On Having The Gay Beaten Out Of Me And The Party Of Bullies
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.
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.
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.
all content by me.