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Gay love in the Peace Corps
Gay love in the Peace Corps
by Don Paulson - SGN Contributing Writer

Patrick Haggerty is a well-known local political activist, Gay liberationist, fabric artist, musician, and songwriter for the earliest openly Gay LP, Lavender Country, recently archived in the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame. Music historian Chris Dickinson describes Patrick as the "lost pioneer of Gay country music." This is his love story for the Peace Corps, India, and Gerry.

"I've always been a political person, but not a radical," Haggerty said. "In college, I was a progressive Democrat working-class brat, programmed for petty bourgeois success. I was smart, loquacious, and my parents believed I could be somebody. I gave a speech in high school that was not pro-Castro, but anti-Juan Batista, Dictator of Cuba. The thrust of the speech was, 'you got what you had coming for supporting Batista.' At 16, that's where my head was at.

"It was a big deal when Catholic John F. Kennedy was elected, and I was thrilled when the Peace Corps came along. I had wanderlust and a real desire to save the world, to help. Being accepted by the Peace Corps would be the most wonderful thing to happen to me. It was like the crowning glory of my childhood. I was ecstatic when accepted. The Peace Corps did some good things - its connections with the CIA ?notwithstanding.

"But I was bright, ambitious, and going somewhere. The reason I got into the Peace Corps - besides my beauty and gilded tongue - was that I had a college degree and I was a farm kid, and that's who they were looking for; people with an agricultural background who knew the meaning of hard physical labor. Growing up on a dairy farm, I knew all sorts of things, so I was a prize.

"My first airplane trip was to Hawaii, where I took my Peace Corps training, then [was] selected for Project Arissa 28 in the hinterlands of India. That's when I met Gerry, who was selected to be my P.C. partner.

"The project was poultry. At that time, starvation was a huge issue in India. The goal of Arissa 28 was to [add] more protein into the Indian diet. In our group of 70, only three of us knew how to raise chickens. The rest were city kids. I knew more about chickens than anybody. It's not simple; a lot can go wrong.

"Gerry was a farm brat from Oregon who also raised chickens. Gerry and I became very good friends, and our relationship grew intensely. He was clearly a heterosexual, and so was I, as far as I knew. I had conflicts, but was not 100 percent Gay. I thought I liked big titties, and that I would marry and have six kids and be happy forever. But I was beginning to have feelings for Gerry. The relationship grew deeper and deeper, and Gerry and I fell in love - I mean love! But we never had sex, not even close; no kissing, nothing physical, but we were in love and we both knew it and talked about it openly. He said he loved me and spoke of it emphatically numerous times. We were in love, deep, profound, pure love, real love. I knew I was going to love him the rest of my life. This was young, impressionable, innocent, naive, heartfelt, head-over-heels love for both of us. We talked about what was going on, about homosexuality. His line was, 'I love you deeply, and I'm a heterosexual.' My line was, 'The same, but I'm confused at what's going on.'

"It turned out that the poultry project was a complete failure for this place. We went into a village and said, 'I'll teach you how to raise chickens.' They asked, 'What am I going to feed them?' 'Rice.' 'Then what am I going to feed myself?' The program stopped there; the rice had to feed the villagers. Gerry and I were skilled gardeners, so we established successful gardens for the school kids in the villages.

"About 10 months into my India experience, I began to have an emotional catharsis around this love stuff. I told Gerry, 'This is more that I can bear. I cannot sleep in the same bedroom with you anymore. I can't watch you taking a shower, I can't sleep in the cot next to you with a hard-on anymore, what should we do?' We talked, cried, and I think we did hug that day. We decided I was to live with Randy five miles down the road. Separated, we could still continue our work together on bikes to the different villages. Randy was straight. He and other members of the Peace Corps had no problem that I was an emerging homosexual. But the Peace Corps grapevine was functioning very well. You were to get permission from a Mormon Peace Corps doctor in Calcutta 250 miles away to make a change, so he showed up one day and asked what was going on. I was so naïve. My mother taught me to tell the truth, so I told him why. Twenty-four hours later, Gerry and I were at the Calcutta airport on our way to Washington, DC.

"I began to realize what was going on. I told Gerry, 'You can't tell them you love me, or you'll get it, too.' My hope was that I'd talk to the Washington, DC brass and they'd send me back to India. I told Gerry he'd sacrifice himself if he told them, he had a big fit. 'I'm not going to deny I love you. I don't see anything wrong with loving you!' I tried to convince him, 'You can't tell them, you can't,' and the tears are streaming down our faces, and he's going, 'But I do love you, and I'm not going to betray you, and I don't care what you say, you didn't do anything wrong and I don't have to lie.' But, at last, I talked him into it, and he could see the logic. He asked, 'What should I say?' I said, 'Tell them you can't take the pressure of my being in love with you.' He said, 'That's another goddamned lie! You're the one who can't take the pressure.' When we got to Washington, DC, Gerry told them that I was the problem, not him & . It worked.

