Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hop Against Homophobia: Benny's Landscapes

Welcome to the Hop Against Homophobia. The hop promotes awareness concerning homophobia and transphobia and is held in conjunction with the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Do visit their site, it's well worth your time.

This post is my contribution… and it includes a giveaway. The details of the giveaway follow my post, but the short version is I’m giving away books and a gift card, and I do ship paperbacks overseas.

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I didn’t grow up with gay people in my life, though my Dad was bi and I certainly knew men sexually interacted with other men. He talked frankly about sex and how it was fun but significant, and that finding one’s own gender attractive was just as natural as finding another gender attractive. I could imagine that. It always perplexed me when I ran into people who couldn’t, even though when it came to that kind of fun I was attracted only to boys. So I have Dad to thank for giving me an open mind about sex.

It didn’t occur to me before I married to find out what the future father of my children thought about homosexuality. Among my excuses are that I was really young, young enough to think opinions were shallow and not symptoms of bigger things like, say, intolerance. Besides, I was blithely heterosexual and there was no real need to go there. Or so I thought. Remember, I was young.

My husband’s partners in his medical practice included a doctor I’ll call Alfie. I didn’t know him well, though he seemed nice. We saw him socially once in a while. One day my husband explained there was something not right about Alfie: Alfie was homosexual. I knew what that meant and some things became clearer, such as why Alfie never brought a date for big social events such as Auxiliary Balls and the like. In those days, a man bringing a male partner would have been frowned upon. The reason my husband wanted me to know the reason for his dislike was that Alfie had invited us to his house and, well, hubby kind of needed to show up because the other partners would be there, too. He really didn’t want to go near the gays.

Not Benny's but looks like his.
And so I went to the party and that’s when I found out about Benny. Benny was Alfie’s partner. Being naturally friendly and curious, I talked to them. Of course I did. They were the hosts and they were interesting. Among other things, I learned they’d been together for over 20 years, which at my young age impressed me enormously. They said they’d be married if that were possible and for the first time it occurred to me that, yeah, why not? They’d bought their house together, and it was decorated throughout with Benny’s work. Benny was an artist. I’d heard my husband belittle his paintings as being expensive but bad. They weren’t bad. They were beautiful. His landscapes were wild and brilliant, painted from open spaces and filled with heart. Alfie and Benny also collected glass art. They traveled. They had fun. I often heard other doctors and their wives snicker about them behind their backs, but I admired them because it was clear they were happy and loved each other. As far as I was concerned, everyone should be so cool.

My husband didn’t like my attitude and for many years I listened to him expound about the evils of homosexuality: how it was unnatural, fostered diseases (AIDS first appeared not long after I met Alfie and Benny), went against our religion, and that gays preyed on innocent boys—boys like our three sons. This was before scandals involving Catholic priests, which would have given me pause given our kids went to Jesuit schools. But I was convinced my boys were safe from gays. Cars and fireworks? Whole ‘nother story.


Benny died of AIDS. I wasn’t close enough to Alfie and Benny to go through this troubled time with them. I watched from a distance. I endured my ignorant husband’s rants, driven by a realistic fear that having a gay partner in the practice scared patients away. Hatred of homosexuality eats away at humanity. Misunderstanding leads to fear and fear leads people to some very ugly places. If you’ve ever seen someone go to these places, you know what I mean. My husband didn’t attend the funeral. I did. I have never seen a more heartfelt goodbye. Benny was loved and cherished.

I didn’t divorce my husband because he hated gays. He hated and feared lots of other things, too, including Jews, women, poor people, blacks, foreign cars, and lawyers. Quite frankly, I divorced him because I wanted to watch the Simpsons in peace and be with someone who didn’t have so many problems with me. But I will always be happy I married him, because I have three beautiful non-homophobic sons. And because of him I got to know Alfie and Benny, and through them my eyes opened not only to how two people can love each other so much, but also how other people can hate them for it. Dad never taught me about that.

I wish I had one of Benny’s wonderful landscapes, but I never will. I just have my memories of them and of how he brought a lot of beauty into the lives of those around him.

And he’s one of many reasons I take part in the Hop Against Homophobia.

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So, you made it this far! If you leave a comment (and email so I can contact you) here on this post, you can WIN: 
  • A copy of any one of my titles. (2 winners) I will ship paperbacks internationally. 
  • A $10 gift card from your choice of Amazon, Dreamspinner, or ARe. (1 winner)
For more detail about the books, here's my Books by Tali Spencer page.

