Gay Writes is a DiverseCity Series Writing Group, a program of SLCC’s Community Writing Center. The group meets the 2nd and 4th Mondays of every month, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., 210 E. 400 South, Ste. 8, Salt Lake City.
Eyes of Religious Liberty
By Doug Woodall
Darlene, 51, server in Lawrence, Kansas
“I’m putting you on notice,” Darlene said to her manager. “Jean just put two homos in my area. I won’t serve them.”
“Come on Darlene,” her manager begged. “We won’t get anymore help until eleven.”
“Against my convictions,” Darlene replied.
Darlene quickly stepped past her manager and scooped up Mr. Ullman’s breakfast order. The old man was a regular, and everyone loved him. He was polite and sweet. Then he had an endearing Southern drawl and told wonderful stories about growing up in Georgia.
When Darlene laid out Mr. Ullman’s meal, she gave him a big smile. Somehow she knew here was a good Christian. What Darlene couldn’t see was what the South was like under Jim Crow laws. Mr. Ullman never told one story.
In 1939 when he was 15, Mr. Ullman helped his father take a black youth out of his home. Father and son bound his arms behind his back and took him to the banks of the Suwannee River.
The boy didn’t seem to know the rules. On Valentine’s Day, he gave Mr. Ullman’s youngest sister a card that was too familiar. This alone gave the father the right to shoot the boy in the shoulder so he couldn’t loosen his arms and the son the right to push him in the river.
No one who mattered cared about the boy or blamed the Ullmans.
Derek, 38, florist and Catholic deacon in Flagstaff, Arizona
Derek was helping Stella Proulx place a flower order for a banquet put on by her public relations company when “they” walked in. One more time, here were two women who dressed too much like men.
“Why do they all have to come to me?” Derek thought. “I hate it when I have to play-act to lesbians and gays.” What he meant was he’d be polite to the women and take their order, then the next day he’d send them an e-mail that said because of his faith he will not help them.
After turning his attention back to Stella, Derek wished all women could be like her. She was slim and knew how to dress. Her make-up was applied expertly, and her nails were pieces of art.
What Derek couldn’t see was the 18-year-old Stella. In her freshman year in college, Stella wasn’t particularly slim. Her self-esteem was low, and her confidence was zilch.
One junior who was on a men’s soccer scholarship saw Stella’s difficulties and took an interest in her. They had a secret relationship that lasted until Stella became pregnant. When her so-called boyfriend walked out on her, Stella realized she had one choice: Abort the baby.
When all was over, Stella decided she’d never be weak, ever again.
Lucianna, 24, sales associate in Ogden, Utah
Lucianna hated to open because this meant she’d be the lone sales associate at the cosmetic and perfume counter for two hours. Today was better than usual because she was having fun talking to a middle-aged man and his wife. The man told stories and jokes one after the other. He was hilarious. The woman was rather reserved, but this didn’t matter. Her husband was buying her a gift, and Lucianna thought he was wonderful.
Despite the joy she felt, Lucianna had a problem. The one high-school-age boy who dressed like a girl on the weekends stood next in line. To Lucianna’s way of thinking, God created two genders. Boys are boys, and girls are girls.
Lucianna wished she could refuse service. Instead, she had to be smart. The best thing she could do was get the man to tell more stories and jokes. If the boy-turned-girl had to wait too long, he’d probably go away.
What Lucianna couldn’t see was why the man was being chatty and funny. He was trying to make himself feel better. That morning, he beat his wife. He’d done it so many times and for so many reasons, he couldn’t remember what made him mad. The only person who knew what the problem was and carried the marks for it was the woman.
While the woman suffered silently, Lucianna made her husband talk on and on. All the while Lucianna wanted the boy-turned-girl to go away. Fast.