YSERBA

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Kevin Army

Kevin Army
Location
Oakland, California, United States
Birthday
August 19
Title
Executor
Company
Yserba
Bio
Formerly posing as Yserba Berrington, now just posing as myself. In a former life I worked on music creatively for a living. Now I'm a hardworking slacker and occasional writer for no money at all, and I like it that way. I post fiction, ramblings, songs, photos, videos, whatever I feel moved to do. I'm kind of directionless. Welcome!

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MAY 23, 2012 11:35AM

On Having The Gay Beaten Out Of Me And The Party Of Bullies

Rate: 12 Flag

 

 concord sign

I grew up in a white conservative suburb outside of San Francisco. Concord was still a pretty rural place when my family moved there in 1962. Though our neighborhood seemed pretty good at the time, as an adult I've come to understand it was a fairly rough white trash neighborhood.

There were good things about the area. There were orchards and open fields, a creek to wander around in. A good school system, and our neighborhood was close to the bus line so dad could commute to his job in SF.

But it was also culturally pretty barren, and about as un-diverse as the world gets. In that lack of diversity, anything different stood out, and rather then greeted with open arms, it was usually welcomed with clenched fists.

There I was, the classic gay boy: a quite bookworm who was bad at sports, tall, and skinny, with no defensive skills whatsoever. I'd walk around Cambridge Elementary with my violin, and it was like I had a neon sign over my head inviting the abuse of whatever bully should pass by.

I know I was beaten up often, but I can't always visualize it. Sometimes I can see a few incidents, and it's always like I'm above the scene, looking down at myself, which is a pretty standard victim's way of seeing things. After so many times, one learns to leave one's body to minimize the pain and fear.

shadow 1 

To me, the bullying wasn't just the physical violence. The endless verbal abuse I lived through left a giant scar. Faggot, fag, pussy, wimp, wussy, sissy: these were all interchangeable words directed at me to feel less than, to feel wrong about myself.

As time went by through all those years, as each person threatened me, I learned that hiding who I am was the best way to protect myself. I wanted so desperately to not be gay, that it became fairly easy to achieve in my adult years. So the lovely flamer I was went away piece by piece, gesture by gesture. By the time I was 27, I had a girlfriend, and was so straight acting, no-one knew who I really was, including me.

It wouldn't be until I was 40 that I got the courage to face who I am. I'm 54 now, and I still act pretty straight. The obvious gay boy in me died a sad and painful death. I try and do things to heal him, to remember who I once was. But basically, he was beaten and bullied out of me, and I will always have to wonder who I would be if the world had been different.

*****

I've been dating a younger man recently. The stories he's told me of his childhood, and some of his friend's childhoods sound sadly like the stories of so many men my age.

I could write endlessly on what kind of things were done to me. I'm not really up to telling the details, and I don't think they're necessary. Those details would reveal nothing new. Sadly, it is a story already told enough times by enough people.

I do want to say I am a proud survivor. That's the better story. In spite of how things went, I made the best of my situation, and had a pretty good life in my closeted years. I can't really second guess how things would have gone otherwise.

I'm really happy with the place I've arrived to. I'm comfortable with who I am, I'm very out and I do not hide myself. When I'm walking in my neighborhood, I hold the hand of my boyfriend. I'm grateful that I'm gay, and for the suprising and great acceptance and support I have found.

hands 

All that said, it did take a lot of work to get to this place, and I still hold the hurt somewhere deep inside. So many of us carry the damage and scars of this stuff. It's not right. It needs to stop.

Though I'm not sold on President Obama's motivation for his recent support, I also am pretty sure he isn't one of the bullies. Whether Mitt Romney was a bully or not, he belongs to the political party of bullies, the party that promotes discrimination through the threat of a legislative fist, and sends the message to the LGBT community that we are less than straight people.

That is the root of all the bullying, it's how it's made acceptable. As long as we are second class citizens, we don't matter as much. Our pain is second class in their eyes. But in the tear filled eyes of a bullied child, it's painfully real. It breaks my heart to know these things still haven't stopped.

