The Undetected Outsider


I was unable to discover who created these images, but my thanks go to the artists—and to my friend Dean for sending their work my way.

There is probably no one who hasn’t had the experience of being the undetected outsider in a hostile group. Sometimes the best advice under such circumstances is to keep one’s mouth shut and try to look inconspicuous. (Or not, depending on one’s objectives and personality type). I remember how exposed and vulnerable I used to feel, even as an adult, when accompanying my parents to fundamentalist church services during my visits to their home in Texas. There I was, a homosexual and an atheist, sitting in the pews and smiling benignly at good Christians who would probably have treated me as a sick and godless criminal deviant if they had only known. That was the era of AIDS hysteria, and I might have found a social cordon sanitaire erected around me in a heart-beat.

I wasn’t “out” to my parents at the time, but I had made my secularist views quite clear to them, though usually in measured doses. Nevertheless, they considered me officially “saved” because I had supposedly “accepted Jesus as my personal savior” at age 12. (The truth was that I had caved to pressure to “walk the aisle.”) So they just humored me when I expressed any skepticism about faith. (“It’s okay, he’s in the bag. He’s going to heaven,” they probably thought, sucking in their breath.) And so I tagged along to church, where they knew they could count on me not to embarass them. Thus one becomes a master at the art of keeping a low profile, adopting the protective coloration of one’s surroundings. Surviving.

What would I do now that I am an out-and-proud, in-your-face gay man and an aggressive confrontational, take-no-prisoners atheist?

I dunno. It depends. I invite suggestions from anyone who is interested in this kind of ethical dilemma.

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