This is a true story a Black gay man in South Carolina told me. I changed some names, a few details and locations for privacy:
Alexander was a college freshman at Morris College in Sumter, S.C. in the early 1980s. He came from a well-off black southern family — his father was a lawyer and despite the fact segregation was barely over he had grown up in a predominately white middle-class neighborhood.
Now Alexander was away from home and free to express himself for the first time. He had always had crushes on guys and wondered if he might be gay. But he thought women were neat, too. So he made a bet with himself: “If I go to bed with a girl first I will go straight. But if it’s a guy I must be gay.”
That is when he met Buster, a tall, brown-skinned dude who sat in front of him in biology. Buster was smart as a whip and already had a summer internship lined up at a pharmaceutical company in Chapel Hill.
“Hey man we have a hard biology exam coming up. Professor Burrus ain’t no joke” Alexander said. “Let’s study together.”
“Sure man, no problem” Buster said. “I have an apartment off campus. Here is the address.”
I won’t go into details but you know Buster and Alexander ended up studying more of each others’ biology than that of invertebrates. They were soon secret lovers and before long they had been kicking it a year.
They actually had a lot in common. Both had strong, successful fathers who were extremely homophobic.
“My father talks bad about homosexuals all the time,” Alexander said. “My two older brothers are already married and he’s already asking when I’m going to get a girl and settle down. Like shit, I’m only a sophomore in college.”
Buster leaned over and caressed Alexander’s wavy black hair. He loved fucking that redbone boy’s hairy ass. But when he spoke he was serious.
“Alexander I think my father would kill me if he found out.That’s just how bad it is at home. And word is already starting to get out about how much we hang around with each other. Maybe we need to chill out a bit.”
Buster drove home to Columbia that weekend and found out the rumors had hit home. His sister had talked to his father about how Buster was turning into a sissy in college.
“Motherfucker I didn’t send you to college to be no faggot. What’s this shit your sister is talking about? Is this shit true?”
Buster was silent. His father was in such a rage his face had turned from mahogany to purple.
“Nigger I tell you one thing If you are up in college wasting my money and letting some faggot fuck you I will cut your dick and balls off since you are not using them.”
Buster, who was really named William but got the nickname Buster from his Dad, still said nothing.
“Boy, you better answer me. Where you going? You don’t walk away from me!”
Buster abruptly walked away, tears streaming down his face. He made good grades. He never got in trouble. He looked out for his brothers and sisters. Why did his father have to hate him so much?
He grabbed his sister’s car keys off the dining room table. And he jumped in her red Mustang and drove off in the night.
Buster didn’t come back to school Monday. Alexander called his house phone. He went by his apartment. Tuesday came. Then Wednesday and no Buster. On Thursday he ran into a mutual friend named Marcus.
“Hey I’ve been looking for Buster. You seen him around?”
“Yeah, we found Buster. He’s gone man.”
Alexander blinked. Paused.
“Gone? What do you mean gone? Did he go on a trip? I know he is going back to that internship he had last year but it’s just February — he has months to go until summer.”
“Nah Alex. He’s dead man. Didn’t you know? It was on the TV news. He took his sister’s car and drove up to Lake Murray and blew out his brains with a 357.”
Alexander felt like the floor of the world had dropped out and he was falling into a black void. He started to shake and tears welled up in his eyes.
“Sorry man I thought you heard,” Marcus said, awkwardly touching Alexander’s shoulder.
Alexander went to the funeral. A cousin gossiping in back of the church unknowingly revealed what happened.
“To think Buster was a faggot with his tall handsome self. Damn he could have had any girl’s drawers around here,” the cousin said, smacking her gum loudly to make the point.
The family was so ashamed of the suicide and resulting gossip about Buster’s sexuality they did not mark his grave. Alexander went there a few months later and could not remember where it was — he had to go to the cemetery office to get directions.
“I was grieving for him” said Alexander, who is now middle age but still gets a look of pain on his face when he talks about his first love Buster. “But there was nobody I could talk to.”
“Years later we got some money together and put a proper marker on his grave.”
There are now excellent resources to help gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth you are considering suicide. One is the Trevor Project, which has a 24-hour hotline (1-866-488-7386). Please reach out to family and friends who are depressed and you suspect may try to take their own lives. We have lost too many good people like Buster.