Hiding in Plain Sight
I grew up in a place and time where it wasn’t ok to be as God had made me. All through school, I tried to date girls and fit in. I was ashamed of my body and was small for my age. I was often the last one picked for any game. I learned early that although I had feelings for other guys, I was not supposed to talk about it. My best friends were always girls, and I stayed away from any boys that were remotely like me because if we were together then we were easy targets. I cried myself to sleep every night and my prayers quickly changed from “God change me” to “God please kill me” when the feelings didn’t go away. I forced myself to laugh at gay jokes. I used smiling as a defense mechanism although I had no emotion attached to the process. I tried writing as an escape and found myself excelling in my Creative Writing class, but my mother found my notebook, was frightened by the stories which painted pictures of loneliness and despair and she burned it for being evil.
When I came out, HIV had just become an epidemic, and our president at the time saw no reason to do anything about that because it was a gay disease. I saw my friends die routinely and I was horrified of sex. I recall getting hit with a whiskey bottle to the back of my head from a passing car shouting “FAGGOT!” as I fell into a ditch in broad daylight. To be with my peeps, I was regularly forced to navigate hordes of "corner prophets" on missions of persecution yelling at me with megaphones about their God. They were not concerned with spreading his love, but rather “GOD HATES FAGS!” I felt I already knew that because I had been told that since I was little growing up in a loving congregation close to my home from the time I was big enough to stay in the church nursery. Every Sunday the preacher would remind us that AIDS was God’s punishment for the homosexual for their wicked, wicked ways.
Growing up, I never felt like I was a true American. Although, I was born in the United States and my parents and their parents were too, the right to the pursuit of happiness guaranteed by our constitution was a vision granted to some privileged people who fit a mold from which I was not derived. When attending weddings, I always felt like I was going to throw up because I was bitter and knew I would never have that.
Today, I don’t feel that way. I have seen things in my lifetime that I never expected to see. For many years at work I had referred to Brian as my partner, or my “other half” being careful to not use a masculine pronoun to describe him for fear of what repercussions I might have. However, when we got legally married, my coworkers threw me a surprise wedding shower with a tuxedo cake. I was shocked as my employees and coworkers began coming up to me and sharing experiences from their weddings, and I began to cry in front of all my peers. I was keenly aware that I was part of the American dream for the first time in my life. Even though the megaphone carrying hate-spewing zealots showed up at my wedding, I really didn’t notice because not only did my husband's family show up, but so did lots of people including my director from my job.
In my lifetime, I have participated in some cities very first Gay Pride Parades, and now they have freedoms I never dreamed possible. I have seen us win legislature, open churches and find God on our own. I’ve seen companies adopt Domestic Partnership rights and then taper them into allowing my husband to be part of my insurance. At the hospital, we used to lie and say we were siblings because we had no right to be present when our life partners lives were in peril. Today, we can stay with them 24/7, and have protection from grieving families when we lose them. I’ve seen our tribe struggle. I’ve watched our brothers and sisters march into eternity upholding their right to be who they were meant to be. Our new generations do not have to grow up in fear and remorse. I used to want to be “normal”. Now I’m grateful for the aspects that made me who I am. If you are struggling, try to look past where you are now. We need you and you do belong. Hell, we'll make room. Aeon Flux once said, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stranger” and that’s not a bad thing. My freak flag is rainbow striped!