Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Culture Wars: The *other* US war on Terror

Within the last hour, I've seen three stories about gay teen suicide, and a separate story about a gay college student who's being harassed by a crazy alumni.


It's shit like this that creates gay rage within me. These cultural wars have got to stop! There needs to be some kind of intervention when boys as young as 13 are hanging themselves in their backyards. Different is not bad. It is not evil. It is not the destroyer of life as we know it. But you know what is? Hate. And Fear. And when Fear fuels Hate, we end up with an inferno of madness - shear, unadulterated, illogical, unreasonable madness. I've been crying on and off for the past hour, gob-smacked with sadness.

I'll post links below. You may choose to read at your own discretion. But if you, like me, have had a terrible, scary news day, I don't recommend clicking on them now.

One of the links asks why teen lesbians aren't targeted in the same way. Are they more resilient? Do they just hide better? Are they less self-destructive? Having been a former lesbian teen, I don't think it has anything to do with that. Girls and sexuality are handled so differently than boys, especially as teens. When boys figure out their sexuality - especially as young as 13 - it's a lot more obvious, because so many of their peers are going through rite-of-passage rituals that we provide for heterosexuals. Boys are supposed to learn how to be "men" and play sports. They spit. They laugh at stupid, bawdy jokes. They punch each other in the arm for no apparent reason - and as guy, you're just supposed to take it - because that's what "guys" do. If you complain, if you cry, if you show fear or misunderstanding or shy away from any of this - like blood in the water, the sharks come and circle and bite. Boys are so physical - the sheer visible differences between "young dude" and "young, cute gay boy" are amazingly clear.

I don't know what it's like for other girls, but for me, it was all about hiding. I do think it's easier for girls to hide, to a degree. But the ease of that choice is only permissible because girls don't have the same gender expectations. It was easy for me to agree with a standing gaggle of girls that JP Huntington was the cutest boy in school. All I had to do was say yes. It was easy for me to go to another girls' sleepover and let her mom put make up on me and give me a facial. It was easy for me to fill up my middle school and high school life to such a quantity, that I had no time to hang out or be "pretty." And more importantly, as girls, we're taught to show love for other people, patience, kindness, niceness, pleasantness - which is why so many teen girls have issues with expressing anger. Dudes are allowed to be angry and lash-out. Girls are allowed to love anyone, we're just not allowed to be angry and/or express our anger. We're supposed to smother it internally, and keep smiling through it all. That's what "nice" girls do, anyway.

This my sound silly, but I also think that in being *so* much taller than the other kids, that already marked me as being "different," so no one had the same expectations for me as they did for other girls. But all I had to do was say "Yes" and go along with everything. In fact, I once was so afraid about being found out, I made a terrible gay joke (to my basketball team), trying to create a diversion of attention away from myself. Thankfully my dad had the courage to tell me, right there, in front of my friends, how inappropriate and uncouth that tactic was. I still get embarrassed about that particular act of cowardice. I didn't really gather the courage to be myself and start saying "No" to the bullshit until I was 17, and knew I was leaving for college.

But the hiding - the hiding in itself is incredibly self-destructive. I remember listening to one of my basketball teammates senior year, talk about how, if she knew any lesbians, she'd punch them in the face for being "unnatural." Granted, I was almost twice her size, and would have no problem taking her down. But the point is, I shouldn't have had to. And I shouldn't have had to hide. I was so scared for years and years after that about someone freaking out that my friendship with other women would be taken the wrong way. And a few times, it has been. And I've gotten hurt. But I was at an age where losing a friend was no longer the biggest tragedy in the world - especially because I had SO MUCH incredible support around me. Now, I'm to the age where I just don't care. And that's a nice place to be.

But not everyone has what I have, men or women. Especially not 13 year olds. 13 was the crappiest year of my life, and that was without knowing anything about my sexuality, one way or another. The transitions that happen in Middle School can be the hardest of anyone's life - add on top of that a life-changing self-truth of a counter culture sexuality?? I can't even imagine. And then to be bullied every day at school. To not have friends. To not have the support of your parents because you're too scared to talk to them about it, and far too embarrassed. To live in a place so dark and desperate, you are convinced that death is a far more healthy choice than any further existence could be. To know at the core of your soul (albeit, incorrectly), that everyone else would be better off without you; hell, even YOU would be better off without you. And the penetrating SHAME that consumes your life, bit by bit.

Meanwhile, most states are (or have already) banning gay marriage with the fear-based argument that homosexuality will be taught in schools. Well you know what? Maybe it should be. Maybe we should be having a talk with kids and giving them information, instead of making them scared about their differences. Maybe it would save lives and improve generation upon generation, so that we're not dealing with this shit in 10, 20, 30 years.

And I urge you - if you have some gay males in your family, be they friends or relatives - just tell them that you love them. Just as a reminder. Because chances are, they were in these kids' shoes at one point or another. And it's never tacky to remind the ones you love that you're happy they're alive, and in your life.

That's all very heavy-handed; but amidst this madness - here's what I'm grateful for:

1) Dan Savage

2) Glee

3) People like you.

4) My friends and family - without whom - well, I don't know where I'd be today.

Muster yer Hope, all ye who enter here:

The incident at Rutgers

A blog that sums it up

Crazy Dude in Michigan. Sick 'em, Anderson!


Taylor K said...

I just read about the student at Rutgers and can't believe that this is the fourth (?) story I've read this week about a gay student killing themselves. My heart is broken for them and their families.

Phoenix said...

I'm so sorry, honey. My heart breaks alongside yours to hear of such tragedies.