“The Crooked Man” by Charles Beaumont from The Hunger and Other Stories (Valancourt, 2013). Originally published in Playboy magazine, 1955.
* Due to an error in the planning of these reviews, this is the final one.
Jesse waits for his lover in a private booth in a bar that caters exclusively to homosexual men. He’s nervous because he knows the person he loves isn’t welcome in the bar, and normally would never be let in. Tonight, though, she will be disguised as a man.
It’s the only way they can see one another. The newly elected government has closed all the parks and public squares, anywhere people of the opposite sex might spend even innocent time in one another’s company. Heterosexuality, you see, has been deemed barbaric, the basest sort of animal instinct. Women and men live strictly segregated existences, and procreation is carried out via test tubes and Petri dishes, everything clean and neat.
I know Fox media would have everyone believe we’re on the brink of the reality laid out in this story, because inflammatory “news” like that sells advertising, and I know there’s a website that claims this story was a cheeky unmasking of an actual “game plan” of an actual “gay agenda”, but the truth is very different. In reality this story describes the way things already are for lots of people. LGBT people.
Has it gotten any better in the sixty years since this story was penned? Sure it has, in certain places, and at certain times. There are some states where people can get married to their same-sex partner, some cities where they can’t be fired for being gay, or denied housing or medical care. But in some places it’s as if nothing has changed. In those places people still get thrown out of their homes, get forced into programs designed to brainwash them into being someone they are not, and get murdered in the street.
All this story tries to do is let someone who has never experienced that kind of discrimination and hatred walk a mile in those shoes. Does it expose the game plan of a group with a sexual agenda? It sure does. It’s the game plan of the heteronormative world we live in.
I wanted to close the project with this story because it is the sixty year anniversary of its publication, and because I think many people aren’t aware of it. If the plot sounds a little bit like an episode of the Twilight Zone, that’s probably because several of the Twilight Zone scripts were adapted from short stories by Charles Beaumont. The show has his style, if you will.
The only detail about Beaumont’s life I could find that in any way speaks to his sexuality is the fact that he had a wife and a couple of kids. That doesn’t mean a hill of beans, I know, especially during the McCarthy era. Probably more telling is that I couldn’t find his name on any Who’s Who list of LGBT folks. Therefore, I’m going to assume he was straight, and that he wrote this story because, as a writer, he was compelled to look at the world around him and comment on the things that kept him awake at night.
One last thing while we’re on the subject of straight men. Whatever else you may think of Hugh Hefner, he did publish this, then, and afterward defended his decision by saying, “If it was wrong to persecute heterosexuals in a homosexual society then the reverse was wrong, too.”