My Week Spot

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Name:
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Pandora’s Consolation

It’s been almost 30 years since I was in Junior High, but some days it feels like I never left. Junior High is a trying time for most kids: raging hormones, peer pressure, acne. But for some of us, Junior High was a living nightmare.

Pizitz Middle School was my second home for 6th through 8th grade. 1973-1975 was post-Stonewall, but that just made things worse. In Birmingham, Alabama, before Stonewall, everyone pretended there was no such thingas homosexuality. After, it was the greatest evil a person could commit. Being called a “homo” was worse than being called a thief, a rapist or a murderer.

I tried desperately to be closeted. Actually, I tried to be invisible. But the bullies were onto me. I got beaten up almost daily. I had very few friends. My day was divided into two sections – P/E and the time I spent dreading P/E.

As bad as it was for me, Dean Rainer had it the worst. Because of a series of extremely unfortunate events, he was suspected of being gay and rumors about his sexuality quickly became common knowledge. He was regularly mocked by everyone – including the school principle in a student convocation! He was being held up to all the rest of us as an example. “This is what we do to fags.”

Those wounds were deep, and the implications were tragic. Fear of loving. Fear of being unlovable. Fear a rejection from parents, siblings, friends, teachers, clergy, everyone that I loved. Fear of living. Fear that I would never be entitled to all the basic joys of life: god, family, marriage, children, respect, career options. Essentially, I thought that I would have no life, no liberty and no pursuit of happiness.

Today is Inauguration Day. And I feel like I am right back in Junior High. For the first time in years, I am actually afraid to be gay. However, ……

There is a huge difference between now and then. I was wimp in Junior High. No more. Now, I'm a dirty-fighting, bitch-slapping, take-no-prisoners, shrieking-in-your-face Cruella DeVille with nine inch nails. And I am pissed off. Now, I won't be bullied.
I’m working hard for the Human Rights Campaign (Federal Club Member, thank you), Lamda Legal, Chicago Gay Men's Chorus and anyone else I can find to productively channel my anger through. Most of my free time, most of my free money, most of my energy and most of my thoughts are about how to make this world VERY different from the f#%ked-up place it is today.

Like many others, my first impulse after the election was to leave. Go to Canada. Amsterdam. Paris. But that was Junior High thinking. What if all the Stonewall rioters had just packed up and gone quietly to jail? What if Lawrence and Garner had not stood up to the state of Texas when they were arrested and had not taken their case to the Supreme Court (ultimately, resulting in the elimination of all sodomy laws)?

Mostly, what about my ballet-dancing, organ-playing 15-year-old nephew Kevin who might be gay? What about all those other kids who are gay? Who is going to leave the world a better place for them if I give up? I had to grow up in a hostile environment with no mentors; I don’t want any more kids to have to endure that.

So, I’m fighting back. OK ... Now I’m feeling a little less scared. Maybe even a little hopeful.