Friday, October 1, 2010

It Gets Better, Even If It Wasn't So Bad

I've wrestled with whether or not to contribute to Dan Savage's It Gets Better project, which aims to give bullied gay youth a glimpse of the much brighter future that awaits them once the hell of high school is passed. My reasons are about the same as Andrew Sullivan's (I wish I could find the post, but in scanning the last week's worth I'm coming up empty), that I didn't suffer especially cruel treatment in high school--I made up for it with lots of brooding anyway and the usual teenage angst--and thus it's not my place to tell kids who had it much worse than me that it will get better.

No, I didn't get much shit from my peers in high school, for a few reasons:

0. I would like to think my class, one of the smaller ones in my high school of 350 students at best, was a tight-knit group that had its cliques but didn't seriously ostracize anyone. This is almost certainly romance, and false.

1. I am what some would call "straight-acting," which is to say you would not know I was gay if I did not tell you. When people in my high school did know, it was almost a non-issue, because they didn't have to deal with anything particularly unusual. I got some light teasing (one of them said I could not consider myself gay until I had "poked the brownstar"), but not much else. Another boy, by contrast, who was much more flamboyant than I and a year older, had a Halloween pumpkin thrown at his house and surely much worse.

2. I was friends with the more popular people in my class and school, and as such was never in such a low social position as to be scorned by my "superiors."

The third reason reason is probably not even an actual factor, but it makes a good little story. In middle school, 7th or 8th grade, a few of my (popular) friends and I would "gay it up" just for a laugh. This was during and after I had learned I was gay and came out to them and only them. Anyway, we would joke good-naturedly about fucking each other in the ass or something like that, and one day I had a sticker put on my locker that looked something like this:

A little inquiry discovered to us that the perpetrator was a very large boy from our class named Jay. Retaliation was swift and merciless:

We printed miniature versions of these images, plus a picture of a cow doctored to have the 'anti-Jay' sign branded on its side and with the caption, "Put to Pasture" (Jay was a very big boy), and distributed them to other students, $.25 each. I think we made three dollars.

Later that day we got called into the principal's office on some kind of harassment issue. If I recall, I told them I was gay (which Jay had not known), and this made our withering assault somewhat more understandable, and none of us got in any real trouble.

I'd like to think that episode set an early example for others that I (rather, my influential friends) was not to be fucked with, but I think items one and two above were much, much more pertinent.

So, yeah, about the only lessons my high school experience offers for tormented young gays are in fact pretty bad ones: blend in, be cool, and be untouchable. That's just not possible for some kids, and that's why I am not doing a video.

I have had my own issues, though, and my situation did improve, and is set to improve in the very near future. But that's a post for another time.

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