And Yet None of My Bullies Were Fat…

diet coke guyThere’s a Golden Girls episode where Blanche meets a guy at the library, agrees to go out on a date with him, balks when she realizes he’s in a wheelchair, and hilarity (naturally) ensues.  At one point, the girls find themselves sitting around the kitchen table hashing out the pros and cons of Blanche’s latest romantic entanglement — you remember that episode, right? — and Sophia weighs in:  “Just because a man’s in a wheelchair,” she says, “doesn’t mean he can’t satisfy a woman.”  Invited to elaborate, she unspools one of her famous Sicily stories.  “Picture it,” she says (and I paraphrase here), “Sicily: 1918.  A man in a wheelchair satisfies a woman.  It’s a short story but I think it proves my point.”  In this spirit, the following post:

When I was in the eighth grade (nearly thirty years ago, I am aghast to calculate), our school was one block from the nearest 7-11, and, with unfettered access to the Big Gulp soda fountain, I became what might charitably be described as a fan of Diet Coke.  I had only recently grown tall enough that my body stretched my weight up and down rather than from side to side, and I wanted to stay that way, and it had the word “diet” in it — if one Diet Coke could make you skinny, imagine the miracles that 200 fluid ounces a day could make manifest.  On the very first day (literally Day One) of high school, therefore, I didn’t even hesitate — why would I? — to plunk in my two nickels or whatever vending machines cost in those days and order up my Diet Coke come lunch time.  I wish I was exaggerating, but the hostile, shitty, faggot-bashing, limp-wristed lisping “Diet Coke” heckling started up before the actual can even clunked out of the machine, and it carried on for two years, until I transferred schools.  You read that right: I was intimidated and verbally hassled by the same eight or ten dickheads every single day (they did take weekends off), for two years, because I drank a fucking Diet Coke with my lunch.  A few of my so-called friends bailed on me, one or two of the gayer ones actively participating in the bashing bullshit to deflect attention from the faggoty gold bracelets with which they dripped, but my friends who had the balls and the strength of character to stick around were heckled by association, some to an extent of which I have only been made aware in recent years.  All because of a can of pop.  (Well, that, and a crippling fear of Self, with which I truly hope those guys grew up to come to terms, not that it’s my job to wish them well.)DIET COKE

Skipping ahead: Picture it: The airplane the other day, from LAX to Denver.  A big gay flight attendant serves a Diet Coke to an honest-to-God (according to his leather jacket, leather hat, t-shirt, and tattoos) Hell’s Angel.  And this burly, bearded, busted-up-lookin’ biker dude, when offered the can, demurs, satisfied with a little 6-oz. plastic cup of it.  Which is fine; I’m way past the point of judging people by what they order to drink on the airplane (although not above judging them by how they order it.  “Would you like something to drink?”  “No, thank you.  Just a black coffee and a tomato juice.”  OK, if those aren’t “to drink,” I’m gonna need to know just what the hell you are planning to do with them before I serve them to you…).  You want a Diet Coke, I’m happy to serve it to you, and you wanna split the can with your tough-as-nails wife, frankly, I think there’s a certain romance in there somewhere.  But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t strike me; would those Regis dipshits have had the nerve to laugh at this guy?  To belittle or berate him over a beverage choice?  And pay for it — if you’ll allow me to rhetorically ascribe imaginary and stereotypical violent tendencies to a man who was perfectly friendly to me — by spitting their teeth into a puddle of their own blood in the parking lot?   I doubt it.  And not least because by now I bet they all drink the shit on airplanes, too.  A big reason that being bullied is so frustrating is that it can be so frickin’ arbitrary.  I was an easy target, and self-loathing has to go somewhere, although a better place to put it would be Away.  I’m out now.  I’ll never be skinny again, and I don’t drink more than a 6-pack of pop in a year.  I serve a million Diet Cokes a year, to every kind of person, without even thinking about it.  It struck me funny the other day, is all — this dude as butch as they come, and all the shit I had to put up with?  Like I said, it’s a short story.  But surely it proves some kind of point…

Advertisements

Closets are for Clothes

Today is National Coming Out Day.  One of my favorite holidays on the Queer Calendar, although I traditionally celebrate it from the sidelines.  At 40, I’ve been out of the closet for more years than I was in it, and the door on my closet hung half-open all askew on its hinges at its most secure.  I was Raggedy Ann for Halloween when I was in Preschool, for heaven’s sake — I never got to surprise anybody!  Starting on the literal very first day of high school, I was bullied for being a big fag — physically never, verbally every single day, and mostly by guys who grew up to be big fags — until I had the sense to transfer to a public school.  I told almost no one there that I was “gay,” although I would wax like a drooling idiot with cartoon hearts for eyeballs about the boys I had crushes on to anybody who would listen (or to passersby, whether they listened or not).  When I was 19, out to dinner with my parents and my sister, my mom turned to me over chips and salsa and said, “So, you’re gay, right?”  I confirmed that I was.  My dad asked if I was safe — this was 1991, mind you, when we still kind of thought that gay sex was a short, slippery slope from a bed to a coffin — and I confirmed that I was that, too.  The food came, we ate it, and poof, I was Out. Continue reading

“What does writing GLBTQ literature mean to me?”

