A convenience of retirement is a Friday morning with nothing scheduled. I'm sitting in Danvers with my dog, reflecting on my trip to Washington, and the two days that I was inside the United States Supreme Court courtroom with Justice Anthony Scalia and several other notables, including brilliant lawyers of all sizes, races, colors, sexual orientations and gender identities, some good friends and colleagues. This morning I am concentrating on Justice Scalia.
My visit to Washington for the two day of hearings on the “gay marriage” cases in the SCOTUS was for me a very powerful emotional and spiritual experience. In the 1970s (1972,1973 and 1978) I argued three cases in that court. On each occasion I was fortified by Librium or Valium (I don't remember which, particularly) and my father, and at least one of my law clerk/interns, accompanied me . I remember that my older brother Fran, who was then active United States military, was in the courtroom with us.
At the three times that I argued to that court, I was closeted, and terrified that I would be discovered, and still submitting myself, twice a week, to barbaric “remediation therapy” with a pathetically dysfunctional psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital. I didn't know better. He didn't know better. Those were painfully lonely years.
Several of the judges to whom I was arguing had approved the Federal immigration service’s decision to bar any homosexual from entry into the United States. I suppose, at some level, I had assumed that if some official of this Federal court discovered my secret, I could be immediately shipped to a detention facility and sent out of the country (perhaps back to Poland or Ireland!).
I was arguing in front of the court that had resoundingly, and almost unanimously, condemned homosexuality as a psychotic, psychiatric disorder and disqualification from American citizenship. This was not a pleasant experience, as I now look back.
So there I was last week sitting in our highest court, listening to nine justices. The conservative justices (Roberts, Alito and Kennedy), treating the reality of homosexual orientation with considerable, if not total respect. Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan treated David Mills and millions of LGBT citizens with grace and dignity, in addition to respect . Perhaps they, too, have sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, cousins, friends, work colleagues and other people in their lives who have become visible ("come out," if you will – although I think the notion of "coming out" trivializes the tortured spiritual journey for some of us older people). As I reflect back to Tuesday and Wednesday, I can feel my psyche shaken and turned upside down. Some have called it a "sea change" in contemporary attitudes on LGBT issues. Sometimes I call it simply "change." Sometimes when it comes to LGBT human rights and “gay marriage,” the change seems dramatic—like I am a large clay flower pot dropped from the 16th floor balcony of the courthouse in Pemberton Square, and smashed to pieces on the courtyard of brick and granite that was once called Scollay Square.
In any event, change has always been uncomfortable for me, and I have always been resistant, and when I can feel change happening, it is often very emotional.
Well, back to this morning.
I've been thinking about Justice Scalia. He is often described as a “bully.” He is also referred to as psychotic, idiotic, obsessed with his own personal sexuality, extremely intelligent notwithstanding, and a social moron. There seems little doubt that he is disgusted by the very mention of the words lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. He does nothing to hide his hatred.....indeed, he seems to take great delight in it.
I have read lots of his written opinions and public speakings, and I have witnessed his bizarre behavior in that courtroom on three other occasions, in addition to this week's gay marriage cases.
I think I understand him a little better, this morning.
As I am sitting here, absorbing much of the sea change that I witnessed on Tuesday and Wednesday, I realized that I am still coming to almost believe that it is almost okay for me to be gay. 70 years and five months old. I'm still working at it. I was poisoned. The religious and societal condemnation of homosexuality was relentlessly carved into my soul by the sharp and piercing blades of hateful words, repeated over and over again during the formative years of my life. The graffiti ripped into my spiritual tissue. I was born in 1942. I was raised as a Roman Catholic in the Archdiocese of Boston. My early years were filled with the terror of being discovered, the necessity of being invisible, and the dishonest adaptation of my personality to escape shame. I was who I thought I needed to be in order to survive.......something or someone other than David Mills from Danvers.
Justice Scalia is 77, and was born in New Jersey. He married Maureen McCarthy, I assume Irish Catholic. He lists at least nine children, only two of whom are reported to be married. He, also attended a Catholic Jesuit University (Georgetown) and presents himself as a practicing Roman Catholic.
The pain of my shame mandated that I explore my human sexuality. If I had not been gay, and rather fit the model of the traditional, acceptable Boston Catholic tradition I would never have dug any deeper into myself....I would have looked no further than was necessary to marry a woman and have a Catholic family. I would never have spent time in a mental hospital, and spent years attempting to undo a lifetime of being different, defective, and disqualified from the rest of humanity, and unworthy of love.
After all those years, at age 70 and five months, I have reached another level of almost believing that it is almost okay to be gay. I’m not quite there, but gradually the spiritual scar tissue becomes less dramatic on the surface, but no Clearasil or plastic surgery can completely undo the damage within.
I can understand why Justice Scalia is so homophobic, so terrified of anyone who is not just like him. I can almost understand why, during the Lawrence/Texas oral argument he found it so necessary brag about the number of his children, evidence of his heterosexuality. He is living the homophobia that he was taught. And unless and until he chooses to open his mind and heart to the life experiences of people who aren't Anthony Scalia, he will stay stuck right where he is. Quel domage.
Will I pray for him? Well....it might be easier if I could simply pray for the healing all frightened people.... Of all phobias. It is hard for me to pray for a bully who is so, so, so nasty and gets his jollies by spewing hatred on the easy targets – the disenfranchised and minimized. Justice Scalia must really, really down deep really be afraid of something. From years of examining my own arrogance (much less, now that I have grown some) I learned that it is principally a cover-up for my fear, doubt and insecurity.