Jan 1, 2016

My Date with the Teen Mayor

[Names and places in this story have been changed.]

In 1995 my parents and sister moved from Rock Island to a small town in southern Indiana.

Outside of Indianapolis and Bloomington, southern Indiana is deeply conservative.  There are more fundamentalist churches than people.  Billboards extoll "family values." Homophobic diatribes fill the letters section of the local newspapers.

So when I came for my annual Christmas and summer visits, I stayed mostly in the house, unless my parents dragged me out to a restaurant or antique store, or I got to drive up to the gay venues of Indianapolis.

In December 2007, on the way back to Dayton on Christmas Day, I stopped at the Works, a bath house with a fully equipped gym, a maze, a steam room, and several dark rooms for anonymous activity.  It was surprisingly crowded -- I guess I'm not the only one experiencing angst or infinite boredom during holiday visits.

A young guy approached me in the maze: short brown hair, cute round face, smooth, not particularly muscular body.  He looked a bit too young.  Instead of touching his chest, the standard bath house ice-breaker, I asked "How old are you?"

He looked offended.  "How old are you?"

"Ok.  When was the first national election you voted in?"

"2000."  So he was at least 25!  "I voted for Al Gore for president, and David Johnson for senator.  But Lugar won by a landslide.  So, we gonna talk politics, or you gonna invite me back to your room??"

"Ok, you talked me into it. My name is Boomer."

Chatting afterwards, I discovered that he was 26 years old, he graduated from Indiana University with a history degree in 2002, and now he and his brother ran a storage company.

"Do you want to go back to my place," Jim asked, "Maybe get some dinner?  I live a few miles out of town, but I'm up for having you spend the night."

"Sorry, I'm due in Dayton tomorrow morning."

"After New Year's, then?  Come out for the weekend.  I'd love to introduce you to my boyfriend."

Boyfriend?  

He wrote down his address -- New Bern, a small town about thirty miles from my parents' house.  We sometimes drove out to visit the antique shops.  I wasn't impressed.


"I've been through New Bern!" I exclaimed.  "Even more scary conservative than the rest of Southern Indiana.  Full of gun stores and fundamentalist churches!  How can you stand it?  Don't you get crosses burnt on your front lawn?"

He smiled.  "Oh, I manage.  Come down next weekend, and we'll show you around."

On January 5th, I drove out to New Bern.  Gun stores, fundamentalist churches, "Beads by Emily," a non-ironic 1950s diner, an old-fashioned barber shop.  I could feel the waves of suspicion and hatred from the townsfolk.

Jim lived alone in a very nice two-story house near the outskirts of town: his back yard abutted a horse farm.  Apparently running a storage company paid very well.

His boyfriend Calvin was a few years older, probably around thirty, and considerably more muscular, with a smooth hard chest and xylophone abs

He explained that he worked at one of those trendy clothing stores in the Mall in Greenwood, so he had to look good.  Every day before work he spent two hours at the Y, pumping iron.

We had lunch in a Mexican restaurant where the ornate murals featured muscular, half-naked Aztecs meeting Cortez and his conquistadors, quite a refreshing bit of beefcake in the straight world.

Everyone seemed to know Jim and Calvin.  The waiter gave us our drinks on the house, and two people came up to say hello.  One had a lot to say about the upcoming ice-carving festival.

Then I got a tour of New Bern.

The high school where the students performed the gay-themed drama Angels in America.

The house where Emily of "Beads by Emily" lived with her "girlfriend."

A Lutheran church that was "welcoming," and had several open gay couples in the congregation.

All gay public employees, by the way, were protected by a non-discrimination policy.

Finally we went to the park where Jim used to watch Calvin playing baseball, before they started dating, when they knew each other only vaguely, the way guys in small towns do.  Oblivious to passersby, they pulled each other into a kiss.

This was small town scary conservative Indiana?

"You guys are quite the civic boosters," I said.  "Next you'll be telling me that you're members of the Rotary Club, Toastmasters, and the Chamber of Commerce."

"Close,"  Jim said, wrapping his arm around my shoulders.  "I'm the mayor."

My head exploded. 

"You said you run a storage company..."

"In a small town all elected offices are part time."

"You got elected mayor of a conservative small town at age 26...."

"He was 25," Calvin corrected me.  "One of the youngest mayors in Indiana history, but not the youngest.  That was a 23-year old up in...."

"And the gun-owning, fundamentalist townsfolk elected a gay guy?"

"Well, I'm not exactly out," Jim said.  "I've never actually made a coming-out speech.  I don't bring Calvin to official functions.  But everybody in town sees us together all the time, and we never have girls around.  The young people don't care, and the older ones pretend not to notice."

In ultra-conservative small-town Indiana?

"There are homophobes here," Calvin added.  "Bible-thumping preachers and in-bred rednecks and the like.  But you get those everywhere.  I bet you even got them out in West Hollywood."

I didn't "date" Jim and Calvin again, but it was nice to know they were there.

By the way, the first "openly" gay mayor in Indiana is Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, who came out during his first term in June 2015, and was elected for a second term with 80% of the votes.  Apparently his being gay was less controversial than his plan to return two-way traffic to one-way Michigan Street.

The uncensored story, with sexual content and nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.