In the news last night was the story of the boy who jumped to his death after his roommate hid a camera and broadcast, over the Internet, the kid having sex (with another boy).
One prank. One camera. One dead kid.
How afraid was this boy?
So afraid that he felt it was better to be dead than for anyone to know.
And how did it come to be like this? What made him so afraid?
It's the question I don't hear get asked that often. But I can tell you that I grew up absolutely terrified of being discovered. Terrified. I was so terrified that when I finally did come out to myself, I shut off my family, ran to the nearest big city -- Dallas, in this case -- and never spoke about it to them.
This hurt my younger brother, especially, because, to him, it looked like I had abandoned our family -- which, I suppose, is exactly what I did, though it didn't feel that way to me, at the time. (And I was unaware of the pain I was inflicting on him and everyone else.)
I've been addressing the issue of teen suicide for years here on the Bonus Round site and in my work, beginning with almost the first day I went online. I believe the first song I wrote after The Last Session was "Gabi's Song (Will It Always Be Like This?)" about Gabi and her son, Bill, followed shortly thereafter by "William's Song" about William Wagner who was beaten a lot, but survived.
For me, growing up gay meant keeping a part of me closed off and hidden, though I don't blame my family or even my church members who were always nothing but loving toward me. (But, then, none of them "knew" my secret. Or, if they did, it either didn't matter to them or they were too afraid to talk about it since these things weren't discussed when I was young. It was a different world back then.)
Dan Savage has started a new Internet meme called "It Gets Better." Videos of adults who survived those years telling young people that it really does get better, and that it's worth trying to survive.
Here is the one from San Francisco Gay Mens Chorus. All my friends! It's really terrific.
I have only barely discussed this topic with my family members. It brings up so much pain.
I think they worry that I am blaming them, or saying that I had a terrible childhood. Some have said to me, "Everyone always loved you and treated you well."
And they did. But we have never actually talked about it. Not really. And even typing these words makes me cringe in horror. Seriously.
How do I tell my parents, the most loving people on the planet -- and I mean that, sincerely -- that I was living in a parallel universe to them? One racked with pain and stomach churning agony, many nights? All it does is make them feel it's their fault, or that I'm holding them, somehow, responsible?
Or, worse, that I hold the specific fundamentalist Christianity that I grew up with, responsible
They didn't hear the subtle clues. The Bible Camp where the preacher brought up this issue.
Christ. I haven't thought about this for years. It was one of the first times I ever heard the subject raised. This guy was a piece of work. He was from Dallas. That I remember, which is significant because it was different and had more money than the little backwoods country church in Buna.
He had me bawling my eyes out. I was crying to God. He said I was "like this" because my daddy paid too much attention to the church and not enough attention to his family. Oh, how could my daddy have done this to me? Waa. Waa. Waa.
And, somewhere, in the middle of all this psychological manipulation, that's when I knew I was being played for a sucker.
It was like something turned in me.
Really, preacher man? You're gonna badmouth my daddy?
So, yeah, it gets better.
I don't see them often, but we email a lot. And next Monday, I turn 57.
And where do I find myself the day before? In church, singing a special. I've been wracking my brain all week, trying to think of the right song. Any ideas?
Listen to us sing! One final show on Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 7pm at The Metropolitan Room.
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