Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dr K

I first met Kenneth E. Kinnamon, D.V.M., Ph.D., in the first week of November, 1982.  I had applied to be Director of Civilian Personnel at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the Department of Defense medical school.  Dr. K, as I came to know him, asked me a lot of questions, some of them having to do with personnel work.  Many of the questions though, were like these: What is the most beautiful word in the English language?  What is the Tropic of Capricorn?  Where is Ghana?  Who is the most important person who ever lived and why was he or she so important?  Although Dr. K scared me—he was 6'4", had a brusque demeanor and a pronounced Texas drawl, and wore a lab coat—I so got into the questions that I forgot I was scared and enjoyed the shit out of the interview.  At one point, Dr. K told me to shorten my answers because he had other things scheduled that afternoon!  I got the job, and went to the University on Monday, 28 November 1982.

Over the next 27 years, Dr. K was initially my boss, but soon became my mentor and, finally, one of my best friends.  It was for me a one–of–a–kind friendship.  Dr. K was born and raised on a ranch in Denison, Texas.  He had been a very successful college baseball player, a pitcher, who gave up his opportunity to play with the major leagues to go into the U.S. Army and veterinary school.  He had a Master’s degree in nuclear physics and a Ph.D. in renal physiology, along with his doctorate in veterinary medicine.  On the Kinsey scale of 1 to 6, he was a solid one—totally and unashamedly hetero!!!  Worst of all, he was a Southern Baptist, a fundamentalist, who thought the Pope was the antichrist and being gay was an abomination.  Ours was not a match made in heaven!

He and I went through so much together that it would take a two–volume book to describe it all.  What I want to remember him most for, though, are the many, many times he accepted me as my personality became known to him.  He never asked me to change who I am, or even suggested to me that I would consider change.  He did “fine–tune” my personality, though, so that I became a better Director of Personnel, a better administrator, and a better person.  He believed that I was capable of great things, and he made me believe it too.  He was an amazing motivator.  His motivation stemmed from sincere affection and appreciation, not from organizational requirements.  I thrived working under his supervision and guidance, and I grew to love this man.

When I knew that I had to come out at work, it was Dr. K about whom I worried the most.  We had talked about homosexuality in some of the many, many, many theological discussions we had and I knew what he believed.  When I came out to him, though, his reaction was so unexpected that to this day I am surprised.  He asked about Beni and the kids. . . he asked a lot of questions about them.  He told me of other gay people who were his friends.  He asked me what I was going to do with my life now that I knew that I was gay.  He never suggested therapy, counseling, prayer, or any other of the usual “let’s get this under control” negative approaches.  He did tell me that he would never be able to accept homosexuality as God’s plan.  I told him how long and hard I had struggled with that very issue.  I told him, apropos that issue, that, like any other male, I had had a lot of sex dreams throughout my life, but never once in the 40–some years of my life had I had a sex dream with a woman in it.  That fact, I think, discombobulated him.  Over the next 20 or so years, he often would ask me questions bout my being gay, trying to figure things out in his own mind.  I was brutally—sometimes pornographically—honest in my answers.  I think he changed his thinking somewhat because of our discussions.  I like to think so, anyway.

I love and respect Dr K, now retired and dealing with a lot of aches and pains.  He is one of the finest people I have ever known.  He is loving, generous, and compassionate.  He is honest to a fault and his personal ethics are impeccable.

May he live long and prosper!

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