Recently I’ve been asked more often than not, why exactly I am so gun hoe for the LGBT Equal rights movement. I come up with a myriad of answers to give, some compelling and others whimsical. Such as, I shake my face to sky and quote Dr. Kings I have a dream equality speech, or I mention from time to time the similarities between all equal rights movements whether it be due to gender, race, ethnicity, income, and now sexual orientation; and yes, I admit at times, it’s to piss off the radical fundamentalist church idealists that groomed me for so long and caused irrevocable damage to my psyche; BUT No matter what response I give to this question, it always feels void and empty.
That was until I saw this image
Just reading that statistic struck a righteous indignation within my soul that it triggered a barrage of emotions flowing through me. I wanted to scream from the mountain tops and yell at every hateful individual and find all the abandoned and hurting swooping them up into a basket and tell them they’ll never have to be alone again. True to form, I allowed the emotions to take their course and at the end of the exhaustion, I was left with one single thing; a memory. It was a memory that could have been so insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but at the time meant the world to me.
So I guess I’ll start at the top:
In High School, I had it pretty easy. I was charismatic, likable, intelligent, passionate, talented, and most importantly at the time, I was sanctified! President of the Bible club with, at one point, 60 of my piers praising JESUS on a Monday afternoon, holding spirit filled bible studies and prayer meetings on school grounds. I felt like Jimmy Swagart at his prime (minus the sexual discrepancies of course). Coming from rebellious parents, I also embraced the artist side of myself, which the church frowned upon; nevertheless I felt compelled to become the best damned Male Alto-I, one could possibly be, bringing soul to choir music and busting out every damned solo I could get my hands on (suck it – the rest of you). I was on top of my academic game as well, and my social life? Well there in lays the problem.
Being Sanctified and sanctimonious doesn’t get you a lot X’s on your dance card nor does it get you laid (at least not the way I did it). Though many liked me, I was off putting to them because of what they thought I was; a goodie-goodie, church going, closed- minded, self-righteous, asshole who just so happened to be cool as hell as a person, but not one you want to necessarily hangout with, or even date for that matter. I assume everyone though that in the middle of a party I’ll break out the holy water and challenge “EL DIABLO” to a dance off; winner takes position of the souls of those at the party. That was my stigma for a while; until fate and her fickle ways, had a motley crew of 5 crazy, passionate, emotional, rebellious, courageous, over the top, DIVAS, infiltrate my life; and we became friends.
Suddenly I was more personable, less judgmental and open to anything. My dance card was filled and I had a life! Dating, sex, experimenting with illicit contraband, having pregnancy scares, going into NYC and taking a bite out of the big apple. It was fantastic and the best years of my life (so far). They tested my limits, pushed me over the edge and were on the other side to pick me up. 4 Girls and 2 Guys that’s who we were. All of us involved in the arts, all of us with a love of Michael Jackson, and all of us who thought that they were the better performer (though the jury is back and let the record show once and for all: I WIN HANDS DOWN). They busted into my pristine, Pentecostal, perpetual life and left a gaping hole there free so that I can emerge as myself. They never judged me, always protected me, loved me unconditionally, fought with me and for me – fiercely, and gave me the courage to fly higher than I ever thought possible. I guess you can tell, these people are important to me, and I felt that I was important to them.
One night, after our senior choir class said their goodbyes at our choir director’s country home, the six of us crammed into our friends Silver Camry and began to make the long journey home. True to form, of course we got lost, and of course everyone thought they had the answer on how to get back home (that’s the problem with having 6 type “A” personalities crammed into a car). After about an hour of “K” turns in alleyways and seeing the glowing eyes of cows as we lit the night with our high beams, we finally stumbled onto a familiar road and began driving home. Someone had the bright idea of us to share how we felt about each other, and thus began the emotional roller coaster in that crammed Silver Camry. We each said how each of us changed the others lives and how much this group meant to us. To me it was writing on the walls of my heart because it was especially emotional being that I had always wanted that group of friends that just know you.
Well, A LOT shit came out that evening, but, when it was the other boy’s turn to speak, he started off by saying “Guys, I have something to tell you. I don’t know how you will take this, but I feel like I have to tell you. I …. Am…..” Now though he always had a flare for the dramatic, we could sense what was coming. I can hear the whispers in the back seat “he’s gonna’ say it”, they whispered (might I add, LOUDLY). I could feel their eyes widening behind me as the other boy mottled through the next word, “Gay.”
Well there was silence in the vehicle; you could cut the tension with a knife. All you heard was the distant splatters of bugs on the windshield. I turned to the other boy and he was stiff as a board as he drove. You can tell he was contemplating on weather or not he made the right choice in sharing this with us. He looked as though he desperately wanted to continue but didn’t, because he was paralyzed with preoccupied thoughts of what we all were thinking. I knew at that very moment that the next person to speak would set the mood for the rest of the hour and a half drive home. We all had an idea that he was in deed homosexual, but were too nervous to ask anything. How would we tell him, “WE KNOW?”
So being the poster child of wisdom, I mustered the courage to open my lips and let the golden nuggets of sage-like thoughts echo through that vehicle, “No shit Sherlock!” I stated. There was a necessary immediate and unanimous guffaw that broke the tension like a taught string on a guitar that snaps, allowing the other boy to expel his experiences out of the closet, with ease, respect, and grace.
What stuck out of the ensuing conversation as he told his story was how relieved he was to have people in his life that have loved him regardless and that have caught him on the other side. He was free to experience his life on his terms because of this essential element of the acceptance and unconditional love of the people in his life. It has made him into one of the bravest, intelligent, and most self-confident person I have ever experienced. I wonder what would happen if things would have been different as he came out on the other side. I wonder what would have happened if he didn’t have these people to embrace him while he was embracing himself. The fact is he was lucky, but not all are as lucky as the other boy. Some are so ashamed of the feelings they have, they suppress them becoming either ubber-heterosexual – macho men, and bitchy woman, recklessly promiscuous, misogynistic, deviant, dismissive, and distant from any type of connection; Or the opposite is true, and they come out and are left alone with their feelings and what this now means. Leaving an open door free for people to take advantage of them, isolate them from love and have them depend on self-damaging, dangerous forms of connection. You see them on the streets and in the subway. They are distant as though they are waiting for death, nothing making sense, nothing piercing through, just numbness. This is a sad realization, and a shameful look into our societies under belly. Yes, this countries growing cancer isn’t drugs, nor pedophiles or sexual deviants. It’s the fundamental hatred and disowning of one our own. It’s the subversive rhetoric that we inflict on one another and in many cases, use the BIBLE and our beliefs, meant to unite us with a GOD, but instead used to deliver fatal blows putting the final nail in our disbelief.
To those that are abandoned I write this for you. You are not alone. They’re always people around you that will embrace you for who you are and nothing more. You are always someone’s “other boy” or someone’s “other girl.”
There is no shame in what you are feeling, but there is shame in hiding your true self. We are here waiting to embrace you on the other side.
I dedicate these words to the other boy. You have no idea the courage you had that evening. Thank you for being a friend.