Frank’s previous IFD story can be read here.
Life is like a book. My experience seems pretty typical for a gay man. My young years through college were miserable at times. I was different and socially isolated but I did not understand why except I was terrible at team sports. I made up for it with hard work and had a reasonable brain that got me into Stanford. In college I found a wonderful woman and after graduating was happily married. I became a father of two girls, not discovering my gay side and the potential of sex with men until I was 31.
Each chapter in the book of my life has been better than the chapters before. I think that is true of most people. The older you get and the more experienced you become in life the more you are able to grab the opportunities that come along and live life to its fullest. I first felt really happy in life in law school, where I excelled. Getting married helped too…I had someone to share all of life’s important things with.
In 1973 I discovered men, mountains (becoming a serious mountain climber) and flying machines (learning to fly, getting a plane and becoming instrument rated). It was quite a year.
I had no qualms about being gay (more accurately bisexual in the early years) and being out. I participated in a speaker’s bureau, a group of gay and lesbian folks who spoke at service clubs and colleges about gay rights and being gay, when gay rights were a fairly new invention.
Around 1980 I was walking on a downtown street in Portland and I encountered the President of the Oregon State Bar, John H. John greeted me warmly, shaking my hand and said, “Frank, I am so glad that you are out.” My jaw dropped and I babbled something. I was still married and did not realize that I was that “out”.
By 1995 my practice had grown to the point that I needed to move to a larger law firm and started negotiations for a merger with a much larger firm than mine (50 lawyers vs. 4 lawyers). Part of the process was meeting with various partners in small groups. My law partner Scott and I were meeting with 4 or 5 partners in the new firm in a corner office one afternoon. There was a demonstration on the street 15 floors below and one of the partners, Andy C, made a semi-homophobic comment about the demonstrators. Everyone froze for a second. Months later, after I had joined the firm, one of the partners on the Executive Committee told me that after Scott and I left the meeting Andy C said to the others, “OK, which one of them is gay?” They told him, “Frank, you fool, and if this merger fails it will be your fault.”
The merger was approved by all of the partners and shortly after making the move the Managing Partner hosted a welcoming reception and dinner for Scott and I at his home, attended by all of the partners and their spouses/significant others.
As the date for the reception approached I began to get nervous. The oldest partner in the firm, Bob C, who was in his late 70s, officed near me and I became concerned about his reaction to having a new gay partner, since I would be very much out at the reception, bringing my partner in life of 14 years, Alan.
I should not have worried. Bob C and his wife could not have been more cordial at the reception.
Not so everyone.
There is a long driveway to the Managing Partner’s home and Alan and I approached it with several other couples. Alan gave me a poke and said, “Did you see that?’ I responded, “What?”
Alan said, “That woman gave me a look of scorn and even stuck her tongue out.” It was Bob B’s wife.
I felt the best thing to do was ignore her stupidity. Everyone else was celebrating our arrival.
Much later I heard that one of the other partners witnessed the incident and told his secretary about it the next day. As you can guess practically all of the staff knew about it within a day or two. The universal reaction was condemnation of Bob B’s wife.
Also much later I learned from a member of the Executive Committee that Bob B and one of the other partners complained to the Executive Committee that they had not been told that I was gay before the vote on the merger. They were shot down with the response, “It is not relevant.”
For a couple of years I did not refer cases to Bob B but once I got in a bind when I was on vacation and an emergency came up. Bob was the only litigator available to cover for me. He did a fantastic job and saved the client’s very profitable business. After that experience I decided that the best way to change Bob’s homophobic views would be to work with him more.
Another major case came along and I asked Bob to help me try it. One beautiful summer day I was in Bob’s office on the 15th floor discussing the case, walking about as I talked, and across the street was a sight right out of Tom of Finland. The steel girders were going up for a new office tower and these Gods were walking on the girders, shirtless in bib overalls. I stopped talking to Bob in mid sentence and stared at the magnificent, erotic scene before me. Finally I turned to Bob and said, “Sorry, those Gods across the street were just too much, I lost my train of thought.”
Sticking the knife in was fun.
Later I heard from one of the senior partners that Bob B told him I was the best merger partner the firm had ever made.
I was later elected to the Board of Governors of the state bar association in 2002. Alan and I were married at the home of our best friends in Vancouver, BC in November 2003. Shortly after our marriage the BOG hosted its annual dinner for former Board members. At these dinners many former Board members attend from all over the state. Before dinner is served all Board members, past and present, stand and introduce themselves, table by table.
When it came my turn I stood and said, “I am Frank H representing Region 5 and with me is my spouse under the laws of British Columbia, Alan C.”
The room erupted in cheers and applause.
It felt good.