Saturday, October 30, 2010

It Takes a Village to Raise a Queer

      It was summer of 1988 and I was sixteen years old when I came out of the closet for the first time. 

I was away at a summer program at Wellesley College and I saw a flyer up for an LGBT meeting and decided to attend under the guise of "questioning". 
    Sure I had seen a few gay movies, and stared longingly after a few girls in my time, but I hardly thought that qualified me to be a certifiable pussy bandit. I was fifteen after all and growing up in a largely homophobic area of the South.

Song of the South
Being in New England I thought it might finally be safe to stick my toe in the luke warm end of the kiddie pool. 
    However, when I arrived at the meeting spot a number of other teens were waiting just to see who showed. At first I almost didn't step forward. 
     I was just "questioning" after all (right?). 
So I wasn't really sure if it was worth it to spend my summer being hazed by my peers after taking it on the chin back at home. 

     In the end I decided that this was bullshit and I decided to move forward. 
I had expected that usual taunts from home, but instead I was met with silence and stares. 

Girl thread!
    Okay so I did have an unusually large rack at that age, and I was a bit of an eccentric dresser, but looking back I think it might have been something else...
     Before the descriptor had been placed in heavy rotation, I was femme. Sure I liked to mix it up with school boy vests, mens pants, dress shirts and ties too. However, for the most part I was pretty damn femme.

Which meant that either to my benefit or to my detriment almost no one suspected that I might be queer. 
    This left my peers a little confused, but once I was able to re-arrange my lipsticked balls, I went in and sat down.
    There were about ten teens in that first meeting, most of whom lived in New England or New York (each were out in their communities). 
     Myself and another guy from England were the only two still sitting in our respective closets. Both of us lived in similar conservative communities (although his came with added religious pressure):

 As each person in the group shared their story I was at first struck by their incredible bravery in the face of adversity.

However, something else  hit me ever harder. 

In the mist of their mistreatment, each of them had found places in their community where they felt supported. Friends, family members, youth groups, gay rights advocates and community centers that had taken them in and offered support. 
Outside of movies, I had never known that type of support might be possible.

So when it came to my turn to share my story, I cried.
There was a fair amount of crying that went down that day, but mostly out of relief and joy. We were both just so happy to feel that we weren't the only ones anymore. That we never really were the only ones. 
To be continued....
Next time's topic: The end of summer and one hell of ride back in the South. 

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