(disclaimer: full stop. I am an atheist, so if you were looking for some religious insight, alas woe be unto you as this is not that. It’s a play on words and the referenced verse has no relevance..but I hope you hang out anyway because we can all learn something from each other.)
I came to realize how fortunate I am to have had 2 friends of mine that happen to be gay. No, I have a LOT more but these 2 in particular played a critical role in my understanding of the life challenges they faced and how each dealt with them from different perspectives.
I was what is described in popular culture as a homophobe. A term that falls short of the entirety of the anti-gay spectra. I get the subtley, the slap in the face but in my case the negativity came from a different place. When I was around 8, I was sexually assaulted in my sleep by a male family member. I went from a deep sleep to being smothered and painfully penetrated. I fought him as hard as I could but I was a very frail child. My aunt heard my muffled screams for help and yelled out asking ‘what was going on’. In hindsight, I believe in my heart she knew but those were very different days. She may have even feared him herself as she was also very frail and suffering from the ravages of polio. I give her that because I am not prepared to hate her for it, nor would it do anything to change the outcome. My feelings toward gay men was rage. How dare you take it upoon yourselves to impose your disgusting perversion on me? This attitude was convenient in a homophobic culture so I played my part whenever the opportunity presented itself. This was very apparent during my teen years…the years of self determination and search for acceptance.
The first of my friends was shoolmate J. He was very effeminate, but given the consequences of full admittal, especially during that time, he denied being gay. There were rumors, giggles and outright abuse of him from other kids, but he dealt with it in stride…or so it seemed.
I had no reson to interact with him until we ended up in acting class together. It was through this that I came to know who he was as a person. J was also a very religious person. He would attend the same church as my mother which led to him visiting my house to see my mom…often. I hated it. I would openly scorn him and make it known his presence was unwanted.
One day, i came home from the park to find him sitting on my stoop, crying, his eye blackened and swollen. I asked him what happened and he told me that someone stomped him in school. The beating was so bad the nurse called his father. His father reacted by abandoning him. having no where else to go, he come to my house. That was the first time I mentally processed what his life was like. I couldn’t imagine being in his situation. Sure, my dad abandoned me but I had my mom and he fucking murderered my sister so it was different. It was like I was seeing him for the first time. It was the first time I was able to humanize his suffering,
My mom found him a place to live through the church. Something that would only bring him around even more. J also had a learning disability. His reading score was very low. We would end up in plays together, Plays meant reading scripts. I would have to help him constantly. He struggled but pulled up his reading score enough to graduate albeit a year behind. He auditioned for and was accepted to Performing Arts High School, where I’d managed to do the same a year earlier. It was in PA that I met the second friend. Z.
Z and I were in the same acting class. We also hung out a lot together. He was a funny guy. Often outrageous but never once did I suspect that he was gay. He was closeted. We even dated two classmates that were best friends..well dated is a stretch in his case because she rejected him coldly after falling for another guy. Most of that relationship was also driven by his desire for her.
At this stage I was still strongly anti-gay and I let it be known through mild threats and distanced behavior towards them. I was a very angry hostile person internally. It was the time of insecurity and ‘proving my manhood’. I was in a gang, was studying martial arts and participating in full contact sparring matches, so everyone knew I was someone to be concerned about. I’d also had another experience where I was staying over at a family friend’s house and one of his cousins tried to feel me up in my sleep. Little did he know I always slept with a knife, so I pinned him pown with it to his throat and threatened to cut off his hands. That incident re-energized my hatred.
It was at a sleep over at my then girlfriend’s house, asleep in her bedroom. She had this huge bed. Four of us were in it, myself, her and Z and another guy. I was awakened by moaning. It was a male voice and my first reaction was WTF, is someone banging my girl? She was still asleep next to me, under my arm. I lay there still, in the dark wondering if I was imagining things when I heard it again. To my surprise, it turned out to be Z and this guy making out. My heart was pounding..holy shit..what’s going on? I stayed still for a minute and then feigned waking up. I heard someone say ‘oh shit’ and tumble to the floor. Me, being the actor, pretended not to be fully cognizant of what was happening. I got up and went to the bathroom. I sat in there saying WTF to myself about 100 times, trying to process what the hell was going on. I went back to bed and laid there in stunned disbelief for some time before passing back out.
Lster that morning, a few of us were still over. We had breakfast and a wakey bakey. Z started drinking hard liquor straight from the bottle. I thought I was putting up a good act but he knew I knew. I was in the livingroom when he went into the kitchen, grabbed a knife, and threatened to kill himself. He sat in the corner with the knife, sobbing hysterically and drinking. He kept saying he wanted to be somebody but I knew the real meaning of his words. I sat with him for at least an hour to assure him that I was there for him and would be his friend no matter what.
That was a real turning point for me. For once I could see their struggle from a different perspective. What I saw was a reflection of my own inner struggle to be accepted. It was like a light going on in my head. Suddenly, I understood his pain and the pain of gay people as a whole. That day was transformative for me.
Tolerance. I hate that fucking word. It implies that the end game is mutually muted disgust…that it’s ok to internalize scorn and act as if nothing’s wrong on the surface. It’s low hanging fruit. Food for a weak and uncompromising uneducated mind. We are all human beings. We share the same feelings. There is no bravery or growth in not challenging your insecurities. You will be surprised at the strength you will find.
Ok so now it’s time for me to drop some music on you. I’ve updated this playlist of mixes I’ve done over the past week or so. Not asking you to like or promote, just to hit play..listen and hopefully enjoy. If you like it, please let me know. It gives me the warm and fuzzies.