April 01, 2008

As Tears Go By...

I have recently been smacked upside the head by two of life’s most popular clich├ęs: the grass is not always greener on the other side and you never really appreciate what you have until its gone.

A few weeks back I was in what those close to me would refer to as one of my “states”, or as those of you who don’t know me would observe, a period of completely losing my shit on and about everything. I was tired, coming down with what turned out to be a nasty cold, didn’t feel like being at work, didn’t want to deal with people, hated my hair, hated this God forsaken city (“Would someone please tell that that Brooks woman to shut the hell up?”) hated the God forsaken weather here, and I was busting my own balls because I only lost one pound at my Weight Watchers meeting that week (apparently it was not enough that I had lost a total of 40 in the last eight). I just wanted to throw myself down on the ground, flail around kicking and screaming for a while, then curl up into the fetal position and cry myself to sleep. I wanted to be three, instead of thirty. Boo-hoo, poor me.

Whoa, dude.

Yeah, it was quite a sight I assure you. Aren’t some of you sad you missed it?

Then the world threw a bucket of cold water on me.

I think it's inevitable though just as you have settled into the zone that you think your life is crap, your location bites and you just plain suck, you find yourself rather embarrassed and feeling pretty petty when you compare your baggage to the true ills of the world.

I think my heart stopped for a second when I heard about that teenage boy in California that was fatally shot by a classmate in his eighth grade classroom. He was murdered because he was gay.

What was I doing that particular day? Freaking out about what I was going to wear that evening, having invited a really cute guy out for coffee and a movie.

Yeah, my problems are so huge.

It's an easy trap to fall into. Sometimes (okay, often) I forget how fortunate I am to be who I am, how I got here, and where I am today.

As many of you may already know, I came swinging out of the closet at the young age of sixteen. This was before alliances and youth groups were commonplace in high schools. I can't say there was much for me in the way of having a gay lifestyle in those days (sex with jocks, though exhilarating, does not make a lifestyle), so I embraced the culture and learned as much as I could through books (Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and Ethan Mordden's How Long Has This Been Going On? were like bibles to me), films (I wore out my copies of Torch Song Trilogy and Doing Time On Maple Drive), and by listening to prominent gay commentators/comics (like Kate Clinton, who to this day I continue to look up to as a mentor and trailblazer). I was also fortunate enough to feel somewhat secure and supported by my family, close friends, and the people at school. They were not always comfortable with my burgeoning life, but they made immense efforts to be accepting and open their hearts and minds to the things they didn’t know or understand.

As I got older, I became more aware of the local gay community that spoke directly to my life. An annual LGBT film festival? Sweet! Two local businesses aimed towards the LGTB demographic? Hell yeah! At one point or another, I got to work for both. And there were all these different alliances and organizations ran by and for my people! Woo-hoo! I’m coming to you now through the dedication and efforts of one of these groups. And though bars and clubs tend to come and go in any city, there has and always will be a handful that are a part of our community's nightlife history. I still remember vividly sneaking into a very well known establishment back in the day (sadly no longer here) and catching my first glimpse of the glitz and glamour that is Ambrosia, Aggie, Darienne, and Pandora. They too opened my eyes to the beauty that is diversity. (I’m quite envious that as I have gotten older and crankier, these particular divas have only gotten younger and all the more fabulous!). There was and is always so much to learn and see.

So what’s the purpose behind my trip down memory lane? The reason I’m extolling the virtues of my particular queer life is because all the while it was happening I never really appreciated it for what it really was: events, opportunities and a life far too many people never get the chance to experience but would be thrilled to. In hearing the stories of members of our extended LGTBQI family across the land, stories of dread, fear, isolation, and hopelessness, it makes me look at my life, then and now, and realize just how damn well I had and have it. It may not have seemed like much when I was a teenager and I may occasionally bitch and moan about my current place at the ancient age of thirty, but all I have to do is think of fifteen year old Lawrence King and the countless other young men and women whose lives are snatched away from them so violently, all because they are different, and it silences me. I think of how they will never grow up and experience the art, culture, people and places and the so much more that makes up our community. They will never get the chance to live the lives they were destined for. It really pisses me off. And it breaks my heart.

The next time life and all the things in it have got you down, take a step back, take a deep breath, and remind yourself the precious moment you just had is one so many others never will. It’s so easy to take things for granted until you realize that not everyone is as blessed as you are. I’m trying to remember this myself.


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Essential Download: "As Tears Go By"
Artisit: Marianne Faithfull
Available On: Perfect Stranger: The Island Anthology

Originally published in the April 2008 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published LGTB newspaper since 1973, through the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
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