A Note To the Two Young Gay Men Sitting on A Step As I Passed By:
I heard you.
You know that.
You intended me to.
I want you to know, and this might surprise you, that I know that I'm fat. I also know that I use a wheelchair. And, yep I truly am full of self knowledge, I've noticed that I'm bald. There are other things about me that I know, things that you can't know and will never know, things that aren't so very obvious, things about me that make me who I am, things that are idiosyncratically and absolutely uniquely me. But, enough of that, we all are more than we seem and more than what's seen. I want to write about the part of me that you see and I want you to consider how you might respond to that.
What you did, as opposed to what you might have done, was to value me differently because of my differences. You chose to see me, not as worthless but as worth less. If I had been worthless I would have been so far beneath your contempt to make words and notice unnecessary. But as I was worth less, than, say, you, it made making sport of me fun. Your comments, which I'm sure you found witty, made it clear that you, as you look and as you dress and as you present yourself, are 'the bee's knees'. My ranking was somewhere around the butt hole of the bee, if bees have such things.
As young gay men I'm sure you have heard others say, "that's so gay," or "how gay is that," or "don't be so gay." I wonder if you, like most of us, find these expressions to be offensive. The implication that gay is 'bad' or that gay is 'less' or that gay is 'undesired' fuels the prejudicial assumption that being gay is somehow both worth less and worthless. When I was a young gay man, there was no question in my mind why 'straight' rhymed with 'hate.' The words they used when I was young are different than the one's they use now. "Gearbox," "pansy," "fruit," are words that are near retirement. It's as if some words, when they sicken of the taste of blood, move off into a linguistic retirement home. I wonder if they spend their later years in regret. I'm not sure that those that use them do ... but I digress.
You are probably surprised that I am gay. I know you live in a world where stereotypes abound, but did you really believe that all of us are thin, all of us are athletic, none of us are disabled ... certainly none grow old. But my 'gayness' doesn't matter here does it, because that wasn't the subject of your taunts, that wasn't the topic that poisoned your words.
So, as I grew up myself and know what being a gay kid means, I'm guessing you've been at the other end of 'othering' and you know what it's like to have someone look at you, see your sexuality, evaluate your difference, and lash out at you. I'm guessing, that now remembering all that, you've sat at the computer and watched the 'it gets better' campaign and cried with emotion. Like I have.
What I'm wondering is - why didn't that make a difference?
Why didn't you think of that as your words tumbled out of your mouth in eager rush, as if they all raced to be the first to strike me, the first to hurt me, the first to inflict pain.
Why didn't you think of that as you sat and watched passersby, why didn't it make you appreciate a world of difference and a world of diversity?
I wonder if you just waited through the pain of bullying for the opportunity to bully.
I wonder if you just wanted to know what it felt like to strike out at difference, to strike out and hurt someone else.
I wonder if you came away from your childhood seeing your pain as valid and mine as deserved.
I don't know.
But let me say this, if I were to say 'that's so gay' ... I'd say it when I saw someone use kindness where it wasn't necessary - someone who had learned that for it to get better it has to get better for everyone.
If I were to say 'how gay is that' ... I'd say it when I heard someone speak with compassion and with understanding to someone who needed a moment respite from the relentlessness of societal brutality - someone who learned that what society values isn't necessary what needs to be valued.
If I were to say, to you, 'you're so gay' ... it would be the deepest compliment. It would mean that I recognized in you the desire to convert the pain of discrimination into the action of change.
But unfortunately .. you weren't gay at all - you were just cruel.
I'm sad that you have lived through 'coming out' without looking in, because if you had, my day would have been different.
And, though you clearly don't care, that would have mattered.
So this is how my PRIDE week begins ... being villified and bullied by people who have been villified and bullied. Wouldn't it be nice if we worked, really worked to become proud of something else ...
having a welcoming and inclusive community
joining together to stand against bullying, teasing and social violence of any kind.
demonstrating that it's possible to become better rather than bitter because of life experiences
Wouldn't it be nice if we were PROUD of who we became rather than simply because of who we are ... about where we finished rather than where we started.
To you two young gay men, I hope somehow this finds you, I hope you read it, and I hope it causes you, even for a second to pause and think, just a little, about who you could be, about what you can do, about the decisions you make ... because, man, oh man, I really want you to be 'gay' in the best sense of the word.