried to say to our kids and anyone who will listen, that love is love.
I dated a girl in high school, a neighbor of my grandmother in Chicago. She was told she could take a friend to a vacation to Key West, and she called me! We had a really great time in Key West, it was a teenage relationship, so not too hot, but we enjoyed cuddling and holding hands and kissing. I’m not sure if her parents even noticed. She was a model, she was very pretty and looked older than she was. We went to all these clubs and she would talk our way in. Last I heard she married some dude and had kids, but I don’t know if she still is married or not. It was a fun summer thing, I never really thought anything of it and nobody asked.
The other girl I've been with is still my girl friend, but not my “girlfriend” girl friend. She acts like it never happened, but it did totally happen. It was my first serious relationship since C passed away, and a year after her divorce. She and her ex were living together but not in a relationship anymore, and she dated other women before me. It didn’t work out, because reasons. She was always concerned; we never told her parents, but my mom knew. The kids knew and they didn’t think it was weird. Both our kids are closer now even than when we dated.
When same-sex marriage was finally allowed in Kosciusko County, and her ex-girlfriend got married on the first day, she was worried that now her mom would think she’s gay. And I was like “well what was I to you?” I asked her that day if she’d marry me, even though we had already broken up, but I would have done it if she said “yes”. My boyfriend at the time said he didn’t tell me about the ruling because he was afraid I’d go marry her, but I said I’d already asked and she had given all kinds of reasons why not. He pointed out that while she gave excuses, she didn’t say “no”. One of the last excuses she gave was “but what would my mom and dad say?”
When I was in high school, 5 of my 7 serious boyfriends were gay men. Some knew it at the time, some didn’t. I knew it on some level, because the relationship wouldn’t progress very far, but I wasn’t in a big hurry either. My dad was an unsafe guy, so I also wanted to be with a guy who wasn’t going to hurt me or judge me. There was kissing, there was handholding, who needed to do more than that? They couldn’t openly say they were gay, it was a guarded secret among our friends. It was really dangerous at the time for them to be who they were, whereas now it’s more common for people to be out now.
One of them I heard rumors about that he was HIV-positive because he was hooking up at camp. Had there been better education, he may have stayed safe. There’s a lot of religion around here suppressing that. One still lives with his “personal trainer”... now they wear matching wedding bands, go grocery shopping together, bicker… but he’s his “personal trainer”. My prom date’s brother got married to his boyfriend. (It’s interesting to see who got married and who didn’t.) One girl married her girlfriend. I don’t know if she had a vibe, but she was really athletic and really pretty in high school, and I admired her and wondered who she would go out with.
I think what’s changed in Kosciusko County now is that we don’t cover things up as much anymore. These stories have always happened, people have always lived their way, but now we tell their stories. I think over the next decade or so, things will go something like Farmer Bob out in the field saying “welp, my son brought his partner home to visit; he seems like a nice feller”. I hope some day a guy can be openly married to his “personal trainer”. I hope my niece could marry her princess. I hope our whole family will embrace that.
41. Pansexual woman. White. Moved here when 14. Mother of a transgender boy.