Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I changed high schools between 9th and 10th grades. It was a miracle. At the very small school I had attended (300 kids, kindergarten through 12th grade), I was unpopular. Picked on because I was physically weak and too smart. Some of the kids suspected I was a fag. I had no close friends, I was miserable.

My father's mid-life crisis consisted of uprooting our family and moving to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. My home life became a nightmare of mental abuse from him, his way of dealing with the fact that he was pretty much a failure at everything he did. School became an escape. At Sault High I made friends with some of the girls- Michelle, Angie, Jennifer, Marjorie, Mary, Missy. I got my first ever "A" in gym class (the teacher told me that he graded on how hard I tried, not on how fast I could run). No one cared if I liked to read.

But I still kept quiet about probably the most important facet of my life. I was a homo, a faggot. Queer. Although there wasn't a lot of anti-fag stuff at school (at least I don't remember any), I knew that it was something that other people didn't accept.

At graduation night I remember seeing one of my classmates, Scott, who I didn't know very well. I can see his face in my mind. A few months after graduation, he killed himself, supposedly because he was gay. I remember being startled when I heard this.

I never considered suicide because I always assumed that life would get better after I went to college. I escaped to the University of Michigan, despite my father's efforts to prevent me from going.

The first gay person I met was my resident advisor on my hall. Good lord. All of the stereotypes of gay men that I had heard about- effeminate, high-pitched voice, weird- well, he certainly fit the bill. And I was so insecure that I thought to myself, "If I come out, I will be just like that." So I didn't come out. I remained hidden away. Occasionally I would go to the graduate library and browse the HQ 75 section, looking at the small set of books on the topic. But I was too scared to come out.

I stayed in the dorm my junior year and in February of that year some of the guys decided to have a "No Fags" party. They put up signs all around campus- that red circle with a slash mark through it over two stick figures butt-fucking. That year I had a closeted resident advisor, Mitchell, who did nothing to stop the party. I was too chicken and closeted to do anything either. So I sat in my room fuming while the hall was packed with people attending the "No Fags" party, embarrassed that I was such a fucking wuss. One of the hosts of the party is now a prominent Republican lawyer in Ohio.

So the next Monday I called the University of Michigan's Gay and Lesbian Office, which miraculously the school had, and joined a Coming Out Group which met every week. Going to that first meeting was one of the scariest things I have ever done. This was in the days before the Internet, before major and minor celebrities dared to come out, before there was even a single positive gay or lesbian character on television (Steven Carrington did not count). And I discovered that being an out gay man was so much better than I have ever imagined.

So yes, things do get better. Like every person, I have my ups and downs. But the ups vastly outweigh the downs (in particular, right now is AWESOME). I don't think I would ever have imagined, back when I was a scared teenager, that my life would be as great as it is now.

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