Dear Class of 1971,
This is the year of La Grande High School’s 30th class reunion. To date, I have not received an invitation to any of the reunions. I will chalk this up to the fact that I moved a lot after college. I think I was Kansas City during the 10th year and Los Angeles the 20th. I’m living in Portland now and would have like to have come to our thirtieth. But since I won’t be there I thought I’d fill you in on my life.
It won’t surprise most of you that I grew up to be a preacher. I was obnoxiously religious during high school. I had actually started preaching while I was in junior high. I went to graduate school and received a Masters of Divinity. I was ordained by the Church of the Nazarene. I worked in a variety of small churches. Eventually I wandered over into the Methodist camp and was a United Methodist pastor for four and a half years. People often ask me what the difference between a Nazarene and Untied Methodist is … a United Methodist is a Nazarene who can read.
I know that a common reunion game is to put a yearbook photo next to a current photo. I don’t think there is much resemblance by now. I look a lot like my father, Homer. I am short, fat and bald. I wear a beard that is getting more salt than pepper these days. I am a bad dresser.
I am assuming that most of you are married now and that some of you have been married a few times since 1971. There are probably even a few grandpas and grandmas in our class by now. I never married. I came close in 1976. But I knew I was gay and that I would do a disservice to both of us. Yeah, I knew was gay from my earliest memory. By the fourth grade (Go! Riveria River Rats!) I knew the word for it by research at our small downtown library. By high school I told my pastor but he said it was just a phase and I would grow out of it. Because of my religious upbringing I simply submerged my sexual orientation. I didn’t date in high school and didn’t go to the proms on “religious grounds.” Because of my physical disabilities I didn’t take gym. When I was a junior I contemplated suicide. It was not a serious thought, probably more of a sad melancholy that no one could ever understand me in this little town.
I am 48 and out now. When I came out there was not a place for me in the United Methodist Church and the Nazarenes have officially removed my ordination. I occasionally attend a local gay church but really love having Sundays off. I don’t have a partner or a boyfriend. I do date some now. The funniest thing about being out in Portland is meeting gay men who grew up in La Grande. I haven’t met anyone from the class of ‘71, but there was a guy a few years ahead of me and a guy a few years after me. If there were anyone in the class of ‘71 I would love to hear from you. But more importantly, if you are reading this and are gay and in high school now … it is not a phase and you are not alone. Coming out in a small town like La Grande is probably not an option, but you can at least come out to yourself.
Well, I’m sorry I won’t be at the reunion. I’m dying of curiosity about so many of you … Dennis, remember the camping trip to the coast? Molly do you still play French horn? Mike, did you become a songwriter? And there are a couple of teachers I wanted to thank: Mrs. Sunderman, taking your speech class really helped me … Mrs. Wright, I loved creative writing and thanks for letting me talk you into putting our chairs in a circle and for sponsoring Seminar. Is Mrs. Faulkner still living? I was in every choir you ever directed, Betty … oh, except Girls’ Choir!
Life probably has not turned out the way any of us predicted. It never does. I would love hearing from you to see if any of us even got close to what we thought might become.
Blue! White! Fight! Fight! Go Tigers!
Dave Jenkins, The Class of 1971