An Open Letter to Gay Men

[sounds of couple obviously having sex]

The following show contains frank discussions (OH! FRANK!) and may not be suitable for a younger audience.

[fade to black]

I am what I am
I am my own special creation.
So come take a look,
Give me the hook or the ovation.
It’s my world that I want to take a little pride in,
My world, and it’s not a place I have to hide in.
Life’s not worth a damn,
‘Til you can say, “Hey world, I am what I am.”

If you were a gay teen in Houston in the ’90s, you know what I mean and you feel it in your neurons. It was midnight on Saturday, and After Hours (link to podcast XML feed) was about to begin. If you were as young as I was (around 13 or 14), then your clock radio was turned down really low and under your pillow so you could listen until you fell asleep. You rarely made it to three, even if you said you did. My parents did their best to just ignore it, but if you think I have a hard time making it to church in the morning *now,* it was even harder after staying up all night just to hear snippets of yourself on the radio.

Jimmy Carper was the host, a man who knows gay history because it is encoded into his DNA. I heard about Stonewall. I heard about Harvey Milk. I learned about the generations of people before me that were whipped, beaten, and arrested in the name of decency, and in a lot of cases, the name of God. Listening to gay history convinced me that there was no way in hell that even if I was a sinner, God would go to such desperate measures just to straighten me out. My God was too loving for that.

So off to church I would go, bleary-eyed and on the edge of a nervous breakdown (because that’s what happens when you don’t sleep).

There was only one person who could get me out of bed, and only because she was a mirror in which I saw my reflection. If Saturday was about hanging out with the boys, Sunday was hanging out with the girl. I would have hung out with more women- it wasn’t like I didn’t want other gay friends. It was just in those days, saying you were gay in hopes of finding other gay friends was NOT. A. GOOD. IDEA.

It is in this way that I feel I was raised by gay men… and I’m not sure it was intentional. It’s just that we all know those boys who are queer as a three dollar bill, the possibility of them being straight is a negative integer. For a shy gay teenager, it was a sign that I was safe to speak openly. In fact, it was a way to make sure I wasn’t going to get hurt by a raging homophobic idiot. Raging homophobic idiots rarely talk with a lisp.

So I ran to these angels, these men in expensive fabrics and clean-scented aftershave. There was never anyone particular, at least until I got to high school, but I was always watching. If there was a medal for gay-watching as prestigious as those for birding, I would be champion of the world. Because of gay men, I learned that I was going to be ok. I watched them navigate the world with such ease and thought, “if I could be a tenth that confident, I would be queen of all.” (Hell yeah, double entendre!)

I’m writing this essay to say thank you, because I couldn’t be who I am now if you hadn’t been who you were, then.

Thank you for making me awesome.

Love,
Leslie

3 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Gay Men

  1. Pingback: Potpourri | Stories That Are All True

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