Until my mid-teen years I was not guilty of much of anything that could be considered criminal. I was an altar boy, in 4-H club and good enough a student to be on the honor roll much of the time and of course the oldest male in a large Irish Catholic Family. The world was my oyster.
At the age of 15 my family moved from Northern Indiana to Northern Illinois and by that time I had discovered the joys of masturbation which though not criminal was certainly a sin in the eyes of the Catholic Church. In retrospect it was very ironic that you were expected to confess this “sin” on your knees, head bowed in a dark box to a priest who may just have been wrestling with significant sexual identity issues of his own.
My masturbatory fantasies though of course had nothing to do with any sort of female sexual imagery. I actually frequently masturbated to mental visual images of my dad’s butt; he had a very fine ass. My earliest gay homosexual dreams almost always involved older men. This undoubtedly was a factor in my seeking out one of my high school teachers, who also doubled as a “guidance counselor”, with my concerns that I was perhaps a homosexual.
Much of my Junior year and the first half of my Senior year were spent in a dance of counseling sessions with this man always around the issue of my latent sexuality. This would eventually culminate or rather consummate in our having our first real sex together on a Friday afternoon in the school biology lab under the downcast eyes of a scantily clad man on a crucifix prominently hanging in the front of the classroom. There had been several make-out sessions prior to this but the big bang did not occur until that spring Friday before Palm Sunday or it may actually have been Good Friday I am not sure.
As it turns out Illinois was the first state to decriminalize sodomy in 1961 for those over the age of 18. Indiana on the other hand, the state I had recently left did not decriminalize sodomy until 1976 though interestingly the age of consent there was 16. Though Illinois was the first state to decriminalize sodomy it was not always so enlightened. In 1897 Illinois was the first state to categorize fellatio as sodomy and of course the draconian potential punishments for this “crime” no matter what orifice was involved remained severe with various combinations of fines, flogging and imprisonment potentially for life.
So since I was 18 by the time my teacher/counselor and I actually got down to business I guess this was not really “criminal” on my part but there is the whole elephant in the room of a teacher 20 years senior having sex with one of his students on school grounds no less. This was though simply delicious, as I have looked back on it over these four plus decades.
Thanks to a Holy Cross nun, also one of my teachers at the time, who was a true radical, I was already well on my way to being an “outlaw in the eyes of America”, to paraphrase Grace Slick. The sex with my mentor and guide, a much older man, though in hindsight was an amazingly liberating experience. I mean what the hell after you’ve been poking one of your male teachers on Catholic School property in 1967 being a socialist, anti-war and civil rights advocate, dope smoking long-haired hippie into the Grateful Dead was a piece of cake.
The next morning after our first real sex I left for a week in Mississippi with a handful of other students in the school’s Peace Club. Sister Alberta Marie had arranged for us to go down to Mississippi to observe civil rights workers specifically addressing issues of illiteracy among rural Southern blacks. It was a life impacting experience for white middle class kids from suburban Chicago.
It is striking though how many things are criminalized that begin as basic yearnings in our juvenile years. This creation of “criminals” is done as a means of controlling those who may be a threat to the powers that be. There are many glaring examples of this throughout the history of this country and the rest of the world for sure. Currently though an amazing example is the intense war on woman and the very real attempts to criminalize many facets of what amounts to simple control over their own bodies.
The criminalization of sodomy along with the pathologizing of all things GLBT that continues right up until today is really because of the potential threat to the status quo of male privilege. This has been allowed to evolve in large part behind the smoke screen of the world’s religions primarily the monotheistic ones. This is the same threatened power structure struggling to keep control of women’s bodies.
Queers are suspect and hated because they often choose to opt out of the privilege that comes with being heterosexual in our culture particularly a white heterosexual male. To challenge gender roles has been for millennia and still is seen today as a real threat to those who run the show. It is not OK to be a femme little boy, a tomboy or a person who is truly a female entity in a male body.
Many of the acts often associated with juvenile crimes like smoking dope, underage alcohol use or petty shoplifting pale into insignificance with the real crime universal to all LGBT people. Our true and ongoing “crime” is that we see the world from a different window and begin to act on it.
We are all cursed or perhaps blessed with and here I am quoting Will Roscoe: “a profound ongoing motivation”. This manifests as a sense of difference from a very early age for most of us and is most often not initially sexual in nature. Again pulling from Roscoe “our common experience of social isolation and gender role non-conformance gives us a solid basis of commonality” i.e. we really are a genuine cultural minority when allowed to coalesce as such. This identity definitely puts us outside the law and makes us all criminals at a very early age in the eyes of the dominant heterosexual zeitgeist!
The men in control realize often better than we do ourselves what a true threat we can be to the existing social order. It goes without saying, I would certainly hope, that in a world run by Queers all women would have control over their lives and it goes with out saying their reproductive choices. The real criminality of our juvenile years is that we are so put upon in so many ways when we attempt to begin the actualization of our “profound ongoing motivation”.