Coming to terms with homosexuality
Rodenko talks about coming to terms with his homosexuality. Although he remembers becoming aware of his sexuality in his teenage years, he argues that it had taken him years to come to terms with being gay. He relates his difficulty to social conceptions of sexuality and talks about the relationship between his sexuality and his social activism.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Igal Roodenko, April 11, 1974. Interview B-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Full Text of the Excerpt
- JERRY WINGATE:
I don't want to open another whole long can of worms, but one thing, you
in your life and in your times, the last few years it has been possible
for you to become more radical in terms of your own homosexuality. We
left this all out of your earlier experiences, jail and camp and the
freedom rides in '47, but did this play any role at all.
- IGAL RODENKO:
Of course it did. I think I became aware of being gay when I was in high
school, and it was the most horrible experience. I thought if I couldn't
cure myself - that was the way I thought - that I'd
commit suicide. I think that the awareness, the self-awareness, gave me
such a sense of being an outsider, that the natural socializing
qualities had to find a way of relating to the world, or otherwise it
would have been the nuthouse or committing suicide. Being gay certainly
made it easier to do time in prison. The sense of an all-male society is
not difficult for me to live with. It took a great
deal of the gain in the last few years to make it easier for me to come
out. I was in my mid-twenties before I even came to terms with myself. I
said, alright, you are not going to commit suicide, and this is you and
this is what you have to live with, and this is what the world has to
live with. I mean, that was an intellectual thing. The emotional thing
was a lot more difficult.
Only within the context of the gay liberation movement of the last couple
years have, has it been, possible, easier, to live within my own small
circle of friends in the radical and peace movement, and within the
world at large. It is still very awkward. When I am on tour, when I get
into a situation like this, when I overhear, I overhear myself saying
the things that I am saying, I have a certain sense of drama. Maybe I
play things up a little to make things more interesting and dramatic.
People said, wow, and I can sense this, wow, big hero, all the things
they said. This has happened many times in the past, the question isn't
asked. People have suggested indirectly that I must be a
self-sacrificing saint, I gave up all the joys of a family and of
raising children for the cause. Now, if someone asks me that pointblank,
I would say, no that isn't it, I never had a family, because I
am not constituted to have one, I am gay, I never
had any children, I never wanted any. Therefore, it is much easier for
me to function this way. But I don't know what to do when I get this
aura of approval based on a false assumption, that I have made this
sacrifice. I don't know how to say, well, I'm just another guy, but my
circumstances made it easier for me to do this. They don't know. To this
date I don't know how to cope with this. How do I avoid being aggressive
about it, the balance between being agressive about it and being
reticent. I don't know about it, except I welcome a person putting it
right to me like this.
I can say what I have to say.