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I Am Poor and Gay...and I Will Practice Law
One of the few things I remember about my childhood is my mother's beige linen suit. It was her "best" suit, and she wore it to work for years. The more it faded and frayed, the more it became a symbol to me of our poverty, and the more I hated it. Being poor made me feel like a second-class person.
We never really outgrew the poverty; I just left it to go to college. By my second year, I was working up to fifty hours a week to support myself. Looking at my transcript analysis, I guess my grades suffered a lot that year, until I learned to balance homework with my other responsibilities. But in truth, I don't even remember that. Most of what I remember about college had to do with learning to accept being gay. I guess I learned to accept it pretty well, because within a year of graduation I left my job as manager of a home for mentally retarded adults to become manager of Glad Day, the first gay liberation bookstore in North America. (A "gay liberation" bookstore is one which specializes in political and educational materials, instead of pornography). That's where I met Ted.
My next ten years are pretty much inexplicable without reference to Ted. What looks like the rambling of an unmotivated itinerant is really a fairly typical description of the spouse of someone with a career requiring frequent relocation. Ted is an optical physicist. He specializes in laser technology of the sort used to make holographic pictures and laser ("compact") discs. When we met, he was already well established in his field, while I had not yet really chosen a career. In the ten years we've lived together he's worked in half a dozen cities in the United States, and in France for two years. In each place we lived I've worked, gone to school, and volunteered my time for political causes, but I've always been willing to make my own goals secondary to his.
My life hasn't just been a series of odd jobs, however. When we moved to New Jersey in 1980, I got a job teaching emotionally disturbed adolescents. At the same time I began learning computer programming, helping Ted with some of the work he brought home.
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I don't regret my life for the last ten years, and I don't blame Ted for my complacency. If anything, I blame that beige linen suit. Being poor and being gay both taught me to accept myself as less than a "whole" person in society's eyes. But in my year of lobbying the Massachusetts legislature, demanding that others grant me first-class citizenship, I've come to demand it of myself as well.