Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Comment On The Recent Wave Of Gay Teen Suicides

This morning, I read about yet another gay teen who had killed himself this week because of having been emotionally tortured due to his sexuality. This isn't easy to write because it's honest, but I have very mixed feelings about the tragedy of these events. In many ways, I think these young men are better off. Many of my "friends" (via Facebook and Twitter, that is--not friends in real life) have encouraged me to post a video to The Trevor Project explaining how "it gets better." Well...in some ways it does, and in some ways it doesn't. Here's the story of my gay life, abbreviated.


I was a happy kid, and I got along with just about everybody in elementary school. When I was in fifth grade, some kid moved to my neighborhood from California and started calling me "faggot." By the next year, my best friend of five years was calling me a fag and he and a little pack of new friends were literally running me down on their bikes at the bus stop when I got home from school--they were still in elementary school; I was in my first year of middle school. From that year on, I was pinched and hit in the locker room, my ears were flicked in the classroom, and I was called every variation of "faggot" in math class, English class, business class, without a protective word from any teacher, ever. My own sister refused to sit next to me on the school bus, literally pushing me off her seat and into the aisle, where I squatted and was yelled at by the bus driver. My defense was to miss as much school as possible--40 to 44 days a year on average--and to convince people that I was dangerously insane. Every morning I woke up, my first conscious thought was, "oh, no, not again. Not another day." I read "The Final Exit" and even began to amass pills that had various effects on the nervous and respiratory systems, thinking that maybe the right combination would help me end the pain without rendering me a vegetable. I did not have a single friend again until college.

I flourished in college; it was the only happy period of my adult life. I had tried to join George Mason University's gay pride group, but the attempt was unsuccessful, as I don't have the social skills to meet new people, and none of the gay guys in the group had any interest in talking to me. I was befriended by a very gay guy in my French class who asked me to tutor him. He was a recovering drug addict and alcoholic with no driver's license, and I became his driver for a while. He took me to a group therapy of sorts led by a man named Ric Chollar, who was tremendously important to my later survival and helped me to deal with longstanding self-hatred. Through this group, I ended up involved with the gay pride group, and friends with the new boyfriend of the guy from my French class and a lot of lesbians. (None of the guys ever spoke to me.) Nevertheless, I was happier than I had been since childhood, and I excelled in my film and media studies--with a concentration in cultural constructions of sexuality and gender issues. I graduated among the top five in my class with honors and high distinction from the university. I thought I could do anything.

The next year, I was looking at grad schools, feeling on top of the world, when my sister told me that the kid from my childhood--the one from California who I had always regarded as the catalyst for my downward spiral--had partnered with Nelly and another bully from my high school to launch Vokal and Apple Bottoms clothing lines. He was a millionaire. I was...what? Working a job I hated, in debt, and I had never had a relationship. It is humiliating to admit, but learning the news of this person's success changed the whole psychological trajectory of my life. To me, it was as if I had been a Jewish escapee of a concentration camp and had just discovered that Hitler had also escaped and become emperor of his own small country. It all started again.

Ten years later, I am living in the heart of Washington, D.C.'s gay neighborhood. I have lived in my small studio apartment for almost a year now, and I don't have a single gay friend in real life. Over the years, I've tried many things to distract myself and make my world better. I went back to school and got an MFA in creative writing. I've tried writing fiction to turn my discontent into "art." I've painted for the same purpose--because color and the right composition can temporarily elevate life into something worth living. But I haven't had much success with either, and so I feel like a hopeless failure in those regards. I wrote for a little while for Advocate.com, contributing Q&As with entertainers, but eventually the company stopped paying me and then stopped responding to me. The reason I wrote for them was because I had this idea that, if I could get recognizable, high-profile people to speak out in support of gay rights, then maybe it would open the minds of their fans and make the world a little easier for LGBT people. But the company stopped paying me eventually after publishing many of my articles, and then the editor stopped writing to me altogether. Ultimately, that relationship did more harm to my self-worth than helped it. And that's the moral of this story: gay people are going to keep hating ourselves and killing ourselves as long as gay people continue to spread hate among one another.

Just minutes ago--the reason I am writing this--somebody on an online gay dating site wrote to me, unprompted, "YOU can email me when you get a better body. And face." That's the general response I've gotten from just about every gay man I have tried to befriend in my life. I've been called ugly, average, and told that if I work harder at improving myself, I might be worth knowing. "You can write to me once you gain some more muscle," one guy wrote, not long ago.