Maybe things are getting better. But as long as this is an issue, as long as one gay kid like I was is made to feel wrong for who he or she beautifully is, things are not better enough. Not yet. And not soon enough.

school 

*****

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Kevin, I'm grateful to you and the men of our generation for working to make our world safe for my son and his generation. I am so glad he has been spared so much of the crap you guys went through. You did good!
Kevin,
This made me cry as I know a lot of your stories. Whatever you have gone through, whatever you go through I am always here for you.
You have made this world a happier place for me.
Love you
HUGGGGGGGGGGG
Right on brother! Why is it that someone always seems to need to be better than...Great reminder. The GOP party has a long way to go.:D
Those who are seen as different - any kind of different - are almost always attacked by those who live in fear of anything or anyone they cannot comprehend.

It takes education and experience to overcome such fear. Our society refuses to formally provide such education, leaving it instead to parents to provide. Many parents are making heroic efforts to do so and little by little they are succeeding. It will take a long time for this to really make a large dent in such attitudes as you experienced.

Many of us, not gay perhaps, but different in other ways, have walked this road too. I can only thank the parents who are busting a gut trying to make sure that their children learn of our essential humanity and that our differences are not to be feared or reviled but to be appreciated as examples of the wonderful variety in which human beings come.

We NEED to be constantly asking......


"IS THIS THE BEST THAT WE CAN BE?"
.
Beautiful piece, Kevin. I'm sorry for the brutality you endured, but happy you are feeling good and open with your true self now. Best, Erica
Brunhilde- I'm grateful for parents like you! You're doing good!

Linda- You are such a great and awesome part of my support in this world. Love you too. Huggggg back!

tg- It's strange and sad that in a country founded on equality the desire to be better than is so strong for one of our two main political parties. Thanks for the comment!
skypixieO- Thanks for the well thought out comments. Yes, these issues exist for many people who are different than the "mainstream" of our country. I love your line "...to be appreciated as examples of the wonderful variety in which human beings come". So true.

Erica- Thanks for your kind comments!
" things are not better enough. Not yet. And not soon enough."

This is very sad, but it's also very true. I'm sorry for the beautiful person who was bullied out of you.
This is a heartwrenching story, Kevin. Well and bravely told.
Jeanette and Chicken- Thanks for your kind and supportive comments!
Congrats on the EP. May you be blessed with many more.
One of the gutsiest posts I've seen in a long time. Thank you.
This is heartbreaking, Kevin. We chat offline, and my impression of you is that you are an incredibly decent, caring person, and it enrages me to read about what happened to you and see how it impacted you. I’m gay as well, and while I was bullied it was more for being an overall outsider, but in my case I found out early that when I called their bluff the mouthpieces would run. Obviously your situation was different, hence why I don’t feel the a-holes affected me much but I’m sure their impact is there somewhere. I can certainly relate to growing up in the awful droneland of suburbo-moronia and the small thinking it seems to breed. I’m glad you and your new guy have each other. It’s nice to hear of people finding some happiness and support in this world.
Kevin, you're now the fourth guy that's like me that I've found. All of us were the flamboyantly effeminate kids with our bright clothing and limp wrists. The other boys had me pegged as a faggot before I even understood what sex and sexuality was. The beatings, the stolen lunch money, the notebooks torn apart, the lunches thrown in the trash and most of all the boys that constantly following me repeating "faggot" over and over as I walked down the hall. I'm 53 and I still can't bear to hear that word. Teachers saw what was happening to me and did nothing to intervene. After all, I was just a little faggot so why bother?

Even though the word "faggot" still slices through me like a knife every time I hear it it still means nothing to many people. I used to work in a California branch of a major New York based inpatient drug rehabilitation organization. If a resident used the word "n-----" there would be severe consequences but they could use the word "faggot" with impunity. Why is one word so terrible that it can't even be written but another word can be tossed around without consequences? Who has the right to say how painful a word is to me? I complained to the staff who did nothing. I complained to the California regional office who said that they would do nothing unless the language was a violation of California law. I complained to the New York office and they did not reply. Sometimes it feels like I'm still treated as a second class citizen.

