When coming home from visiting family in Logan we passed by those grain elevators (I think that’s what they are…) just there around Ogden. Odd how landmarks like that trigger memories, but it brought back a distinct memory of coming out; one that I must assume has moved me into being a [gulp] activist (and there’s nothing wrong with that! ;-)).
I remembered being right there, on I-15, coming home from Weber State College. I was coming home from Boy’s State. For those not familiar with it, you can read on it, here. Basically, each High School in a state picks and sends a couple students to participate in a mock state government. They are chosen by the faculty, if I remember correctly, and are supposed to be the students most likely to be future leaders in government.
I was not out to anyone when I was told I’d been selected to represent my high school; I was struggling, thinking I might still overcome my orientation. It’s a bit vague to the memory, but by the time I had to head off for this college-application-inflating “honor” I think I had came out only to my parents, just a bit earlier. But I didn’t see Boys State as an honor, by then.
I mean, how ironic? It seemed like a cosmic joke. I’d just came out, still distressed at being gay, and I’m off for a week with nothing but guys my age. And that’s not the worst of it, they were some of the most respectable kid’s I’d met, near all of them intelligent, competent, and handsome. Seemingly all of them 100% mainstream too. They confirmed my certainty that I was the only gay kid in Utah ;-).
And that’s not the worst of it, again! Though I can’t remember if it passed or no, one of the pieces of legislation being debated by my peers was to decide if gay kids should be allowed at Boy’s State. There was my very first chance. They were talking about “what if” gays eventually come there, what if the fairies demand to be let it. They had no idea; there I was, liked and accepted as one of them. And I said nothing; I withdrew.
Today I wonder how many kids there were in my shoes, who could have benefited if someone spoke up. As any reader may be able to tell ;-), my nature is to speak up, to do something, even sometimes recklessly, but not then. I kept quiet. They hit me and I pretended it was okay, that it wasn’t even me feeling the jabs. I let my self-doubt and fear in being gay do the other half of the job of demeaning and debasing myself.
I look back on that as a failure that, gratefully, changed me. I’ll not let that happen again, and now, with my home, I can’t let it happen again, and not only for my sake.
Coming home, in the back of my parent’s car, I was so disappointed in my self, in oddly both my lack of action to defend myself and in myself for being myself. No wonder, odd as it is, that grain elevator moment is etched in memory. I wanted my life back, to have the problem just go away, to not be faced with such an “opportunity” again. I sat there quietly, sullen, angry, and so very wrong.
Just now, as I’m finishing this up and thinking back as a father, I think I should probably apologize to my parents for, at such times, not letting them know what I was thinking, for “stoically” trying to take it on all on my own and not allowing their help, when they’d already made it clear they’d help and support me no matter what. Today, I’m more than through with that teen’s angst, in the back seat of that car… No, it’s being in the front seat of that car, with my sullen quiet child in the back, that’s what I’d fear most.