Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Someone Like Me

How many times have I broken down sobbing in the last 24 hours over events in Hazard, Kentucky? I've lost count. Rather than just quoting the facts and then spiraling off in an invective-laced tirade I'm going to write down what I imagine the backstory might be as I think about what happened. What follows is a work of speculative fiction until our protagonist goes to his community pool. From there onward it is all too real.

Imagine you were born a boy in rural Kentucky to an ordinary family. You grow up just like the other kids in your neighborhood, but by the time you are three or four years old, your parents notice that you aren't learning things as quickly as the other kids. By the time you're ten you know it too. Everyone else can understand things that you struggle with. Their knowledge and ability rockets off beyond yours and you realize that you'll never be smart. Your parents explain to you patiently that your brain is different and that it's not your fault. They cry sometimes, but you know that they love you even though you're slow.

Time goes on and you make the best of the life that's been given to you. Good days, bad days. Your family creates a protective environment and makes it possible to forget sometimes that you're different. You mature into your teenage years. Your brain may be slow, but your body surges ahead just like the other boys. Other boys. You start to notice some of them. You wonder if someday you might find one that notices you. At some point, because you are an honest person and don't know any reason not to, you share these thoughts with someone. Maybe it's your sister, or Mom or Dad. You know something is wrong, but don't understand why people are so upset.

Maybe your parents tell you that your natural impulses are sinful and you must never speak of them again. Maybe they take the deepest breath of their lives and accept that they must help you bear another burden; you're gay. Let's play out the second scenario - I'm almost out of tissues.

Your family helps you make it through your teen years and with assistance from community services you manage to live a semi-independent life. You earn some money. You live in an adult group home with other people whose minds are like yours, but they aren't really like you and you have to keep quiet about your loneliness and desire for intimacy and romantic love.

And then it happens. A miracle. The greatest evidence imaginable for divine grace. You meet another developmentally disabled man who is like you. Someone who can truly understand what it's like to be you. And he's cute. And he's funny and he thinks the same about you. You have to be considerate of your housemates, but you two manage to have some tiny portion of the experiences that everyone else takes for granted. Dates. Flowers. The awkwardness of a first kiss. Even the pinnacle of human intimacy: sex.

And you think to yourself that maybe you get to have a some small measure of happily-ever-after. Maybe just once the brave knight gets to marry the handsome prince.

One day you decide to go swimming together at your community pool. You pay the $3 for you and the $3 for him because you want to be a good boyfriend and that's what they do. You're having a great time in the pool; being goofy as always. Maybe you hold hands for a little while. Maybe he leans over and kisses your forehead. You both smile.

A few minutes later a man in a maintenance uniform comes over and tells you that you have to leave because gay people aren't allowed in the pool. You understand enough to know that this is wrong and you argue that it is discrimination and you have rights even though you are not smart. The man becomes angrier and tells you that they have the right to kick you out because it says so in the Bible.

You're both confused and embarrassed. People are staring at you and you think maybe you've made a mistake. You both leave in tears. Ashamed. Alone except for each other.

Story time is over. I have to go get some more tissues.

If you would like to contact the manager of the Pavilion community pool in Hazard, Kentucky, here is her contact information:

Deaton Street
Hazard, KY 41701
(606) 436-4200

Director: Charlotte Sizemore

Be Nice

And if you would like to read the account of what happened in the media, here is one version:

Bible cited as reason for kicking gay men out of public pool

Update:The 83-year-old mayor of the town has apologized and the city is investigating.


John Hedtke said...

I really am dazzled by the stupidity and ignorance of this. It's rather classic. But for Kentucky, it's par for the course, sadly. :(

Trapper said...

I was just stunned when I read the news article. It's so hard for me to understand this kind of bigotry and hatred. And yet, I do remember Steffan's family disowning him because he was gay. Why are people so evil?

I hope that you and Doug can be married on BOTH sides of the border soon, dearheart. This is all so unfair.

Meredith said...

Wow, I just read this and it also makes me so sad. I grew up in Kentucky and am often ashamed of my home state. It's appalling how much hate there still is in the world, and specifically there. So much old thinking and moreover a lack of thought.

It's interesting, because I grew up in Lexington, a college town, surrounded in horse farms and a decent amount of money. I read once that Lexington has a higher homosexual population per capita than San Francisco. I never really thought that much about it and certainly never thought anything bad. I'm bi and many, many of my very best friends are gay. I guess even so, there was still persecution from the closed-minded conservative good old boys. I just count myself lucky to have been raised in a household that encouraged me to think for myself.

My heart goes out to that couple and the countless others that suffer this kind of ignorance and hate daily.