"Hey faggot, how gay are you today?"
That was the greeting I used to get almost daily from my High School gym teacher Coach Roberts. Seriously. There were years that went by where not only me, but most of my friends were referred to as just that: faggots. Mostly by peers but also at times by certain adults who were supposed to be the wise sages of our wonderful educational system. Seriously. My teacher called me a faggot. Often. This culminated with Mr. Roberts being admonished in some feeble manner, my senior year, when he called me a faggot, after slapping my ass in front of our Vice Principal who was standing behind him after an air band competition in which my friends and I did a rousing, and well choreographed version of YMCA. It's a story that comes out during dinner parties and reunions, and it's funny in hindsight. Hell, it was funny at the time because I didn't know any better. But it's not funny.
I was at a dinner party not too long ago and people were talking about their High School reunions and how much the people had changed in the 20+ years since graduation. They were all talking about how fat certain people had gotten, how successful, how bald etc. Everyone was so happy with themselves, so pleased with their station in life, bragging about the odds they'd conquered, the way they'd played the game. Whatever. I didn't want to go to my 10 year reunion, and probably never will attend one again, but I was talked into it and I went. The entire experience was just plain horrible, save for one thing: the number of people who had come out. Finally comfortable enough, confident enough, to be who they were, what they were; no apologies, no nothing. It was amazing, heartwarming, empowering as hell. Exactly as it should have been.
Listen, I'm not gay, at least not in the way most of the World chooses to define the word. Sure, I'm weird, a freak, happy at times, at other times not so much, but I still consider myself queer as a football bat. I'm here, get used to it. But I don't know the struggle. I never have and never will, because let's face it, I'm a straight white male in America, and as a straight white male in America, I suffer no discrimination that isn't self-imposed, so I'm not going to sit here and say I understand, that I "get it," because I don't. Not really. Intellectually, sure, but that where it stops for me.
I spent a lot of time thinking about how I was going to write this, the stories I would tell, the pedestrian insight that I think makes me a person of the World at large...and, well, fuck all that. We, each and every one of us, has a certain responsibility on this planet as humans, to preach peace, knowledge, empathy and sympathy to our fellow human beings. This isn't about sex or sexuality, not to me. This is about individuals and individuality, and the right to be who and what we are born to be. Period. Any of you getting caught up in "hot button issues" during an election year are missing the point. If you can't see through the fog that religion, society, your parents or teachers have dropped on your sponge-like head, then we will never progress as people. Well, you wont anyway. Feel free to be left behind while the rest of us stand up, build up and defend ourselves against your ignorance and hate.
I'm coming out today, for everyone who feels trapped by their circumstance, whatever that may be. I'm coming out. I see this flag every day, and it empowers me to be who I am, and not judge anyone for any reason. At all. We are who we are, all of us, and we should be proud no matter what. So let it fly folks, let it fly.
Happy Pride Y'all!
Also, as an addendum, I'm sure I've possibly offended some friends, both gay & straight, with the potential misuse or misappropriation of a phrase or two, or a word or 3, here or there, and for that I do apologize. I have nothing but love in my heart for all of you, but do tend to run off at the mouth...