In this, the month for celebrating Gay Pride, our subject is Chuck Krugman, who has created a successful life for himself here in the Valley despite three conditions that, to many, would be difficult barriers here: he is gay, he is blind and he is a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat.
If you frequent downtown and the Tower, you likely have seen Chuck riding the bus or, white cane in hand, negotiating major thoroughfares on foot. You, like me, may have been impressed by his obvious independence and determination. But (unable to make eye contact for obvious reasons and misjudging him on the basis of his informal dress) I was not expecting what became immediately obvious as we began to converse: Chuck’s intelligence, knowledgeability and professionalism.
Chuck, I find out, is a trained social worker and paralegal who works with a raft of organizations. These include the Fresno Stonewall Democrats, the Fresno County Democratic Central Committee, Mental Health America/Central Valley, the Greater Fresno Chapter of the Federation of the Blind and the Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics. In addition to volunteer work, he often serves as a paid consultant in his areas of professional expertise. But in all cases, he picks his involvements where, as he says, he feels he can “empower individuals to activism and reach diverse populations with unmet needs.”
Chuck grew up in Michigan, with parents who instilled in him liberal politics and the importance of activism. “I experienced early on how my mother advocated to have me mainstreamed in school despite my blindness. And my parents gave me both the tools and the expectation to deal with limitations matter-of-factly. You do what you need to do.” Thus, he was taught Braille in his earliest years at a school for the blind, by 4th grade was able to work in a regular classroom environment and by 6th grade was enrolled in a mainstream school.
Very much his own person, as a teen Chuck realized that his parents were becoming politically conservative as they gained some affluence, whereas he was not, and he understood early on that he was gay in an environment that might not welcome that circumstance. Taking these realizations in stride, in what I suspect is a characteristic matter-of-fact way, Chuck moved away from home and attended the University of Michigan. He reports that being gay has not been an issue for him—just another situation requiring extra work to deal with. After finishing his degree program, Chuck found work in Modesto and then moved to Fresno where he has relatives. Here he has, step-by-step, built his network of friends, work and associates.
During his years in Fresno, Chuck says, he has seen a greater level of acceptance for diversity—from greater trust in the abilities of those with disabilities to more social acceptance of the LGBT community and more acceptance of differences of all kinds within the LGBT community. He expresses wariness, though, of the erosion of the separation of church and state as evidenced in the still-unresolved cases of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and Prop 8 (which, he says, his legal friends fully expect will have to go to the Supreme Court).
To readers, he counsels, “Get past disillusionment with what Obama hasn’t done. Remember that change comes slowly. We need to keep working, to stay pragmatic and focused on what we are able to achieve.”
Chuck has built a life by practicing what he preaches—by accepting the facts of his life as given and working toward his goals with intelligence and perseverance. He is, for example, very thankful for the technology that allows him to use computers, but he is clear that lack of technology is not an excuse if the desired result can be reached with more effort.
Seeing Chuck in action, and hearing the measured confidence in his words, I’ll take his advice to heart. Chuck can be reached at 559-266-9237, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Chuck Krugman
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois; raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Ethnic identity: Caucasian (shaped by a Jewish heritage of social activism toward “healing the world”)
Religious identity: Atheist
Political identity: Democrat
Most frequented areas: Downtown and the Tower (but anywhere accessible by public transportation)
Inspirations: Teachers and job supervisors who gave encouragement and instruction
Motto: Tell it like it is
Nonpolitical activities: Taking care of spoiled cats
Unexpected pleasures: Computer technology, country/western music
Added thought: “I want my activities to exemplify that good work is possible without religion.”