Hidden: Reflections on Gay Life, AIDS, and Spiritual Desire

Hidden: Reflections on Gay Life, AIDS, and Spiritual Desire

Richard Giannone
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 198
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  • Book Info
    Hidden: Reflections on Gay Life, AIDS, and Spiritual Desire
    Book Description:

    Hidden--Richard Giannone's searingly honest, richly insightful memoir--eloquently captures the author's transformation from a solitary gay academic to a dedicated caregiver as well as a sexually and spiritually committed man. Always alone, always fearful, he initially resisted the duty to look after his dying female relatives. But his mother's fall into dementia changed all that. Her vulnerability opened this middle-aged man to the love of another man, a former priest and Jersey boy like himself. Together the two men saw the old woman to her death and did the same for Giannone's sister. In Hidden Giannone uncovers how, ultimately, these experiences moved him closer to participating in the vitality he believed pulsed in the world but had always eluded him. The mothering life of this gay partnership evolved alongside the AIDS crisis and within and against Italian American culture that reflected the Catholic Church's discountenancing of homosexual love. Giannone vividly weaves his reflections on gay life in Greenwich Village and his spiritual journey as a gay man and Catholic into his experience of caring for the women of his family. In Hidden Giannone recounts a gripping religious conversion, drawing on the wisdom of the ancient desert mothers and fathers of Egypt and Palestine. Because he was raised a Catholic, the shift is not from nothing to something. Rather, it is away from the modeling power of institutional Christianity to the tempering influence of homosexuality on the Gospel. Gay or straight, so long as we remain hidden from ourselves, the true God remains hidden from us.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4665-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. 1 An Unfurnished Life
    (pp. 1-14)

    Chance has determined the most important things of my life. The coming of a stranger was a telling instance of a rewarding accident that I couldn’t have imagined. His appearance held an advantage to be snatched from lucky chances. His guy-next-door good looks, his affecting personal story, his simplicity, his gentle disposition and spiritual desire—it was all entirely improbable. Improbable, also, that I would entrust my heart’s secrets and place my future plans in him.

    He came in 1981, just in the nick of time. I was forty-seven. I’ll save your doing the math; I am now closing in...

  4. 2 The Unexpected Moment
    (pp. 15-34)

    It was a Sunday early afternoon in late August 1981 when I met Frank. He was in New York City for the U.S. Open Tennis Championships in Forest Hills. The outcome of John McEnroe’s match with Björn Borg and Tracy Austin’s contest against Martina Navrátilová interested me less than did President Ronald Reagan’s mid-August appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court. Even the elevation of the first woman to the Court, for all its historic importance, however, was a passing concern. I distanced myself, trying especially to keep out the HIV crisis and chaos roaring from the news....

  5. 3 School for Change
    (pp. 35-60)

    In mid-September 1981, several weeks after we met, Frank came to Greenwich Village on a late Saturday morning. It was a date, our first date, if just hanging around my apartment qualifies as an appointment between two persons seeking the affections of each other. After embracing like old friends, we made love like gawky kids. Frank’s body was marble. No fireworks. Just feeling around the dips and curves of each other’s muscles for the sinews within to experience the pulsing life of invisible affection.

    We knew that we were placing more hope in the body than flesh could hold. Nonetheless...

  6. 4 School for Trust
    (pp. 61-72)

    The Christmas holidays were the right time for introductions. I had a new relation prepared for my mother and sister as a present. With a certain suppressed exhilaration, I invited Frank for an early Saturday dinner to meet Nellie and Marie at their home in Cedar Grove. They knew only that a friend was coming to join us.

    No bell-bottom trousers over western boots this time. Frank wore a blue sweater, gray flannel trousers, and loafers, his Sunday best, a mantle of praise, as Isaiah says a guest should put on. Homage also shone through his morning-sun smile and two...

  7. 5 Entering My True Country
    (pp. 73-90)

    To describe Frank only through his self-giving ways with Nellie and Marie would offer too perfect a portrait of his character. Frank had shadows. His struggles were fierce. From earliest childhood, he felt ignored by his parents. The second of four children, he strained with large and small gestures not to be overlooked. When he was three, and his older brother, Lou, was to be the ring-bearer for his Uncle Angelo’s marriage to Enza, an Italian war-bride, Frank was desperate to be dressed in a noticeable way comparable to his brother so as not to be eclipsed. Not being seen...

  8. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  9. 6 Love’s Hiding Places
    (pp. 91-117)

    Frank and I lived in the West Village without leading the recognizable Greenwich Village life set by classless bohemians or pop-hip gay men representing the newest iterations of cool and who, let’s face it, would find us boring. We had little to do with aging Village lefties who clung to their landmark causes and rent-controlled apartments. We had even less in common witharrivistebond traders, trust-fund kids, and the predecessors of “Sex and the City” wannabes who were colonizing the neighborhood.

    Inconspicuous, graying middle-aged gay men, Frank and I shared more with the concerns of unassuming women caregivers in...

  10. 7 Death and the Remainder of Life
    (pp. 118-133)

    On an early September morning in 1985, something new developed in Nellie. The change showed up right after I carried Nellie from her bed to the bathroom to get us ready for the day. As usual, she was sitting naked on the toilet. As usual, I was feeding her crushed stewed prunes sprinkled with flax meal to prevent constipation. This time when she tried to swallow, sharp pain squashed an absent grin on her face. Tears coated her aching eyes. The mushy fruit would not go down. Some blockage was hurting her. Food must have been like stones caught in...

  11. 8 Of Guilt and Sorrow
    (pp. 134-161)

    The moment Nellie stopped breathing in the cold, dark early morning of Saturday, January 25, 1986, I got up from the rocker and walked across the hallway to Marie’s bedroom to tell her that our mother had died. Curled under a light-blue eiderdown, Marie was sound asleep with her right arm bowed over the pillow against her breasts. Leaning over, I said softly, “Marie, Nellie died.” Matter-of-factness and calling our mother by her name, as I had these last years, I hoped, would lighten the news.

    Arms shaking, knuckles whitening, Marie loosened her grip of the pillow and silently slid...

  12. 9 Heart’s Memory
    (pp. 162-176)

    The closing of thisvecchiastory tugs at my heart. A once-familiar female temperament that reached back a millennium across the Atlantic to the flyspeck town of Campochiaro perched in the Abruzzo Mountains was on the way to being forgotten, and there is much about these ever-plain women I must hold on to.

    The Cordileone-Giannone women dramatized an inconspicuous yet noble chapter in the frequently noisy story of New Jersey Italians. Plugging away in domestic obscurity (dullness to many), they lived out a saga of uprooting, mother-loss, dementia, solitude, and material concern for others. As aging and mental incapacity drove...

  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 177-178)