Friday, July 30, 2010

What To Do

The last post is not fair without this one. These are things you can do to help fight for a better future for people like me:

  1. Do you have a teenager? Have you told them that it's OK if they turn out not to be straight? That you will love them no matter what?
  2. Have you asked any High Schoolers in your life if they think that their gay classmates face harassment at school? If so, does the administration do anything about it?
  3. Join PFLAG and volunteer. Tell them I sent you.
  4. Find your local LGBT at-risk youth center and volunteer or donate.
  5. Contact the Trevor Project to donate or volunteer.
  6. Schedule a meeting with your church's minister to discuss LGBT inclusion in their ministry. Tell them that I want to hear back about what they are doing to help.

There's a start. Go.

Do Something

"If he turns out to be gay, we should cut his legs off so he can't leave the house and bring shame on the family." said my mother, slurring her words after a considerable amount of cheap blended whiskey. I don't remember what my dad said in response. My seven-year-old mind couldn't take any more in at that point.

Yes, seven. Yes, my mother.

I crouched in the dark living room listening to them shouting in the kitchen. Were they going to do it tomorrow? Tonight? Would that be how I woke up tomorrow? Would they kill me instead if it got too messy as they sawed through my leg bones? I had to go through the kitchen to get out of the house if I decided to run. Could I make it past them?

When I try to explain to straight people what it's like to grow up gay in America I try the metaphor that we are raised in 'enemy territory.' Most gay people are born and raised in straight families and we learn to hate gay people before we know we're gay. I don't think most of them realize how severe the physical and emotional violence we face is.

Why is this coming up now? The debate over the Employment Non-discrimination Act (ENDA), marriage equality and the effort to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell is forcing people like my late parents to say what they really think of people like me out loud. Into microphones. When I hear them, or read transcripts of their ignorant, hateful, twisted little words I get angry. I remember what it was like being crouched in the dark living room wondering if I was going to wake up to my parents amputating my legs.

My parents never committed that act of violence against me. The next morning they were just hung over and I had to act like everything was OK and go on with life, but the damage was done. A moment in the making and decades in the repairing.

Now polls say that people think gays have too much influence on society. That we're too powerful, too rich, too successful. Is that why we can't get married? Is that why welfare mothers and absentee fathers vote our existing marriages away? Why ignorant hicks vote to ban us adopting children?

Yes, I'm angry. I'm angry at every preacher of every religion that teaches people that we're sinful. I'm angry at every person who sits quietly and listens to them. Somewhere out in America another little boy or girl is going through what I went though. One of you knows that child and if you do nothing to help, you're the one who is sinful.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Independence Day

I didn't post this yesterday because I was deep in a project, but July 4th is my independence day also. In 1994, my bandmates Stan and Marisa bought a house in the University District which had a partially finished studio apartment in the basement. They were looking for someone to rent it, and I was more than ready to get out of Poulsbo, so at the tender age of 27 I left my parent's home.

That first night was pretty intense. Stan and Marisa and I went looking for fireworks on the spur of the moment. Probably doesn't seem like a big deal to a normal person, but to me the freedom to do that was like something out of a dream. No guilt trips. No ferry hassles. Just climb in the car with good friends and go. Later, as I was laying in bed in the dark in a basement the fear started to settle in. Would I be able to afford this life? Will my parents be OK? Is Mom laying in bed crying because I'm not there?

I lived in Stan and Marisa's basement for several very important years. I had some catching up to do in terms of learning to be a good housemate, but it worked out in the end. I started learning Gaelic while I lived there, got my Yule harp, and lived through the joy and heartbreak of the heyday of Wicked Celts.

When Stan and Marisa sold that house in April of 1998, things moved rapidly and I wound up settling for a dingy studio apartment in Northgate. At the time, I thought life had taken a terrible turn for the worse, but the gods had a plan. Slightly over a year later, in June of 1999 I moved from Northgate into my little rental house in Baile Ard. If I had been living somewhere less depressing, I might have hesitated to move and missed out on some of the happiest years of my life.

Thanks for helping me get out on my own, Stan and Marisa, and for taking me out in the Ford Explorer to celebrate my independence day all those years ago.