I am a gay man, and I have never had AIDs. I've never had HIV. I've never even had an AIDs/HIV scare. Not ever experienced what it's like to have any sort of STD. I am a gay man that never really experienced the kind of physical abuse that you read about or see on the news in some cases. Sure, I suffered psychologically at the hands of small town children that didn't - and for the most part still don't - understand what it means to have compassion or growth or acceptance. And these scars I carry.
I have dreams still. It's funny how much of my formative years is not even really a distant memory, not even in passing recollection. I recently told my mother that out of an unbelievably tiny graduating class of 64 students, I would be hard pressed to remember both names and faces of 10. So much of it is behind me, thanks to the power of repression and distance and time and prayers to the Goddess to take this grief from me. But, there are the dreams. The dreams where I am bigger than my oppressors and the ones where I am still the silent boy getting beaten up with fists of tongue and fists of flesh. The dreams where I am told how small I am, the dreams that recollect events forgotten, and the ones where I say exactly what I wished I had said.
I never had a hero. I never had one specific person that I looked to and said, "Because of his/her bravery, I, too, can be brave." One person doesn't stick out in my mind. Sure, you can say Matthew Shepard was influential, but because of my age at the time of his death and the amount of news coverage that wasn't covered in our community, I had no real attachment to the story. He was a textbook, a chapter, a paper written and a source referenced. But he is a hero. To someone.
In fact, I find heroes all the time now. I read stories done by the Advocate, see them on Oprah and Rachel Maddow, watch as pop stars and movie stars put them in the spotlight, and I see heroism. Those that can not only be themselves, be comfortable in their skin, but can be much more than themselves. They can be icons, demigods, heroes that will live into legend, at least in the hearts of some. Those of us that grew up the ugly, skinny, gay kid in the small town can now see something of value inside.
And I am proud. I am proud that this generation has that. I am proud that even in those tiny towns void of connection, compassion, advocacy, acceptance...even in those towns exist a television. Those kids can sneak glances of a world where there are people that will love them and know them for who they are and still invite them to Thanksgiving dinner. Their partner, too.
That's the scene I saw in the movie Latter Days that I wanted for myself. That was the first movie I saw that I ever wanted to emulate. The scene at the end of the pseudo romantic comedy where the two beautiful guys ended up together, gathered around a table of friends. A hodgepodge family. I knew that was going to be my life. For a while that was my life. My family really had little information about my personal life, because that's how they wanted it, and I didn't want to push the envelope. And then a miracle happened and now my family includes my hodgepodge and it's all one big messy, still sometimes uncomfortable, group of people that love one another.
I see these heroes more and more. Service men and women that give to their country for decades and then are let go for grade school gossip mongering and barely substantiated reasoning. I see article after article after article highlighting the heroes of today, and I am struck at how young they all look. When I was growing up those folks on television seemed so much older, so distanced from who I was, that I could not possibly relate. But, now, you see 14, 15, 16 year olds on television, in schools, respectfully asking for respect and tolerance and showing the generation on the crest of becoming decision-makers how to live bravely and openly.
And I weep. I weep because it's so amazing, and I weep because I am thankful that I never had to go through the stories you see on television. Now, sure, do I have wounds? Did I get beaten up more times than I could count? Did I get taunted by nearly everyone in my school, including teachers, and have no sense of justice? Yes. Could I have been one of those people in an article today? Probably. But I am not, and was not. And I still have my limbs and my loves and my good sense. My brain wasn't knocked around that hard.
As a postlude to this musing, I was pondering last night at the gym about my journal. I kept a journal in high school. The same journal. Leather-bound, nice, with the word JOURNAL embossed on the front. It was a gift my freshman year from my uncle - my mentor. Of course, I didn't write in it everyday, but I did fill it with four years of events. Pains. Inner thoughts. Daily blather. I remember that I filled the very last pages on my graduation day from high school. It moved with me from Texas to West Virginia, and it became lost. In fact, I don't even remember having it after the move. It is as though the universe swallowed up all of my pain in a book. It has never been found by anyone, as far as I can tell. It is simply in that void of lost things. And, that's fine. It can stay there. I don't need to remember the faces and the names and things. I don't need the dreams to be refreshed from the well of my past. The journal, I think, was there for me to pour my hurt in to, and then - like a ritual - to be destroyed, so that I might be allowed to move on.
Everybody should be given that grace.
Love and Lyte,