The blog hop runs through May 27th, so I will contact and announce the winners on May 28th.

Please visit all the other wonderful participating authors below.

59 comments:

  1. please count me in

    leetee2007@hotmail.com

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    1. You're in, Lee. :) Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. This is very moving for me. Just lost my sister who was a lesbian. I miss her so much. She and her partner were not allowed to get married in our state which broke my heart. Love is love, that's it plain and simple. No matter what people said to her about being with someone of the same sex she proudly held her head up. She was a great inspiration to all of us. This is a wonderful blog post and hop <3
    kittyissweet@gmail.com

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    1. So very sorry to hear about your sister. *hugs* It does sound like love made her strong, though. Love. Is wonderful that way.

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  3. I live in a small town and there is still a lot of discrimination in the school and stores in my area. I only had one African American in my ENTIRE high school. And the Gay and Lesbians who were proud enough to be out in high school were slurred every which way. I have no prejudice, they were really nice people, but to some... Anyway love hearing about other people's stories as well. Good Luck with the Hop.

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    1. Bigotry exists everywhere, which is part of why it's so hard to eradicate. :( Remember you are a mighty army of one!

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    2. sorry, forgot email addy...can't believe that!! And yep...fight on!!

      witchinreader@gmail.com

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  4. I don't think you ever told me that story. *shakes head* That man... I swear. *snickers* He hates lawyers? ;)
    ~M
    nomoretears00 @ hotmail.com

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    1. I was in my early twenties, maybe 23, when I met these guys. Very early in my experiences, and you've heard lots of the rest. Meeting "the gays" was actually a highlight! And yeah... Lawyers. :D

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  5. Tali, what an incredibly touching post. Thank you for sharing Benny with me. I'm honored. I can see why you'd want to honor his memory by taking part in this hop.

    *solemly lifts cup of java* To Benny, may he rest in peace, and to Alfie, may he have found succor and love again.

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    1. Thanks, Cherie. I'll join you in that toast. :)

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  7. What a beautifully sad story. Benny lives on in people's memories and hearts, and Alfie sounds too nice a guy not to have found love again.
    I have always been around gay men. As my mother used to say 'we have them in the family' she didn't meant to be insulting, but as you can see, it was. My dad described people as 'happy ones, sad ones and odd ones' yeah, I was an odd one lol, and he was never insulting.

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    1. Your dad was on to something, I think. :) I want to believe the odd can also be happy.

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  8. Love your story in that it shows the difference between people are open-minded and those who are not. I'm curious, have you ever tried to get in touch with Alfie after your divorce?

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. My divorce was very ugly and for several years I avoided all my Ed's associates. I eventually did talk to Alfie again, though. :) He'd left the practice but I recognized him while I was in town visiting my mother in the hospital. He was on staff there now. We had coffee together and I learned he'd sold the house. I don't know if he found another person to love, but I like to think he did. He said he was happy and he looked like he was. :)

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  9. What an amazing post, Tali. Thanks so much for bringing us readers a bit closer to something so beautiful.

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    1. And thank you, Kimber. So happy you could stop by. :)

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  10. What a poignant story! Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  11. Great post & giveaway.
    rockybatt@gmail.com

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by, Rodney. :)

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  12. Your beautiful narrative brought tears to my eyes. My mom always told me and my sister that love was love and who you loved shouldn't matter. So, I've always wondered how my older sister grew up to be a racist and homophobe and I came out to be her exact opposite. I'm completely hetero and my best friend/roommate is a lesbian. I have blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin and have only dated 3 Caucasian men. I always remember my mom telling me love is love.
    Kathy
    katcleve25 ay gmail.com

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    1. Wow, Kathy, how that happened is a mystery. I'm the only liberal of the four of us, but none of us are homophobic or racist. Whom we love may be shaped by our upbringing, but THAT we love our fellow human beings should be something we all learn. I pray for that day.

