My wise old grandmother never finished first grade. Her father had died, and she had to hit the fields to help ensure that the family had crop to harvest and sell. I find that amazing considering all that I learned from her.
One day when I was 11, I had a conversation with her that went something like this:
Me: Can I go over to Jim’s house?
Her: I don’t know. Can you?
Me: I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking.
Her: Are you sick?
Her: Can you walk?
Her: Then I guess you can.
Me (as I turn to run out of the house): Thanks!
Her: Where are you going?
Me: Over to Jim’s.
Her: I didn’t say you could go anywhere.
Me: Yes you did!
Her: No, I did not. Sit down.
After a 5-minute lecture on the importance of words and how words matter, and the difference between Can I? and May I?, I asked her, May I go over to Jim’s house? She answered, Yes, you may.
I bring this up because 54 years later, I still believe in the importance of words, that words matter.
Yesterday on Facebook I posted a link to an article titled,
Your Homophobia Isn’t A ‘Difference Of Opinion,’ It’s Hate.
Don’t tell me, a gay man, just to accept that some people want me dead.
Here is the conversation:
Person 1: I would say more ignorance than hate. These things are often passed on from parents. And they have not been exposed to the beauty there is in all types of people – gender, race, or sexual preference. And, that is sad.
Me: Or sexual orientation. “Preference” indicates a choice. Words matter.
Person 1: Whatever, you know what I mean, Russel. Everyone has beauty and importance them. It is time that people realized it.
Me: I cannot agree with “whatever.” My life is important to me, and when people like Mike Pence want to kill me because of my “choice” and “preference,” well, words matter.
Person 2: Person 1, big difference between preference and orientation. I get the feeling that you don’t understand the difference (e.g, “whatever”).
Person 3: It’s definitely ignorant but it is also hate. The hate is the dangerous part that is sweeping across the globe right now. The hate is the flame that Trump and his minions are throwing fuel on. It is the hate that Bolsonaro and the lumber barons and miners use as they torture and destroy the indigenous people of the rain forest. It is the same hate that Boris Johnson inflames the people with bats to beat lesbians on the streets of London. It is the same ignorance and hate that we remember on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Hate of the other: gypsy, Jew, homosexual, Catholic, neurodiverse, mentally ill, physically disabled, African, African American, South American, Native American, Mexican, Puerto Rican, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, left handed, Muslim, Iranian, Syrian – any group that the masses can be made to hate so they can be manipulated. You know what they are capable of. We have come to a time in our world where we must take a stand. Whatever is not enough.
Person 1: Russel and Person 2- of course orientation. Thanks for the correction.
I have no problem with preferences. Preference is a choice. I prefer margaritas, you prefer wine. I might not agree with their preferences but I’m not going to argue with anyone over them.
Since 1993-94, I have been estranged from thousands of relatives on both my mom’s side (Mormons) and dad’s side (Catholics). None of them could accept my “preference,” and none of them were willing to continue to love me. So we split. No problem. They prefer their religion. I don’t. But I also don’t want their preferences in my life. It’s not like pineapple on pizza, or not (NO!).
Another phrase that irritates me is “gay lifestyle.” A few years ago a Mormon relative with whom I had grown up in Kingsville, Texas, contacted me. She said she was aware of my “gay lifestyle.” Well, here’s a representation of my gay lifestyle:
I get up each day, shower, dress, eat breakfast, brush my teeth.
I feed Little Queen Olivia.
I go to work.
I take a lunch break (pizza, without pineapple!).
I go back to work.
I get off work.
I come home.
I eat supper.
I check Facebook, news, and sports.
I pay bills.
I play with Little Queen Olivia.
My husband comes home.
We kiss hello.
Husband checks Facebook, news, and sports.
We kiss goodnight.
O.M.effin.G. That’s so gay!
When I came out to all my relatives and friends in 1993-94, many asked me, “How long have you known you were gay?” and “When did you decide you were gay?” and “What made you gay?”
Well, back when I was pseudo-religious, I thought God made me gay because God made me, and the Mormon and Catholic religions taught me that God doesn’t make mistakes. Maybe making about 10% of his/her creations gay was his/her form of birth control?
If we substitute “homosexual” for “gay,” I’ve known since about the age of ten that I was homosexual. I was always more interested in the boys than the girls, and it was far more than “boys will be boys” and “girls will be girls,” far more than getting cooties from the girls.
When my friends brought Playboy, Penthouse, and Hustler to school, I was right there with them looking at the pictures (Ooopsy. I mean, reading the articles). However, while they were looking at the women, I was looking at the guys. Hustler was the best because it showed full frontal nudity for the guys. I was a Hustler fan, and it was easy to fool all my friends with my heterosexuality….
We were getting aroused over different things. It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It just naturally happened, and I never really questioned why it happened.
I never decided I was gay. I did decide to try not to be gay. I did that for 38 years. All it did was cause me to be a mess mentally. I’m kind of surprised that I survived, but I did.
With Twitler in the White House and his Crime Family, supporters, and enablers doing everything they can to ostracize people like me, yes, I’m going to speak out when and where I can in a forceful yet respective manner. It’s the least I can do to ensure that people like me never have to live like I did the first 38 years of my life.