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This One Goes Out to the Wonderful Glorious Gays

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 | 5 Comment(s)

There is still a part of me, past the sarcasm and wit, that is still the thirteen year old Matthew Zimbler (I changed my name right out of college) who got picked on and threatened and chased home.

I remember one day in particular that Jeff Hart and Dan Sheldon (i'm pretty sure those were their names) laid into me pretty hard all day about kicking the shit out of me.  I was a scrawny, glasses-that-change-color-in-the-sun-with-strings-attached wearing, sweat pants to school wearing tag-along geek.  My life, at that moment, revolved not at all around finding my happiness and completely around survival.  I'm not sure if it was my lack of self-confidence, my jew-ness, my parents upper-middle class-ness, or my intelligence and lack of ability to fight back--but regardless, i was a target.  Jeff and Dan waited by my locker in the back of the school all week.  Half that week i hid in the gym locker room til they got bored and left.  The other days i casually worked up a conversation with the Print-Making teacher so I could stick around until the coast was clear.

The worst day was later that same year when the rumor got started that I had called Ajamu, the one black kid who also had a pretty violent reputation, the n-word.  It goes without saying that this didn't in fact happen.  Not only is that not a word i use, but the idea that the skinny geek at the relative bottom of the barrel socially would pick a fight with one of the biggest and toughest kids, is insane.   Someone was obviously fucking with me.  And i was terrified.  I remember actively watching my back for 2 days.  Nervous that around any turn i would meet my untimely demise (blog shout out).  Nothing ever came of the rumor--except for my terror.  I'm not even sure Jamu ever heard the rumor.  Doesn't matter.  The fear was real.

I tell you all this because I'm a straight white male, and i almost had more than i could take at 13.  Through the fear and social abuse (i once was made to sleep in a separate room with my "friends" dogs, while the rest of the sleep-over party participants stayed elsewhere and froze my underwear), i considered transfering schools, running away, and even harming myself.  That said, I can only imagine how much harder it must be for if i had been gay or a minority at that time.  And if i'm being honest, i can't say for certain that i would have made it.  We've had a flurry of teen suicides in the gay community lately, and they have broken my heart.  The Rutgers freshman, the middle school girl--tormented and humiliated to the point that they were convinced that either the world was better off without them or that this pain was too much to bare for any longer. 

This is our failure.  It is our failure as a society if we create an environment where kids, KIDS!, feel deviant and outside.  And additionally, we lose out because like every group this country has marginalized, we gain so much from their presence.   Our understanding of homosexuality (while still extremely young) has allowed us to re-examine gender (metro-sexuality doesn't happen without the gays), love, acceptance, family--all the important stuff.  It infuriates me that a country founded on the principle of acceptance has so consistently been behind the global community on legislating against social discrimination (um  . . . slavery . . . cough cough).   We are making homosexuals go through the  EXACT same societal abuse that Blacks had to go through (and, let's face it, still do).  It's as if we have no ability to substitute different groups into the sentence, "Discriminating against a group of people based on their ___________, is wrong." and see that the sentence still remains true.

And, if i may soap-box for a second, in my mind this is so utterly tied to our failure to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell.  If we look beyond the fact that the law's repeal is actually favored by the majority of the public and has STILL not been struck down, we still end up sending citizens to fight and die for us around the world, as long as they don't accept who they are as people.  We have even kicked Arabic translators who were gay out of the military, thereby weakening it (how many people do you know that speak Arabic fluently and wouldn't mind translating for the US Army in the middle east?).  As far as i can tell (and i admittedly know very little about the ins and outs of the military), army units are based on trust.  How can you create trust, a trust that may require you to sacrifice yourself for your unit-mates, without allowing the humans who comprise that unit to be truthful about who they are.  And as our government sits on its hands, instead of pushing to repeal DADT, they are silently sending out the message that its ok to abuse gays.  It's ok to dehumanize people who like their sex differently than you like your sex (pun--count it).  Kicking honorable soldiers out of the military makes us a worse country.  You discharge a solider for being gay, and you send the message, silently but clearly, that maybe its just a funny prank to video-chat your roommate making out with guy.  Maybe it's ok to make the only male, black gay cheerleader's life in high school a living hell.  Your saying its ok to see gay as lesser.  And, considering our whole, "all created equal" foundation, i'd say that's downright un-American.

And on the off chance you stumbled upon this blog and you are gay and are suffering because of it, there is help.  One of the best is the Trevor Project.  http://www.thetrevorproject.org/    You are all too wonderful to live in pain and silence.

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