College Columns December 2021 - Page 24

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who “ knew ” and who didn ’ t . I learned to gain the strength not to worry about it too much but it created many socially awkward moments , for example , as friends tried to fix me up with very eligible women .
As part of my community activities , I had taken on the role of a “ Big Brother ” in the Big Brothers program . In the extensive interview process , the staffer told that my Meyers Briggs test indicated a probability that I was gay . The staffer asked me point blank , and I said no , because the rule at the time was gays were not eligible to be participate . Most of the time if participating in something where my sexual orientation would have been an issue , I simply could avoid the issue and “ pass ” as straight . In this situation , I had to pay dishonesty as the price of admission to something I wanted to do . I knew that I had the time , resources , and skills to help a fatherless boy and refused to let the rules preclude me from doing so . Secrecy forced these choices where few of us wanted to be dishonest .
However , six months into a great pairing with a teenage boy that really needed a role model , I decided that I could not continue to participate and not be honest about my identity in the formal status evaluation meeting with the staffer . My decision was painful , but I had to do it . The staffer was terrific about it . She explained that if we told the boy ’ s mother , the agency would be required to terminate the formal match , but if his mom agreed , we could continue informally . We had a meeting in the agency office with mom and staffer , in which the staffer went through the developments and consequences . Mom was polite but said she needed time to think about things . That weekend she invited me to their home – where I was grilled by her with questions and then a tirade of anger and rage – all in
front of my Little Brother . Not only was I never to contact him again she threatened to “ out ” me to the Chair of the Board of the Big Brothers organization , who just happened to be ( as she knew ) a partner in my law firm . I left the house shaking and in tears , sorry for the loss of the relationship I had developed with her son , humiliated , and fearful for my job . Who knows what she would tell the partner in her quest for somewhere to place her anger ? I preempted that from happening by finding the partner and explaining the whole situation . He asked me , “ did you ever touch this boy in an inappropriate way ?” to which I answered a simple “ no ”. He then said not to worry about it . But , of course , I did worry , and carried the hurt connected with these events for many years .
In 1989 I interviewed with another large firm in Phoenix to join a former colleague in developing a bankruptcy and reorganization practice . The new firm ’ s “ macho ” culture was renowned . It was known for its cadre of excellent and aggressive lawyers , many of whom were former college and semi-pro athletes . In considering the move , I decided to make a fresh start as an “ out ” lawyer or