Alan Speer

A few years ago I was happy to learn that Alan Speer was making a go at his great passion: film criticism. Even at that point it had been a while since I’d heard from him; it’s probably been a decade since I’ve seen him face to face. We knew each other in college, insofar as we knew each other at all — we graduated the same year, and interacted as fellow writing-for-the-arts-magazine types.

Alan died this past Sunday. It happened after he had finished competing in a swim meet — without warning, his heart failed. He was far, far too young for this to happen.

Though our paths hadn’t crossed in a long time, Alan has always remained important to me for what may seem an odd reason — he was the first openly gay person I ever really got to know. It must have been hard for him, attending a religious college that was going through a tempest of community debate about homosexuality while we were there — and probably is still. In the midst of that, at a time when I was forming my opinions on a great many things, knowing Alan made it impossible for me to think of his condition as a “choice” — or, for that matter, to think of it as a “condition” at all. I’m grateful for that. The time will come when not just tolerance, but acceptance will be the norm — when the “love the sinner, hate the sin” talk from our college days will seem well-meaning but deluded, like the white moderates who asked Martin Luther King to wait. It’ll come. I’m sorry Alan won’t be there to see it.