Thursday, October 06, 2011

The Meaning of Gay Pride??

An excuse to go mincing about in parades wearing rainbows and ribbons -- just because, what, you're queer?  How is that PRIDE?

I'll tell you. Gay Pride is having made it through an incarceration of aggression, intimidation and abuse perpetrated by bullies in the morphing form of peers, parents, society and the church. Pride is freedom from dogma - which is the (toxic) trap of obeying the results of other people's thinking. Gay Pride is a celebration of survival.

And it is an ongoing celebration, because the shit never really ends does it?

Unlike other minorities, the gay movement has never been backed by a US President. We didn't have a Truman to de-segregate the military and the Supreme Court still allows the majority to vote/trample on our civil rights. Everything the LGBT movement has achieved has been fought loudly on the ground.

That's Pride.

But there can be no pride if you don't survive. Today, everyone knows bullied gay or gay-perceived kids are killing themselves. And, based on my unwilling expertise on bullying, I know this exposure is adding to the arsenal of bully munitions: Kill yourself like the others -- the world would be better off with one less FAGGOT!

Recently another kid, Jamey Rodemeyer, 14,  killed himself after enduring years of anti-gay bullying and the thing is - he knew he wasn't alone. We all told him "It Gets Better". He even made a video telling others it would get better, and thanking Lady Gaga for singing he was "Born This Way"!

Upon hearing of his death, Lady Gaga, for her part, promised to meet with President Obama to put an end to bullying. She tweeted, she dedicated a song to Jamey in concert. She has already made good on that promise to meet the President. What would it be like to have a pop star so firmly in your corner?

The Trevor Project: a 24-Hr, Toll-Free, Confidential Suicide Hotline
In my bullied youth, there was no pop star, no media attention, no adult allies aside from my family,  far as I knew. That was just fine by me. In the war zone of Fowler Middle School, I certainly didn't want more attention drawn to me. I was embarrassed when people (girls) tried to shield or help me, and humiliated when (rarely) adults tried to intervene. I only wanted one thing back then: to disappear.

These kids can't hide. They're caught in a media glare and, much as it is important (and high time), I worry about that spotlight. Some days I worry my own small contribution to visibility has made it worse, for saving kids like I was. Yes, we're here. We've told and shown them; they know we've all "been there" (in hell) and they're not alone and it gets better. Right?

Knowing is one thing.  GI Joe says knowing is half the battle. But considering this new illumination component, knowing may be part of the battle. I used to fantasize about suicide, how best to do it, if anyone might miss me. In my darkest hours, what if I had known there were people out there in the ether, millions, who might miss me? Jamey must have known his suicide would not go unnoticed. So did he want to disappear?  Or did he imagine re-birth as a martyr for the zeitgeist?

Either way he chose to end his life despite knowing, albeit abstractly, of a brighter future.

Thing is, when you're on the front lines you can't mentally permit yourself to ponder a peacetime. It's the power of now, full force. Survival is moment by moment. It is not waiting nor even wishing for things to improve, but rather finding that steely resolve that knows you are better, so that when it does actually get better you will have emerged (bruised, battered, but fortified) on the other side, with pride.

How do you impart that?


Tony said...

Hey Jesse -

That was a powerful message because you made it so personal and heartfelt. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Reluctant as I am to offer supporting evidence of your statement in the “Gay Pride” blog that “the shit never really ends,” here’s something I heard just last night.

My good friend Rick and his wife, both Episcopal priests, have just sent their daughter off for her freshman year at Sewanee, a small, progressive, academically excellent college located in rural Tennessee. The school tries to match roommates based on their interests and with a view to giving each kid the experience of diversity.

My friends’ daughter Ellie (not her real name), drew as her roommate a very bright but relatively unsophisticated girl who, thanks to AP English in high school, has become excited about literature: O’Connor, Eliot, Dostoevsky. She is from some random, exceedingly remote small Tennessee town.

A couple of weekends ago, Ellie’s roommate went home for the weekend. When she didn’t return as expected Sunday evening, Ellie thought “Oh well, she was homesick, she’s just taking an extra day.” When the week dragged on and the roommate still hadn’t shown up, Ellie got worried enough to report her absence. The girl showed up on Saturday, with just the clothes on her back and accompanied by her high school AP English teacher.

While home, Ellie’s roommate had visited with her friend Robert, a high school classmate, who came out to her. In all innocence, the girl told her family. Her parents sat her down and said “tell us that you believe Robert will burn in hell.”

“No, I don’t believe that my friend Robert will burn in hell,” she apparently said.

Her father flew into a rage, told her that would shame the family before their church and that she had jeopardized all their souls. “If you refuse to say that Robert will burn,” he reportedly said, “we will disown you.” Then he refused to drive her back to Sewanee.

Somehow, the girl’s English teacher got wind of this, staged an intervention and got her back to college. But not before she was cast out of her family, forbidden to take any of her personal belongings or clothes.

So, Ellie’s roommate is back at Sewanee despite her refusal to condemn her friend. Fortunately, she’s on full scholarship, and the Dean of Students has told my running buddy that the school will do what it can, but everyone needs to rally around the girl. So naturally Rick, who learned all this while at Sewanee for Parents Weekend, took the kid to Target for clothes, sheets and towels. And Ellie’s mom has told the roommate that she is expected to come home with Ellie for any holidays from now on.

Honestly Jesse, I have to confess that despite reading your blog, “It Gets Better,” and “Towleroad,” I felt a little removed from this kind of thing. I guess it only becomes real when you’ve experienced it personally, or when close friends come back shaken from actually witnessing it. Sorry. It’s scary.


Jesse Archer said...

What a story - and she's not even gay! I hope she's able to find the strength to make it through and realize that she will be happy one day, perhaps even reconciled with her family.

Hopefully she will find a way to turn this into some kick-ass lemonade.