I was glad to hear of the recent decision by the Lake County School Board here in Central Florida to allow the kids to form a Gay/Straight Alliance Club at one of their middle schools. The decision was made very reluctantly, after a threat by the ACLU to sue on grounds of freedom of speech and equal access. The decision to allow was a temporary one until the end of the school year next month, at which time it is to be ‘further reviewed’ for upcoming school years.
Not two weeks after this decision was made, I saw on the local news that the decision to allow the kids their club is possibly being tabled again, on the grounds that school clubs must be in support of critical thinking and school curriculum.
So I’m thinking of writing a letter to like everyone under the sun about this. Because it is fucked up. Hell, the world is fucked up. But if people don’t start getting it, its going to stay fucked up.
My letter would go something like this:
Ok, I understand that, in this day and age, there are still people out there that just can’t get the whole gay thing. The ones that constantly continue to argue that being gay or straight is a personal choice, and if kids are steered in the wrong direction, they will make the wrong choice. The ones that see the gay people on TV acting out, or being promiscuous, and are so appalled by it that they just can’t fathom supporting a minor in their early to middle teens in coming to terms with their sexual preference, let alone openly talking with them about it and allowing their gay or straight child join a club that supports homosexuality.
I understand because, as a 49 year old, childless, relationship-less, homosexual man, I lived through the discrimination and the shame of being homosexual in a time when it simply was not discussed at all with minors. In fact, unless you were openly gay, it was not discussed at all.
Let me tell you about my childhood, with emphasis on how it shaped and formed who I am today.
I grew up in a family of eight. My parents had three girls and three boys. Mom is an incredibly strong woman who to this day has never had a drink or drug in her life other than prescribed. Dad served in the Korean War and was honorably discharged around the time I was born or shortly beforehand. We would joke that we were the dysfunctional Brady Family.
My earliest memories of attraction to the opposite sex are when I was six years old. Since two of my sisters and two of my brothers were older than me, they had their own teen idols that they worshiped. Posters on the wall, the whole works. I had a crush on my sisters’ then current teen idol (ok, if you must know – it was Bobby Sherman, lol. I look at him now as he was then and I am like, ‘ugh!’. But he sure was the bomb when I was six!).
Way back then I knew I was not like my other sisters and brothers. It was a deep secret that I shared only with my younger sister, who is a year younger than me.
School was difficult for me. I didn’t like being different from other kids and tried so hard to hide it. I could fool the adults, but kids just KNOW, and they figured it out and harassed me about it pretty bad. In fact, it was so bad that by the time I was in middle school, and note that I said middle school, I was sneaking away from the bus stop, waiting for my parents to go to work, then going back home to spend the day alone by myself. I did this for nearly the whole school year. The school actually thought we had moved, and finally caught on and contacted my parents at work.
My parents freaked out. I had missed nearly all of seventh grade. I told them it was because I was being bullied. They made me go back to school, and my father argued with them to not leave me behind, I would make up the work, which I did. I was an extremely bright kid. But when you slam nearly a whole school year into two months of learning, its not going to stick, and it didn’t.
After that lovely year, my parents moved us from the country to a cheaper house in the city. I finished the final year in middle school ok, then went off to start high school.
High school was a disaster. If I thought the kids were mean in the country, it was awful in the city. It was so obvious that I was gay, all of my mannerisms leaned that way. I mean I was what I was. I didn’t walk around talking like thisssssssssss, that’s just gay people acting out. But I was different. I shied away from other kids. If there were kids like me, I didn’t know them. I didn’t like sports and hated gym class because I would have to undress with other boys in the changing room.
My studies are what most suffered. It was all I could do to deal with being so different from everyone and trying to understand that. And getting thru the day with out being harassed. Back in the day the school bus drivers would turn their backs and allow the kids to smoke cigarettes on the bus on the way home. One day a kid ground his cigarette out in my arm. To this day I still have that scar. The harassment and bullying were just awful.
My school was a good 8 miles from my house. I started to purposely miss the bus after school and walk home. It took hours to get home and in the winter my hands would get so cold they would crack open. But I did this rather than endure the bus ride home.
By the 11th grade, I would ride in on the bus in the morning and immediately upon arrival at school leave the school grounds and rather than walking, now I started hitchhiking home. My parents never knew. As a child in my middle teens, I was molested at least three times by older guys who picked me up when I hitchhiked. I’m not ashamed to say I wasn’t against it either. I was a fifteen going on sixteen year old kid whose hormones were raging and I had literally no release. I didn’t even have anyone to talk to about it in a normal fashion without feeling ashamed. However, when I look back, I will call it molested. These were older men who in this day and age would be in jail for what they did. This was not normal sexual development and experimentation with kids my own age.
