Psychotherapist and Human Relations
Consultant in Private Practice
Dear Friend: Let's see. If this were an
epic the story would start in the middle,
right? Instead, I think today is a good
opener. Having breakfast and lunch with
you was a treat and walking with you
after lunch to photograph the fall colors
and smell the crisp air made me very happy. I hope that little round tallow with
the green, gold, red and wine leaves
comes out well.
As for ten years ago . . .
1970: I remember joking my way
through grad school about trading in my
Mrs for an MSW. I get the degree and begin part-time in a counseling agency. In
August comes the first vacation in 17
years of marriage and the discovery of
why they were avoided all these years.
Returning to Houston I find myself needing a real "thinking" vacation. By myself
for two days, I become aware of the quality I want in a relationship. It has to do
with appreciation, caring, fun. This is distinctly different from the past, when I
kept trying to become an elusive something someone else wants. One week later
comes the separation and mention of the
unmentionable—divorce—about which I
am unable to think sanely or talk coherently.
January, 1971: I take my kids to New
York (my first and only visit since coming to Texas in 1954) to attend my aunt
and uncle's Golden Wedding anniversary.
I feel the need to be close to family and
let my children have this chance, too. Besides, this way I can personally tell the
relatives about the coming divorce. It
helps. It makes it easier for me to believe.
Staying at my cousin's in the hilly countryside helps, too. The sight and silence
of the snow form a natural meditation
space. My soul heals somewhat in that
clear, clean cold.
Then, comes February and I try my
hand at a sculpture class offered by Mary
Narum at the Unitarian Fellowship. I see
you there for the first time. You walk in.
I like the way you move; you clearly
know what you're about in the way you
set your easel in place. You begin sketching. I'm fascinated, watching you make
art. / still am.
Can someone who looks so good also
be a person I'd want to know? Months
later, one of my daughters puts it well.
"Mom, do you think you'd like Don as
much if he weren't such a gorgeous hunk?'.
I answer that the way we treat each other
—with respect—matters most in how I feel
—and add that I certainly don't hold it
against you that you're so good-looking.
In late 1973 I decide to run my own
therapy shop and go into private practice
the following January. Many colleagues
express apprehension, but you cheer me
on, knowing it's what I need to do. Meanwhile, the two of us are evolving, entering
into a growing synergy. For a long time
we like what we are together so much
that we're afraid marrying might make us
lose something. We wait until we both
know and can feel joyful. That takes six
years. Then, on Ground Hog Day (that's
another story) of 1977 we marry, having
reached the point where (thank you
Frank, for the expression) we've managed
to get 10 out of 12 squirrels up the same
I guess the biggest changes, Don, have
been my becoming more my own person
with a strong sense of your being for me,
as I am for you. That, and the l.r., the
laugh ratio. Surely, there've been more
laughs in this time than in all my life before. I look forward to many more. I
trust there'll always be one more squirrel
to work on.
U. S. Representative
The sixties and early seventies was the
most highly energized period for young
blacks who were involved in the struggle.
There was a mixed bag of militant activists and civil rights activists, but the consciousness of Houston and America was
heightened at that time in terms of its
sensitivity for the plight of blacks, particularly, but also the anti-Vietnam struggle.
This period saw the beginning of all the
It was an exciting but very difficult
and frustrating-and many times depressing-era but the movement still offered a
lot of people, a lot of hope.
Ten years ago, I was active in the antiwar movement and helped organize the
big spring demonstration held at the University of Texas where students went on
strike, protesting a year of killings at
Kent State and Jackson State and the invasion of Cambodia.
Thirty thousand students on strike.
Thousands more in the streets of Austin.
It was the largest demonstration ever to
take place in the state of Texas.
Ten years ago, I was graduating from
Texas Southern University and was hired
to teach there as an instructor in clinical
But at the same time I had some outside activities going. I was still working
very hard to establish free health clinics
in the indigent communities and helped
establish the Medical Committee for Human Rights for that purpose. I was also
speaking at a lot of high schools about
drug abuse and racism.
In 1970, I was beaten by the
Houston police, the night they shot and
killed Carl Hampton.
Carl was a young, feisty black leader
in the militant movement trying to establish a Black Panther party here. He did
organize the People's Party 2 in the meantime, and they tried to establish a free
health clinic. They were poor, young
people who probably would not have
been involved otherwise. They were devoted to doing things in the struggle and I
The night of July 26, some 300 police,
were moving in on the headquarters of
PP2 on Dowling Street. I was trying to
get folks off the street since the police
had taken over that part of the commun-
munity and were beating people indiscriminately.
