THE OTHER SIDE...OF GAY

One afternoon in the mid 80's when I was in high school, one of my best friends went home from school, sat in a car in his parents garage with all the doors shut, turned on the car and killed himself.  He left a note and a song.  The song was Rumors by Timex Social Club.  Sal was the most naturally brilliant dancer I have ever met.  We used to sit on the curb in front of my parents house for hours and just talk and talk.  He was an amazing spirit who touched my life in so many ways.  Sal was also gay which he shared with some of us, but was definitely not ready to come out to the world.  Unfortunately, he was forced out by a nasty rumor that spread through our high school like wild fire.  As a result, he took his life.
Thank goodness it's 2010 and we as a society have progressed right?
  • September 22, 2010 - An 18-year-old Rutgers University freshman jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge days after he had  been secretly filmed during an intimate encounter (with another man) which was then broadcast on the Internet.
  • October 1, 2010 - A group of men were attacked and had homosexual slurs shouted at them on a Chelsea street corner.
  • October 3, 2010 - Two men attacked a man in the bathroom of the Stonewall Inn early Sunday morning after he told them it was a gay bar.
I feel compelled to address this.  Not only does this touch me on a very personal level but I feel like on a spiritual level, it touches us all. Now I could use this post to rant and rave angrily about how horrific these acts of hate are.  I could use it to focus on how shocked and appalled I am that this ignorance is still happening in 2010.  Truth be told though, negative only begets negative.  Instead I choose to follow in the footsteps of Mother Theresa who once said...
"I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there."
So I offer you a view of the other side of gay, a perspective not prevalent in the media.  The best way to teach is by example.  I hope my story can be just that...
MY STORY
Being raised in an extremely catholic, conservative, small town family, I promise you that I had no aspirations of being a lesbian when I grew up.  I can tell you this much though, I have recollection that I was fully aware of being attracted to girls from as early on as age 9 and maybe even earlier so I can promise it is definitely something I was born with.  Somehow, unfortunately, by that point though, I had already been taught that gay was wrong.  Not only by direct scoffs and judgments at anything homosexual that I heard outside my home but probably more so by the hush hush and discomfort i felt in people including my family around the subject.  By the time I got to high school, tomboy as I have always been, I knew to hide or at least deny my gayness.  Two hetero marriages later, I gave birth to my amazing son JD.  By the time JD was 4 1/2, I could no longer live the lie so I "came out" and moved to Brooklyn with my 4 year old.
As a single mom (who just happened to be a lesbian) I set us up in a studio apartment and started my search for the best school I could find for my son.  What a process that was.  So many choices.  Going in, sitting down and interviewing the administrators of each school trying to decide what would be the best fit for my lil man.  Finally, I chose a school that felt right and was very hands on.  Having observed JD, I could tell that he needed to touch and experience things as opposed to just hearing about them.  With so much busy work, I didn't have time to focus on the fact that my baby would be starting school in the fall.
JD"S FIRST DAY
I remember standing at the bus stop watching him run around and play.  My girlfriend at the time (as in partner, not friend that is a girl) stood with me as I totally fought the tears back.  We watched the bus pull away.  My heart started to pound... I was sending him off into this big world.  Would he be alright?  Would he cry for me?  Would he need me?  I busied myself at work that day so as not to think about it.  I was told to be at the bus stop at 3:30 when his bus would arrive.  12noon my cell phone rings.  It's my girlfriend.  After a few moments talking she asks, "So, where are you?"  I'm silent.  Again, "Ummmm hello?  Where are you?"  "Outside I respond."  She chuckles and says, "You are at the bus stop aren't you?"  She rushed over and sat with me for hours to wait for his bus.  Yup that's right folks, took half a day off to make sure I wasn't 1 second late for when his bus got there.  Sat there for 3 hours waiting for it.
The first couple of years were tough ones money-wise.  I had already gotten my bachelors degree but decided to go back for my Master's.  I worked part-time and went to school full time.  Making ends meet was a struggle and a half.  I wondered sometimes how I'd make it and it was very scary and lonely.  Don't get me wrong, my girlfriend was very supportive and definitely helped me raise him as much as she could but she didn't live with us so ultimately it boiled down to me.  Many nights I sat staring at this amazing little being just hoping I would make the right decisions.  It overwhelmed me how much I could love another being and I knew that no matter how "bad" things seemed, I needed to keep it positive for him even if that meant he had filet mignon for dinner while I had popcorn, as a parent you do whatever it takes for your child(ren.)
