Gregory Gerald Jodrey
Born in Gaspereau, Kings County, Nova Scotia, Canada on 9 Oct 1957, died on 8 Aug 1993 in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada.
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my friend Greg Jodrey (though I and most of his other friends called him Gregor). It's not really surprising that I've been thinking of him, his memory always seems to come to the fore around now, because August 8 is the anniversary of his death. It's been 24 years since he was killed, and I can still see him, smiling, moving with a gangly sort of lope - I used to think of him as 'bopping along' when he walked - and I can still hear his voice. We shared an apartment for a few years, were friends from the time I met him, in 1972, until his death, we even almost had sex once, but it was just too silly so we stopped and had another drink and discussed the meaning of life instead. I loved him like a brother, and there will always be a Gregor-shaped hole in my life.
I think that I've been thinking about him more than usual because of the growing sense I have that my queer friends in the US are increasingly at risk.
You see, Gregor was killed at least in part because he was gay and had sex with a man who didn't, or couldn't, think of himself as being in any way queer. And because the defense was 'gay panic,' his killer - a man named Larry - served very little time for taking the life of a beautiful, warm, loving, intelligent, curious, witty person whom I and many others loved very much. And that in itself had serious consequences.
I'm not going to say that I know everything that happened the night that Gregor died. There were only two people there, and one is dead and the other is - and was then - a tragically damaged person who may not have known his own mind. Because you can't really talk about the tragedy of Gregor's death without talking about the tragedy of Larry's life, they are intertwined.
Larry was an indigenous person who had been taken from his family because of abuse, some of it sexual at the hands of older men, and then fostered in many places before being adopted by a kind and loving couple, whose relatives both I and Gregor knew well and were friends of. But because Owen and Susan were white, they could never truly have helped Larry heal all the woulds in his soul, because some of those came from being removed from his culture. They coukd not heal those wounds, no matter how hard they tried - and I knew them, too, I know they did everything they could.
What we know about the night Gregor died is that he and Larry were drinking at the local tavern - the town they lived in was small, there weren't a lot of options - and later they both ended up on the dykeland on the other side of the train tracks from the town. Forensics said sexual activity took place. Larry's defence team said that he was sexually assaulted, and that he battered Gregor with his bare hands until the body was barely recognisable in self defence. Those who knew both men, who knew that Gregor was shy and diffident, and not very athletic, and that Larry was a martial artist and a man carrying a lot of anger, didn't see that as a realistic scenario. In the end, Larry pled guilty to manslaughter, and the judge came down somewhere in between, giving him a sentence so light he was out of prison within a few months.
What I think happened is that Gregor and Larry were intoxicated, and had sex, and that somewhere in the process, something triggered Larry's undiagnosed PTSD, and his own deep shame at having been a victim as a child - and maybe at having enjoyed sex with another man, or maybe just at having let it happen - and that triggering made him lash out and try to obliterate the evidence of some element, chosen or otherwise, of queerness in his life. And the evidence he obliterated was my beloved friend.
Larry's life continued to be full of violence, some of it sexual. In 2006 he sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl. In 2008 he was convicted of the murder of a 92 year-old woman who had also been sexually assaulted.
It seems clear to me now that Larry badly needed help that he never received. And it also seems clear that because Gregor was gay, the degree to which Larry needed help was not identified then, when Gregor was killed, because killing a gay man who comes on to you seems appropriate to so many men.
There is so much tragedy here, that left two people dead, one person with the trauma of abuse, and one person in prison for life.
I used to be full of anger about Gregor's death - and in many ways I still am, because damn it, he was a beautiful soul and he deserved to live and I loved him so much - but in the years since his death, as I've heard more about Larry, I've come to see that this was a double tragedy, and that while gayness was a factor in Gregor's death, and how his death was understood and treated by the law and by society, Larry's life was a tragic one too, and that much of the pain he has caused can be traced to the ways that society and the law have treated indigenous people for generations.