I was with Kelton Sams, a friend who
yelled to me to jump in his car because
the police were after me. They pulled his
car over, pulled me out, beat the hell out
of me with a riot gun and arrested me for
vagrancy. (I was on the TSU faculty,
then. They held me for over 12 hours and
withdrew the charges the next day.)
In jail, that night, the guards were on
the PA system and we heard things like
"Those monkeys were beaten down," and
finally "Thank God, that nigger was
That's how I found out about Carl
Ten years ago (1969), I entered politics for the first time. I quit school for a
semester to work as campaign manager
for the Rev. C. Leon Everett, and his election to the school board. That was the
first time Curtis Graves, a black, ran for
mayor and Leonel Castillo, a Mexican-
American, ran for City Controller. I
worked in all of their campaigns.
I was still basically radically-oriented.
My rhetoric was radical.
When single-member districts were
drawn up for legislature seats in Harris
County I organized a campaign, ran and
won a seat in the Texas House in 1972.
I used my early political career as a
forum to heighten the contradictions of
the system—to show the hypocricies.
how poor people were suffering at the
hands of the wealthy who profited from
the labors of the poor.
In the beginning I was tremendously
adamant about my philosophies and did
not communicate very well with people
opposed to my philosophic views.
Today, I'm still to the left of the political spectrum but I'm a little more tolerant. I recognize that means of communicating must be open to all philosophies. I
have to work with a lot of people to get
my ideas across, because we don't gain
very much out of the system, otherwise...
Well, we don't gain very much even with
that, but at least our ideas are documented and considered.
Ten years ago, people were participating at much higher levels and, now,
many of those activists are quieted—
either absorbed in their work and personal
lives or totally disenchanted with the
struggle. They didn't see any results.
Things got worse. They saw no strong
leadership stepping out front, challenging
the right wing analysis of this country.
Some of us, in Congress and in other appointed and elected positions are trying
to revitalize this struggle.
I can't for the life of me understand
why I thought the Vietnam war should
have been fought, nor why I donated
money to Nixon's re-election campaign.
— Gary Van Ooteghem
Gary J. Van Ooteghem
Gay Rights Activist
Ten years ago. Doesn't sound like much
time, does it? Yet, for me, it seems like a
lifetime past. The man I am today doesn't
resemble the man I was nearly a quarter
of my life earlier, except in body. Certainly not in mind and spirit!
The hair I started losing a decade ago
is now mostly gone. My hard stomach has
softened. Corrective lenses now rest
under my eyelids rather than over them. I
can't for the life of me understand why I
thought the Vietnam war should have
been fought, nor why I donated money
to Nixon's re-election campaign. Today I
have more friends, smile more, and work
harder. I no longer dream of success, but
rather work towards it.
The new decade of the 1970's saw me
leaving a good job as a senior auditor with
the Chicago-based CPA firm of Arthur
Andersen & Co. to become controller of
several Chicago-based hedge funds. More
material gain flowed into my pockets during these early years of the 1970's than
during any other time before or since.
The single most important lesson I learned
during the entire decade also happened
then: the value of organization. (Arthur
Andersen & Co., I can't thank you
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I fell in love with Houston on New1
Year's Day, 1974. Three more return
trips during the year would only confirm-
this. I began the second half of the decade
by moving to Houston on January 4,
1975. From this point on, my life began':
a rapid transformation as I personally!
learned about the high cost of civil rights.
In mid-1975, then-Treasurer Hartsell
Gray fired his Comptroller of the Harris
County Treasury, me, over my right to
speak before Commissioners Court on the
matter of the civil rights of gays.
While not angry immediately following
my firing, that was not the case later as
economic contraction after economic
contraction set in. I channeled that anger
into creating an organization that would
eventually become powerful enough to
stop this type of injustice from happening
again. Today that organization, Gay
Political Caucus, stands strong, proud,
and has power sufficient to influence
elections. And GPC stands squarely
behind all people's rights, too, not just
those who are gay.
GPC was not the only organization
that I was involved with, just the first. My
joy of the decade has been watching GPC
and several other organizations special to
me grow in stature, pride, and professionalism. Doing so, I might add, in the face
of near-impossible odds.
Since that firing occurred, I have become poorer and richer than ever before.
In wealth that is measured in dollars and
cents, I can be measured only on the cents
scale. A poor man by some people's standards. But in wealth that is measured in
happiness, few can claim to be richer.
As for the new decade we enter, I enter it with a positive attitude: things will j
get better. The challenging and exciting ;
80's will be just that. Wait and see. ,i
HOUSTON BR EAKTH R 0 U G H