By the end of the 11th grade, I left school and ran away from home. I was ‘adopted’ by the family of a girl I knew from church back in my old town in the country. They were a nice normal family who took me in thinking the girl and I had something going relationship wise. The girl did too. I would just pretend and tell her I was old fashioned when it came to sex, and we never so much as experimented in the three years I was a part of that family. I got a job at a local bakery and was so good at it I became highly sought after. At that time I ended it with the girl, and her family. It broke my heart because they were so nice. It also broke my heart because I had a huge crush on both of her brothers.
By the way, she got married not 6 months later and is still happily married to this day.
I continued to work for the chain of bakeries for 25 years. I was very good in the bakery and enjoyed a good paycheck and bought a modest home. They eventually were bought out and my position was automated, making my job as a bakery chef with them obsolete. Since the job was so physical, with me working 65-70 hours a week, often all night long, 6 days a week, I decided to go back to school and obtained a high school diploma and an associates degree at a local community college, which I did. My math skills were terrible. I literally had to start at the bottom and work my way up through college algebra and trig. I attempted to further my education to a bachelors at a local state college, but by this time I was in my late thirties and, unable to afford an adult college, gave up rather than continue the embarrassment of going to school with the young kids.
Today, I am a virtual CSR rep for a local call center. I make under 20 grand a year and am losing my little house I bought. I know that I will be able to make it thru retirement with some subsidized housing somewhere, and strategic spending, but my retirement is not looking all that bright. In fact, it looks damb grim. Not that I am complaining. I know I will make it as I am skilled at least on the computer, and have time to maybe get certified in something to supplement my retirement money from the government when the time comes. But it could be better, if only I had a little support when I needed it back in the day.
I have never had a deep relationship with anybody, male or female. Female for obvious reasons, male because what I suffered through when I was young and in school never left me. I was and am a loner. Even in this day and age, I find it difficult to discuss my sexual preference with people, let alone opening myself up to form a relationship with someone. In fact, I even have trouble making FRIENDS with people, and at this time can honestly say I HAVE no close friends. Acquaintances yes, and people like me too, usually, although I can be a hard ass at times. But I open up to no one.
The point I’m trying to make to you is: do you want your kid to be like me? I may open up to no one, but on this I’m taking a stand.
Being gay is not something you control. It is instinctual. It is the instinctual attraction to another human being. You cannot change it any more than you can change say, the fight or flight reaction. At least understand that much.
And understand when you see gay people being promiscuous or camping it up, they are acting out. Acting out because of the ignorance in the world regarding homosexuality they have had to endure.
Here‘s the deal. Kids need support, all the support you can give them and then some. Straight kids in high school will talk about sex, and experiment. It is normal. Gay kids will too, if you let them. Or you can force them to do it the way I had to do it and be molested. Your choice. Do a sexual predator search on the internet. I think you will agree that there is plenty of opportunity out there for a kid that wants to know about sex, gay or straight.
It is hard enough in middle school and high school to get thru your studies while at the same time your hormones are racing and you are developing into an adult person. As the parent of a straight child, you are responsible for that child to identify with ALL people and respect them just as they would themselves prefer to be respected. Together we stand and all that. This leads to success.
As the parent of a gay child, you are responsible to ensure that your child has support and understanding to the very best of your abilities so that your child can develop into a person who respects him or her self and has as much opportunity as any other child to make it in this increasingly difficult and challenging world.
As a school board, it your responsibility to make sure that ALL children have support, understanding, and opportunities provided to them by a good education so they can grow into mature, responsible human beings that are comfortable with who they are, respect and have compassion for other people different from them, and contribute to the common good of everyone in order to lead a happy and productive life. Are you thinking of what is best for the kids? Or are you thinking of yourselves and what you or a parent are comfortable with doing? Because its not about you at all. Its about doing right for the kids.
I’m asking you today to consider my story, and not deprive these children the right to self identify. To feel equally accepted even if they are different. To understand those that are different. To allow them to concentrate on their studies and not worry about themselves, that at the end of the day we are all the same, to know we love them, and we will not fail them.
What do ya think, my very, very, very, very, very, occasional stumpleaponmyblog person? Definitely needs work I know, but hey it’s the middle of the night. But I would like your opinion. Feel free to leave a comment if you would like. You can also check it out on the local news website, here.
PS - I actually tried to email the thing to the email contact listed at Lake County School Board - it was rejected by their email server and sent back – reason banned content!! How depressing lol. And annoying. Makes me want to plaster this all over town hahahaha. I guess they are blocking the email due to high volume of public response. Poor kids.