This past week I have been skiing for the first time ever. Another item off the bucket list! One of the more interesting events of the week had nothing to do with skiing but was a friend request on Facebook. The request came from a law school classmate who I have not spoken with in over twenty years. I have not written much about law school except for my reasons for applying. One reason for why I ignored those three years is that they were hellish.
They were not hellish in the “always studying, never playing, never socializing way”. I could live with that. They were hellish in the “having a horrible relationship while doing experimental drug protocols and living in a backwater hell hole called Omaha while going to a conservative Jesuit law School and trying to keep it all hidden from public view while living with a selfish stoner of a boyfriend” kind of way.
What made the friend request interesting was that it was from a classmate whom I had little interaction with, but carried a schoolboy crush for. Attached to the Facebook request he indicated that although he married out of school he and his wife had split and he had “come out”. He explained what triggered his search for me was reading a book that mentioned the Bowers v Hardwick decision (A case involving criminalization of homosexual activity). He remembered an incident in Constitutional law class when Professor Shugrue, after deriding the legitimacy of gay relationships, asked for my reaction.
To understand Professor Shugrue think Hobbit meets The Paper Chase. He thought of himself as a modern day Charles Kingsfield but looked like a hobbit with a skin condition. The first day of classes we were to be ready to discuss the classic case of Marbury v. Madison. True to the Socratic method of teaching, Shugrue called on me to analyze the case. I cannot remember what I said exactly but I’m sure it was insightful and elegant. I did however say Marshall instead of Justice Marshall. Shugrue jumped all over that omission saying, “Although you may be on a first name basis with the Justices, in the class we will refer to them as Justice Marshall or Chief Justice Marshall. I found out that Shugrue was on the admission committee and was privy to my application and personal reference letters. Justice Thurgood Marshall, Justice Byron White and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) wrote the personal reference letters. I had worked for all three in one capacity or another. Apparently I intimidated the good professor and he was going to try to put me in my place. We spent the next hour in a spirited discussion and in the end I had established myself as one who could not be intimidated and come hell or high water I was going to piss high than him!
Moving forward a couple months the discussion was about the Bowers/Hardwick decision concerning sodomy. Shugrue took the position that sodomy was not natural and should not be given protection and other conservative-babble not related to the law. I realize that this probably not his true position on the matter since he did not include any legal arguments in his discussion, but at 8 AM on a Monday morning, after a weekend of partying and fighting with Steven, I was in no mood. I raised my hand and went into a full throttle defense of gays, gay life styles, bath houses, leather and SM and relationships finally closing by saying that my other half and I had been together 6 years at that point (five and a half to many) but that we were more long term than most of my fraternity brothers from undergrad. Many of who were already on their second marriage. I kicked open the closet door and came flying out like the Tasmanian Devil. There appeared to be a stunned silence in the lecture hall. I think many expected me to go storming out of the room but I stood defiant, arrogant and emotionally drained. After a bit the discussion continued. Shugrue moved on to another student and I sat. I soon saw the fallout. Many of my classmates who played racquetball with me or studied with me now avoided me. Small-minded America had reared it ugly face. I did however find a circle of friends. They included the few progressives in the school, and surprisingly, a couple of Mormon students who were incredibly nonjudgmental.
The isolation was actually a godsend in that I did not feel the need to integrate myself into the typical student social scene. Although the gay scene in Omaha was abysmal, I made due with it and the bookstores across the river in Council Bluffs IA. I also had the Iowa caucuses to keep me busy. I helped organize for Senator Paul Simon of IL, the bow tie guy, and did advance for him in Iowa. A picture from one of my events was featured in Time Magazine. I had a great eye for photo ops. It was my second political campaign in Iowa. The first one being the Harkin Senate race in 1984. Although I was out of the closet as a gay student, I still hid my medical secret close to my vest. If anyone at the school found out that I had AIDS I probably would have been separated from the rest of the students. I continued my bi-weekly visits to NIH for lab work and follow-up while testing new drugs. I was emotionally and physically a wreck. I stayed in a relationship with Steven because I thought it better to die in a miserable relationship than to die alone. It did not dawn on me that the relationship was doing more to kill me. We finally parted ways a couple months after graduation.
I’m sure there were some good times in law school. But right now I can’t really think of any. Well except my first jailhouse sex. But that’s a story for another day.