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  13. Amazing post.

    marsh10(at)netzero(dot)com

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  14. The fact that you wrote this blog post in memory of someone makes this all the more memorable to me among the other post I read in this hop. I promise to remember Benny through your story for as long as I can. Your writing really touched me. To be true, I wrote my blog post thinking about someone too (Maybe someone who is also long gone and so I didn't want to mention his name anymore. He had suffered a lot for his sexual orientation in his lifetime. I shouldn't give him any more trouble by talking of the same.)

    ladyunwritten[AT]gmail[DOT]com

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    1. Some people have the most powerful, far reaching influence in our lives and we don't even realize it at the time. And they generally never even know. :( Thanks so much for stopping by, Ray.

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  15. So glad that you got to know such wonderful people. It's unfortunate that so many judge what they don't understand but hopefully we are moving on as a country away from the judgement and hate.
    Thanks for the giveaway.

    fsteph55(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Steph. Like you, I hope one day we accept each other openly and without thinking twice or having to explain it.

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  16. I had never known your story! My favorite stories in the light of marriage equality are couples that have been together for 50 or more years. That they had suck together through thick and thin. And then their moment in the sun came when they could finally wed.

    Stories of enduring love always makes me teary in the best way!

    And I'm going to totally enter the giveaway. Even if I'll throw money at you by the bucketful anyway. LOL

    lex.a.chase@gmail.com

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    1. You're amazing, Lex. *hugs* I love meeting long term couples, too! So much hope for the rest of us. :)

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  17. The individual stories are always the most amazing thing about this hop...

    vitajex(at)Aol(dot)com

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  18. Thank you for sharing this story. The love between Benny and Alfie is what is important. Not that they were gay. What a gift your Dad gave you from a young age to see that men being with men wasn't wrong. :)

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    1. The love was everything. It was the answer. Their love is what opened my eyes to what my father had been saying. I just needed to see it, because it made things so clear. No matter what anyone said, I could see nothing, nothing in the world, wrong with that. It amazes me that anyone can. :) Thanks for stopping by, JC!

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  19. Thanks for post and giveaway.
    cvsimpkins@msn.com

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  20. Thanks for post and giveaway.

    parisfan_ca@yahoo.com

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  21. Thanks for sharing your bittersweet story about Benny.
    strive4bst(AT) yahoo(Dot) com

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  22. very touching story, Tali. thanks for participating! lena.grey.iam@gmail.com

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    1. And thank you for stopping by, Lena! :)

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  23. Thank you so much for sharing that with us. It's very bittersweet.
    Thanks for being a part of the hop and for the chance to win :)
    raynman1979(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. I love this hop. :) So many wonderful posts to read.

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  24. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us.
    amaquilante(at)gmail(dot)com

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  25. Thank you for sharing your story with us. It's wonderful that your father helped you to keep an open mind and served as such an awesome role model and you in turn were a great role model for you kids.

    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com

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    1. Dad had his faults, many, but being open-minded about sexuality wasn't one of them. He gets props for that and my sons have more to thank him for than they know. Thanks for stopping by! :)

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  26. Nice of you to share and participate

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

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  27. A lovely tribute to a man who changed your life.

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    1. Thank you. :) He really did. I just didn't realize how much until later.

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  28. Great post very sad what happened to Benny but and so I'm glad you saw Alfie again hopefully he is happy again.

    ShirleyAnn(at)speakman40(dot)freeserve(dot)co(dot)uk.

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  29. Thank you so much for sharing your story.
    MHupp20032003(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  30. This made me tear up, what a touching story.

    I have to say that, as a kid, there was no real discussion about gays or lesbians (and certainly not the B or T part of the alphabet) to the point that I was in my early teens before I really understood what it meant. There were some comments about a lesbian couple that my mom had worked with but that was it. I'm not sure if that made me more accepting or not.

    You're ex sounds like someone that was quite miserable, I am glad you didn't let him stop you from getting to know Alfie and Benny or for raising three wonderful sons.

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  31. Thanks for taking part in the hop!

    kimberlyFDR@yahoo.com

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  32. Wow, thank you so much for sharing this story. I am glad to think about the things that have already changed in the world. It gives me hope for the future. I'm glad that you did not let the prejudices of your husband rub off on yourself and your sons and instead have joined the voices that stand against hatred! <3

    marc.darkshade@gmail.com

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  33. I've heard so much of the crap your husband spouted all of my life. I will never understand how people can be that way. I enjoyed your post. Thanks for being part of the hop.
    sstrode at scrtc dot com

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  34. Thank you so much for the post and the chance to enter! wendynjason04@gmail.com

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  35. Thank you for participating and sharing your story.
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

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