[Gayle DeLuca. Photo credit: Kellie Gillespie]
By Drago Renteria
I first met Gayle when I was working at the Deaf Gay and Lesbian Center back in the early 90’s. She’d come to an event we’d sponsored, complete in full leather attire. When the event was over, she offered to stay and help me clean up. While we cleaned, I learned she was looking for a new place to live and I mentioned that I’d seen a vacancy sign just a block down from my apartment on Market Street in the Castro. I had cautioned her that apartments in this area were hard to come by and that the place may have already been rented. But that didn’t deter her. She applied and much to my surprise, landed the apartment and soon became my neighbor. Little did I know that this would destine us to become great friends. A friendship that would span nearly fifteen years.
Aside from being the only two Deaf dykes living in the Castro among a sea of gay men, Gayle and I had many things in common. Our interests in leather, motorcycles and chess come immediately to mind. Gayle’s love of chess took me by surprise. A major pothead, Gayle was not exactly known for her intellectual or analytical prowess. So imagine my surprise to find that she was a formidable chess player. There was clearly more to Gayle than meets the eyes.
As I got to know Gayle, I had the opportunity to see what a beautiful, generous soul she was. She was always happy to lend a hand to her friends and neighbors in need. She was also a free spirit, always up for a new adventure. Sadly, Gayle was also someone that was misunderstood by many. People were often quick to judge and write her off.
There were many who did not understand my friendship with Gayle. But I never cared what anyone thought. I always believed that if people truly took the time to get to know Gayle, they may have thought differently about her.
Over the years, Gayle proved to be a great friend. She cheered me up when I needed cheering up. She made me laugh with her crazy stories and antics and we had a lot of fun times together. She was spontaneous and always up for an adventure. She was also fiercely loyal. I have so many fond memories of Gayle. I remember when I made the decision to transition from female to male, how supportive and thrilled she was for me and how she immediately began referring to me as her “brother”.
True friendships are rare. And a rare friend Gayle was indeed.
Unfortunately, Gayle was also a drug addict. Her pot use seemed harmless. But when she moved on to harder drugs a few years ago, her life took a turn for the worse. She lost her job, apartment, all her material possessions and her beloved cats. She also began to alienate those around her. I urged her to get help and did what I could for her. But I was no match for the crack that took hold of her life.
On December 27, 2008, Gayle ended her life.
My heart grieves. And while she is no longer with us, I believe her spirit lives on. Free like the free spirit she was in life.
I will miss her.
[Written a week after Gayle’s passing on January 6, 2009. Posted on World Suicide Prevention Day.]