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Can we just jump to January please? - 2014-11-14
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4:27 p.m. - 2013-02-22
A Rare Glurt of Honesty

I've been doing a lot of thinking about some things friends have spoken of recently. ('Spoken of' you understand is a catch-all for any mode of communication in which ideas are exchanged. In this case it includes blog posts, phone convos, personal messages, FB posts, texts, and email.) One common theme has been how we rearrange our public selves to net us the least amount of grief. Flying the freak flag is too costly. Often there is resentment attached to this protective coloration and a hearty wish it could be different. A wish to be freer. Something I understand quite well. Despite having finally gotten to a stage in my life where I have an insane amount of personal freedom I still cover up some aspects of my life. Parts of me I don't want to be hassled about. Whether my stuff will provoke anger or scorn or mockery or disbelief or just makes me feel vulnerable and exposed in some ill-defined way I rarely open up about these less-than-usual places unless I'm with the most trusted of confidants. People whose love and acceptance has been tried many times and I have come to have unshakable faith in. I think the resentment about not being able to be freer with more of ourselves comes from being forced into our duck blinds by those who ARE free to express themselves because their beliefs represent the dominant herd. Take Christians for example. They're totally fine with demanding everybody else do things their way. In the US the Christians feel safe in ignoring the Constitution and insisting their beliefs hold sway over the written law. The Christians have the loud confident voice of the majority and the impunity granted therein. I think about what it's like to me, a witchy atheist Liberal who dares believe everyone should be accorded the freedoms set forth by our guiding document, not just those who hide behind the might conferred by numbers. I think about those whose lives are not only marginalized but honestly imperiled by the hostility of the loud majority. I think about my dear friend Drew.

I can only try to imagine the giddy relief of gay people these days. The validation of the President of the United States speaking of their rights during his inaugural address! Wowzers. While not complete and absolutely not without some sacrifice and more than a bit of physical danger, the closet door is swung open and there is room for gay people to come out into the light of day. For sure the gays in my life have always been safe with me, but having played beard more than once for friends whose jobs and familial relationships demanded the appearance of being hetero I saw firsthand the awful soul crushing compromise of self. And how far too often the loathing heaped on them by the straights was internalized to become self-loathing. When AIDS raced like a malign wildfire during the 1980s I had friends who went out and courted death deliberately. Since their upright Jesus-loving families and their priggish teachers and bosses had no use for them as gay men my friends had no use for themselves. Why not die? What was there to live for? Another 40-50 years of lying and hiding? Decades of deception or scornful rejection and hate? Zero protection by the law? So my friends partied like there was no tomorrow. And sadly, too often, there wasn't.

Standing at the graveside and listening to my darling Drew's parents accept condolences over their son's sad death from leukemia and watching my friend being buried under six feet of hypocrisy just about killed me. If I hadn't had Baby Alex in the stroller with me I think I'd have gone batshit and started flailing around screaming the truth. Drew was dead because of his miserable Baptist homo-hating parents. These same parents who had the f-ing nerve to stand there and be comforted by the congregation were the ones who'd turned their backs on their son and forbad him the house and rejected him out of hand when he gathered the courage to come out to them during our sophomore year of college. Drew who took me in when I was a battered woman on the run and living in my car. Drew who dragged me out to Austin every weekend to dance and dance until I felt young and alive again. We shared a bed he and I, no sex, just the comforting contact of sleeping skin-to-skin with a beloved friend, a safe- house in a scary hard world. Drew died in the AIDS ward of a state hospital. Died behind a locked door and only minimally tended by frightened medicos wearing haz-mat suits and respirators. Drew died convinced his life had no worth because the people who should have loved him unconditionally refused to put their prejudices and their reputation with their equally hateful churchy community aside for their own son's wellbeing. If his own parents didn't want him, this dear man who was kind and funny and compassionate, if he was a horror and a shame to his own parents what kind of future was there for him? In Drew's mind there was none. So he died.

I think about Drew sometimes and wish like hell he had lived to see this day. This slow but sure deconstruction of the bigoted prison and hopelessness of living without honesty and dignity and the same civil rights protection under the law as the dominant herd has always enjoyed. I think about what Drew's life would have been like if he'd been allowed to marry Ramon as I did Mike. If his love had had a place to be.

I thought about Drew this week as I read my friends' words about their own struggles to be wholly themselves. Whether childless by choice or following a career path outside the idealized norm or their desire to not be forced to dress, act and speak 'their age' lest the consequences be too hard. This one longs for purple hair. That one is tired of her bra. Another one is sick to death of being 'nice'. Yet another is in a transition place and suddenly after a lifetime of definite direction and accomplishment is lost and fumbling around. Good people all of them. Folks who aren't doing anyone else any damage by living their lives slightly off the 'allowed' way of going on. Yet they have fear. Doubt. Resentment. Pain.

I thought about the white doves of the Piazza del Marco. How mostly it's the snowy doves themselves who drive off the non-white ones, they are vigilant about their comfortable conformity. But should the white doves of Saint Mark's Square occasionally accept the oddly colored grey or brown one the human minders will capture those 'off' ones and wring their necks. The purity must be maintained, you see. No oddballs allowed. Why? I don't know. They are only birds. I know for my own self that should I actually be lucky enough to visit Venice I wouldn't care a fig as to whether the pigeons were all the same color. But sadly experience has taught me otherwise.

Having taken an almost intolerable amount of grief for being 'wrong' through no fault of my own (LA is too big, smart, weird, loud, emotional, honest, wimpy, creative, uncomfortable) I absolutely understand my friends' woe. I get their resentment. Their bewilderment in having wandered off and finding so much hostility for edging away from the herd even a little bit.

As much as I would love to say to my wandering friends that they should just go for it and fly their freak flags high and proud I can't.

It's not that I lack conviction, what I have is the bitter experience of being a grey dove in Venice. Physically abnormal, unable to bring my thoughts and beliefs into line with the herd, not deliberately an outsider, shit, I spent 30 years of my life striving for 'normal' and failing, but still I've been the target of so much hostility and fear from the accepted ones, the gang, I can't honestly counsel my friends to fling themselves into the updraft and assume they'll be carried safely on the wind.

Makes me sad. Makes me feel like a chickenshit. But I cover up. Oh hell yes, I cover up. Because I've learned. I've learned that when I express myself, speak an opinion not buffeted and padded with apologia, when I fricken dare be openly myself and not grovel and apologize and beg for forgiveness from the mainstream I am going to be spanked. The very friends I support in their offbeat choices are going to try to knock me down. They're going to use their knowledge of my tender spots to hit me where it hurts. Not because I'm judging them, but because I am simply being me. And that is never, ever, ever allowed.


Walking carefully, ~LA


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