Making It Better

Fully digesting each story about an LGBTQI suicide is impossible. Feelings of sadness, anger, and hopelessness churn around inside me every single time. But when their voices seep through the speakers, ensuring others that it gets better, their lives become all the more real. And I wonder what happened–who or what stripped them of their desire to live? But then I look around, read the newspapers, and listen to politicians spouting hatred and validating bigotry. Answers are bountiful.

And then I take a step back and ask a hard question: Do these videos provide comfort or false hope? Both, I think. At least my video does. I mention the hardships, but emphasize the positive; it’s the candy-coated version. Because that’s what I thought struggling kids would want to hear. In some ways, I think it’s more detrimental. Perhaps if I had been frank, I may have reached someone who’d have preferred realism over idealism–who’d have drawn enough strength from it to make do.

LGBTQI kids quickly realize after they graduate high school that life doesn’t always get better; at least not right away. The scenery changes, but sometimes the same old games are hatched and performed. It’s you versus them. It’s the name calling, the intolerance, the blanketed bigotry on a different, larger stage. And it’s hard. Life doesn’t change immediately when you receive a diploma. It just shifts; and you change with it.

You come to realize that everyone has a voice and a right to use it, even if they choose to slander you. You begin reaching out and finding outstretched hands. You open up little by little. You smile a lot more. You embrace the unknown. You love. You lose. You win. You draw. There really is no end, because every single person you touch becomes a little of you, and you of them. We build upon each other to try and make this dysfunctional world a little bit rosier for others, so they don’t have to put on glasses and squint hard to see the good things in it.

Had I chosen to commit suicide one afternoon four years ago, I would’ve never found the place I call “home.” I wouldn’t laugh heartily with friends whom I would’ve never known. I wouldn’t be excited about tomorrow.

Just Call Me Toots: An Open Letter To [Insert Bigoted Politician Here]

Dear Putzy Politician:

I’m not one for self-promotion, for tooting my own horn. It’s unseemly, and doesn’t really jive with the southern gentleman I was groomed to be. But every now and then this southern belle has to let the fro free and tell Ms. Manners to take a hike.

And while I wish I had an incredibly engaging and riveting anecdote to segue into the meat of it all, it’s been a long day, and not even a jar of Nutella has enough sugar to keep me sharp. But I think the point I’ll try to make will be gleaned from a little tale about a kid named Matt. Why, that’s you! you exclaim. Well, buckaroo, you’re right! That’s an A+ for you. Now, shut up and listen.

Like I was saying before my ADHD got in the way: I’m not one for self-promotion. I prefer self-deprecation; it’s much more apropos, and it’s easier to employ when I eat my feelings. Perhaps this penchant stems from my late-bloomer status–the feeling that I was always behind the proverbial curve, that I never quite fit in. I was always the last to be picked for four square, the first to get bloodied in a “friendly” game of dodgeball. Even now when I laugh or smile, I still partially cover my mouth, as if to prevent a rogue piece of food from being launched by phantom headgear-like contraptions that haunted my adolescence. I still lisp occasionally, or stutter mildly with my Ss and Cs; still, I think two years of speech therapy in lieu of PE was the way to go. Had I tossed a ball instead of rolling my Rs, maybe I wouldn’t have had to devour Boost bars to speed the puberty fairy along. Regardless of being the boy who was never considered “relationship material” by most middle school girls, warranting a decided “No” to be circled heavy handedly on every romantic epistle passed in class, that blob of braces and low self-esteem blossomed into the awkwardly quirky late twenty-something writing this recollection and staving off sleep in the hopes that a point will come out of all of this rambling and smack you across the face.

Sure, back then I might not have been the hottest thing with my oversized glasses, generic Air Jordans, pastel Duckheads, and bright green Umbros. But I have a few more things to offer now; and I’m not talking about my ridiculous penchant for zippered shoes or amazing hair. I have pride. What, you demand, that’s it?! That’s your point? Well, sort of.

Pride is a tricky devil that informs a litany of unmentionable behaviors and takes a variety of guises. I sometimes anthropomorphize my pride as one of Dorothy’s confidants, the Cowardly Lion. From that, it might not sound as though I’d be the one you’d want by your side in a bar fight. But if Dirty Dancing taught us nothing else, it was that nobody puts Baby in a corner. When his friends are in danger, ye olde Cowardly Lion steps up the game, and Baby takes center stage. And that’s what I do. No, not dance. Pay attention! I step it up, wrench myself from my comfort zone, and make it work–defend the Scarecrow from fire, oil the Tin Man, and tell Dorothy to get a TomTom, stop and smell the poppies, and let me try on those shiny shoes. What I’m saying is that each of my friends knows that I’m in the fight to the end, and then some.

And I am. Regardless of what you and other bigots intend to enshrine with legislative zeal, I’m not budging. It took 27 years, but I’ve finally found somewhere that fits my definition of “home;” and it’s Raleigh. While you may claim to defend god-fearing married heterosexual North Carolinians from me and my deviant ways–my alleged corruptive powers of persuasion, subterfuge, and immorality–I defend the state I know North Carolina can be from you and your unconstitutional attempts to impose your archaic interpretations of history and religion onto the state’s population. I implore you to hear me: I am not going anywhere. I will continue to stare each of you hateful, ignorant people in the face and demand to know why I–a living, breathing, bleeding, tax-paying, volunteering citizen–am somehow inferior. I am not a gay man. I am a man. I am a person. And I will be treated like one.

If I can survive dental contraptions, puberty, car accidents, fire, broken bones, shouted epithets, physical confrontations, and emotional slander, I can assuredly survive whatever you and your ilk throw at me. Sure, I never made a game-winning pass in flag football. But I scored once.

And on May 8th, I plan to score again. And again. And keep pushing for more victories until we’re all united.

Even if we don’t play for the same team.