I'm starting a new part-time job at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. During my all-day orientation, I meet a newcomer to the City, David:
Older than me, balding, handsome, with a bright open preacher's face. Rather buffed, with a thick neck, thick arms and a furry barrel chest. That aggressively friendly, ever-cheerful "How are ya!" manner that you see with guys whose jobs require you to like them.
He tells us that six months ago, he was a conservative Baptist minister in Arkansas, married with children. Then, on his 43rd birthday, he came out. He had his first same-sex experience, divorced his wife, read a lot of pro-gay books, and moved to San Francisco.
He has moved into an apartment in the Castro with another ex-Baptist minister, joined a gym, and found a (full time) job at the AIDS Foundation. Now he's anxious to try everything the gay world has to offer, especially the sex.
"No sex for the first 43 years of my life!" he exclaims. "Unless you count my ex-wife. Just fantasies. I have to get up to speed. I bet I can get with a thousand guys in the next year, three a day, if I work at it."
He glances at the concerned faces of the other employees of the AIDS Foundation. "What? I'll be safe, of course. I carry a package of condoms with me at all times."
After orientation David and I take the Muni to Castro Street for dinner. We bond over tales of childhood deprivations and crazy fundamentalist relatives -- and hot men. He is relishing his freedom to talk openly about hot guys for the first time in his life.
There's no question that we'll hook up -- that's a given. You make new friends in San Francisco by sharing their bed. But I'm more interested in hanging out, in exploring the gay world through David's eyes.
You see screamers frequently in gay neighborhoods, at events like Gay Pride and the AIDS Walk, or sometimes on an ordinary summer afternoon: heteros waving signs and shouting Bible verses and generally expressing how much they hate us.
Usually they come in groups, but today there are only two:
1. A middle aged man, slim, grey-haired, sweating in a business suit, carrying a sign that reads "Homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord," snarling and shouting invectives at the passersby:
"Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind!"
2. The Bible boy, slim and blond in a business suit, but considerably more handsome, with blue eyes and sharp features, looking down at his feet -- because he doesn't like being around sodomites, or because he doesn't like being around his dad? He's carrying a large King James Bible.
I know the drill -- cross the street if you can. Don't make eye contact, don't speak, don't engage with the screamers in any way.
But does David? Will the former Baptist preacher engage? Or will his fundamentalist brainwashing kick in, resulting in guilt, self-recrimination, and a decision to turn "ex-gay"?
I don't want to find out. "Come on, let's go this way," I say, pulling David's arm.
"Are you kidding? That boy is hot!"
"He's a screamer!"
David laughs. "I hope so. Do you like twinks?"
"Sure, but...cruising a screamer? Are you crazy?"
"Yes. And horny. Do you mind if I bring in a third for tonight."
Soon I will be used to David cruising anyone, anywhere, but now I'm shocked. A screamer, in front of his Dad!
We approach Bible Boy while the main screamer is yelling at a heterosexual couple for promoting sodomy.
David smiles and holds out his massive hand. Bible Boy smiles shyly. I can hear him thinking, "This isn't what a sodomite looks like! Why isn't he wearing a dress?"
"My name is David, and this is Boomer."
"Kyle. Have you ever heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?"
That old soulwinning routine? I learned that in high school!
David says "ἐγὼ ἦλθον ἵνα ζωὴν ἔχωσιν καὶ περισσὸν ἔχωσιν."
Bible Boy stares.
"John 10:10: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. B.A. in Classical Studies from the University of Arkansas, M.A. in Latin from Tulane University, M. Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary."
"Can you take a break? I'll tell you all about my journey from Pine Bluff, Arkansas to Castro Street."
"Um...I don't drink."
"Do you eat hamburgers?"
He yells to the Preacher that he's going witnessing, and we go to Orphan Andy's for burgers and fries.
Kyle is 18 years old, a new high school graduate who plans to attend UC Santa Cruz next fall ("Boy, did my folks squawk about that! A heathen college full of atheists and sodomites!")
The older guy is actually his youth minister. There are six other members of his youth group scattered around town, brandishing signs and screaming to spread the Good News, but Kyle, a shy, sensitive, quiet boy, couldn't find a partner, so the preacher said 'Just stick by me.'"
"I wasn't even going to come. I hate soulwinning," Kyle explains. "But I wanted to see what real sodomites look like. Besides, we're going to get ice cream later."
Nice youth group outing, screaming and fudge ripple!
"You don't really believe all that 'abomination in the eyes of the Lord' stuff, do you?" David asks.
"Well, I have to believe what the Lord says in His Word, even if I don't understand it. I mean, you look at cute guys, and think, what would be wrong with touching them? But the Lord says it's an abomination, so...."
Chuckling, David pulls out his Greek and Hebrew and demolishes every homophobic interpretation of the "Big Five" Bible verses. From the story of Sodom to the "strange flesh" of Jude.
The rest of the story, with nude photos and sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.