Strangers who attempt personal verbal assaults invariably reveal only their own issues—but I’m writing this on behalf of my life’s dearest friend (before my marriage). He was a young man of 17, from Virginia, and I was 22 when we met in Berkeley, California. He stood at least a head and a half shorter than I and was by far more beautiful, with eyes a startling glacial blue veiled by the longest, blackest lashes I’d ever seen; I saw stars in them before I learned he overused Visine. His chestnut hair flowed in gentle rivulets to his slender waist. His skin glowed, translucent. He was the newly hired secretary of a natural foods bakery just-turned corporation, while I was their baker, recipe inventor—and union-elected board rep. He was an angel somehow drifted to earth—with a look of perfect innocence.
He was the first openly gay man I ever met, and his name was John Perle (as in ‘pearl’). He was my best friend when he was 17, and until he died of AIDS-related dementia at 44.
John had an incredibly high energy, exquisite good taste in everything, and a natural elegance down to his slightest movement. He took great care of his body and knew everything then known about natural foods; his reputation in the industry was still growing long after I’d gone. A high-powered San Francisco litigant, almost a female replica of himself, equally petite but no relation, paid for his every need—she must have been in love with him, even though that was an impossibility. He was so easy to love. He lived alone in a gorgeous penthouse apartment she owned in the Castro District, all done in natural, curved woods and stained glass windows, which gave the place the atmosphere of a Hobbit-village church. The place was so pristine you could eat off the floors. He was afforded the best of everything first because of her, then others as well, along with his own quick, skilled competence. His clothes were always impeccable, his pants always skin-tight. He snacked on bee pollen, drank wheat grass juice, and dined on rare, grass-fed, organic filet mignon and truffles. We held hands at corporate board meetings while he took minutes.
We took the Castro by storm—what a pair we made!—the wildly promiscuous angel and his bff the staunch Amazon warrior, shocking straights and gays alike by regularly attending gay bath houses together, where we would sit and talk for hours on end, washing, oiling, & massaging each other’s bodies and hair, in free physical contact, free of sex. He brought me out of myself, for I had grown ashamed both of my size and body, lacking a right breast from trauma I’d experienced at 11. He first gave me the dream of being an Amazon, who lopped off their right breasts so the leather strap on the quiver of arrows over the right shoulder would lay flat without chafing—so instead of being victim, I could think of myself as Thessaloniki, loyal sister of Queen Penthesilea.
John was the first completely whole person I’d ever met. I had a Master’s from U.C. Berkeley in Comparative Literatures, which required proficiency in four languages. I was a repressed, intensively Catholic girl (dad had eloped from a Jesuit seminary, his sister my aunt was a nun in the Congregation of Notre Dame, and we had Masses at our dining room table almost as often as in Church), fluent in Latin all my days, and in French from the Academy of St. Aloysius all-girls high school. I had also studied Ancient Greek through four years at Boston University. So, of course I knew the ancient Greeks believed that humans originally had two heads, four arms, four legs, and both sexes self-contained, and had gone happily cartwheeling through life until the gods on Mt. Olympus grew jealous and cut us in half, separating us into male and female. Thus we were doomed to chase after the opposite sex, endlessly trying to be reunited and once again made whole. John was whole.
He taught me everything no one else had about how to be a woman, without ever losing an ounce of his authority as a man. He flirted with men when we were together—I was no threat—and so taught me how—but he never abandoned me. He also taught me about linen versus cotton, and how to eat, what a tongue scraper was and how to use it, how to wear clothes to my best advantage, and how to turn a wrist as a language all its own. But he also taught me to be aggressive, speak up for myself, use my height and weight as weapons in self-defense, and never take smack from anybody. John had bested the gods.
Until he didn’t. By the time AIDS had him, I was living in southern California, having been hired as a deputy D.A. for L.A. County. Throughout law school I’d driven every weekend back down to the Bay Area from U.C. Davis Law, both to work my beat in the Berkeley Marina and to see him–and he’d visited me in L.A. several times.
His older brother, whom I knew, called to tell me he was dying, and we called back and forth every day until the end, but John was gone before a week had passed. I had promised to be there for the funeral but then a case of mine had trailed to day 10, when the prosecutor must either begin trial or drop the case, and I missed it. Our friends scattered his ashes per his request, among the flowers in the Shakespeare Garden at Golden Gate Park. I never got to say good-bye.
So it’s not for you but for John, I write this. I get that YOU are the ‘professional victim.’ I get that you have tried since your eye was eviscerated to eviscerate your feminine side, because it’s your feminine side you blame for that brutal attack. You think if you hate women, if you adopt the same hate your attacker had for you, somehow you will find protection and not be exposed that same way again. It won’t work. It shouldn’t work.
You’re only tearing yourself in half.
You were a beautiful boy, and maybe a second son. You were slender of build with a shock of white blond hair—you are still, if more silver than gold. More important, you were completely whole! That’s a miracle granted throughout history to only 10% of humanity, even at its most fashionable in ancient Greece, and you need to embrace your entire self. Love yourself. Think that you are cartwheeling through life as only a select very few ever get to do. Be the woman you are, equal to the man you are. THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU.
ALL YOU LOST IS YOUR DEPTH PERCEPTION. Use the sensibility and emotional depth of your feminine side to enhance your vision. Look out into the world as a wholly complete person of whom the highest gods are jealous. Be grateful you are not dying the horrible death my best friend suffered. Be grateful you have a lifetime mate. Refuse to be only half of what you are because of some loathsome creature’s monstrous act against you. Don’t let what he did to you alienate you from your better self.
Maybe you’re not living in the right place. Emigrate—come to California. In S.F., you’d be a hero, both king & queen. It’s the most expensive city in the contiguous U.S., but you’d be welcome ANYWHERE in our state. You could at least visit your mecca, the Castro district. Come to where whole and complete people are honored as they should be, not beaten within an inch of their lives.
Prop.8 has been ruled unconstitutional. The Supreme Court will uphold the lower court’s ruling, and our Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom will ensure your marriage true legal status. Florida sucks.
Let go of the hate—it serves you poorly– and come home as you’ve never yet known home to be.
P.S. I might have been flattered at the thought of sugared breasts, if I’d actually ever had breasts. As it is, I was only mildly annoyed that you don’t know how to spell “titties.” As for the National Registry, some clues: Were you born “Will,” or are you “William?” Is Clemens your father’s last name—or your husband’s?
I am indeed all I have written—also married as stated above, with two adult daughters & in my seventh decade (but the photo is up-to-date). You might have sensed some of this to see a step ahead from where you stand—had you not previously and willingly divided yourself.
Yes, halflings are often jealous and can damage and even kill you; find the better place!– where they are not so vicious. Heal, brother, and be well.
First of all no one ever knows I am gay when meeting me , my voice is deep and my mannerisms are masculine and I am in to running and the gym and served in the Army. I was not beaten and stabbed simply for being gay. I am a Private investigator and put the man these people knew in prison for life with evidence. They followed me one night to a gay bar and that’s when they knew. I do not have that name any longer my name has changed four times due to what I do for a living. My first and last names are 100% different. So when you make allegations about a story you know nothing about please remember to always ask questions of why, where, who, when, etc. I now have my partners name and we have two children under both of our names. I love being a male and never wanted to be a female. When you present proof of what you claim I will listen. In the mean time you are spewing bull shit and I know you know it.