I am 32 years old now, and I still wake up thinking, "Oh, no, not again. Not another day," every day. Every single day. I spend my time alone in bed or with my family, who try hard to cheer me up. My sister wants me to stop feeling sorry for myself. My mother keeps telling me that someone is out there for me, somewhere, someday. My father always asks what he can do for me; he treats me like an absolute invalid. In other words, he pities me. There is no romantic involvement in my life, nothing sensual, no human connection, and I don't have anyone of my own kind on my side. I feel as alone as those kids did. I may represent their futures, if they had had them. I am not trying to say that they didn't deserve a chance, but if I am being completely honest--and I am right here, right now--then I have to say that I feel pretty sure their lives may be better over than as living hells.

I have tried therapy, and I've tried everything I can think of to make the world better, but the bottom line is that any person's experience in life is largely determined by the way that person is treated by others. I get mail from the Human Rights Campaign and other similar causes close to weekly asking for contributions, but I am a gay man who, despite great efforts to become involved in the so-called gay community, has been met only with rejection after rejection after rejection. I think about suicide during all of my waking moments. I go for walks during my lunch break and look down over bridges and think, "is today the day? Is this even high enough?"

My grandmother's life was ruined because her first husband revealed himself to be a gay man in denial. He died slowly from alcoholism, and she married my grandfather, a tortured and abusive alcoholic, and she hated all men--but especially gay men--for the rest of her life.

I don't believe that misery and self-hatred is the nature of gay men; I think it comes from knowing that, out in the rest of the world, we're not equals. But in my experience, gay men strive for perfection in everything, including other gay men, because we're always trying to prove ourselves worthy. Eventually, hopefully, this will change. But I still look down from every bridge I walk over, and I still spend time at home looking up lethal combinations of pharmaceuticals online, and I still take long baths and think about slicing open my veins. Because it just hurts to be here.

I wish I could say that "it gets better." The bullying itself? Yes, that gets better when high school is over. But the general misery? I don't know. Maybe for some. Not for this one. Not yet.

5 comments:

Brb said...

but the bottom line is that any person's experience in life is largely determined by the way that person is treated by others.. EXACTLY. You hit the nail on the head. You have a beautiful soul. You are intelligent. I suffer as you suffer. God, I almost feel like crying now. Just know, you are not alone, and you are an amazing guy. Love of love from a stranger. xo

Rolling Stone said...

WHO THE F*CK ARE YOU TALKING TO??!!! I MEAN... WHAT TYPE OF PEOPLE (GAY OR OTHERWISE) SAY THESE THINGS. I certainly don't understand how you don't see how THOSE PEOPLE that tell you such ridiculous things are worth ANYTHING. Certainly you also must see that you value similar things... money, looks, status. If you believe that you don't, re-read your post or just look at the type of (douche) guys you approach on match.com. There will ALWAYS be people we don't like and people trying to cause harm unto us, but that is life, we will never get away from 100% of everything that brings us down. I am not going to tell you that you are an amazing human being, because I don't believe that to be true. You are weak, just like the rest of us. You can not change other people. You can only change who YOU ARE. I felt like you do as a boy, and now I am a young man. But you, sir, are a MAN, and you have a voice, and a choice, and with this you can change your world and the world of people who are less fortunate than you (THERE ARE BILLIONS). And if you don't have it in your heart to care for other people, then I really don't know where you go from there...

Jonathan said...

'Ugly'? 'Average'? Psh, you're hot.

Otherwise, brilliant post.

dannyboi2 said...

Been there done that similar story, but you are none of the above. It's how you perceive what others think of you and your self esteem issues. An intelligent highly educated man like yourself is priceless... And I guarantee your a lot richer than that Bully that nows a millionaire. Money can't buy you happiness and thats been proven over and over again. We all have sad Gay stories to tell my father used to try to Beat the gay out of me and I felt I was never good enough. But, life sucks at the same time I've meet some beautiful people and wouldn't change anything. It's my life and I'm proud to be who I'm. I'm funny, cute, opinionated and had a few serious relationships that took me to the cleaners. You have wonderful qualities from what I've read and if I was there... I'd probably be a great friend. I ran across this blog by mistake but I'm glad I did
you have a friend in me!!! dannyboi2@yahoo.com

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