In 1989, the year I moved to Washington to look for a political job, I had, after just over a year “out of the closet,” gone back in. In the short period when I initially accepted my homosexuality, I did not meet a single gay person who believed same-sex relationships where possible. It was all about the quick hook-up with no possibility of an enduring connection. I felt more out of place in the gay world than I had in the Republican world which I had left shortly before graduating from college a few years earlier.
In D.C., as I looked for a job in the first Bush White House and in various Republican and conservative organizations, I was petrified that someone might find out I had recently lived openly as a gay man in Paris.
As part of my networking, a former colleague introduced me to a woman a few years my senior then working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where I had interned in college. This woman invited me to a party where I met a lanky, energetic man, Greg Stevens. Somehow I knew he was gay. And while I was trying to convince myself that I would one day end up with a woman, I wanted Greg to know about my “secret.” I never said anything to him. I did run into him a couple of times when I was over at HUD, but lost touch when I landed a job downtown.
Over the years, as I heard his name, I wondered how I could reconnect with him. When I did come out, his name came up once at a gathering of gay Republicans, but I can no longer remember in what context. I’m sure I asked about his sexuality, just don’t recall the response I got.
This morning, chills ran down my spine when I read this piece in the New York Times about his death in Carrie Fisher’s Hollywood home. (Hat tip to David Ehrenstein for alerting me to the article). The Times identified him as gay, confirming my sense back in 1989. My first thought was, would Greg still be alive had I, back in 1989, had the guts to approach him with my “secret.”
The “TIMES” has done a great job of telling the story of his life, a globe-trotting political consultant with a drug problem. I did not realize until I read the piece that not only did we share an interest in politics, but we both loved movies as well.
His picture in the “TIMES” contrasted with the Greg Stevens I remember, the guy I found so attractive. As I read the story, I could not help but wonder what happened to him, what caused his downward spiral. He does not appear to have been closeted. Was it perhaps that none of his friends called him on his drug use? Or was it that he had no sustaining romantic relationship to balance his fast-pace life? The “TIMES” noted that the breakup of his long-term romance “devasted” him.
It’s not always easy being an openly gay Republican. Sometimes, we feel that we don’t fully belong in either world. I wonder if Greg felt that he didn’t fit in, feeling more marginalized than most of us because of the prominence of his position.
Perhaps his story is one about the need for someone with a hard-driving life to have a strong relationship to keep him centered. Perhaps, his is the story of someone who did drugs to cover up the feelings of isolation he had in the circles where he traveled. He was a little bit different from his political colleagues and friends as he was from his Hollywood associates. But, we are all a little bit different.
Or maybe, gifted consultant that he was, he rose too quickly, before he had the time to come to terms with his unique identity. His psyche did not have the time to adjust to his success. Or maybe it was that he had no real home. His friends said that “from the early 1990’s on, Mr. Stevens’ home was really an airplane seat.” Or maybe he was still troubled by his parents’ divorce.
All these questions make Greg Stevens’ story one worth telling. It piqued my interest because I remember him — and regret that I was never open with him about my sexuality.
Cognizant of those differences, I can’t help feeling that if, sixteen years ago, I had been a bit more courageous, he might have found a kindred spirit. And he might then have felt less isolated than he did in his final days.
The “TIMES” was right to headline their story “The Mystery of Hollywood’s Dead Republican.” This is a mystery. And one well worth exploring.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com