"Forty hours later, Gerry was on his way back to India and I was held for psychiatric evaluation. I was asked, 'How many brothers do you have?' 'Six.' 'How many sisters?' 'Three.' 'How many bedrooms in your house?' 'Three.' 'Where did you sleep?' 'With my brothers.' 'All six of you in one room?' 'Yes.' 'How is that possible?' I said, 'Three to a bed.' It was determined that that was the reason I was Gay. 'You're psychologically damaged, a security risk, and you can't go back to India. We are kicking you out and sending you home.' At this time, I didn't have a Gay identity. All I knew was that I was not Gay, but loved this man. I was 22, and my world completely crumbled. I had to lie to everyone as to why I was home early from the Peace Corps. I was desperately in love with Gerry.

"All I could think about was getting back to India, so I began saving until I had enough for a ticket to Deli and to Gerry who I loved so deeply. All my Peace Corps and Indian friends encouraged me to come, so I got on a plane for Deli but decided to make a stopover in Hawaii. I checked in at the YMCA, completely oblivious to its Gay cruising reputation. All these guys were hitting on me. I looked 16, cute, and I had a big dick. At this point I cracked, my emotions were out of control. I was beside myself with grief, confusion and worry - I'm having a nervous breakdown! I called my mother, God bless her, and said, "Mom, I'm in trouble, I need to come home."

At home in Port Angeles, I was a mess, so [my mother] took me to our family doctor of 20 years. I told him about my YMCA experience and about the Gay thing. The doctor, in all his wisdom deduced, I had a sexual experience at the Y, and I had a psychotic break because I couldn't remember it. I didn't have sex with anyone, but he advised my mother to take me to Western State Hospital. My brother was driving and I was in the backseat with my head curled up in mother's lap. I cried all the way. I didn't have a psychotic break, I knew what was happening every step of the way. I was desperate to get back to India and to Gerry. In [my] one month at Western State, no one ever talked to me & no one except a horny orderly.

"At long last, a nurse said, 'Listen up. One, you're Gay. Two, you don't belong here. No one in this hospital has anything for you, no one here knows anything about it, there's no hope for you here, we can't help you, and you should leave this hospital and figure this out on your own.' I asked, 'How do I do this?' She said, 'Don't make waves, don't get upset, don't cry, don't tell anybody anything, tell everyone what they want to hear, start yourself in the process of getting out of here. You'll be okay, you're smart, you can figure this out, you're not the first, there're other people out there that can help you, you need to find them, but they're not here. You already know more about this than anyone here, get out.' She was my first friend in the system, not much older than I.

"All my light bulbs went on. I thought, okay, I'm on my own. I have to piece this together by myself. I'm not going to tell the medical establishment anything ever again about this issue. So I left the hospital for Spokane where my sister lived. Two weeks out of WSH, I applied for a job with the Spokane County Mental Health Association as a psychiatric caseworker and got the job. Ironic that I went from a patient to a caseworker in three weeks! I stayed a year and a half.

Gerry came to see me and stayed for three days. We renewed our friendship, talked about what happened and so forth. But my issue was unresolved, so I went on a hitchhiking trip for eight months until I got all this straightened out. Then I met this Gay 18-year-old, so I decided it was time to try a Gay relationship. I waited all this time. I had lost touch with my family until my mother called and said, 'I know you're living with a man.' I gulped. 'Yes.' She asked, 'Are you scared?' 'Yes.' 'Are you confused? Are you lonesome?' 'Yes.' 'Why are you running away from your family when you should be running toward your family? I'm sending you an airplane ticket and I'll meet you at the Port Angeles airport. Before I let you go; if I was going to throw you out because you're Gay I would have done it long ago.'

"Gerry & married a nice woman, had a couple kids, and spent some time in politics. I still have a love for him, but I let him go - but it's time to see him again after many years. What did I get out of the Peace Corps? I didn't turn out to be a petty bourgeois Democrat. Instead, I became a frothing, Leninist, socialist, Gay activist revolutionary. The Mormon doctor did me a favor. The Peace Corps led to an expanded worldview and to the shores of radical thought. When Stonewall happened, my mouth flew open. I said, that's who I am, that's where I'm supposed to be, that's what I'm all about: Gay liberation!"

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