Prof’s Advice Ignored!

By |2021-08-03T16:32:34-04:00August 3rd, 2021|Parting Glances|

When I was about 22 or 23 years old, I had what one might call a confidential confrontation. A professor of English said to me bluntly, “I’ve been told you are or may be a homosexual. I hope that’s not true in your case because, if it is, your opportunities for employment, work, and success will be extremely curtailed, very limited. Non-existent!”

That, so said, was my warning to stay low key. Don’t swish about. Don’t be flamboyant. Keep your personal and private life to yourself.

My response to his academic admonition was to ignore it. My gay closet, however, did have a revolving door quality to it.

In, and, sometimes out, as my personal and academic life required it. I started Wayne State University in 1959 and received my undergraduate degree in 1972. (A credit hour was $12 back then. How many hundreds of dollars is it today? I shudder to think.)

Revolving closet door or not, I have lived a very fortunate life. I have, because of my artistic and writing talents and being gay — yes, being gay! — for more than 65 years, met many creative and gifted gay and straight men and women in my life: musicians, dancers, artists, poets, impersonators, LGBTQ+ entertainers.

Fortunately, I had the guidance of wise mentors — one, my first partner at 19 — who stressed the importance of choosing and making a career and continuing my education at Wayne State. I started writing for the Wayne Collegian in 1962.

My professional writing and ongoing creation of art might not have happened if one life-saving event had not taken place for me. Choosing sobriety.

In 1981, I came face to face with the realization that my alcohol abuse, including daily binging, had gotten out of control. I stood at the edge of a nightmare pit.

Hospitalization, rehab and group therapy extended over the next year of concentrated recovery. While in recovery at Cottage Hospital, an unexpected, ultimately rewarding door of opportunity happened. In initial therapy, we were told to go through magazines and cut out pictures indicative of our feelings.

In my alcoholic haze, I misunderstood. I created several collages. A nurse actually wanted to buy one. A year or so later, I had my collages matted and framed. An artist friend suggested I enter them in a competition for the Detroit Artist Market exhibition jurying. I did. Three pieces were accepted in a 1983 showing.

I have since then been creating art and BTL articles to share. One creation at a time. (Sometimes two.) One blessed — and happily sober — day at a time.

About the Author:

Charles Alexander