FIRST CHRISTMAS
Times were not always easy at all, like I said we didn't have much which for the most part didn't bother me, i figured it out.  Until... our first Christmas in Brooklyn.  I'm a huge Christmas person.  Everything about it.  I like the decorations, the songs, the snuggly way it feels, the happiness, the gifts, everything.  It had been almost a year since we first moved in.  Christmas was approaching fast and JD like any almost 6 year old was super excited for Santa to come.  I on the other hand was super stressed that Santa wouldn't make it this year or if he did, would be a bit low on gifts.  I asked my girlfriend to go shopping with me.  i had about $30 to spare and was going to try to stretch it.  We went to Toys R Us and were going up and down the aisles.  I saw all the other parents filling up their carts and I started to feel so inadequate.  The idea of him having no Christmas was more than I could bear.  Suddenly there I was crying in the middle of Toys R Us. When I told my girlfriend what I was crying about, she quickly pulled out her wallet and said don't worry, he will have a Christmas.  And did he ever.
For the next several years we continued to live in our little studio apartment.  He went to school in Brooklyn during the week and out to his dad's family in Long Island at least every other weekend which definitely gave me some much needed "me time."  But come Sunday night back to my strict rule.  All my friends knew that pretty much from Sunday to Thursday it was all about family which meant Me, my then girlfriend and JD.  There was homework, dinner, cleanup, bathing and snuggle time for JD which pretty much took up our entire evening once home.
MY VILLAGE
I joined a local women's soccer team for my own sanity and adult interaction not to mention I have played soccer since I'm a kid.  It was sponsored by a women's cafe so naturally, most of the women on the team were also lesbians.  We practiced a few times a week and had games every Sunday.  I would play for that team for the next 10 years.  During those 10 years, JD came to every practice and every game.  When we practiced, he practiced with us.  When I played, whoever was on the sidelines would just naturally watch him.  It was a given.  It took a village a caring, loving, nurturing village -through the stitches in his lip as a toddler and in his head again when he was 15...nights when he was sick and couldn't sleep... 9/11 when I was stuck in Manhattan and he was in Brooklyn... his first kiss and his first heart break...football and baseball games...doctors appointments and graduation - it took a village and in this case, it was a village of mainly gays and lesbians.
COMING OUT
Many people over the years have asked me when and how I "came out" to JD.  My answer is never really.  Honestly, I don't believe in coming out.  I'm not diminishing anyone's process here but for me personally I don't believe in it.  JD asked me at about age 5 or 6, "Mama, what is gay."  I simply answered his question.  "Gay is when a man and a man or a woman and a woman love each other.  "Like boyfriend and boyfriend or girlfriend and girlfriend instead of boyfriend and girlfriend?" He asked.  "Well not so much instead of boyfriend and girlfriend but just like it."  I offered... He paused for a bit, obviously giving it thought and then finished with, "Oooooooh like you Mama, (pointing to my girlfriend) you are gay cause you love her."  "Exactly I said."  And that was the end of that.
JD is now an 18 year old amazing young man.  He is one of the most intelligent, funny, well rounded people I know.  From what I can see he is as hetero as they come.  Just FYI, I am not sitting around waiting for him to break the news to me that he is straight like it seems gays are expected to. Here's where I jump on my soapbox...
LISTEN UP PEEPS... and especially those of you who are parents or will be one day both gay and straight.   There seems to be a ridiculously huge double standard going on and each and every one of us is responsible for buying into a homophobic reality and then passing it on to our kids.  I'm not only talking to straight people here, there are a lot of us gay (and by that I mean lesbian and bi alike) peeps who are also just as homophobic.  How not?  Society has taught us that we should be ashamed of ourselves.  Let's change it.  How?   Well thoughts are things and what we focus on becomes a reality.  Let's create a new reality.  Hear me now...Kids learn hatred.  Kids learn shame.  They are not born with it.  We teach it to them by what we say and just as much if not more by what we don't.  We also teach it to them by not being OK with who we are.  They feel our shame and then emulate it.  Let's teach them that love knows not gender nor orientation.  When you hear the words gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgendered or homosexual, don't cringe or quickly change the subject as if it or I am some great taboo.  If you are gay yourself, don't see you our your love as wrong, be OK with you.
Treat me as normally as you do my straight sister.  Expect nothing more from me.  It is not my responsibility to make you feel comfortable with who I am as if something is inherently wrong with me.  It's not.  I love the way you do.  I feel the way you do.  I hurt the way you do.  Please don't diminish me to a sexual act... I am so much more.  I am not the media hype, I am a mother, a sister, a daughter a partner, a friend... I am living proof that there is another side of gay.  Don't buy into a reality of hatred that you didn't even create.  They say, "Each one teach one,"  I say hells yes!  Time to make a change!
My thoughts and positive energy goes out to all the loved ones affected by these acts
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