"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.