Life not always carefree for Aspen gays | AspenTimes.com
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Life not always carefree for Aspen gays

Two gay men living in Aspen say they are rarely targets of prejudice but one still fears damage to his career while the other is concerned about his political aspirations.Jack Johnson said he has been open about his lifestyle since moving to Aspen four years ago. He is co-chair of the nonprofit Aspen Gay and Lesbian Community Fund and describes himself as “the face of gay Aspen,” at least outside the gay community.Johnson, an architect, said he is unaware of any friends or acquaintances who have treated him differently because of his sexual orientation. But a rare act of prejudice arose recently, he said, when he was dancing with other men at an Aspen nightclub. The bouncer asked them to “save it for Gay Ski Week.”Johnson said he protested to the bouncer that they were just dancing, not doing anything lewd. He said he and the bouncer both shrugged off the incident.That type of comment is extremely rare, he stressed.”I always forget I’m gay until Ski Week comes around and some media person comes calling,” Johnson said. Gay Ski Week is celebrating its 28th year in Aspen this week.Although he has had good experiences in Aspen, Johnson said he is concerned his openness about being gay could be a liability if he runs for political office.”If my political aspirations were to suffer because of this town’s prejudice, then this isn’t the town I think it is.”His dilemma, of course, is that if he runs and loses, he may never know the reason why.Aspen ‘not as liberal’Another gay man, a longtime Aspen resident, also said that everyone who knows about his sexual orientation accepts it. He said all his friends know he is gay and that he never denies it when asked.Nevertheless, he is discreet and demanded that his identity be concealed in a newspaper article for professional reasons.”Aspen’s not as liberal as you think,” said the man, who will be identified as Mr. X. “There are definitely good ol’ boys who just don’t understand. I am no different from everyone else. I am no different businesswise, yet there is this inherent prejudice when you say the word ‘gay.’ It just turns people aflutter. It makes them crazy.”Among a lot of the gay community, X’s position is controversial, according to Johnson. A gay person hasn’t “come out” if they don’t fully disclose that they are gay, he said.X doesn’t care. He said his homosexuality, and his choice to reveal or conceal it, is nobody’s business.”The simple truth is I still need to be employed in this valley, and there are people who may or may not be prejudiced against gay people. I just don’t feel like risking it,” said X.Johnson, on the other hand, said he gladly discloses his sexual orientation as a way of confronting prejudice. “If somebody said something to me as a result of this article, I’d love it,” he said.Ending their charadesJohnson, 40, came out of the closet at age 27. He said he was aware as a child of being different. He suspected at age 9 that he was gay, and it “bothered” him.”It was the biggest struggle I’ll ever have to deal with, I’m sure,” he said.Johnson said he dated pretty women during his teens and into his 20s but ultimately decided he couldn’t hide his sexual orientation from himself or anyone else. He said his mom knew he was gay when he was a kid and tried to talk him into coming out when he was 17.X also said he suspected at a young age that he was gay. He dated women and didn’t mention to anyone until he was 27 and living in Aspen that he thought he might be gay.”It just gets to a point where you say I can’t go on with this charade any longer,” he said.Part of the charade came during prior Gay Ski Week events in Aspen. X said he used to “watch the event from afar” because he was afraid that participating would expose him. Now that’s not an issue.An issue that still irritates him, he said, is the contention by critics that gays and lesbians “choose” their sexual orientation.”Bullshit. It was no choice. I was born this way,” X said. “I’m not a product of my environment. There is nothing that anybody did to make me be gay. It’s part of my genetic makeup. It just happened. It just is.”I want to make that perfectly clear,” X said. “Because if it were a choice, I’m quite sure I would not have chosen to go through this … .” He paused and never did come up with the word he was seeking.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.


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