Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Rewind, Remember, Remembrance.

The last few days I have been reading coming out and related stories from some of my favourite younger blog writers, this always brings a lot of emotions up for me. First I am always happy that they are dealing with this now and getting this over with at such young ages. I actually find it a little funny sometimes to read where they are angry with themselves for waiting until they were really old like 22 or 23! Can we say gay retirement home! Seriously I am so proud of these guys and they can have normal lives where they get to date, party and form relationships, the kind of things young people should get to experience. They won't have to deal with hiding, lying and deceiving the people around them, I think it is almost beautiful this won't be a part of their world. The next emotion that comes up is always my "missed time" emotion, I try to shove it to the back of my mind but I can't help it. I often talk about this with my buddy John since we are around the same age, he helps me a lot by reminding me what things were like when we were younger. Now I am beginning to let it go and forgive myself, I mentioned that I wanted to work on this before.

Back in the day, just after the last of the dinosaurs died, when we were teens life was quite different then. I would say even in the last ten years things have really changed. Gay life is much better now but I'm still waiting for a gay Coke or Pepsi commercial! We did not have ANY positive gay role models. There have been a lot of gay characters on TV in the last ten years and I think that really helps a young person think they are not alone and makes them feel normal. I know it is still hard for today's gay youth to come out but they don't know the world I grew up in. I often joke but it is a true fact that in the eighties and early nineties, people like Elton John, Boy George and George Michael all denied being gay, however not that I would have looked to them as role models. By today's standards that would be like Clay Aiken and Ricky Martin saying that they were not gay, oh wait a minute.... well you get what I'm trying to say.

There is a story that happened in my town that I have been thinking over, I was not going to post about it but I think it helps me understand why I felt such an obsessive need to hide my being gay. In the small country township where I grew up, the high school and elementary school were beside each other so there was still a lot of interaction between the two. When I started high school a new teacher (Dan) started teaching in the elementary school. Dan was the kind of very serious and strict teacher that the kids feared but respected as well. Very good at his job and usually after a few weeks with any new class he was the kids and parents favourite teacher. He was also sometimes hired to help tutor kids for extra help. I had met Dan only once really, but I saw him interacting with the other kids many times, he had been friendly to me and I could tell he was the type of guy where if you treated him with respect, you could expect it in return. Needless to say he was admired in the community.

One day he did not show up for work, everyone thought it was strange that there was no word from him. The next day we found out he had been murdered, stabbed to death I believe. Everyone was shocked, he was such a nice guy no one could figure out why someone would do this to him. The papers and camera crews came to our town in droves, there were dozens of parents and teachers willing to tell with heart felt sadness what a wonderful person he was, how important he had become to everyone and how we will miss him. Everyone wanted the animal who did it to be caught, locked up and put away forever. They finally caught the guy and that is when peoples opinions turned suddenly.

The guy admitted to the murder, he was a drug addict who needed money and the reason he had targeted Dan was because he was 'gasp' gay! What! No that can't be true! The town reeled under that revelation! At first the guy was kind of like so I killed a gay guy "so what". When he saw that was not going to fly in court he then started to say Dan had hit on him and he freaked out and killed him, only problem was that he met Dan in a gay bar and went home with him. As horrible as this was, also terrible was a gay kid observing how his family, neighbors and friends reacted. The reaction was swift, when reporters came back, no one would talk to them, no one wanted to be associated with a "queer," no one knew him anymore. It was a great shame to be thought of as his friend and no one wanted that shame. In silence I sat and listen to people say "that's the thing with those homos, you never know if one of them is around" or " you have to be so careful they could be anywhere" or "I wonder what special lessons he gave the boys over the girls." I even remember my friends talking about it and saying "I could forgive a thief or murderer but I could never have a fag for a friend." I have to ask, how much damage does that do to a gay kid to hear in his friends eyes, he is way lower than a murderer or thief. After that Dan was never mentioned again, the town wanted and did forget him. This clearly showed me what would happen if I were to come out, actually who the fuck am I kidding, see at that time kids where was no such thing as "coming out" it was more you were "found out!" So to rephrase that I could clearly see what would happen to me if I was found out, everyone would have turned on me. Years passed Dan and you were lost to history, but you were not forgotten. There was a gay kid who would remember you, not about the tragedy or your one mistake, but he would remember what was good about you, a great teacher, well respected and a good guy, that also happened to be gay.


Steve said...

You know, it is not only the time but also the kind of community and country you grow up and of course a lot of other things. Take me, I was born in 1975, but came out relatively easily at age 17. A difference: I lived in a mid-size town, in the Netherlands, which in this sense is one of the most liberal countries together with the Nordic countries (I think this has a lot to do with the "unpopularity" of religions over here...). I really hope that one day everyone independant of location or age or believes will feel that their environment allows them to come out and enjoy their life.

danny/ink2metal said...

hey steven,

wow, that brought a tear to my eyes.

although, i had my own issues about coming out at 20, i try to never take for granted the fact that i had it comparatively easy given where i grew up; just minutes from the castro and with my friends who were open-minded whether they were gay or straight.

i hope you are finding some liberation and even more confidence now, steven, as you go through the process. just know that at least you have friends who think no less of you for being gay, even if the friendships are ones forged over the internet.


Anonymous said...

That sad story is something that happens far more than anyone realizes. At least his memory lives on in you and I'm certain you were not the only gay student at that school, so most likey someone else you know holds him in high regard as well. I'm going to stop right there because I could really get on a soap box with this one...

Patrick said...

One of the worst aspects of the closet is how it isolates us from one another. Even after we start to come out, most of us tend to be very cagey about who we'll let ourselves be seen with, at least at first. Another horrible aspect is the fact that people we love or respect will not even know they're hurting us with their hatred or fear. As Devon said, I'm sure you're not the only one who remembers Dan with fondness and respect. Maybe some day you'll cross paths with one.

Sooo-this-is-me said...

I totally agree with you Steve, if I was in a larger city things may not have been so negative around the whole situation. I moved to the city at 18 but I think the notion that being gay was shameful was already burned into my mind by then.

Danny, thanks for the hug and friendship, yes I do feel much better now about being gay, these are past issues that help me understand why I had the views I had on being gay. I think I need to work through them to move on.

Devon, I think I was the only gay kid at that time, very small school with less than 80 kids, but you never know!

Patrick, that is interesting I always wondered if there was another gay person there, but I don't see it, most are in healthy relationships with the opposite sex. I am trying not too be picky about who I hang out with and I'm being pretty open about that - 'now'.

Doug said...

That story sent a chill down my spine. It is sad no one stood up for him. I'd have stayed deeply in the closet after that incident, too.

Sooo-this-is-me said...

Doug, it is one of the reasons I am letting go of being mad at myself for waiting so long. I have to keep remembering what it was like and not try to see that gay kid (me) with todays glasses.