I’ve been trying to do some self reflection lately. A lot of it isn’t good. I’m a flawed person. Anyone who knows me knows this. When they made me, they broke the mold. They beat the hell out of the moldmaker too. In that regard, I’m not really looking to fall on my sword here about how I was once this horrible person (or how I am a horrible person) and how I can change. I do, however, want to share two distinct stories. They show how I’ve come to the current head space I’m in, that is probably more liberal than some people would like. Not liberal enough for others, I assure you, but regardless. At the same time, this will go to show just how far I can carry grudges and concerns, and how hard I’ve had to fight myself to grow on these issues.
First, I want to jump back to me as a barely 21 year old individual, living back in my hometown trying to come to terms with the fact that a lot of my intended movements in life had failed miserably. I’d failed college in Louisiana. I’d failed my friends there. I was living in a trailer parked on the property my mother had burned down, allegedly for the insurance money. I was working at a fast food joint, barely clearly 20 hours a week. I had no idea of where I could go, let alone where I wanted to. I had no goals. I simply was.
One of my co-workers was a kid who was younger than me. We’ll call him John, as in he wouldn’t fucking stop trying to put his John in my asshole. John wasn’t baby gay. John wasn’t “Yeah, I’m queer, and I’m okay with it.” John was “I love men and I will conquer all of them.” John wanted to conquer me. He didn’t understand why I kept saying no. He wanted to do that thing all the Twitter people do nowadays that’s kind of like egging, where they ask a bunch of questions and you give them a few inches and before you know it you’re actually a girl and you’re going back in time to 1956 Hungary to grab some comrades and a few tanks and make modern day a lot gayer and a lot more communist.
I was not, if you can’t tell from the way I’m writing about this, a fan. At all.
In fairness, at the time, I was still kind of stuck in this belief system that the things written in the Bible had some sort of canonical truth to them (they were written down, after all!) and I had a very bitter authoritarian view on religion in general. It didn’t matter that Jesus Christ, Superstar, never said anything about Christianity at all. To Obey Christ is to Obey The Father, and part of that is Not Being Gay. I mean, it’s cool to be nice to gay people, because you want to be seen as “A Good Person” because that’s more beneficial than being seen as a “Bad Person” but this wasn’t a choice made out of compassion or understanding or empathy. This was a solidly utilitarian one.
So this kid, who we’re calling John, probably wasn’t a bad kid on the day to day. But when I worked with him, he would not stop harassing me. Some of it was very inappropriate touching. Reaching for my manhood. Wanting to give me backrubs, which I’d stupidly accept because who doesn’t like backrubs? And then he’d want more. Most of it was really god awful questions though, or sharing about either his sex life or his cousin’s sex life. His cousin, allegedly, had sex with all sorts of animals. The depictions given were graphics. It’s been almost 20 years. I had to double check to remember the kid’s real name; I still remember a particularly dark tale about how his “cousin” used a milk crate to allow him to molest a horse.
HR was apathetic. They didn’t think it was a big deal. There was a short attempt to schedule me at different times as him, but I was a night time crew member and this kid was still in high school so… we worked together. One manager didn’t believe that this kid could do any harm, as it were, and another got so angry every time I mentioned it. I was an adult, she’d chide, so I needed to “take care of it.”
The whole thing came to a head when he asked me out on a date to see a movie, and I told him “I don’t feel comfortable going to a movie with a teenager” and then his parents wanted to know why I, as an adult, were hitting on their teenage son. Because he had complained to a friend, apparently, and they’d overheard, and this became A THING. So now I’m a predator (and of all the people who could make a legitimate claim that I’m some sort of predator, this one was pretty far out there) and their son was the victim. Fortunately, the manager who was always complaining I needed to take care of things myself was there at the time, and had also been there when he asked me out on a date.
Of course, even AFTER this, he’d ask me questions towards the end of the shift, as I was washing dishes and tearing down the kitchen. Questions like “How do you know you don’t like men?” and “Aren’t you a little curious?” It was exhausting.
And for an unreasonable amount of time, I took that as a sign that people who were homosexual were predatory. I had proved it. Those pastors were right, I swore.
A few years later, in a popular game I played, I met another guy. I’m gonna call this guy Ted, for no real clever reason. Ted was a guy I met over Final Fantasy Online, and he was a solid individual. As I got to know more about him outside of the game, and as a friendship grew, I made some comments I don’t remember now that he called me out on. He was not a fan of gay bashing, for reasons I surmised at the time must have had to do with the fact he didn’t know how bad they were.
The problem with this, I would learn, is that Ted wasn’t just gay, he had suffered greatly from it. He was a teacher at a school, until his sexuality came out and he was forced to resign. He could not get a referral to work at another school as a result. In the fallout, he started drinking, which landed him in jail, where more fatefully than ironically he’d meet his then long-term partner. His partner was in a situation where he’d discovered his sexuality after having a family and a child, and he was trying to get custody of the child because his ex had a meth habit. Frustratingly, he found that in the custody battle his ex was able to use his sexuality against him, and while the way this was done didn’t bar him from seeing his son it did make it difficult to get him out of a drug-filled home. I listened as they battled over this for over three years. Their son was put into foster care, instead of going with two loving adults who happened to be gay, when the mother went to prison and then rehab for her drug habit. Was this because they were a homosexual couple? Probably not, in and of itself, but I got the feeling the couple felt it didn’t help.
As a result of this friendship, I had to come to terms with a few things, and I realize that the individual who literally wouldn’t stop harassing me for a place to put his penis wasn’t a problem because of his sexuality, he was a problem because he didn’t know how to accept no as an answer and he was frankly kind of “rapey.” My use of this person as some sort of benchmark was absolutely wrong. I’ve tried to be more forward thinking since then. I’m still not perfect. I understand we’re getting into a time where an individual’s gender being decided by their headspace more than their genitals is becoming more accepted, and I haven’t always been the best about that. I still don’t understand this whole neo-pronoun thing, although damn it I’m trying. I’m still hard coded into believing everything has a rigid order that must be followed, even as I myself do a horrifically poor job of following that order myself (not an uncommon criticism of people like me, I assure you.) And within all that, there’s that whole “trying to be honest with myself while being forward thinking” as opposed to “saying what people want to hear so they’ll accept me and then being surprised when they take me for my word.”
But it’s clear to me, and it continues to be clear to me, that a lot of people want to live happy lives, but are denied this because of who they are. And I live in a society that often tells these people “Well, you’re the ones choosing to be who you are, instead of who we expect you to be.” And that’s not really great, at all. I don’t know if it’s fair to say “everyone deserves to be happy” but there’s so many obstacles out there as it is, without me being one to others as well. I’ve got a long, long ways to go, and I imagine I’ll be working on it well into my sixty’s when I’m on my deathbed.