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the gay book
stupidfool
on the way home from my grandparents' house, i read a book that made me cry. i thought it was a wonderful book, but i'm not sure if it was because it was actually well-written, or if it was just because i had never read anything like it before. it was about gay kids in high school. it was told from a straight girl's perspective. at the beginning of her senior year, her best friend came out of the closet to her. and for 269 glorious pages, they just explored her reaction to it, and the way the other kids reacted. some kids were ok, and others were mean and hateful. there was a gay boy in the story who had been teased for being gay before he even knew what gay was, just because he was too feminine. there were hate crimes and sexual harrassment and many of the teachers just stood by and let it happen...

i summarize it for you, and it probably sounds just like something you see on the internet any day of the week. some chat room is posting about how wrong homophobia is, or there's some news article on the harassment that gay people experience... but i guess i never really felt it. it's like i've been living in some sort of bubble... i know it exists. it's not like i don't believe the people who say it's happened to them... but i can't really understand it until it hits somewhere close to me. it probably sounds dumb, but reading this book, i felt like i was close to it. you know how sometimes you read a book, and you feel like you actually know the characters, and when something happens to them, you feel it just like it happened to you, or someone you love? that's what happened here. i know it's just a book, and that these exact events may not have ever happened... but sometimes fiction can tell truer truths than fact ever could. like this time. i've been reading first-hand, 'true' accounts of events like these ever since i learned how to use the internet, but it took a work of fiction to make me really understand what all these other gay kids are having to deal with.

it makes me feel lucky, at first. i feel lucky that i don't 'act' gay, and that i could walk to class without fearing that my classmates would hurt me, mentally or physically. i feel glad that my parents didn't disown me for being gay, and that even after coming out of the closet, nobody has harmed or threatened me because of my sexuality. i'm lucky because i've got it good...

but then i stop to think, and i wonder how good i really have it.

being thankful that i don't act gay... isn't that like being thankful that i can live a lie? why did i even bother to come out of the closet, if i just wanted to spend the rest of my life fitting in with all the straight kids, and acting straight? maybe i would have been better off it i couldn't hide it. like 15-year-old angela, who walks and talks and dresses and acts like a dyke... she's going through some tough shit right now, but what doesn't kill her makes her stronger, and by the time she's an adult, she's going to be able to handle anything the world can throw her way. or pinky, who's 16, but the concept is the same. and then there's me, 22, and still afraid to wear my rainbow necklace in public, for fear that people will know it means i'm gay... still pulling that long, annoying hair into a ponytail every morning, because i'm afraid to cut it off and go against what society thinks a proper girl should look like... hanging out with kids who aren't even old enough to drive, like i'm that far behind the rest of the gay community, and the rest of the straight world, too. and this is good?

and all that 'out of the closet' bullshit... like i'm really out of the closet. 'out of the closet' means you don't hide it. it means you're unashamed. it means that you are who you are, and you're not going to let anybody tell you otherwise. i am not out of the closet. the week at home proved that to me. these people -- my friends, my family, the ones who got the e-mail, the ones who i'm lucky to have, because they had such 'good' reactions -- are in various stages of denial. and i let them-hell, i help them-stay there.

oh yeah, and let's not forget the ones who don't speak to me.
like nikki, who hasn't talked to me since i confirmed that i actually was gay, except for to give me cookies 'for the family' when my grandpa died. i'm not worth talking to any more, now that she knows i'm gay, but my family still deserved the cookies. she knew my family, and she knew my grandpa. she was friends with my sister, too. ever since the e-mail, she's cut off contact with both of us. if i send her messages, she answers when she has to, but it's short and sweet. last weekend, my sister had me ask her when she was coming home. it was thursday, and fly said, 'have her call us; we'll hang out.' i told fly that nikki wouldn't do it, that nikki hardly spoke to me any more. fly asked why, and i couldn't tell her. i just told her i didn't know. nikki did come home thursday, and we were home all day. she never called.
what about lauren, who has said maybe a word to me since i sent the e-mail? she used to be the most talkative girl alive, and i would complain about how she never shut up... i think the sfb even helped me come up with a polite word for 'girl who needs to learn when to shut up,' although i can't remember the word right now. but ever since the e-mail, i pass her on campus, or see her at alana's, and she just sort of nods at me, the way you might acknowlege an ex-lover, the kind with the sticky break-up.
or we could talk about brandy. she sent me a message once, when i wasn't at my computer, to tell me that she got a job at disney world for the fall, but other than that, she ignores me. i send her messages and she never answers, and she never talks to me. even when i get bold, and tell her i'm coming home for the week, and maybe we could hang out, she replies, 'gotta go,' and signs offline.
it could be a coincidence, all of that for all of them. but it could also be that they aren't the type to react with hate crimes or violence... but lack of visible anger does not quite equal a 'good' reaction.

