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Cool Change Indeed!

Amanda B. at VeryZen posted this wonderful story about her father's evolution from Christian homophobe to outspoken advocate for gay rights. As we approach the annointing of a new Miss Hag. Homo du Mois, I have been thinking about the idea of acceptance and coming out.

Surely, a woman who proudly wears the moniker of "Fag Hag," must have always been an open-minded gal. Sadly, this is not so. I, too, grew up under the hypocritically judgmental eye of the Catholic church. And in a tiny blip of a parochial town in the deep Maine woods. A dislike of gays was like fluoride in the toothpaste. That's just the way things were.

In honor of all the gays I've loved before, I offer you pieces of early homophobia and my very own coming out. Of the dark closet of ignorance.

Junior High, 1988.
The force of the popular girl clique is singularly overwhelming. We don't breathe without conferring with each other.

Is it inhale, exhale or exhale, inhale?

One of our own, K., has been chosen as this week's target. Every week, one of us is the least loved. It is how adolescent girls learn to suffer and to punish. By picking off one of our own. K. has imperfect skin. Her clothes are a minute too late. Her potential wanes.

Plus, we have all learned a new word. A word we collectively whisper in every double-pierced earlobe in town. Lesbian. Worse than slut or burnout.

K. catches me in a moment. Away from the group.

Why? Why are people saying such a thing about me?

Her perfect nails tremble as they delicately pick at her wrist.

Freshmen Fall at Quirky Midwestern Private Liberal Arts College, 1993.

The campus is colorful today. I do not look up at the primordial trees or the white dome of the chapel tower that obviously sits in the center of campus, at the pinnacle of the quadrangle. I look down. At the shuffling shell toes of my Chuck Taylors.

The ground is covered in smears of pastel chalk. Every inch of sidewalk is covered like a horde of toddlers snorted an eight ball and tried to create the biggest hopscotch game in the universe overnight. Except, the chalkings are not simple squares and numbers. They are phrases and quotations. Slogans.

God made me gay! Gay is good! Silence=Death.

And of course, the rainbows. The pink triangles. Later, I would learn that this is a tradition. The GLBSGQT (LMNOP . . .) group on campus chalks the sidewalks every year on the eve of
Gay Pride Week.

As I wind my way through ivy-covered red brick edifices, I think little of what I am seeing. And then it happens. One bright pink statistic stops me in my tracks. Literally.

One-third of this campus is gay.

One-third? Like, 33.3%? That's . . .like . . .400 people!

I rush back to my dorm room, to confer with my very straight roommate. A. is my antithesis in so many ways: effortlessly blonde hair, clear blue eyes, a Biology major. An athlete on two sports teams with long, lean legs. I swoop through the door and tell her what I learned from the sidewalk.

A. nods, wide-eyed.

"I know. One of the girls on the basketball team is."

"The one with the mullet?"

I curl up on my thin mattress and stare up at the black and white Guess? ads that cover my wall. One-third.

Freshmen Spring at Same College, 1994

I have finally met him. My soul mate. His name is Patrick and his love is the end of my loneliness. It is the most uncomplicated relationship I have ever had with a man. Our hands fit together perfectly.

"I have to talk to you," he hands me a Basic Light 100.

"What's up?"

"Not now. Later. Tonight. We'll get some wine, sit on the roof."

We are standing in the middle of the Fine Arts Building parking lot. A group of tennis players bounce by on their way to practice. A muddle of black clad theatre kids lounge on a low wall smoking.

I speak. Too loudly. "Are you coming out?"

It echoes through the perfect storm of brick wall.

. . .coming out, coming out, coming out . . .

The record skips. The needle screeches. Everyone stares.

"You're lucky I love you. Why don't we just call my dad while you're making announcements?"

Since then, homophobia has faded into my distant mind. It's something people used to do, I think. Like communicating with carrier pigeons or listening to 8-track tapes. No one does homophobia anymore. Right?

At least for me, the transition was painless. It was, in fact, wondrous.

Somewhere between fear of the unknown and unabashed desire for a grander life, I learned to love. And the lesson came from a gay man.

link * Miss Marisol posted at 8:06 PM * posted by Miss Marisol @ 8:06 PM   |