More Tales of the City:  Author Inscription More Tales of the City:  Cover

The story so far...
More Tales of the City is part of the Tales of the City series of books by Armistead Maupin. The characters in the excerpt below are as follows: The scene: Michael is in the hospital and he has just gotten a letter from his mother. (She neither knows her son is gay nor knows he is in the hospital.) Michael is flat on his back and can't move, so there's a mirror near his eyes so he can see around the room. He asks Mary Ann -- who brought the mail -- to read the letter to him.

The time: During the period when Anita Bryant ran a group called "Save Our Children" to repeal an equal-rights ordinance for homosexuals in Miami. In response, gays called for a boycott of Florida orange juice, for which she was the spokesperson.

Saving the children (pg. 157)

Mary Ann began to read:

Dear Mikey,

How are you? I guess you're back from Mexico by now. Please write us. Your Papa and I are real anxious to hear all about it. Also, how is Mary Ann and when will we get a chance to meet her?

Everything is fine in Orlando. It looks like we'll do fine with this year's crop, even with the frost and all. The homosexual boycott may make orange juice sales drop off a little, but Papa says it won't make any difference in the long run, and besides it won't ...

Mary Ann looked up. "Mouse... I think we should save this for some other time."

"No. It's O.K. Go on."

Mary Ann looked at Jon, who shrugged. "I've handled it for half my life," said Michael. "Another day won't make a difference."

So Mary Ann continued:

...besides it won't do anything but show Jesus whose side we're on.

You remember in my last letter I said we didn't say anything in our resolution about renting to homosexuals, because Lucy McNeil rents her garage to that sissy man who sells carpets at Dixie Dell Mall? I thought that was O.K., because Lucy is a quiet sort who has stomach trouble, and I didn't think it would be Christian to upset her unduly.

I guess the man was right when he said the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, because Lucy has all of a sudden become real militant about the homosexuals. She said she wouldn't sign our Save Our Children resolution, and she called us all heathens and hypocrites and said that Jesus wouldn't even let us kiss His feet if He came back to earth today. Can you imagine such a thing?

I was real upset about it after the meeting until your Papa cleared it up for me. You know, I never thought about it much, but Lucy never did marry, and she was really pretty when her and me used to go to Orlando High. She could of gotten a real good husband, if she had set her mind to it. Anyway, your Papa pointed out that Lucy takes modern art classes at the YWCA now and wears Indian blouses and hippie clothes, so I guess it's possible that the lesbians have recruited her. It's mighty hard to believe, though. She was always so pretty.

Etta Norris had a Save Our Children get-together at her house last Saturday night. It was real nice. Lolly Newton even bought a Red Devil's Food Cake she made using Mrs. Oral Roberts' recipe from Anita Bryant's cookbook. That gave us the idea of making lots of food from the cookbook and selling it at the VFW bazaar to raise money for Save Our Children.

We are all praying that the referendum in Miami will pass. If the homosexuals are allowed to teach in Miami, then it might happen in Orlando. Reverend Harker says that things have gotten so bad in Miami that the homosexuals are kissing each other in public. Your Papa doesn't believe that, but I say that the devil is a lot more powerful than we think he is.

Mikey, we had to put Blackie to sleep. I hate to tell you that, but he was mighty old. I know the Lord will look after him, like he does with all His creatures.

Bubba says hi.



Mary Ann moved to Michael's bedside, addressing him directly without using the mirror. "Mouse... I'm really sorry."

"Forget it. I think it's a riot."

"No. It's awful. She doesn't know what she's saying, Mouse."

Michael smiled. "Yes she does. She's a capital-C Christian. They always know what they're saying."

"But she wouldn't say that, Mouse. Not if she knew. Not her own son."

"She'd say it about somebody else's son. What the hell's the difference?"

Mary Ann looked back at Jon and Burke, tears streaming down her face. Then she reached out and touched the immobile figure in the bed "Mouse... if I could change your life for you, so help me I'd --"

"You can, Babycakes."

"What? How?"

"Got your Bic handy?"


"Then take a letter, Miss Singleton."

Letter to Mama (pg. 159)

Dear Mama,

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to write. Every time I try to write you and Papa I realize I'm not saying the things that are in my heart. That would be O.K., if I loved you any less than I do, but you are still my parents and I am still your child.

I have friends who think I'm foolish to write this letter. I hope they're wrong. I hope their doubts are based on parents who loved and trust them less than mine do. I hope especially that you'll see this as an act of love on my part, a sign of my continuing need to share my life with you. I wouldn't have written, I guess, if you hadn't told me about your involvement in the Save Our Children campaign. That, more than anything, made it clear that my responsibility was to tell you the truth, that your own child is homosexual, and that I never needed saving from anything except the cruel and ignorant piety of people like Anita Bryant.

I'm sorry, Mama. Not for what I am, but for how you must feel at this moment. I know what that feeling is, for I felt it for most of my life. Revulsion, shame, disbelief -- rejection through fear of something I knew, even as a child, was as basic to my nature as the color of my eyes.

No, Mama, I wasn't "recruited." No seasoned homosexual ever served as my mentor. But you know what? I wish someone had. I wish someone older than me and wiser than the people in Orlando had taken me aside and said, "You're all right, kid. You can grow up to be a doctor or a teacher just like anyone else. You're not crazy or sick or evil. You can succeed and be happy and find peace with friends -- all kinds of friends -- who don't give a damn who you go to bed with. Most of all, though, you can love and be loved, without hating yourself for it."

But no one ever said that to me, Mama. I had to find it out on my own, with the help of the city that has become my home. I know this may be hard for you to believe, but San Francisco is full of men and women, both straight and gay, who don't consider sexuality in measuring the worth of another human being.

These aren't radicals or weirdos, Mama. They are shop clerks and bankers and little old ladies and people who nod and smile to you when you meet them on the bus. Their attitude is neither patronizing nor pitying. And their message is so simple: Yes, you are a person. Yes, I like you. Yes, it's all right for you to like me too.

I know what you must be thinking now. You're asking yourself: What did we do wrong? How did we let this happen? Which one of us made him that way?

I can't answer that, Mama. In the long run, I guess I really don't care. All I know is this: If you and Papa are responsible for the way I am, then I thank you with all my heart, for it's the light and the joy of my life.

I know I can't tell you what it is to be gay. But I can tell you what it's not.

It's not hiding behind words, Mama. Like family and decency and Christianity. It's not fearing your body, or the pleasures that God made for it. It's not judging your neighbor, except when he's crass or unkind.

Being gay has taught me tolerance, compassion and humility. It has shown me the limitless possibilities of living. It has given me people whose passion and kindness and sensitivity have provided a constant source of strength.

It has brought me into the family of man, Mama, and I like it here. I like it.

There's not much else I can say, except that I'm the same Michael you've always known. You just know me better now. I have never consciously done anything to hurt you. I never will.

Please don't feel you have to answer this right away. It's enough for me to know that I no longer have to lie to the people who taught me to value the truth.

Mary Ann sends her love.

Everything is fine at 28 Barbary Lane.

Your loving son,


More Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
© 1980 The Chronicle Publishing Company
Published by Perennial Library/Harper & Row
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