Queer is strange. It falls in your lap rather unrequested. Witness the millions of little sleepers out there who, when they receive the amorous calling, greet it with horror and disbelief. This writer was lucky. Not for a tolerant home life, which I had not, nor for an advanced sense of self, which I had neither, but for David: an entirely selfish boy; a boy who gave me the first conviction in the purity of my feeling. It came as a gift. When you live at the end of a mountain valley, crotched out of the primeval forest, in the last mapped corner of the Earth, you chase every chance at redemption you can, as ungodly as it may be. A tractor was a fine place to contemplate marriage and children, but perfect Love seemed a more suitable vehicle for spiritual rebellion.
When you are sixteen, Love is a kind of holy war. Noble status is instantly bestowed upon he who hoists the oriflamme. At every turn some member of the elder generation— anyone over 30 belonged to an army of superannuated eunuchs— tries to rob you of that nobility. My people saw everything through the lens of the protestant malcontent, John Calvin. True love, as they told it, was somehow subject to virtue. Invariably it moved in concert with the act of procreation. Love was a convention. It was the Good News. It belonged to the greater order. We were not meant to be movers of our own salvation, let alone be abominations unto the Lord. For myself, the only real option, as a happily self-aware abomination, was to fiercely embrace a wholly different Passion. If God could not appreciate the purity of my love, then there be no worthy god.
That god-destroying love was for David. David spurned me. But it was my awakening. I pined for David among the feed-stanchions, in the silage pits, in the milking parlor. David had me bargaining with God to form my own personal covenant. Through the planks of the calf-nursery I threatened to leave God for David. Not David per se, but for the idea of ordering my own destiny. It was an ironic crusade; the prize was not to be the object of my affection. But David was the key to salvation.
I had been clever enough to ferret out of the county library several biographies of the great homosexuals. Alexander the Great had his David; he seemed as good a role model as any. And Montgomery Clift had his, as did the emperor Hadrian and virtually every French dramatist. The Protestant god didn't seem to worry about them very much. In the end I tricked God into seeing my wisdom, that as a so-called God of Love—I taunted him— he couldn't condemn my pure feelings and had to let me go. He shrunk back, gradually, into the great wash of creeds, with the elephant-headed deities and charismatics, to be with his generations of killjoys and pulpiteers. After faith has flown, it flutters for a while within view, and then just becomes dinner-party conversation. Love on the other hand has been generous and real, and without a hint of shame or lack of conviction; even if my beliefs have moved me from being a holy crusader to mere amorous primate.