Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-01-17
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

OPEN TO THINKING Dickie V. and Me: Sexual Identity in 1950s America
A recurring column
by Nick Patricca
2016-10-05

facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


Dickie V. wanted to see me. I received this message from my mother who had received it from Dickie's mother. I hardly knew Dickie. His family lived on the rich side of the tracks; my family on the poor side.

I crossed the Larimer Avenue Bridge which separated us poor folk on Larimer Avenue in East Liberty, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from the rich folk on Stanton Avenue in Highland Park. I was in my second year at Central Catholic HS; Dickie in his first.

Dickie's mother welcomed me into her fancy home, decorated in Italianesque Baroque furniture and replica art works. The chairs and couches were covered in plastic—typical of 1950s aspiring Italians. I presented her with a box of exquisite pizzele waffle cookies which my mom had made—no Italian visited an Italian home without a present—and which I had been tempted to eat on my long walk to Dickie V.'s home.

Dickie's mom ushered me into a sunroom where Dickie sat in an over-stuffed chaise lounge, an expensive carpet-blanket draped over his legs. Next to him stood a wrought-iron glass-top stand on which were laid a pot of coffee and an array of Neapolitan cakes. The sun poured through the windows, intensifying the suffocation I started to feel as soon as I entered this home.

Dickie tried to make a polite remark then broke into violent sobs. I had no idea what was happening. I waited. Dickie said the doctors said he was having a nervous breakdown. I just listened. I thought nervous breakdowns were strange things that happened to women. He asked me if it was true that I was intending to go into the seminary in my junior year of HS. I said, Yes. He asked had I had the physical examination before being accepted. I said, Yes. Then, he told me that he had failed the physical exam.

Dickie had only one partially descended testicle. You had to have two fully descended testicles to be admitted to the seminary. He started crying again.

I was way out of my depth. I looked carefully at Dickie. He looked like an overweight young boy who had not yet entered into puberty. But, by no means did he seem unusual. There were many chubby Italian boys.

I was 15 years old. I tried to make sense of it all. I suggested he appeal to the bishop. He said he had. I suggested he try another diocese. He would not. I asked Dickie if his nervous breakdown was caused by this rejection. He only cried.

Then, he said, "They think I'm homosexual, they think I'm not a man."

One week later Dickie V. committed suicide. He was 14. He jumped from the low WPA Art-Deco railing of the Larimer Avenue Bridge onto the road far below in the 'holler'.

My mother told me Dickie had committed suicide. In the 1950s, newspapers did not publish such deaths, which were spoken of by adults in whispers over coffee and cigarettes. I didn't know what to say. She added, "I found pictures of naked men under your under wear." I told her they were physique magazines for people who wanted to make muscles and that the men weren't naked, they were in posing straps. She said, "I think Dickie was a homosexual." I said I had no idea whether he was or not. Then she said, "I know you're not a homosexual because homosexuals hate their mothers and commit suicide."

She sent me to Dr. DeNinno, our family physician.

DeNinno examined me, gave me a shot of vitamin B, some Royal Canadian Air Force isometic exercise manuals—you don't need to pump iron to make muscles, you can make muscles anywhere—and charged me $2. He said he would tell my mother there's nothing to worry about.

DeNinno's concluding postscript: "Hide your magazines in better places, especially if you're going to the seminary, and remember, the world isn't ready for you, yet."

Dickie V. wasn't even finished with puberty. Maybe the second testicle would have descended. Maybe not. I don't know whether Dickie V. was gay or straight or asexual or transgender or as I prefer to call myself Q to the 4th power. I don't think he had the slightest idea. I only know that a needlessly cruel system pushed Dickie into a corner from which he could not imagine any escape other than to kill himself.

Dickie V. died before he had a chance to figure things out. I suspect he might have made a good priest.

I learned how to hide my physique mags better. I still have the Royal Canadian Air Force manuals Dr. DeNinno gave me.

I regret that Dickie V. didn't have a Dr. DeNinno on his side.

Nick Patricca is professor emeritus at Loyola University Chicago, president of Chicago Network and playwright emeritus at Victory Gardens Theater.


facebook twitter google +1 reddit email




Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

GUEST COLUMN I Don't Mind Your Asking 2018-01-17 - This question, again, was asked of me recently. Good naturedly, with love, and with sincere caring ... but always unexpected. It caused me, ...


Gay News

King's dream of 'the beloved community' extends to yours, too 2018-01-17 - KThis year is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It's a painful and necessary anniversary ...


Gay News

Black Lives Matter co-founder Cullors in Chicago Jan. 23 2018-01-15 - Patrisse Khan-Cullors brings her book tour to Chicago Tuesday, Jan. 23, 7 p.m., at the Wilson Abbey, 935 W. Wilson, Chicago, hosted with ...


Gay News

Public Newsroom Workshop to share findings on Chicagoans' media perceptions 2018-01-10 - Chicago, IL — In one of the few scientific studies that measures how people in Chicago feel about news media coverage of their ...


Gay News

VIEWPOINTS Putting it to the test, 23andMe 2018-01-10 - More than 2 million people have taken part in genetic testing by 23andMe, a company founded in 2006 by CEO Anne Wojcicki. The ...


Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Tell: Love, Defiance, and the Military... 2018-01-10 - By Major Margaret Witt with Tim Connor, foreword by Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer $27.95; ForeEdge; 258 pages No doubt about it: You ...


Gay News

Norman Sandfield to speak on book "Awa Tsireh: Pueblo Painter & Metalsmith" 2018-01-03 - čNorman L. Sandfield will speak on his new book, Awa Tsireh: Pueblo Painter & Metalsmith at the Mitchell Museum of the American Indian ...


Gay News

VIEWS Words have consequences 2018-01-03 - Words matter in science—and in politics. We recently heard deeply troubling stories about the possible censorship of words at the Centers for Disease ...


Gay News

MOMBIAN 2017: Good news, bad news for LGBTQ families 2018-01-03 - Was 2017 a good year for LGBTQ parents and our children? The political situation in the United States was grim, but we also ...


Gay News

BOOK REVIEW Seven Suspects 2018-01-03 - By Renee James. $26.95; Oceanview Publishing; 310 pages The world of fiction is filled with voices. It's a realm of stories ...


 



Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS

Sponsor
Sponsor


 

Sponsor


Sponsor

About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.