Generational Perspectives – James Butler

Hi Sam, I’m going to challenge you a little bit on your sincerity in asking for me to submit my story, bc I am in a part of the LGBTQ+  Community that is mostly ignored by my fellow Community members; I’m a senior citizen.  So I hope you’re not an ageist, and here’s what I have to say.  I knew I was gay at age 13.  At that time I was a criminal if I engaged in any same-sex activity, I was mentally ill in the eyes of the medical profession, and of course I was a sinner in the eyes of any religion I knew about.  There were NO gay newspapers or magazines, no support groups of any kind, no role models, not even one, in tv or movies, sports, music, academia, any media, and of course no internet.  In addition, there was a huge taboo on even talking about the subject in polite company; it would have been roughly the equivalent of using obscenity in a mixed social setting.  When I realized that I was one of “them”, I resolved never to tell anyone and to be celibate all my life.    My biggest concern was the shame it would bring to my family.  Of course it was much easier to say than do, and when was 18 I made a clumsy and inappropriate pass at a college classmate, who outed me by reporting the incident.  I was kicked out of school, and my Dad had to fly out to the West Coast from Chicago (he was a professor at the U of C and I went to the Lab School for 7 years, thought you might be interested) and pick me up.  Although my parents were good liberals with advanced degrees in Psychology (and also highly successful athletes BTW), they were shocked, flabbergasted, ashamed, and completely unprepared to deal with a gay son.  My Dad told me I was the first gay person he had ever met, and when I asked him how the subject was handled when he was getting his PhD, he told me that the subject had never been mentioned.  He admitted he was ashamed for his profession; I responded by telling him that he had been “gypped” and that he ought to ask for his money back.  Although my parents continued to love and support me, they never were comfortable with my orientation and made it clear that they didn’t want to talk about it or meet anyone that I might become involved with.  So I was completely isolated and alone, and on my own as far as figuring out how to live my life in any kind of positive and productive and satisfying way, or how to meet anyone to go through life with.  Despite those obstacles, I graduated from college, got a California teaching credential and later a California real estate broker’s license, found a great guy who was my lover for 22 years and who remains my best friend, got invited to try out for 2 expansion NBA teams ( I had to decline, I wasn’t ready to be that out), became a successful businessman, and in 1986 I was the player/coach/leading scorer for the Gold Medal men’s basketball team at Gay Games II.  Today I’m retired,  just celebrated my 9th anniversary with my current partner, volunteer for the local LGBTQ+ shelter for homeless youth, and provide free housing for 4-6 homeless kids 18-24, most of them gay.  OK that’s all I’m going to rant about my story right now, but I’d like to add this for you:  because you are so popular and such a positive factor and influencer on behalf of the LGBTQ Community, as an aside I’d like to add that at GG II in 1986 I twice played against (and defeated) Glenn Burke, and if you don’t know who he was YOU NEED TO, for the sake of LGBTQ+ youth.  Glenn was the first openly gay player in any of the 4 American pro sports, as a Center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  He also was the inventor of the High Five.  He was treated horribly by MLB, his career was ruined, and he died of AIDS homeless on the streets of San Francisco in 1995.  PLEASE take a few minutes to go to YouTube and search for “Keith Olbermann sets gay Jason Collins STRAIGHT”.  The video is less than 6 minutes long, and although Glenn Burke is now almost completely forgotten, he is an LGBTQ+ hero and I think his memory should be kept alive and honored, and I hope you will too.  Finally, in case I haven’t completely exhausted any interest you might have had in me,  last year my adopted nephew interviewed me for 40 minutes about my life, and it is now part of the permanent record of the Library of Congress.  If you’d be interested in hearing it, go to my Facebook page (cbeyond00) and near the top on the left hand side is a box that says “Notification” and under that “My Story Corps interview”.  OK if you got this far thanks for sticking it out, and for all the things you do and have done for us!  Best wishes to you and your fab Mom, sincerely, Jim Butler, near Atlanta Georgia