The Follow the Rainbow Blog Hop was a good bit of fun, and is now over.  Many thanks to all the readers who hopped and left thoughtful comments, and Congratulations! to madisonparklove, the Winner of the $20 Amazon gift card.  If you missed the Blog Hop, I hope you will still enjoy learning a little about what I write and why I write it, and maybe start a Big Gay Bookshelf of your very own.  Welcome.

I’ve known I was gay my entire life.  Since way before I had the words to describe it, I knew I was “different,” and I knew it was OK.  But growing up in America is a funny process; all along our educational road, we have two things drilled into our heads with equal fervor.  1. You are an individual.  You are special.  There is no one else like you, and you can grow up to be whatever in the world you want to be.  And 2.  As long as you march straight down this incredibly narrow path of heteronormative behavior to your wedding day, your children, and an eventual gray-haired retirement that you will have no way to pay for.  For a society that stresses individuality and exceptionalism from Sesame Street, we judge our members against a very rigid criteria and forgive few missteps.  So yeah, even though the Universe and I had reached an understanding early on, coming out in Cow Town, Colorado during college was something of a process.  I was surrounded by cowboys, many of them large (and delicious, which isn’t the point), and it was unclear if the Universe had let them in on our little arrangement.  Now, as you know and I know, the real key to Coming Out is to reach the understanding that it doesn’t matter whether those cowboys are in on the deal or not; it has nothing to do with them.  Well, at least not with the ones that don’t fool around at frat parties.  I would have reached that understanding eventually, of course, but the GLBTQ fiction from which I was unable to tear myself away in those days cleared the path.  A gay guy’s life was peppered with glitz.  Or with mystery and intrigue.  Or with hilarity and madcap hijinks, depending on the particular book I was reading.  Few of the books I chose related specifically to coming out or to any drama around it.  The guys in these stories just were gay.  They didn’t have angst around it, they weren’t looking for anyone’s permission or approval, they just ran around solving mysteries or planning elaborate sham weddings to fleece wealthy relatives out of gifts, kissing boys and cavorting with straight-gal sidekicks, quoting show tunes and quaffing Veuve Clicquot and generally getting on with the business of being gay.  But the deluge of gay stories about gay characters written by gay guys did more than just make being gay look like a whole lot of fun.  Gay fiction was my window onto a larger world than the one I inhabited, and the gay writers I read in my teens and twenties showed me that I could indeed live my life, and eventually tell my own stories, my way.  They helped me realize that coming out — that living my life openly and honestly, for better or for worse (come what may, all that) — was the only possible life I’d even be able to consider. Continue reading

These Are Days

I once knew a boy called Richard.  “Richard?” you say, “I must know more!”  Never let it be said that I don’t know how to scoot my reader to the edge of his seat.

After thirteen years in San Francisco, I am now back where I started, in Colorado.  Denver, to be quite precise.  Nineteen blocks from the house I grew up in, to be even more so.  When I visit the old neighborhood in San Francisco, a Big Gay Memory of some kind lurks around nearly every corner.  First dates, tearful good-byes; here is where I ignored the drunken heckling of a passing mendicant and slipped the ring on my husband’s finger, and there you see roughly where my pants hit my ankles while stumbling home from a particularly memorable Dyke March.  Yes, fond memories at every turn.  Who are you to judge me?!  Oddly, though, even though I grew up here, in Denver there is really only one such corner.  Probably due to its proximity to Cheesman Park, the one place in 1980s Denver that two men might not be harassed for holding hands, I had more than one Big Gay First (of most of which I’ll spare you the cowboy boot-related details) on the corner of 9th and Gaylord.  Richard’s mother worked with my aunt in Washington, D.C., on the staff of a Congressman from Oklahoma, and we had more than one Big Gay Adventure (last one, I promise) in the District, but when I think of him, I always remember him standing on the corner of 9th and Gaylord.  Where, in jean shorts and a cardigan sweater, he would secure his place in history as the First Boy Who Ever Kissed Me. Continue reading