Being a gay man in Arkansas in the 1980s/90s was not easy for my father. He was not out publicly, although he was nearly beaten to death with a coke bottle by a homophobic redneck who saw him kissing another man, and he had to drive himself to the emergency room with his eye drooping down his cheek. He was over 40 years old when his mother finally found out he was gay, and she briefly disowned him before scapegoating his kids (us!) because we were a bad influence.
It was a hard thing, obviously, dealing with the virulent bigotry that surrounded him in the South, that kept him closeted from everyone except those closest to him until he died. But the thing that sucked the most, honestly, was how much my father hated himself for being gay. He loathed who he was, and one man has more to do with that than anyone else: Rush Limbaugh.
For most of my teenage years, my father had an honest-to-God paper route that he operated every single morning from around 2 a.m. until around 7 a.m., before he would come home, clean up, and go to his day job. After that, he found a job making donuts by himself every day from around midnight to noon. He spent a lot of time in the early morning hours by himself listening to the only thing available at the time: Talk radio.
My father, a gay man, listened to Rush Limbaugh reruns every day, and because of Limbaugh’s near-daily indictment of homosexuality, my father went through nearly every day hating himself. The problem wasn’t that Rush Limbaugh made him angry or that he hated Rush Limbaugh. The problem is that he agreed with Rush Limbaugh.
My father was not Christian. He was not in the least religious. He did not believe in a heaven or a hell, but when Rush Limbaugh told him that he was a pervert or a monster or whatever the hell Rush Limbaugh called gay people, my father agreed with him. In the short time, I had with him after he came out, my father would try to convince me that Rush Limbaugh was right, and my father would vow to be a better person every day, to deny his sexuality, because he was so deeply, deeply ashamed, and that shame would eventually manifest itself in a drug addiction, which would eventually lead to his death.
You can never blame one thing for something like that, obviously. There are hundreds of reasons. But Rush Limbaugh always loomed large, and for all the other reasons for which one would hate Rush Limbaugh, making my Dad hate himself will always remain at the top of my list.
Rest in Hell, Rush Limbaugh.
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