George Eighmey, Oregon, 1994
George Eighmey (D)
Born May 3, 1941
State Representative, District 14
Appointed May 1993
Elected November 1994
Essay by George Eighmey for Out and Elected in the USA
The day I was unceremoniously ousted from my law firm is forever seared into my memory. It was during a partnership meeting on August 18, 1982.
As the managing partner I reported on hiring and firing of personnel, purchasing of new equipment and each partner’s productivity. The firm was small compared to the mega-firms in Chicago, but for our central Illinois community it was considered to be prestigious. We catered to the “carriage trade,” an archaic term given to the established rich.
On that infamous day I was at the peak of my professional career, but also at the nadir in my personal life. I had achieved local recognition; partner within three years, president of the local bar association, voted boss of the year, lecturer for the state bar association, elected to the city council and earning in six figures. However, my personal life was in a shambles. In 1976 I went through a painful divorce. It had all the negative aspects to it affecting my two children their mother and me tremendously. It was, of course, absolutely necessary that we divorce. I was gay. I don’t think I could have accepted being gay, let alone acknowledge it, but for the divorce.
The down side of being gay occurred shortly after my divorce. I went sex crazy. During the day I was the pillar of the community, but at night I devoured the gay scene like a man eating his last supper. It was the late ‘70s, when drugs, disco and sex were not only acceptable, but, to not partake of the “lifestyle” meant one was declasse.
After three years of late night debauchery, I discovered I hated gay life and being gay. I thought I could easily return to the “straight” life if I remarried. I married a woman who was an ideal cover, but within one year we separated. At our divorce hearing she told the judge I was gay. The judge ruled against me on everything. My life seemed to be crumbling into pieces. But, I had not yet reached bottom.
They feared the presence of an openly gay partner would financially hurt them. The shock of losing my partnership was not nearly as devastating as the fear I felt from having been discovered. I reacted to the emotional roller coaster I was riding at that moment by saying very little. I left the room, did my work, when to the park and cried my eyes out. But, I survived.
In retrospect my painful ouster was the best thing that could have happened to me. My children are now grown and settled, Peter and I celebrated our 18th anniversary, and life in Oregon is far superior to that which I left in Illinois.