Editors, particularly from smaller communities, were in a most uncomfortable position. In rural areas, where everybody knows everyone else, they were singled out, their children were harassed at school. One editor confessed to me that his brother was gay. He was 100 percent supportive, but if anyone in his area knew that he was in favor of running the story, he would lose his job.
It was mostly from the United States that the sound was heard. Canadian papers carried the pro and con letters on the editorial pages. There were two cancellations and a few letters came to me, but by and large, it was a southern and very religious population that responded first and loudest and with a clenched, unyielding fist.
I cannot deny that it was upsetting. When 1,000 people organized to cancel their subscriptions to a Memphis paper, one editor's bitterness came through loud and clear. I had no right to "do this" to people. This subject was best left alone. I think the letter that hurt the most, was one of the first I received. It was from a woman who said she had loved my work for years but I was now no longer welcome in her home. She enclosed about a dozen yellowed strips she had kept on her refrigerator. That made me cry.
All of this, we called the "no" mail.
The people who decided to follow the story awhile, before voicing an opinion, began to respond a little later. By the time the second week of the story was under way, the positive side came forward. The phones and faxes continued to ring, but this time, the mail was an overwhelming positive, "Yes!"
The "yes" mail came from doctors, teachers, mental health professionals, clergy, social workers, friends, and families of those about whom the story was written.
It took awhile for gay and lesbian readers to respond. It was as if they were waiting to see if I told the story as it really was - or was it another attempt by someone from the outside, patronizing and sensationalizing in order to gain publicity?1 2 3 4 5