Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Poppy on My Hat

(photo description: Dave wearing a gray hat with a red remembrance poppy pinned to the brim.)

I have a poppy pinned to the hat that I wear.

I've never put it there before but I decided that, as they fell off every coat and as my hat is made of a very thick and stiff fabric which would hold it secure, the poppy would be displayed with some prominence.

Yesterday, in the airport pushing myself between check in and security, a couple of kids passing me by looked at me and said, "Like your gay hat." When they saw I was turning to confront them, they skittered off, cowardice being the hallmark of bullies and bigots.

When I got on the plane I thought about my poppy, my hat and the accusation that my hat looked 'gay'. I don't think they just meant 'gay' as in bad. Because the poppy is on my hat, a man's hat where flowers don't typically reside, I think they meant 'gay' as in actually 'gay'.

I, of course, because I do this, thought, 'oh, my, maybe it was a bad choice to put the poppy on my hat.' I think blaming the victim is a horrible thing to do, unless the victim is me - because I, of course, deserve what I get. But, that lasts only for a few minutes now. I moved on, as I thought about it.

I'm glad my poppy is on my hat.

I'm glad that some people will think it's 'gay'.

Because gay people fought and died, gay people still fight and still die, in defence of their country, in defence of the freedom. Gay people fought in the First and Second World Wars. Gay people fought for countries that would jail them for who they were. Gay people fought for the ideal of freedom when freedom was denied to them in their home countries. Gay people fight, still, for countries where anti-gay bigots rant about our existence, our relationships, our lives. Gay people still fight even though, at home, their friends are beaten, sometimes to death in the back allies of dark prejudice.

I have seen posters saying that say of gay people: we are your sons and your daughters, we are your sisters and your brothers, we are your family.

Well, we are also your soldiers.

We fight for a freedom that many do not willingly grant us.

Many years ago, when I was younger, when I was not a wheelchair user, Joe and I were sitting in a gay bar in Denver. It was crowded and we ended up sitting next to an old guy who was slowly and quietly getting quite drunk. He drew us into a conversation we did not want to have. But, as often happens, we had been wrong to avoid his eye, avoid his wish to chat. After asking if we were a couple and after hearing that we were, he told us an unembroidered story about being in the war, about falling in love with another man, who like him was deeply in the closet, 'as we all were back then'. He watched the man he loved fall. He also told of his immediate grief. He held him and he wept. In the days after the other men figured out that his grief was more than that of one soldier for another. His life became hell. He was discovered. He was reported and then suffered brutal punishment and eventual expulsion. He was marked, then shamed, for the rest of his life.

We sat quiet at the table, in a noisy bar full of laughter, there was a corner of quiet. He said, 'I don't know why I told you my story. I never tell that story. I guess tonight, seeing you together, I missed him a lot.' I asked him the name of the man that fell, the man he loved. 'You want to know,' he asked surprised at our interest. I told him that we did. 'His name was Robert, but I called him Bobbie.' he said.

Today, when I go out, for the rest of the week, when I go out, my poppy will be proudly on my cap. My gay hat with the blood red poppy on it. I wear it for the man who loved Bobbie.

And I wear it for Robert.

A man I didn't know.

But he was one of mine.


Liz said...

Thank you for this beautiful post.

Shan said...

Lovely post Dave.

joann:) said...

We're hearing so much on the news about the stress of being in the military/same sex relationships, mental health....
when will we ever be free of bigotry? Thanks for the post Dave. I am so sad this morning as I work in a place that stands for equality of those defined as having developmental disabilities...but hasn't acknowledged this day....so then do we really understand freedom? Btw, your hat is beautiful, it enhances the colour of your eyes and the poppy is in a wonderful strategic place! Freedom begins in the mind

Unknown said...

Good Story. Hat looks great.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Dave. I'm queer identified and have been thinking about LGBTTIQ2A people and the military today. I wear my poppy in remembrance and honour of those who support freedom for all, particularly when they themselves are not treated equally. May we never repeat the horrors of the past as we learn to be in peace together.

Anonymous said...

I thought I was done with my tears for those who had fallen, those who were and are injured, those whose lives are ever more changed and scared from giving us the freedom to live and love as we chose. After reading your blog I discovered they are not yet and then had the realization how scary and sad it would be when the tears truly stop.