the rest of them, they still speak to me. and they'll talk to me about anything and everything... except for my sexuality.
like alana and extra. they don't go out of their way to include me in things, or even to talk to me, but when i'm around, they're perfectly friendly and normal... a week or so after the e-mail, extra asked if i still thought i was gay. i told him i knew it, and that was the last time we've discussed it, or anything related to it. now, we talk about schoolwork and kroger and tv shows and anything to avoid my sexuality. in fact, they avoid my social life too, because i think i wound up saying something about hanging out with pinky or megan or whoever, and i mentioned that they were gay. so now, they can't even ask about my friends, because we might touch on the forbidden topic...
my parents went through a month or so where they were 'dealing with it.' it ended with my mom asking me, 'you're still not sexually active, right?', and me reassuring her again, 'no, mom.' she said, 'good, keep it that way,' and that was it. it was embarassing, and i didn't much think about it then... but now that she hasn't mentioned my sexuality for months, i think about it. and i wonder what, exactly, she meant by that. with my sister, she means 'no sex until you're married.' but she knows that my sister and her boyfriend aren't just cuddle buddies... she even lets them sleep in the same bed. for my sister, the only rule is that sex waits until marriage. but for me, i think the rule is that i must be alone for life. it shows up every day, in the things she doesn't say. she asks my sister about alex, talks about their plans for the future, asks why my sister thinks they're compatible, what his best qualities are, and anything else you could think to ask about a boyfriend. she teases my brother about girls all the time, and the poor kid's still at the stage where he's more interested in a computer than a girl. but still, every day, she asks him about haley rogers, the girl who thinks he's cute, and devonne, the girl who has a crush on him. she tries to talk him into admitting to liking a girl. she asks him about homecoming, reminds him that he'll be a junior now, and he ought to ask a girl. any time he says a girl's name, she perks up and asks him about her. she wants to know every detail of their love lives, even if they don't have one. but as for my love life, non-existant as it is, she tries her hardest to avoid it. she never asks any questions, like if i'm seeing anybody, or got my eye on anybody. she won't even ask about my friends, for fear that one of them will turn out to be a girlfriend. even when (just as an experiment) i started dropping hints that pinky and i were more than just friends, she just changed the subject as fast as she could. i could be engaged to the girl of my dreams, and she would never allow herself to know. i can be gay, in theory, as long as i live an asexual life... but if i was going to pretend to be something i wasn't, i would just pretend to be straight. i came out of the closet because i didn't want to have to live a lie. so sure, her reaction might seem good, but i don't feel like it's good enough. should it be?
cindy is even worse. i spent some time with her this week. she's still thinking that i'm going to find the perfect guy to change my mind, or that it was just a passing fancy, the idea that i was a lesbian, and that i've changed my mind by now. for example, i was asking about her boyfriend, and she asked me if i had found a boyfriend yet. i didn't know what to say, besides 'no.'
sometimes i make my sister listen to my stories, about marie and megan. she knows they're dating, and she knows about kyle... she doesn't know i like marie, though. i guess i get her used to talking about lesbians by talking about ones other than me. i never bring myself into the stories, as anything but an innocent bystander, and she most certainly never asks.

i could be expecting too much. i guess you can't just say 'i'm gay,' and expect everybody you love to show up at the next pride parade. it's probably partly my fault, for not keeping at it, for letting them think that it could have just been a phase, or that it doesn't really matter to me any more. i need to be more 'out,' more open, more like terrie. i just thought that coming out of the closet was supposed to be the hard part... nobody told me that once you come out, they'll keep shoving you back in, and making you come out over and over and over again. it just frustrates me, because with any other new fact, you tell somebody, and they absorb it, and alter their lives accordingly. if i showed you cold hard proof that touching black ink could poison you, you'd stock up on blue pens, and begin to treat black ink as poisonous. so if i tell you i'm gay, why can't you treat me as such?

maybe i do have it good. from the outside, i have friends, just like i did in high school, only not as many. but what good were my high school friends, really? they kept me busy, is all. i kept them entertained, and they kept my schedule full, so i hardly ever had time to stop and think about the fact that i didn't have anybody to talk to (and i mean really talk, not just the jokes we passed off as conversation, and not just listen to them talk. a friendship should have that, but it should go both ways.), or that i wasn't at all like the kids i hung out with. in high school, i guess that was good enough. i didn't know enough to expect anything better than that. but then i met christine, and then marie, and even jane and jim, and it changed my perception of what a 'friend' was. i think that jane, who i have never seen or talked to outside of work, is a better friend than any of the 'friends' i had in high school. a real friend should understand that there's more to you than that outer layer. and a real friend wants to get at what's inside you, not ignore it. now that i know how a real friend should feel, the other friends just aren't cutting it. i sometimes feel more alone with them than i would without them.

like right now... i've got some strange feelings for a girl with a girlfriend, who wants to be my friend, but nothing more. when i want to talk about it, who can i turn to? *long pause* pinky will listen, but she'll turn around and tell marie. i trust jane a little more than i trust pinky, but that's not really saying much. i don't think jane will spread my thoughts around to the world, but i do think that there's a good chance she'd end up relaying some of it back to marie, with the best of intentions, of couse. and those two are really my only options. my best choice turns out to be my boss, who feels a lot more like a mom than a friend... so yeah, tell me that my friends reacted well, and that i've got it good...

so what, exactly, is good about my situation? for all practical purposes, i am not out of the closet yet. i may have technically told the truth to everybody who matters, but i'm not really truthful about it. when i meet somebody new, i'm not going to let them know i'm gay... and if i become their friend, i'll find myself stuck again, way too deep into a friendship that was built on a lie. until i can casually discuss the truth with people who already know the truth, i don't think i'm out of the closet. my family did not react well (though they didn't react poorly, either). my old friends have been less than supportive. i've got a grand total of three good things that i can think of: jane, pinky, and marie. jane, because she listens. i still haven't figured out if she actually cares, because i know that she can make you feel like she cares, even when she doesn't, but either way, she listens. she listens and reacts and she tries to understand. pinky, because she cares. at my grandparents', gone for 4 or 5 days, i thought that maybe marie would check her e-mail (i sent her one) and e-mail me back, or try to call me, or something... but she didn't. the only person who even attempted to contact me was pinky, who called me about once a day, just to talk. she wants me to go to pride with her this weekend, and i'm going to try to get off work so i can go. she wants to hear about my family, and to tell me about angela and brit and her friends. she just wants to talk to me and listen to me, and that's good. i only worry because before, she said she wanted to date me, and maybe all she really wants is sex... but i give her more credit than that. and marie? good, but very bad, too. i think i'll give her a separate section.