By the time I got to tenth grade, nobody had any idea I was gay. Never again would the word "faggot" be directed at me. The locker room was no longer be a horribly anxious and dangerous place. The world had become a relatively safe one for me but in making it safe I forever lost who I was, the real me. That's a terrible price to pay.

The author and I have some similarities and some difference. Unlike him, I was always comfortable with my sexuality even if I was terrified at the idea of being exposed. When I was a boy, I loved boys and as a man I've always enjoyed men. Men have been the source of both the most pleasure and the most pain in my life. I've been fully out of the closet for years but I still can't publicly express affection to my partner of 25 years. It's still too frighteningly close to the playground of my childhood and I'm not certain that will ever change. The one thing that really struck me about Kevin is that we both say that we "got the gay beaten out of me". I guess we both say that because it's the best way of describing what happened.

As I said, I know a couple of other guys and we share several characteristics. We all feel inauthentic to one degree or another. One of the guys I know has such a crushing sense of inauthenticity that it permeates every aspect of his life. He feels like he is a fraud in every way. The other guy I know is out but only to his closest friends. He is terrified of being publicly exposed as gay. He is convinced that his walk is effeminate and that he speaks with a lisp and people will notice that and realize what he is. Both of these guys are still severely debilitated by their childhood. It speaks to what we were put through.

All three of us share that yearning for what we lost and wish we could return to what we once were. We also feel alienated and perplexed by gay culture. We feel desired by some men for our relative masculinity but rejected by others for not fitting in.

As for myself, I don't really feel inauthentic but I feel like a piece of me was ripped out of me and I want it back, more than almost anything else in my life.

Ele
tg- Thanks!

Annie- Thanks for your comment.

VA- I didn't learn what would happen if I called their bluff until I was in my early 20s, I'm glad to hear you figured that out earlier.

Ele- I've learned that many gay men have similar stories to ours. They have different permutations and different outcomes, but sadly, it's one of the ways we can bond.
I think we all know what it's like to be called hateful words, and yes, it drives me crazy that those words are still used more then other similar words, making them seem more acceptable.
Thanks so much for sharing your story. I really appreciate it.
Kevin,

I agree with other comments expressing their sorrow that you went through these things. I am now 60, grew up in Louisiana, and never even considered that I might be gay (I had no role models and thought all homosexual men must be effiminate like Liberace) until I graduated from an Ivy League law school in 1976. I went into civil rights law in New Orleans, had what I thought was a consciousness about social issues, and moved to the 800 block of Bourbon Street thinking I was straight!

Once I found a leather bar and found out that there are masculine gay men, I thought I had gone to Heaven!

I have been living in San Francisco for twelve years now, and have been married (legally) to another man for over twelve years.

Your postings reminded me that so many gay men, lesbians and transgendered folk go through incredibly difficult times. Things change, but ever so slowly!

And those of us who are happy with our sexuality at this point in our lives have to be reminded that change happens much too slowly. Thanks for sharing your story!
arjay1951- Thanks for taking the time to share some of your story here. Congrats on being married for 12 years! We really had little or no role models growing up to show us all the different kinds of people we could be. Let's hope things start changing a little faster.
So if you lived in a non-diverse black neighborhood would you have called it a 'ni55er neighborhood'? Why are some racial slurs allowed and even encouraged but others are not? I thought we were all 'equal'.
One thinks things are getting better, and then one hears awful, awful stories about somebody getting beaten to death. A man was stomped to death not too long ago in Trafalgar Square in the UK. In Trafalgar Square for God's sake!

I think it's very uneven. I worry about kids in rural areas in this country which seem set on marching backwards in time. The more visible the gay community has become, the more some have set themselves on being contrary and "sticking to their beliefs." The Christian groups in some schools scare me. I can't help but think that their constant pressure on everyone to conform has a lot to do with explosions of violence, both gay bashing and the inevitable reaction of some truly disturbed kids who just can't take it anymore and grab a gun.

But yes, Virginia, I think things are getting better. And let that fairy flag fly!

Rated. Snugs. (Sorry I didn't see this before--where ya been?)